What a crazy year it has been for us all. I don’t want to trigger anyone, but if you could do one of those visual word clouds of my brain in 2020, the words showing largest would be: Fear, uncertainty, sadness, moratorium, and stir-crazy. I don’t think I need to tell you why.
HOWEVER, I have been around long enough to know that the changes that happen in response to challenging times are often very important and long-lasting, and this goes for any aspect of life. One of my favorite concepts for managing anxiety and stress in the face of change is the “circle of control.” Google says that the idea comes from Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which is admittedly still on my library list, but I’ve heard many iterations of it over the years. It’s a simple concept: You are in the center of three rings. Everything you spend your time and mental energy on is within the rings. The ring immediately around you includes the things that you have complete control over, like your actions, behavior, and words. These things are your responsibility. The next ring includes what you can influence through your relationships and networks. The outer ring is for all the things that no matter how much you worry or think about them, you have no control over them whatsoever.
Many of us spend way too much headspace in that outer ring, when we need to center ourselves in the inner two rings in order to be effective. I personally cannot control the world-wide pandemic, or our federal or state governments’ reaction and restrictions, but I decide my own actions within those limitations, and as a leader in my firm, I can influence how we meet these challenges. I can also control how I respond to those around me who are going through similar trials and tribulations, or having a completely different experience than I am. It’s never been more important to listen, exercise empathy, and be supportive.
Our industry is always constantly changing because the technology, laws, and the needs of our clients are constantly changing. That being said, 2020 was certainly a doozy, and we are still not yet on the other side of it. One simple example: When I was a new attorney over a decade ago, I easily spent 60% of my working hours traveling to settlement conferences and motion appearances all over New York State—there were months that my mileage reimbursement was higher than my paycheck. Having a car, a driver’s license, and a suit were absolutely mandatory for that job. Fast forward to today, where I have not physically traveled to Court — not even once—in the past year. Virtual appearances have been the norm, and will continue to be across most of New York, perhaps even after the pandemic recedes. Attorneys now need a good internet connection, a quiet space, strong communication skills, and a flexible mindset.
We can choose to hang out in the outer ring and waste time being annoyed about the changes we’ve had no control over. Or, we can embrace the changes and take the time we used to use finding parking downtown to refocus our energies, refresh our mental approach, and be what our employees and clients need us to be as the post-COVID era dawns. We all want to emerge this spring in a position of strength and health, both personally and professionally, so let’s focus our energy on what we can control and influence. Let’s focus on making the changes that will have positive, lasting ramifications. Let’s all build legacies. I want my brain word cloud for 2021 to scream:
Hope, confidence, renewal, progress, and joy! Don’t be a vending machine, let the change flow.
About McMichael Taylor Gray, LLC.
MTG is a full-service default and creditor rights law firm, delivering quality and cost-effective legal services for financial institutions throughout most of the Eastern United States. MTG’s founding partners established a forward-thinking and client-focused law firm centered on an unwavering commitment to its core values of Excellence,
Integrity, Honesty, and Respect.
Amanda Buffington Gunderson- VP of Marketing