Taking control | Law

Taking control

Learning resilience

As a law student there are many skills you will need to develop. But perhaps the most important one is that of resilience. Resilience is the ability to retain and maintain your own well-being, despite any adversity or challenges that come your way. Some describe it as the the ability to 'bounce back' after something has gone wrong. It is not just an important skill to have as a law student, it is an important skill for life.

Psychologists say  that our critical needs for  psychological well-being include :

  • Self esteem  (feeling that we are valuable )
  • Competence (feeling that we are competent)
  • Security (a background feeling of safety)
  • Social connection (friends and relationships)
  • Autonomy (a feeling of control)

They also think that depression is closely linked to a lack of social connection and a lack of autonomy (which is sometimes called ‘learned helplessness’). The conclusion to draw from this is that developing your social connectedness and taking control of some things in your life will be helpful in maintaining resilience.

In the last twenty years there has been a significant advance in research in what is called ‘positive psychology’.  Positive psychology focuses on what improves people’s well-being.

Taking control – being a person with autonomy

No, you can’t control everything in your life, but you can control the some things.

In other sections we list some ordinary things you can control, like making sure you look after yourself; but it is also important to think about a different sort of autonomy – that is, the sense that you can be yourself and make your own choices. Many law students are doing law for reasons which are really someone else’s reasons – they got the marks and their family thought it would be a good idea, for example.  This may cause problems if it means that you, the student, don’t really want to be here.

Similarly, you may always have been at the top of your class and taken for granted that that is how you define yourself. It can be dangerous to use an external motivator like marks as your way to think about yourself, because this is not something that you can ultimately have control over. In a group of students who have all always been on top, it is a logical necessity that most of them cannot be on top any more.  The more you can find internal motivators, such as the knowledge that you have learned what you wanted to, or the fact that you are deeply interested in some topic, the less external markers will be able to hurt you and the more resilient you will be as a law student and a lawyer, or indeed as a person. This is not to say that marks cannot tell you useful things about your work and what you need to learn; but treating marks as a good in themselves is not helpful.

Here are some helpful videos on Happiness and Potential

Embrace your failures!

Don't be alarmed. We aren't telling you to flunk out of class. All we are saying is that failing isn't the end of the world (though it might feel like it at the time). In fact, it can be a valuable opportunity to re-evaluate and learn something important. But don't take our word for it. Read what J.K Rowling had to say on failure at the Annual Meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association.