Monthly Archives: November 2020

Saying Thanks on Thanksgiving Day

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States. The tradition is to gather with loved ones, share a meal (that includes turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie), and express gratitude.

This year, there are COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions that affect holiday plans. Some will stay at home with their immediate family members, and keep relatives and friends outside their household at a physical distance — either by personal choice or due to state mandates.

We’ve had difficult decisions to make. We’ve experienced ripple effects in the United States and around the world. There are a wide range of opinions and thoughts on how to respond to this crisis.

It’s okay to find advantages in the “new normal” – like remote work, flexible schedules, and more family time.

It’s okay to feel grief, discomfort and perhaps anger over lockdowns and restrictions – like bans on social gatherings, physical distancing measures, closures of small businesses, and the erosion of personal relationships and mentorship opportunities.

It’s okay to be upset with those who flout the rules (especially if you have older parents or other vulnerable family members).

It’s okay to question the rules (especially if you live in a free democracy and your livelihood is at stake).

No doubt, 2020 has been a wild, roller coaster ride for most people around the globe. You’re not alone if this year did not turn out the way you wished or expected.

But we can always find someone or something to be grateful for. Nothing is too small to celebrate. Being thankful will soften your heart, lift your spirit, bring hope and shift your mindset.

We have the innate superpowers of acceptance, patience and resilience to tackle any adversity or setback. Learn more HERE in my blog post, 3 superpowers to be thankful for in a rough year.

And if you want to gain traction for the new year, check out my e-book, The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps. For a limited- time offer through December 4 (11:59 pm Central Time), the minimum price will drop to $4.99 (from $9.99) on leanpub.com. Get the book while it’s on sale!

Whether you’re a client, a subscriber, or visitor on my website, I appreciate your audience. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stay well, stay strong, and stay connected.

Saying thanks on Thanksgiving Day,

Dyan Williams

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps, an e-book at http://leanpub.com/incrementalist.

3 superpowers to be thankful for in a rough year

Being thankful in a rough year – like 2020 – is tough. The COVID-19 situation, economic fallout, and socio-political unrest have led to changes we did not expect. The end of the year (including Thanksgiving season in the United States) is an ideal time to reflect on what has been and what might be.

While adversity brings pain and discomfort, we have 3 superpowers to get us through it and out. They are acceptance, patience and resilience. We need each and all of them to keep ourselves together when life falls apart.

Acceptance.

When you accept what-is, you see things for what they truly are, rather than wish them to be different. You process unpleasant thoughts and emotions instead of suppress them. You keep climbing the steep cliff to get to the top, not jump off midway at your own peril.

Acceptance is not the same as giving up, condoning, or being complacent. You still have desires, goals and preferences. You still seek to make changes or defend the status quo. But you distinguish between what you control and what you don’t control. You recognize that while you might not have a say in big decisions, it’s your small daily actions that really matter.

You accept that you don’t always get what you want and you don’t have to get everything you want. You accept the present moment and the past, and you attend to the next moment and the future. You decide what you need to hold on to and what you have to let go of.

You’re not hooked on being right. You stop labeling yourself and others. You understand that choices and actions are based on nuanced and complex reasons, not one-dimensional motives. You’re able to engage with others who have different opinions and perspectives. You don’t just resort to labeling, blaming, stereotyping, censoring, and shutting down disagreements.

Although it’s comforting to be with kindred sprits, we grow and stretch more from seeking to understand those who are not. By staying open to conflict and tension, we gain a more holistic view of the world. This helps us sort facts from interpretations, distinguish narratives from truth, and separate groupthink from our own thoughts.

With the superpower of acceptance, we’re able to transform unbearable difficulties into welcome opportunities. We move from emotional rigidity to emotional agility. Only then can we make choices and take action in alignment with who we want to be in a given situation.

Patience.

