• Scott R. Mote, Esq.

5 traits of resilience

By Scott R. Mote, Esq., Executive Director of the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program


As a judge, you are faced with many circumstances, such as increasing dockets, public scrutiny, public misunderstanding, and compassion fatigue. Dealing with these situations requires that you develop resiliency, the ability to recover from a setback. A resilient judge accepts challenges and learns from them; a judge who has low resilience takes criticism personally and challenges feedback.


Unfortunately, most of us are not born resilient. The good news is that you can learn this important trait.


How do you know if you are resilient?


You are aware of your thinking.

If you are resilient, you know how to control your thoughts. Imagine this scenario: You spend weeks on a volunteer project for the courts that takes extra time away from your family and other personal responsibilities, yet another volunteer criticizes your work. How do you respond? What are the thoughts that are going through your mind at that moment? You might think, “I’m terrible at this project. I spent extra time on this, neglecting my family, only to be criticized. I can’t do anything right. I’m probably not even a good judge.” You might immediately get defensive and start an argument with your colleague.

A resilient person knows how to control negative thoughts and react in a professional manner. You might disagree with some of the critiques, but you know how to share your opinion without getting upset or confrontational. You realize that it is beneficial for other people to review your work so that they can offer alternative opinions or correct some of the technicalities. You learn from it. You are resilient.

If you have trouble controlling your thoughts, try the ABC Technique of Irrational Beliefs developed by Dr. Albert Ellis to help you determine why your thought process is off-track.


Let’s break down this example of a negative reaction to criticism: “I received a less-than-perfect review on a bar magazine article I wrote; I am a terrible judge.”


  • Activating event: an event that leads to some type of high emotional response or negative dysfunctional thinking. In this example, “the less-than-perfect review” is the activating event.

  • Belief: The negative thoughts that occurred to you. “I am a terrible judge.”

  • Consequence: The negative feelings and dysfunctional behaviors that ensued. “I doubt myself as a judge, and now I am stressed.”

Breaking down your thoughts this way helps you see that your thinking is irrational. In the example, the judge thinks he is “terrible” only because he did not receive high praises on his article. This leads him to self-doubt, which then leads to stress. When analyzing the thoughts, the judge begins to realize that 1) no one is perfect; 2) one “less-than-perfect” review does not make him a terrible judge (he thinks about all of his accomplishments as a judge—he was elected to this position!) and 3) receiving a perfect review is not a normal occurrence for any author. There will always be critiques. If you received a perfect score, you would not be able to improve, and we all have room for improvement!

You surround yourself with positive people.

You know the saying “Misery loves company.” People take comfort in knowing that others are unhappy, too. You can often see this in offices where employees huddle together and talk about who is treated the worst, who is paid the least, how unfair the practices are, etc. Resilient people do their best to surround themselves with positive people. If you are resilient, you choose to spend time with friends, acquaintances and colleagues who lift you up and help you become a better person.

You know that you are not perfect.

As you review your tasks for the day, you realize that you scheduled two different meetings at the same time. You might think: “How could I be so careless?” Resilient people know that they will make mistakes. A resilient person will problem-solve to determine how to reschedule one of the meetings.


You live in the present.

Resilient people do not waste time reminding themselves of things they have done wrong in the past. They learn from failures and mistakes and move on.


You know that it’s ok if you don’t feel ok sometimes.

Always remember that it is OK if you do not feel resilient right now. That is normal. We cannot be resilient 100% of the time. Take care of yourself, ask for support from a partner, a friend or a loved one. You might even consider talking to a professional. Do not be overly critical of yourself! You are doing the best you can. Take a moment to think about something positive in your life, such as the roof over your head, your freshly manicured lawn, your baby who just said his first word, or your dog who is always at your side.


If you do find that you are overly stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, and cannot shake it, it is time to seek help. The Judicial Advisory Group (www.ohiolap.org/judges) is a confidential group that works with the Ohio Lawyers Assistance Program (OLAP) to help judges manage life's stresses.


OLAP has saved lives, careers, marriages and families. All inquiries are confidential. (800) 348-4343 / ohiolap.org