Embrace the Habits of Elite Athletes: A Guide for Lawyers and Legal Professionals

confidence growth performance work/life balance

Treat yourself like the high-performer that you are!

Heidi Brown, author of "The Flourishing Lawyer," was the guest expert on the EsquireWell Academy Monthly Masterclass. We had such a fabulous discussion about the “Lawyer’s Peak Performance Playbook” - how to unleash your inner champion through mind, mood, and motion.

Something that I’ve been really mulling over since our conversation was the idea of lawyer/legal professional as “athlete” or “performer” and learning how we can tend to the well-being of our bodies and minds much like elite athletes and performers take care of themselves so they can be at their best professionally and personally.

Our conversation really resonated with me. While Heidi brings her “inner athlete” to her well-being toolbox since she’s taken up boxing, I’m more of the “performer”. I’m a classically trained pianist, and I’ve spent decades performing - not in big venues or anything, but on a regular basis primarily through church music. This week is Holy Week in our faith tradition, so I’ve been in rehearsals and services many times in the last week gearing up for this weekend’s Holy Week and Easter services. On Sunday, I get to unleash my “inner performer” on pipe organ with a brass ensemble, string ensemble, full choir, and more. (Here’s a little picture of me at the organ at Wednesday night’s rehearsal.)

I learn so much from this avocation as an organist and church musician that helps me perform in other arenas of my professional and personal life, including, as Heidi mentioned, how to best prepare myself for moments of performance that scare or intimidate me, how to take care of myself mentally to be at my best, how to navigate mistakes, and more. 

What does all of this have to do with our work in law?

In our competitive, intense world of law, adopting the mindset of a high-performing athlete or performer can be a game-changer for your well-being and performance. Just like in sports and the arts, success in the legal profession is not solely about mastering your primary skill. It's about nurturing multiple dimensions of “fitness” to excel in your field.

How you’re like a professional athlete or performer 

The legal profession, much like the athletic arena, is performance-driven. However, athletes and performers don't just focus on the skill that brings them glory. They work on their physical, mental, and emotional fitness with the help of coaches and trainers. As legal professionals, we can take a leaf out of their book and treat ourselves like scholar-athletes or scholar-performers. By doing so, we can enhance our well-being and performance in the legal arena.

Learning from Heidi and “The Flourishing Lawyer”

During our conversation yesterday, Heidi and I talked about the importance of treating ourselves like scholar-athletes or scholar-performers. Her work encourages legal professionals to explore the mental and physical aspects of performance, much like elite athletes such as Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles. 

Practical Ways to Treat Yourself Like a High-Performing Athlete or Performer

Develop a Holistic Training Regimen: Just as athletes and musical performers have a training plan that includes physical, mental, and technical aspects, lawyers should create a holistic development plan. This could include continuing legal education, physical exercise, mindfulness practices, and emotional intelligence training..

Prioritize Rest and Recovery: High-performing athletes and performers understand the importance of rest and recovery. Similarly, legal professionals should ensure they get adequate sleep, take breaks, and disconnect from work to prevent burnout and maintain peak performance.

Embrace a Growth Mindset: Athletes and performers constantly seek to improve and learn from their failures. Adopting a growth mindset can help lawyers view challenges as opportunities for growth and embrace feedback constructively.

Focus on Mental Fitness: Mental resilience is crucial for both athletes/performers and lawyers/legal professionals. Techniques such as visualization, positive self-talk, and stress management can enhance mental resilience and focus in high-pressure situations.

Seek Support and Coaching: Just as athletes have coaches, lawyers and legal professionals can benefit from mentors, coaches, or therapists who can provide guidance, support, and accountability in their professional and personal development.

Why It Matters

Treating yourself like a high-performing athlete or performer matters because it leads to a more balanced and fulfilling career. By focusing on multiple dimensions of well-being, you can enhance your resilience, reduce stress, and improve your overall performance in your legal work.

Reflection Exercise

Take a moment to reflect on how you can begin and continue to treat yourself like a scholar-athlete or scholar-performer. What areas of your well-being and performance can you improve, and what steps will you take to achieve that?

For a deeper dive into how you can treat yourself like a scholar-athlete or scholar-performer, consider exploring the resources provided in Heidi’s book, "The Flourishing Lawyer," and various podcasts that discuss the book's concepts (included in the links below under “Recommended Resources”. 

By embracing the mindset of an elite athlete or performer, you can transform your approach to well-being and performance in the legal profession!