Apr 23, 2018
In this episode, I am excited to have Diane Costigan on to talk about different ways to experience wellness and mindfulness, from meditation to EFT tapping.
As a seasoned executive and career coach, Diane works with all levels of attorneys to drive performance and career-related goals. She currently serves as Winston & Strawn's Director of Coaching, where she coaches lawyers on topics such as business development, peak performance, and leadership and career strategy. Diane is a prolific speaker and writer and has been quoted in Forbes, Law360, and Law Practice Magazine. Diane earned her M.A. in Organizational Psychology from Columbia University, and B.A., cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, from the College of the Holy Cross. She has a certificate in Organizational and Executive Coaching from NYU and is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) with the International Coaching Federation. She is also an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach (INHC) through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, and a certified Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT/Meridian Tapping) practitioner. Diane is a second-degree black belt in karate and a long time meditator.
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Diane Costigan: [00:00:04] You know, feel feelings so that you can free them.
Intro: [00:00:12] Welcome to the Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:33] Hello my friends, thanks for being with me for another episode of The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this episode, I have Diane Costigan. As a seasoned executive and career coach, Diane works with all levels of attorneys to drive performance and career-related goals. She currently serves as Winston & Strawn's Director of Coaching, where she coaches lawyers on topics such as business development, peak performance, leadership, and career strategy.
[00:01:00] Before we get into the interview, if you haven't heard the last episode on The Resilient Lawyer podcast, go back and check it out. I shared just a six-minute guided meditation practice to help you let go of stress and anxiety. It's a preview for my new course, Mindful Pause. So often I hear lawyers tell me that they know they should meditate, but they just can't seem to find the time. So I wanted to create a course that would make it really easy for the busy lawyers to fit it into their very busy schedule, it's just six minutes a day. Of all the hours you dedicate to your clients, work, and others, don't you deserve to have at least .1 hour to yourself? Mindful Pause is designed for lawyers like you; think of it like taking your daily vitamin to boost your well-being. Head on over to jeenacho.com to learn more, or check it out in the show notes. And with that, here's Diane. Diane, welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. I'm so happy to have you.
Diane Costigan: [00:02:03] Thanks Jeena, it's such an honor to be part of this podcast so thank you for inviting me. I'm really grateful.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:09] So let's start by having you give us a 30-second introduction to who you are and what you do.
Diane Costigan: [00:02:16] Sure. I'm an integrative coach and I help lawyers successfully reach their goals by tapping into and/or increasing their personal power and resourcefulness. I like to think of myself as a resource for them to leverage along their path to success, and also happiness because I don't think they're mutually exclusive, even in the law.
Jeena Cho: [00:02:42] Yeah, I totally agree with you. And I'm often surprised by lawyers that will look at me sideways when I mention that word, happiness. "We're lawyers; we're not supposed to be happy." You know, it seems like no one really goes through life thinking, "I'm going to be as miserable as possible." That's such an innately human thing to desire, happiness and peace and love. And all those words that I think some lawyers have an almost allergic reaction to. So you know I feel like you have one of those jobs that is very coveted and everyone would love to have, so how did you end up in-house as a coach?
Diane Costigan: [00:03:28] It is funny you say that, because I almost feel like my career path is that I spent 10 years at a law firm doing more professional development type stuff, then I was out as a consultant for 10 years doing coaching, training, and consulting. And now I'm back on the law firm side, and I have said several times that the job I have now is actually the job in hindsight that I really wanted the first time around when I was in a law firm. So it just kind of took me a little bit of time to realize that. But how I got it, I do think that my 10 years of consulting really helped to tee me up nicely for the job. Like I said, I had 10 years of seeing how a law firm works and doing true professional development. And then I had the benefit as a consultant of seeing how different firms approach professional development. And then I was also, during that time (and this was one of the reasons I really left my first law firm job, because I was able to work so personally and one-on-one with so many different lawyers, probably like hundreds of lawyers in the last 10 years) I was really able to see things they all had in common, things that show up differently, and I was able to create programs and training, and just really customize the coaching that I was doing as a consultant. But it kind of got to the place, I loved consulting and I loved the firm, I worked for Volta Talent Strategies, which is an amazing company. But I really got to the point about a year ago where I wanted to just grow some roots, and rejoin a law firm so that I could almost go deeper in a sense, and really learn only one way of doing things or system of doing things.
