Health, Education

Still time to get New Year's goals back on track, aligned: Dewhirst

By Staff

January and February can be a discouraging time for law professionals, who might see the goals they set for their practices at the beginning of the year already slipping beyond their grasp, says Toronto lawyer and coach Kate Dewhirst.

“These are literally the darkest days of the year, and it mirrors what many people are experiencing,” says Dewhirst, founder and principal of Kate Dewhirst Health Law, and Law2Life Coaching.

“The enthusiasm of the new year also comes with reality checks,” she tells

Dewhirst says the key is not to panic and throw in the towel.

“We have to be willing to reflect on what’s not working in order to keep on track with our goals," she says. "One failure can throw us off for the totality of the year if we’re not willing to reflect on what’s not working. We can end up thinking, 'Oh, I was doomed from the start.'”

It’s that insight that led Dewhirst to design the second instalment of the coaching program she runs with the Law Society of Ontario around the idea of resilience in the face of setbacks, she says.

In the Feb. 6 session, entitled You Are More Resilient Than You think — Beat the Winter Blahs and Stay on Track with CAN, she and colleague Sharon Duffy offered strategies for keeping on target as well as the opportunity for participants to give and receive support from each other.

When goals have quickly gone awry, examine whether they are really in accord with what you believe in, Dewhirst says.

“When you are doing goal-setting, and you find you’re not doing so well, the first thing to do is reflect on your core values, and make an inventory of what’s important to you. Then you can compare it with the goals you’ve set to see if they align," she says.

"Oftentimes when we set goals we’re doing so from a position of excitement. We’re thinking of what the future could look like. It would be great if we did goal-setting perfectly, but nobody does.

The second step is to identify and reflect on the internal and external events that have thrown you off track, Dewhirst says.

“In our training, we do some storytelling from our own experiences, things that have happened to us that were really challenging.”

These might be personal — for example, the loss of a loved one — or professional, perhaps the loss of a significant client you were relying on for the lion’s share of your work, a difficult case you lost, or a change in legislation that affects your products and services.

Dwelling on the negative is never a good thing, Dewhirst emphasizes, but it is vital to acknowledge realities. “We have to take stock of what has really happened and make a plan going forward for how to respond.”

In the Feb. 6 session, participants examined their “resilience inventory,” Dewhirst says. This consists of individual characteristics, social and community supports, plus activities that have helped them prevail over difficulties in the past.

“All of us have experienced challenges and tragedies, and we have overcome them in some way. It’s important to know that the things that helped us before are there for us in the future as well,” she says.

Step three is to talk about how to expand that inventory of resilience, Dewhirst says. “Sharon and I offer tools and techniques, mostly about mindset, but also habits to develop.”

As a professional group, lawyers and paralegals have higher-than-average rates of depression, mental illness, and drug abuse, Dewhirst says.

“Emotional availability can be hard for us because we feel the need to be so competent all the time. Acknowledging mistakes and setbacks, and looking for the ways to overcome them in these kinds of workshops, we can support each other to manage some of these things that feel overwhelming,” she says.

Dewhirst points to Bell Let’s Talk Day, a mental health awareness initiative that occurred on Jan. 30, and says, “This course is a way of extending the conversation to a group of people who always feel the need to be in control. We’re not always in control, and we have to acknowledge that.”

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