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Priming the Mind for Legal Success
By Daniel June

Books like Frasier’s The Golden Bowl seem to both realize the high power of fetishism and magic while maligning mankind’s superstitions for relying on them. Sympathetic magic? Who needs it? But as sports athletes and successful people everywhere have noted, having some “magic” up your sleeve will in fact help you on your tests and in your cases.

I don’t mean anything as involved as Voodoo. But the mind is a complicated machine greatly open to suggestion. Most of Freud’s insights into the psyche, which he was so certain he had confirmed, were later proven to be the effects of suggestion: patients were made to believe in his theories, and so acted them out. Auto-suggestion is a powerful mental tool, and works like magic. In one study, cancer patients were given placebo chemo therapy. 40 percent suffered significant hair loss. What you think of yourself and your situation helps determine your attitude and temperament.

How can you use this in law school? Schedule a little OCD. Make a certain study schedule, and the day of the test have a routine that primes your mind for optimum behavior. A little talisman – a favorite shirt, grandpa’s watch, or spoken affirmations – can get you in the mindset for doing your best performance. And if you always use the same mental affirmations before, during, and after your greatest successes, each time you use them will put you in that same successful mindset.

After all, we get into frames of mind. When your girlfriend dumps you, suddenly you remember past relationship problems with other women, you remember your fight with your dad, your problems in undergrad, a whole mess of messy memories gurgle forth. That’s because memories are affective: when in a happy mood you remember happy thoughts, when sad, sad thoughts. This is why it is true advice to tell a suicidal that no matter how bad things seem now, they will get better.

But getting the right memories to appear requires a bit of that sympathetic magic I am talking about, possessions, activities, and rituals that prime you for stellar performance. If you are religious, perhaps a prayer or reading a favorite Bible verse; or reading whoever your favorite author is, or looking at the picture of your hero. These are all ways to prepare you to do what you were meant to do: your very best.

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