[00:05:23] You know I do a lot of business development coaching for example, and you know when you're an external coach who does business development, you have to understand the compensation and credit system of every firm you're working with. And while there are a lot of similarities, there can be differences. And so it's just nice to be at one place and learn one system, one culture and one way politics shows up. So you know, I think that's sort of how I decided that I wanted to come back to the firm. And then you know, being that I do career coaching I literally put myself through the process I would have suggested to a client as well. I got really clear on what I liked and what I didn't like about my job, I went back and reviewed all the jobs I had had and did the pro-con for all of them.
And I think probably the biggest thing I did was informational interviews, you know I talked to people. I think my role is a little different in that I'm working with partners and associates, and I'm doing mostly performance coaching actually, and some career coaching. So I talked to everyone I knew who did something similar or had bits of that job at law firms, and that's sort of how I got the information I needed. But I think how I ended up here specifically at Winston & Strawn, is I followed my longtime mentor Sue Manch. And I really do credit our mentor relationship, but also just staying in touch and networking and you know, really looking to her for any career move I made. And it just, I think all of the stars kind of aligned between all of those things. And so once Sue decided to join Winston and they had already had this position kind of in mind, you know all the stars kind of aligned.
Jeena Cho: [00:07:25] Wow. Are you the only full-time coach at the firm, or are there other full-time coaches as well?
Diane Costigan: [00:07:31] I'm the only full-time coach, but we do have at least one other person. My colleague Julia Mercier, who is our Director of Planning and Development. She is also a certified coach. And so you know, she's working with me on some coaching things, I'm working with her on some training things; so that's been a really nice synergy. And I do intend at some point, probably calendar year 2019, to train up some of our other internal staff, particularly on the HR side and the Recruiting and Attorney Development side, and then some other people on the Learning and Development team. So we're going to train them at least to have coaching skills; we're really trying to build a total culture of coaching, and that's one way (in addition to my role) that we're going to try to deploy resources to that end.
Jeena Cho: [00:08:32] That's great. You know I need to zoom out a little bit. Can you talk a little bit about what coaches do? Because I often find that lawyers don't fully understand what a coach does.
Diane Costigan: [00:08:45] Yeah, no that's a great question. You know, coaching at its root is focused on helping you achieve goals that you set that are meaningful to you. And, it's a process. I like to say it's a process of both transformation and empowerment. So transformation meaning, you know something because you're going to have a goal, something will always be different by the end of your time in coaching. And that might be that you've developed a skill further that you wanted to develop, that you have changed or enhanced a way that you're approaching something. It could be accomplishment-based, making partner in a law firm for example, or bringing in a certain amount of business. It could also be changing your mindset around something, or changing beliefs that you have, limiting beliefs that might be getting in the way. Or it could be changing behaviors that you're engaging in that are getting in the way. So it's a process of transformation, and then it's also a process of empowerment in that (in theory) you know, coaches don't tell you what to do; they don't give you the answers. It's not advising or mentoring or counseling. It's really working with you to pull the information from you, as coachee, to reach your goals. So that's in general what coaching is and what coaching can do for lawyers. And I'm probably implementing it in different ways internally, but that's really the route. There's always something that we're working on.
Jeena Cho: [00:10:25] Yeah I've worked with various coaches over the course of my career, and I always found that I love working with a coach because they don't have their own agenda; they're fully focused on you and what your goals are. And there's not that many people in your life that play that role; where they're going to really listen to you, ask you really great questions. And I think when I first started working with a coach I was sort-of like, "Okay here's my problem, go solve it."
Diane Costigan: [00:10:54] Exactly, yep.
Diane Costigan: [00:10:55] That's not what happens at all, it's like okay, let me ask you some questions about your specific questions or your issue. Sometimes they ask one right question and you see the problem in a completely different way and I think that's where the magic in coaching happens.
