Great attorneys, court reporters, videographers, and paralegals all perform in their jobs at the highest level and can get far on their raw ability, but as Robert E. Corb, Ph.D, the Director of Sports Psychology Program at UCLA in the article “5 Tips for Building Mental Stamina” points out, “What separates the truly elite from the rest is that they know how to use their minds.”
Professionals in the legal field need mental stamina to deal with quick deadlines, expedites, and many hours of focused inquiry and writing. Corb suggests the following tips to build mental stamina:
1. Think Positively: “Self-confidence is the most important mental characteristic that athletes (legal professionals) need,” says Corb. We’ve all seen highly-skilled athletes who lose their self-confidence fall apart.
How do you get more self-confidence? Corb urges people to listen to what they’re telling themselves. “If you keep saying, ‘I’ll never be able to do this,’” before a speed test or jury trial, “then you won’t be able to do it. If you say something enough to yourself, you’ll make it come true.”
I think we all have heard the advice, “act as if.” The experts suggest that you replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts on a conscious level, and in time interrupting the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones will have a real effect on what you want to succeed at.
2. Use Visualization: “Some athletes use visualization right before a game to practice mentally,” says David Geier, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and Director of Sports Medicine at the Medical University of South Carolina. “A basketball player might close her eyes and think what a free throw will look like.” Visualization can give you a mental space to rehearse.
Corb also says, “I tell people to visualize past achievements. It’s almost like a highlight reel that you play back in your mind. Focus on times you felt really good, and remember that feeling. It can give you a real boost.”
3. Plan for Setbacks: As an attorney you might lose a client, and as a court reporter in school you might not pass a speed test you thought you were ready for. These things happen. Corb suggests, “One of the things that separates elite athletes is their ability to hold up after a setback. They don’t spiral out of control.” How can you regain your confidence when things go wrong? “You need to practice techniques to re-center yourself,” Corb says. Athletes use different methods to become re-centered: a sequence of stretches, a positive mantra they repeat to themselves, a specific song they play in their head or iPod; 30 seconds of deep breathing. The experts say to have a plan in place so you know what to do when the pressure mounts.
4. Manage Stress: “Not all stress is bad,” says Geier. “The fight or flight response can push you harder during an athletic competition.” Corb points out, “Positive stress (excitement) and negative stress (anxiety) really have the same physical effects. Your heart rate and breathing go up. Your pupils dilate.” Use excitement to get amped up, but if it is tipping you into panic, that’s bad. It is up to you how you interpret the “stress.”
5. Sleep More: Studies have shown that getting enough sleep can improve reaction time and split second decision making. (7 to 9 hours a night is the goal.)
Develop a Plan to Build Your Mental Stamina
Mental stamina is a skill. Building your mental stamina takes practice, and the experts say to have a plan. Building mental stamina will have a tremendous benefit for your life.