Solitude – the key to self awareness and success

Resilience and adaptability – key to success

The NSW Law Society Journal reported in October 2016 that the Future of Law and Innovation in the Profession (FLIP) Commission of Inquiry had been told by heads of law school that resilience and adaptability are important in order for lawyers to have a sustainable career in the profession.

Self-awareness is paramount to success

Whether in Law or other professions, to be resilient and adaptable necessitate identifying the existing state of which we operate and the places to which we aspire, and the ease we experience through that process of change and often stress. The recognition must therefore be underpinned by self-awareness.

Self- awareness is an accurate understanding of our personality traits, personal values, habits, emotions, and psychological needs, and their implications for ourselves or impact on others.

Through self-awareness,

  • we begin to realise what triggers negative stress within us,
  • we discern methods of coping and ways of being appropriate for us, and
  • we have better response-ability to the demands and changes we encounter daily in our professional work.

Self-awareness comes from being alone.

Solitude, a prerequisite to self-awareness, creativity and innovation

A study undertaken through a collaboration between BBC Radio 4 and the Wellcome Collection’s researchers in residence, Hubbub, showed that the best outcome of ‘rest’ derives from activities undertaken alone. Solitude is a prerequisite to getting real rest.

And it is rest that gives respite to a busy mind and brings clarity and releases creativity. It opens space for introspection and reflection which leads to self-awareness.

Solitude is about being or doing for yourself, alone. Solitude is not being inactive.

Here are some ways in which you can practise solitude:

1.      Have a cup of coffee, alone.

The in-between time when you have finished one job, and about to begin the other. Take a coffee or tea break to put aside what’s gone before, to gather your thoughts and emotions, and to re-balance your sense of identity and purpose. Do this alone. Have a beverage break.

2.      Take a walk, alone.

Beverage doesn’t appeal? Have more time? Take a walk. It need not be in nature. A walk in the bustle of the city is fine. The criteria are be alone and to notice your surroundings. Let your mind wonder about the man in the grey suit, the woman with red umbrella, the children, the cars, the architecture, even the noise. This can be a fabulous time for reflection. Go with it.

3.      Have a meal, alone

Take yourself to a restaurant with an ambience you’ll enjoy. How often do you merely eat and not pay attention to the process of eating? Well, alone in a restaurant, savour the sight and sound, taste the food … let your mind wonder and wander. Enjoy!

4.      Read, alone

Most of us do read on our own, hard not to. This time however, find a spot that you can claim for yourself, away from a communal space. There, read and let yourself journey into the book. Fiction or non-fiction, they are stories to take you into yourself, your reaction or response to the stories. Ask yourself why and lightly explore these reasons. Revel in a different life.

5.      Train or exercise, alone

Heading to the gym with a buddy or two is fun. Doing it alone gives you time to notice and sense your body in action without distraction. It is time to review your routine, and to feel its capabilities. Notice the energy surging within you. Feel alright for yourself.

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do and liking how you do it.” ~ Maya Angelou

Check out the meaning of solitude, in my personal blog here.

Many things that you do, you can do alone. Try it some time, and solitude – that space for introspection, will relieve the busy mind, recharge the tired body, and boost the creativity we so need in our work as lawyers.

 

What activity do you do in solitude which contributes to your success?    How do you occupy the space of solitude?

 

[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Emotional intelligence for lawyers & corporate executive leaders

(M)en decide far more problems by hate, or love, or lust, or rage, or sorrow, or joy, or hope, or fear, or illusion, or some other inward emotion, than by reality or authority or any legal standard, or judicial precedent, or statute.

If you are curious whose quote that is, it’s Cicero – the Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist, consul, and constitutionalist. As it turns out, human nature hasn’t changed much in two thousand years.

We’re Emotional Beings

We’re still profoundly emotional beings. EI (emotional intelligence) has come a long way since Yale research (1990) and popular books by Goleman (1995). Like the study of “mindfulness”, EI has more mainstream recognition and a greater amount of professional “success” attributed to it than IQ and technical skills.

Mindfulness Training is Gaining Professional Recognition

Gone are the days where law firms and the corporate world recruits by academic achievements and IQ alone. So what in brief, is emotional intelligence good for in the professional workplace, business and law?

  • Better judgement
  • Higher productivity
  • More team cohesion and client relationships
  • Higher sales and conversion percentages
  • Great work satisfaction in teams, leading to higher retention rates.
  • Improved customer or client service (due to improved listening and empathy skills)
  • Better organizational communication
  • More effective leadership (leading to a competitive edge).

Specifically for law firms and the daily lives of lawyers, EI can have a significant impact. Historically, the legal profession has been heavily influenced by the Stoic/Puritan frame of reference and an emphasis on ‘reason’, this is changing towards a more holistic model of human behavior.

The “Nimble Heart” in the Workplace

How might emotional intelligence help those in the Legal Profession?