Patience is an essential virtue for navigating uncertainty. It keeps your nervous system calm and your immune system strong. But we don’t get to exercise it much when our credit cards, smart phones, microwaves, and Amazon Prime make it so easy to get what we want right now.

Patience is allowing outcomes to unfold and goals to be reached organically and in due course — when more striving or more complaining is counterproductive. We practice waiting to get unfulfilled needs met while we look for substitutes and alternatives.

It often takes years to master our craft, optimize our skills, discover our gifts, and apply our strengths to create massive impact. There is no magic pill. There’s no overnight success.

Along the path, you might need to slow down, drop the stones you’ve been carrying, and lighten the load. Trust your natural rhythm and make space for rest, rather than obsess over your ability to produce.

With the superpower of patience, we know when to keep going, when to pause, and when to quit. We use routines, rituals, and repetition to get a little better every day. We make small tweaks in tiny moments to make a big difference. We course correct instead of rely on auto-pilot.

Resilience.

Having the grit to move through tough times, trusting yourself, and acting courageously are necessary to deal with life’s realities. To bounce back from major setbacks and everyday disappointment, we need to embrace vulnerabilities, have strong connections, honor our needs, process resentment, and find humor in grief.

Resilience helps us to move forward, flourish and thrive regardless of what life brings our way. We feel the anger, sadness and fear that come from losses, but we don’t let these feelings and emotions break our spirit. We can bend and flex in appropriate situations and hold our boundaries and set limits when necessary.

To get over rocky terrain, you have get back up and brush yourself off when you stumble or fall. You keep moving even when your confidence is shaken.

To cultivate resilience, you practice a wide range of responses and explore different possibilities for recovery. Sometimes you need to take the wait-and-see approach, not take instant action. Sometimes you need to move through rough patches, not end the relationship. Sometimes you need to laugh more, not meditate more. Sometimes you need to talk to a trusted confidante, not journal about your inner conflicts.

When you find meaning in crisis and purpose in hardships, you create resolve and strength to overcome. You drop the victim mentality. You don’t wait for others to take you in, take care of you or stand up for you. You put yourself in charge. You stand on your own and yet ask for help and receive it well when it’s given.

With the superpower of resilience, you have the ability to respond to setbacks and not just get strung along by external circumstances and conditions. You replace self-pity, anxiety and worry with a positive mindset. You see the big picture. You consider the temporary nature and existential uncertainty of all things.

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Acceptance, patience and resilience are 3 superpowers to be thankful for in a rough year. They help us see the silver linings, no matter how faint they might be. They are natural and innate, but they can be crushed out with profound loss, defeat, disappointment, trauma and fear-based messaging. We must keep cultivating, rediscovering and developing these superpowers to withstand crisis, create bonds, defend boundaries, and grow from hardships.

Regardless of the depth and breadth of adversity you face, there’s a high probability you’ll get through it and out. Your being alive is proof you’ve done it before.

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps working parents, lawyers, small business owners and other busy people turn their ideas into action, reduce overwhelm, and focus on what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps, an e-book at http://leanpub.com/incrementalist.

Staying Solo Successfully in Tumultuous 2020

On October 20, I celebrated my 6th year as a solo lawyer at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. It was a quiet acknowledgement in the middle of COVID-19 stress, civil unrest, political polarization, and a very divisive election year in the United States.

As I write this article on Wednesday, November 4th, we have yet to know the final outcome of the U.S. presidential election. Many are feeling discomfort, anxiety, anger, and worry over the uncertainty. Regardless of whether incumbent Donald Trump or challenger Joe Biden is elected as the 46th U.S. President, there are fears that political unrest will continue. The social isolation related to COVID-19 measures has added to the distress.

While the distractions and changes continue to mount, we are still expected to show up, do our part, and fulfill responsibilities in daily life.

In this tumultuous year of 2020, there are days when I wish business would slow down more. This is a fine line to walk in the present economy. While it’s great to have meaningful work to do, it can be hard to tackle other people’s problems in unstable times.