Diane Costigan: [00:11:14] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think for a mentor the compliment you can give is, wow that was really good advice. And I think for a coach the best compliment you can get is, wow that was a really great question. But I agree, I would be staffed up with coaches all the time if I could. I do work with my own coach. But I mean, I've used coaches for a ton of different things. And you're right, it is kind of a luxury to have someone who's just intently focused on you.
Jeena Cho: [00:11:44] Yeah, totally. So I know that you and I also have, well we lots of different things in common. But I know you meditate. So, will you share a little bit about your journey, how did you start meditating?
Diane Costigan: [00:12:00] I've definitely had a long journey with meditation, I probably started later in my teenage years, it kind of started where I would drift in and out and it wasn't a full-time thing, but I would say in the last ten to 15 years it's been more of a constant in my life. And I think I got into it as a teenager, someone introduced me to a progressive relaxation. Have you ever done progressive relaxation, where you tense your muscles and then release them with breath? It's a great stress reliever. So someone introduced me to that, and so that's kind of like my early day's entry into it. And then I went to a Jesuit college, and I did this five-day silent retreat. I think it was five days, anyway, it was such a powerful transformational experience. I mean, really when in your life do you ever. I mean for an extrovert like me it was incredibly intimidating and frustrating, but so, so powerful. Because really, when do you get that kind of time just yourself and your thoughts? So you know, that definitely got me more into it. And then I guess I got into it also as I started getting deeper, I started to really see there are spiritual benefits to it. Anyone who's sort of a seeker or really always working on personal development, I think there are lots of benefits so you know, that was probably the next kind of wave for me. And I did this online course through the Meditation Society of Australia, which was so amazing and lovely and I just love to hear their Australian accent, that really helped.
[00:13:48] So that got me even deeper, and then I think shortly before I left my first law firm job, I really got into (and it's still a big part of my own practice as a coach) just focusing on stress management. Then I got more into seeing the benefits of meditation from that angle and the neuroscience, so that pulled me in a little bit deeper. But I guess I would say over the last 10 or 15 years, I've had a very regular practice where I probably meditate every weekday. I mean I shouldn't say every, you know sometimes when I'm traveling or I don't sleep well it doesn't happen. But I try to meditate every morning before work for about half an hour. And then on the weekends, I try to do something else that's meditation but not so organized or formal, maybe some focused reading or quiet time or just doing something I'm really interested in. But I think if somebody put me on a panel and asked me, if you could only pick one tool for success in life and career what would it be? Hands down, no question I would say meditation.
Jeena Cho: [00:15:14] Yeah, I feel the same way. It's like one of the most important things I do in my life. And I can tell the difference on the days when I don't meditate, it's funny because sometimes if I go for like a week without meditating, my husband can notice and he'll be like, "Are you meditating?" So it makes a difference, yeah
[00:15:43] So I think one of the things that are such a challenge, especially for lawyers who are so busy, is actually getting your butt in the chair or on the cushion and actually doing it. Do you have tricks or habits or other things you do to make it easier to habitualize that practice?
Diane Costigan: [00:16:07] Yeah, I have a few. I think one is, I like to say I cheat it. And what I mean by that is I think you need to find a way to meditate that works for you. And sometimes (and this is true for me) it's not sitting formally. I do have a sisyama bench and very rarely I will get it out and sit, fully erect and straight up, with my hands and some Mudra position and I meditate. But for me, what I have found works is I meditate laying down. And sometimes I don't even get out of bed, truthfully. But most days I get out of bed, I basically commute from my bed to our couch. I get a heating pad, this will change in the summer but certainly, for the winter months I get a heating pad and I put it under my back. I wrap myself in a cozy blanket and then I put one of those sleeping masks over my eyes. I put headphones in and for now I mostly do guided meditations. Occasionally I'll lead myself in meditation, but I think because I have a job that's so people-facing to me it's such a luxury to have someone else tell me what to do, or guide me through something.
