We all know that the legal profession can be extraordinarily stressful. It is important to remember, however, that stress and negativity are two entirely different things. While we’re all familiar with those colleagues whose negativity is directly proportional to their stress level, there are always a couple of people who are able to smile through it all. In fact, those are the individuals who tend to stand out in our minds and who we should all seek to emulate.
I remember one litigation attorney in particular who seemed consistently pleasant and calm. Whether he was about to argue a summary judgment motion, start a trial, or head off to a contentious partner meeting, he always just seemed happy. He made work more pleasant for the rest of us, despite his own stress level.
So, how did he do it? A decade removed from working with him, I’m not sure what his secret was. Nonetheless, this week’s article seeks to explore that very issue. First, we’ll examine why it is so critical that each of focus on positivity. Next, we’ll look at some of the key methods for keeping a rosy outlook when work has us gritting our teeth.
Negativity’s impacts on health and the workplace
Perhaps the single most important thing to remember about a negative attitude is that it can have disastrous implications for your health. In fact, according to some scientists, prolonged negativity can cause damage to your brain. It can also weaken your immune system and lead to mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. So, if you think your negative outlook is just a quirky thing about your personality, think again. Negative thoughts can wreak all sorts of havoc on your whole body.
If your own health isn’t a big enough motivator for you to start looking at the positive side of life, consider the fact that negative thoughts and emotions can impact your entire workplace. Law firms that allow negativity to persevere may suffer from unmotivated employees, poor communication, and stifled intellect, among other things. When you think about it, that makes sense. Who is motivated to work or share with others when the people you’re working with are overtly negative?
Getting to the positive
If negativity is a problem for you (and everyone around you), what can you do to get rid of it? Luckily, there are literally hundreds of things you can do to start focusing on the positive. These exercises range from simply believing in yourself, to sitting up straight, to visualizing happiness. A few of these tactics, however, are worthy of further exploration.
While the popular Saturday Night Live character Stuart Smalley may have made the more cynical amongst us a little leery of positive affirmations, they really can have a large impact on your overall attitude.
The good news is that they don’t have to be as sappy as the affirmations brought to life by Al Franken’s SNL character. Give it a try. Remind yourself that you’re capable of joy and kindness or repeat that it is your choice to feel better in life. These simple steps – practiced over time – can go a long way toward eradicating a negative attitude.
Another great way to focus on the positive is to look for the humor in negative situations. Indeed, one study by Stanford University suggests that re-interpreting a negative situation through a comedic lens can re-train your brain to avoid negativity.
Perhaps the next time your boss drops the news that the entire team is going to have to work through the weekend, think about how funny it would be if you showed up for the weekend work session in an Easter bunny costume. It may not make the stressful workload go away, but just having a little laugh about the whole situation might make it a little less dreadful.
Choose positive people
Finally, we all know the undeniable truth that law firms are filled with positive people and negative people. If you observe each group for any length of time, you will likely notice that both groups feed off each other. The negative people will complain to each other about all of the things that are horrible about the firm on a never-ending loop.
The positive people, on the other hand, will laugh a lot more, talk about their lives outside the office, and usually will be the ones who get more work done. Therefore, one of the best things you can do to increase your own positivity is to simply choose to be with the positive crowd. You may just find their outlook on life infectious.
Whatever you do to increase the positivity in your life, just be sure to start doing it today. It may not alleviate all of your work stress but it sure might just make that stress more tolerable.