Courage, and the Life Lessons to be Learned Beyond School

Courage and the Life Lessons to be Learned Beyond School- coaching for lawyers
A 4 minute read on mindset, courage, and seizing the day, with 8 life lessons to live by in order to grow and achieve goals in life, which I shared with a group of students at my old school recently, and which can be equally applied to anyone’s life and career journey.

Mindset, Confidence and Resilience

Reflecting on a busy autumn, I’ve noticed similar themes and topics arising upon which people tend to commonly want support – coaching strategies to improve mindset; speaker events to inspire confidence; blogs to encourage resilience.

Common Themes

These themes are familiar because of their importance to so many – both women well established in their careers, as well as school pupils, budding lawyers of the next generation, like some of the girls I spoke to recently at a careers event at the invitation to my old school, Sheffield Girl’s High School.


I was struck, when reflecting on the entire AW23 season, how true it was for us all, old or young, at school or in work, that “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.

Carpe Diem

So what lessons have I learned over the years that could apply equally to students as much as my female lawyer clients?

I shared 8 with the Year 11 and 12s to further motivate them to seize the day and move successfully towards their goals, just as I do on a daily basis with my women in law coachees.

  1. Make use of every opportunity offered to you whilst at school. You never know when you will come to rely upon the skills and strengths you develop from an early age. Those opportunities, friendships and memories are likely to set you up for life. Friends I have to this day I met when I was 2, 5 and 6 years old respectively. That’s a whole lifetime of friendships right there.
  2. Choices about careers are likely to be influenced by the subjects you enjoy and excel at, the things you read, and your values and beliefs. Identify the longer-term goals with as much precision as you are able to visualise. To help in that task, consider work experience places to get a “day in the life” kind of view of the type of career you might wish to pursue. If you struggle with this long term view, have a go at Tara Mohr’s brilliant visualisation exercise in her book, Playing Big.
  3. Don’t panic if a certain career title or label isn’t immediately obvious. What you “become” career-wise may not be something you can immediately see or even know about. I certainly had no idea about running my own coaching and speaking business at school, or that it was ever even an option to be considered until much later on in my career as a criminal barrister.
  4. Be prepared to work hard, and independently. More so, be determined. After all, in the words of Churchill, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” Winston Churchill.
  5. That said, have the wisdom to know when to ask for help. To do so is not a weakness, but instead is a strength. This includes taking opportunities to garner support from positive role models and mentors from whose experience you can learn, and by whom you can be inspired.
  6. Life is only as good as your mindset –always focus on the positives, whatever challenge or hardship presents, and remind yourself (regularly) of your skills and strengths. “It’s not what life does to you that’s important but rather what you do with what life does to you”. The course of your day/ week, even year/ life, can be completely altered by practising gratitude and maintaining a positive focus.
  7. Back yourself, by saying yes to every opportunity, even if it takes you down a road less travelled, or even completely off-piste. In that direction even greater opportunities and adventures present. I discovered this for myself undertaking human rights work in Jamaica working alongside attorney’s who defended capital cases and whose clients faced the Death Penalty should they be convicted. I learned there was nothing to fear, and everything to gain, from standing out from a crowd. I have my own school (and perhaps my left-side Russian GCSE!) to thank for teaching me that.
  8. And taking that one step further, back yourself as a woman. Don’t allow yourself to be held back by talk of glass ceilings or walls, even where you know they may exist. Go into things “eyes wide open”, then find a way around the obstacles. To do this, ask yourself what success means to you, no one else. Challenge, and re-define where necessary, the status quo. “Have the courage to live a life true to yourself, not the life others expect…”

What might you add? And which will you apply, courageously, for better outcomes within your career?

Nikki Alderson Biography

Nikki Alderson, specialist coach, speaker, author, and former Criminal Barrister:

  • supports legal organisations retain female talent; and
  • empowers female lawyers to achieve career ambitions.

Nikki specialises in:

  • Women leadership;
  • Enhanced career break returner support; and
  • Workplace resilience, confidence and wellness.

She is the author of Amazon No.1 Bestseller Raising the Bar: empowering female lawyers through coaching, (, nominee for 2019 Inspirational Women Awards, and finalist in 2020 Women in Law Awards and 2019 International Coaching Awards