[00:17:37] And for me, it just feels so good and it's such a critical part of my self-care. Now that I'm thinking about it, it's like I'm creating this safe womb experience for myself. And it's just such a powerful way to start my day, I only do it for half an hour, and I look forward to it. So I think if you can do it in a way that works for you, that you look forward to, that's great. But I guess what I tell lawyers who are interested in meditating is, and I know you'll relate to this. I think there are several challenges, but one is I think they set bars (no pun intended) so high for themselves that you know, if they can't be on an ashram in a week-long meditation retreat, they don't want to do it. Or you know, they feel like they're not doing it right. So I always say, set realistic expectations when you're beginning a practice. So even if you're meditating for one minute, you don't want to go from meditating zero minutes a day, zero days a week to trying to do it for an hour, five days a week. And there are lots of good apps out there, I mean that's what I love about your six-minute meditation. I just think that's genius. And I have something similar where I say, 'everyone has 10 minutes.' Like everyone has ten minutes, especially you have to have ten minutes if it's something good for you. Ten minutes or something good for you is better than no minutes of nothing good for you.
[00:19:17] And I guess my other recommendation I usually make to busy lawyers is to go for guided meditation. I mean, I think going for an eight-week MBSR course really works for some people and they come to a place in their life where that's what they need. And that's great, but it can be too much for other people. So just going to something where you're popping headphones in and listening to a guided meditation is a great way to whet the appetite. And then you build from there, instead of trying to do something that's not realistic and then not feeling good about not keeping up with it, and then running a bad or negative script in your head about it.
Jeena Cho: [00:20:05] Right, totally. Yeah. And that desire to do things perfectly, you know I think when you start to meditate that shows up so strongly. And that's sort of the funny thing about meditation, you start to notice I do have this perfectionist tendency. and so be it myself enticed allow myself to do this as I am you know. And I think that's such a critical reason for doing this practice, like whatever your idea of a perfect meditation practice is, letting go and just showing up as you are.
Diane Costigan: [00:20:48] Yeah, I think also another myth that I think many people have but I know lawyers specifically have, is this worry or myth that they have to quiet their minds to be able to medicate. They say, I just have so many thoughts I can't stop them, and so I'll say awesome, you're going to be an amazing meditator. Because that's what you do in meditation. We're not trying to stop the train of thought, we're just trying to sit with it, label it, be with it, inquire about it, process it, and then let it go. So I think there are a lot of misconceptions, and that's a big one.
Jeena Cho: [00:21:31] Yeah, and I think what you said about starting small, to me that's the key. You know, if you don't have half an hour do fifteen minutes, if you don't have fifteen minutes do five, but do it as close to daily as you possibly can. And then also if you don't do the practice for a while.. and that's the other place where I notice a lot of lawyers will get tripped up. Because they'll do the practice for a while, let's say ten days. And they're feeling great, they're starting to notice that they're feeling a little bit less stressed and they have a little spaciousness. And then something comes up and then they don't meditate for five days, and then it's like well I didn't meditate for the last five days, so therefore I failed at this, and I might as well just not do it at all. And it's like no, you can just pick up right there. Just start on that day; let go of all the negative self-talk and the self-judgment and just begin again. And again, I feel like that's another thing that meditation teaches, is that you can just pick things up and continue your practice. And letting go of all the inner narrations of not doing it perfectly and not doing enough, and on and on and on.
Diane Costigan: [00:22:43] No, absolutely. I think that's a lot of what happens in coaching too. If somebody is on the business development side and they're working on moving their conversations more to the professional side from the personal side if they're trying to convert a personal friendship to get business. And we might be working on different strategies for them to do that, and they may be implementing them but then there's one day where they didn't, for whatever reason. And they'll come back in the next time, and to your point its like, "It's an epic fail." They kind of catastrophize about it. And I'll just say, "Well let's just do an automatic do-over." Right? The point is you're aware now; you might not have been aware, or maybe you were aware and you made a choice not to do it, it doesn't even matter. In this current moment of awareness, what are your choices? So what might you have done differently, what's your plan moving forward? But let's just leverage the awareness wherever it's happening.
