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November 17, 2023 6 minutes to read ∙ 1400 words

Defining Moments, Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul: Ten Defining Moments of Gratitude for the Holiday Season

Melanie Bragg

’Tis the season when we are creating lots of defining moments in our lives and being all happy and grateful with no effort . . . right! Anybody else busy and can barely think past the next few hours and all the deadlines and dockets and client matters that need to be squared away before the end of the year? I think we are all in the same boat. The world has sped up, and us lawyers are keeping ourselves at the top of the heap as best we can.

In all seriousness, we need to carve out some time to be reflective during this season and ponder the things we are grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful force that we can cultivate, and it will change our lives for the better, one thought at a time.

What follows are my top ten ideas to help you focus on gratitude this season and create some new defining moments in your life that you will treasure for years to come.

1. Reflect on Your Personal Achievements

Take time to appreciate and express gratitude for your accomplishments, big or small. I know we run through life and never really take the time to pat ourselves on the back, but we really need to do that. Often, no one else is! Think of the clients you have helped, the young lawyer you guided, or the child you helped with a task. All those examples are little achievements you can appreciate yourself for. You may have big ones, too. Just be mindful of what and who you compare yourself to. You are doing good; believing that will take you far.

2. Reflect on Your Cherished Relationships

Acknowledge the positive impact of friends, family, and mentors in your life. None of us can do it alone. Spend some time really thinking of all the people who help your world go round. Consider all those people we may not acknowledge every day—our cleaning staff at the office, the police officer who helps us get out of our offices each day, the barista who brews our latte. Then, think about the big ones in our lives—our families and supportive friends and co-workers. We are all part of an interconnected system. We each matter.

3. Embrace Your Challenges

Find gratitude in the lessons and growth that come from facing and overcoming difficulties. Think about the tough things you have been through this year, the tough cases, the tough clients. Looking back—you are still here, and you made it. What changes did you make in your processes or learning skills to do better next time? Challenges are opportunities. I have some that are almost behind me now, and I am going to have plenty of time to ponder and be excited that I lived through them and am on the other side.

4. Commit to Daily Mindfulness Practices

Cultivate gratitude through mindfulness exercises, such as keeping a daily gratitude journal. This is a big one. Those small incremental changes you can make daily will impact your life in a big way. Commit to something new this holiday season.

5. Reflect on Acts of Kindness

Engage in acts of kindness, fostering gratitude both in yourself and others. Some of the biggest acts of kindness can be the smallest—like telling someone they look good on a day they feel like hell. Never underestimate the effect your kindness will have on you, not just the others who are receiving it.

6. Reflect on Your Appreciation of Nature

Connect with the beauty of nature and express gratitude for the wonders of the world. Look at things more closely than usual. When was the last time you really noticed things about the street you drive down to get home, the shrubs outside your neighbor’s house, the birdhouse perched on the fence? Take a new look at what is around you. Do you hear the birds singing in the morning? Can you see the squirrels scampering around outside or on the roof from your window? Take a walk and really notice your surroundings. There is beauty and joy there that you may be missing.

7. Reflect on Your Learning Opportunities

View setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow, appreciating the wisdom gained. What did you learn this year? How could you have done something better? Where does that take you for the future? We all have these experiences, and the time we spend really meditating on them will pay off for us.

8. Cultivate Present-Moment Awareness

Be mindful of the present, finding gratitude in the simple joys of the moment. Living in the present moment is the easiest way to be happy. If you really think about it, time is only in the moment. If you are thinking about the past or the future—both of those are illusions, they are not real. The past is finished, and the future has not happened. You will be much happier when you think about the present moment and focus your energy there.

9. Express Thankfulness to Those You Are Grateful For

Verbally or in writing, communicate your gratitude to those who have positively impacted you. Writing thank-you notes is a powerful sign of appreciation that can radically change your life. Ask Judge John Kralik, author of the book 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life (2010), in which he chronicled his journey from being depressed and ready to give up on life to finding new happiness and meaning just by writing a thank-you note each day for a year.

10. Reflect on Yourself and Assess Your Life

Regularly assess your life, acknowledging the positive aspects and expressing gratitude for them. You know we are all just humans trying to find our way. We are all wired the same. We have the fight-or-flight response built into us. Some say we are hard-wired for negativity. But the practice of gratitude will enhance our lives, and realizing that every moment of gratitude doesn’t have to be anything big will help us create more of those defining moments we all love and live for.

I am grateful for you, and I hope this little list gave you some ideas. Have a great holiday season. Ponder your defining moments and think about how they have shaped your life. There may be some gold in there that can help you deal with things in the future as you contemplate everything you have been through up to this point. Please contact me with your questions or comments at [email protected].

Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul

Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul

Defining Moments: Insights Into the Lawyer’s Soul
By Melanie Bragg
ISBN: 9781641054195
Product Code: 1620777
2019, 241 pages, paperback and e-book
$29.95; member price $23.95

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Melanie Bragg

Bragg Law PC

Melanie Bragg ([email protected]) is a former Chair of the GPSolo Division and a former GPSolo Division Delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, where she currently serves as a representative for the Houston Bar Association. Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas, specializing in probate, real estate, and small business representation. She is the author of three books, HIPAA for the General Practitioner (ABA, 2009), Crosstown Park (Koehler Books, 2013), and Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul (ABA, 2019), and she is a frequent CLE, motivational, and mindfulness speaker.

Legal Insight

Legal Insight

Published in GPSolo eReport, Volume 13, Number 4, November 2023. © 2023 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association. The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of the American Bar Association or the Solo, Small Firm and General Practice Division.