There is much to be thankful for. I still have a thriving law firm that helps clients achieve their U.S. immigration objectives, even as COVID-19 related travel restrictions, cancellation of visa interview appointments, and many unknowns persist. On the upside, I’ve had USCIS grant green cards, waivers and other benefits, and the U.S. Consulates lift inadmissibility bars and issue visas to my clients this year.

As a productivity coach, I’m helping lawyers, busy professionals and working parents maintain their sanity, build resilience and make progress on the things that really matter. I draw from my experience working remotely from my home office, with my husband and our two young children in close proximity.

Since the COVID-19 restrictions began in March, my family and I have been together through unprecedented changes, such as schools closing and businesses requiring or encouraging their teams to work from home. While the upending of normal life can lead to positive changes and a reemphasis on the highest priorities, it is a perpetual stress test. If we fail to manage it, it may result in our own destruction and society’s fracturing.

A key practice that has been essential to me is to respond with grace and compassion. When you’re faced with fast changes and unlimited demands or requests, you might move too quickly into resistance mode and defensive positions.

To lengthen our fuse and hold our center, we need to take care of ourselves, including our mind, heart, body and spirit. Otherwise, we won’t have the interest, composure, energy, or patience to respond effectively and break negative cycles.

As a lawyer, I get to deal with the problems, dilemmas and crises of my clients. When you have clients that are often in worse situations than yours, it’s easy to forget about self-care. But to be responsive in the most effective way, you need to have boundaries and set priorities. You must avoid the madness that comes with trying to do too many things all at once.

We also need to pivot, innovate and adapt to changes that are outside of our control. There are new opportunities in every crisis. Being a consistent player in our business arena, professional space or personal life will help us make vital progress, no matter how small it might seem.

We also have to confront our own biases and integrate multiple perspectives to navigate uncertainty. A big mental roadblock is confirmation bias, which means we hear what we want to hear, and see what we want to see. We have habit loops that keep us glued to the same sources of information. We have default networks that filter out information that disconfirm existing beliefs.

If you are breaking off relationships purely due to political differences and ideological disagreements, ask yourself whether you’re allowing divisive rhetoric in news media and social media to manipulate you.

Invite real discourse and participate in conscious conversations. Listen deeply to understand the stories, backgrounds, and experiences that shape the values of others who have conflicting viewpoints. Don’t allow your subconscious mind to dictate your behaviors and actions.

By confronting your biases and challenging your opinions, you might start to uncover commonalities that you did not know existed. Only then can we have civil discussions, increase mutual understanding, and form nonpartisan or bipartisan alliances to create lasting and positive changes.

Like many other eligible voters, I was bombarded with skewed messages on what to think of the 2020 political candidates and who to vote for and who to vote against. There was so much noise and distortion coming from so many angles.

While voting is an important civic duty, the act itself involves little effort. You have a lot more to do in terms of how you respond to the results, make space for whatever unfolds, and engage with others to inspire positive action.

The choices you make are probably not as important as how you form them. If we want to hold our society together, maintain civility, and address real problems, we need to know how to think clearly and make better decisions.

To learn more, check out my three-part commentary on reducing bias, framing and reframing problems, and owning your decisions:

How to Think Clearly and Make Better Decisions: Part 1 – Get out of echo chambers

How to Think Clearly and Make Better Decisions: Part 2 – Frame and reframe the problem

How to Think Clearly and Make Better Decisions: Part 3 – Keep Experts on Tap, Not on Top

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Dyan Williams is a solo lawyer who practices U.S. immigration law and legal ethics at Dyan Williams Law PLLC. She is also a productivity coach who helps lawyers, small business owners and other busy people reduce overwhelm and make time for what truly matters. She is the author of The Incrementalist: A Simple Productivity System to Create Big Results in Small Steps, an e-book at http://leanpub.com/incrementalist.