Jeena Cho: [00:23:52] Yeah. So shifting gears a little bit from meditation to Emotional Freedom Technique, and I'm actually not that familiar with that is. So can you start by explaining what it is?
Diane Costigan: [00:24:05] Sure. Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping or EFT is basically a modality, it's an energy, psychology, modality where you simultaneously use your fingers to tap on different Meridian points from the acupuncture/acupressure system, while you're talking about or experiencing something that's uncomfortable or painful. Whether its physical pain, emotional pain, or even the pain of being in that critical voice that you mentioned before. And what it does is while you are stimulating the acupressure points, it actually switches on the relaxation response. So it basically pulls your body, your nervous system out of the fight or freeze response, so that you can then experience whatever's going on while you're being calm about it.
[00:25:10] I've probably been tapping for about 15 years, and similar to meditation I got into it originally for public speaking. Because I had a huge (and I know that's something else you and I share) really deep fear of public speaking. And so I used EFT to work on my anxiety around that, and then I would kind of come back to it over the years. But I would say probably six years ago it ended up back on my radar screen, and it's something I do every day. I really believe in it so much that I got certified in it, and it just has so many benefits. I mean first and foremost, it's a stress-reduction tool. Who doesn't need one of those in their toolbox, right? So it physiologically reduces stress, but I think it also is so powerful to help you process that critical voice; those unhelpful thoughts and emotions that we have that then inform maladaptive behaviors that get in the way of our success. So that's the upside, the downside of tapping is it sounds a little weird and it looks a little weird.
[00:26:34] I've been saying EFT is in new meditation, because 10 or 15 years ago when I was trying to introduce meditation to law firms, people would look at me like I was crazy. And then it kind of shifted to this interest but resistance to it, where they'd say okay let's talk about meditation or mindfulness but can we not call it that, can we call it something else? And now it's so mainstream, everyone wants to talk about it. Before I left my firm, we were getting so many requests for proposals on meditation stuff, and I refer people all the time who are interested. So I think EFT is the new meditation, I have tapped with a number of lawyers at this point. I did a stress management workshop here at Winston for our first and second years, and I had them meditating and tapping. So I do think that's my next big passion is to try to bring that in more of a powerful way to the legal community, because I just think it's so helpful. And even when I'm not necessarily having someone tap, I'm kind of using the armature or the structure of EFT, which is really feel feelings so that you can free them.
[00:28:07] And I know this is true for me but I know for many of the lawyers I work with, sometimes when they get into trouble from a stress management perspective or if they're just blocked from their goals or their success, it's often because they're not allowing themselves to feel the emotions that are coming up for them. I think sometimes we either stuff down our emotions and just ignore them or deny them. And unfortunately, they'll come out somewhere at some point, and probably not in a helpful way. Or we just hunker down, as my coach likes to say, "We unpack our bags and stay there." And emotion is energy in motion, and if you're stuffing it down or if you're staying in it, it's not doing its job of moving through you. And so EFT (and other modalities, it's not the only one) is a really effective tool for giving you some peace and calm to feel those feelings and to process them. So even if I'm not tapping with someone, I may be asking them what's the predominant feeling they have about that. And then we'll go through, which you can do in meditation as well right. Once you create that space and once you can detach from the emotion, you can explore it. Is it appropriate, does it make sense that you're feeling anger right now?
[00:29:45] And sometimes the answer is yes so then you go to the next question, and sometimes the answer is no and that's all it takes. But if the answer is yes and okay, sounds like based on what you're telling me anger is an appropriate emotion, we might explore why the person's angry, what the system around that anger is. Or we might say okay, well sounds like it's valid that you're feeling anger. Is that a helpful emotion for you to be feeling, based on what you're working on? And sometimes it is, anger can be a very helpful emotion if it inspires you to action around something, whether it's standing up for yourself or setting a boundary. But again, you don't want to stay in that anger; you want to use it for what it can do for you and then move past it.