  1. The ability to correctly identify client values and motivations
  2. The ability to suppress emotions that might cloud objectivity
  3. Psycho-social identification & sensitivity, namely: active listening, empathy and compassion
  4. Reading body language, non-verbal cues and facial micro emotions
  5. Correctly matching persuasion strategies with the target audience
  6. Manage stress and self-regulate effectively in high-pressured environments and long work-weeks
  7. Conflict resolution, halting escalations and defusing negative emotions
  8. Establishing rapport, trust and warmth
  9. Facilitating easy exchanges of information
  10. Adapting not just to frames of reference, but to people more effectively
  11. Influencing the emotions of others through effective communication, feedback and motivational impact.

Clearly EI embodies a broad spectrum of rather holistic “soft skills” that are essential to all professional industry for leaders, managers, consultants and employees.

Can Emotional Intelligence be Taught?

In the “real world” of corporate hierarchies and law firm politics, given that candidates have comparable IQ, experience and technical skills, EQ then becomes the unique qualifying differentiator (UQD).

There’s a significant moment now for MBA programs among others, to actively integrate EI and soft skills training in their curriculum, sometimes called applied human science.

  • Graduate leadership programs continue to integrate EI training into their programs
  • Corporate training programs now specialize in EI training
  • Emotional intelligence has been correlated with leadership qualities

 

Professional efficacy is no longer solely correlated with IQ, so what then can it be attributed to?

A Most Vital Trait in a Top CEO

For CEOs and top executives, EI has a lot to offer in terms of global corporate identity.

EI underpins the ability to inspire discretionary effort—the extent to which employees and team members go above and beyond the call of duty.

This is an “intangible” of the charismatic CEO, who champions the corporate entity internally, much as some CEOs harness their personal brand for effective PR external to the organization and corporate brand.

To earn the respect and fidelity, and to motivate and mobilize talent, are what true visionaries do.

Many HR recruiters and analytics talk about a “skills gap”, EI could well be this “gap”. What we might be seeing as well is a “leadership shortage”.

Never in human history has Emotional Intelligence been at such a higher premium. Never has leadership been such a corporate differentiator in its ability to drive ROI.

 

[An earlier version of this article was published on LinkedIn.]

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2017

Masculine traits contribute to mental health problems

 

Recent research from Indiana University Bloomington shows traditional stereotypes of masculinity are linked to mental health challenges. The greater the conformity to these masculine “traits” of “a desire to win, need for emotional control, and risk-taking” and “playboy behaviour or sexual promiscuity”, the higher the risk of mental health issues.

In 2015, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, film-maker, was inspired to direct “The Mask You Live In” to bring to light the narrow definition of masculinity in US society, and and its negative impact on men’s mental health and social dysfunction.

We can choose re-write the story of who we are and who we want to be, to be rid of the bonds of these unhelpful “traits” and “stereotypes”.

To read about men’s experiences of this, go to this article from the Guardian.

 

Pursuing happiness is going about it the wrong way

Show up to your emotions.  Sometimes we have to confront and get through or let go. The constant pursuit of happiness as a goal and the flip side of constant evaluating how or if you are ‘happy enough’ is counter-productive.

Susan David, Harvard psychologist and author of ‘Emotional Agility’, says in Business Insider,

… ‘showing up’ is stopping any struggle that you might have within yourself about whether you should feel something, shouldn’t feel something, should think something, shouldn’t think something, whether it’s a bad thought or good thought.

Just be.

Get through or Let go?

Recently I spoke about ‘going through it’, about how life throws lessons at you, lessons you can’t avoid or ignore. In order to grow as a person, you do need to see the lessons that present themselves (yes, there will be many, great and small) and learn.

‘It’ can be whatever difficult situation in which you find yourself. You have a choice each time to either ‘let go’ or ‘go through it’. Both are learning opportunities.

A little about ‘letting go’. By this I mean to have non-attachment, to stop holding on to ‘things’… to what you think will make your life better or to the conditioned belief you have thus far not questioned or to the behaviour that no longer serves your life.

In this space, letting go is making peace with it. As you come to terms with the ‘things’ within the situation, for example, your need for control, your need for the crutch, your need for approval, your need for material indulgence etc. As you make peace with these, their impact cease to be.

If a situation still bothers you, if it still cages you, makes you close up, makes you bitter and resentful… then you are not letting go. No matter how much you tell yourself that you are. And if you can’t let go, then the ‘it is not affecting me’ or the ‘I am fine with it’ that you tell yourself, is you doing avoidance. The test whether you are letting go is this – letting go comes with a sense of peace.

So when letting go is untenable, not viable, unavailable or impossible then time to face the situation. As I said, going through a difficult situation involves some ‘doing’ and a whole lot of ‘being’. Where there is pain or sorrow or any difficult emotion, at some point you need to sit with it, maybe even endure it for a time. However you decide to choose to ‘go through it’, you do.

Both ‘going through it’ and ‘letting go’ have a quality of hardness – where you fight for your survival, you overcome the obstacles in your way… and also of softness – where you embrace your vulnerability, sit with your sorrow, bear witness to your life. And in those moments, there is strength, there is courage.

 

© Transfigure Therapy 2016