Jeena Cho: [00:30:36] Right, it's just like fuel and you can kind of propel yourself forward and move through it. You know, I didn't realize the tapping technique was called Emotional Freedom Technique, because I've done it before with my therapist. So I was like oh, I know exactly what you're talking about. So for folks who might want to try it, where do they go to learn how to do this? Is this something they have to go see a therapist for, where would you learn this?
Diane Costigan: [00:31:06] That's such a great question, and to me that's one of the best parts about EFT and similar to meditation; you don't have to go to a tapping practitioner to do it, you can do it on yourself and so it's very effective and versatile. I would suggest, I'm a big fan of The Tapping Solution, and their website is thetappingsolution.com. And they have a number of books, they have just a general The Tapping Solution Approach to Stress and Anxiety, they've got a book about how to use tapping for weight loss and body confidence, they have one for chronic pain. So they have lots of different resources. And then another good resource is eftuniverse.com. And that's where I did my training and my certification. But I think one of the best parts is you can work with someone, but you can also do it for yourself. And I would also go onto YouTube. There are lots of wonderful YouTube videos. The EFT practitioner that I work with who is amazing, her name is Julie Schiffman and she has a number of videos that I will often send lawyers links to. Like I will introduce the concept of tapping if I think it will be helpful, and then if they seem skeptical I'll send them a video and then we might do it the next time. And then Brad Yates is another EFT practitioner who has a lot of really wonderful videos. It's so wonderful to hear that your therapist uses tapping, I think it's such a great complement to a therapeutic practice, but I would say if you're tapping on things that are rooted in trauma I would definitely recommend that you work with a certified practitioner.
Jeena Cho: [00:33:11] Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. Well, we covered a lot of ground today. So one final question before I let you go: what makes a resilient lawyer, what does it mean to be a resilient lawyer to you?
Diane Costigan: [00:33:28] To me, it's about taking ownership of their well-being. When I think of resilience, I think about the ability to bounce back from things that are stressful. And I think to be able to do that, you have to be on top of your stress management game, and paying attention to your well-being. So I think as part of that, it's the willingness to be aware: aware of what might not be working (with respect to your well-being,), and a willingness to work on that. To look at the things that aren't working, and put yourself through a process of working on that. And I think resilient lawyers really understand that it is both a practice and a process. It's not like you all of a sudden in the mail get this diploma that says you're fully resilient, right? I mean, it's something that we constantly have to work at. So it's a process and you're always learning, but the process is fueled by the practice. It's about showing up every day and engaging in self-care, whether that's meditation, nutrition, exercise, getting time out in nature, spending time with the people who are really important to you in life, or hopefully a combination of all of those things. That's part of the everyday practice that will help you to be more and more resilient. And I think resilient lawyers get that.
[00:35:10] But I think it also (this may be a way longer answer than you were looking for) involves courage. Even if it starts with a tiny nugget of courage, but its courage to stand up for yourself. It's courage to set boundaries where you need to set boundaries, it's courage to say no to the things you need to say no to, the courage to say yes to the things that will stretch you and help you build that practice of resilience. But I think, I'm probably going to end up alliterating here because I just love alliteration, but I think it also involves a level of compassion, particularly compassion for themselves. To your point, if you don't meditate for five days, there's no reason to self-flagellate about it. Self-compassion is much more of a resiliency skill there, to say hey it happens, and here I am going to pick it up again. And I think they also are good communicators, they're willing to communicate about their feelings, what they need, when somebody has pushed a boundary, and maybe even apologizing when they've pushed a boundary. So I think those are some of the ingredients that go into being a resilient layer.
Jeena Cho: [00:36:30] Thank you so much for your time and sharing your wisdom with us today, I really appreciate.
Diane Costigan: [00:36:36] Thank you so much, thank you for having me. I'm really grateful.
Closing: [00:36:42] Thanks for joining us on The Resilient Lawyer podcast. If you've enjoyed the show, please tell a friend. It's really the best way to grow the show. To leave us a review on iTunes, search for The Resilient Lawyer and give us your honest feedback. It goes a long way to help with our visibility when you do that, so we really appreciate it. As always, we'd love to hear from you. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks, and look forward to seeing you next week.