THE WOMEN OF TTN
Browse through our Member Profiles to learn more about what brought our members to this point in their lives, what they are hoping to accomplish next and how they view their impact on the world.
Pat Snyder – A Life in Pursuit of an Understanding of ‘Balance’
How wonderful to look back on a life and see the progression of learning, doing, and contributing. And how exciting it is for Pat Snyder to be looking ahead at continuing her education in what has become her lifelong passion. There is a theme to Pat’s life that becomes evident when she speaks even if she didn’t start out planning it that way.
After graduating from University of Pittsburgh with an English degree in hand, Pat began her formal education of people. As a newspaper reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal, she loved talking to people to find out their stories. She also learned, quite naturally, how to really listen. She developed a useful skill – writing down what people were saying without ever breaking eye contact! Pat was able to get into their shoes and see the world as they did. And they talked because they knew she was genuinely interested.
Law school may not seem like a logical next step from newspaper reporting but for Pat, it was a way to not only write about how things were, but actually impact them in court. She worked for federal and state government in labor and employment law. She loved the analytical part of the law and found it intriguing to meet lots of different people, investigate labor cases and bring about solutions. But she also saw how unhappy many people were and discovered her gift of humor, somewhat out of necessity.
How did you integrate humor into the very serious practice of law?
Practicing law is challenging. It’s all about the pain people deal with. I found that I needed an outlet to manage the stress so I started writing a column about our “out of balance lives.” It helped to find the humor in the difficult situations we sometimes face and also in the demands of everyday life.
I kept wondering, ‘wouldn’t it be cool if somehow people could be happier?’ It was fascinating to figure out what happiness is and then help others transform their lives. I think it’s why I found reporting and practicing law so interesting. It was the people, their stories, their challenges, that always drove me to want to do what I could to help. Eventually, I found coaching to be a great way to offer the benefit of learning how to live a more fulfilling life on an individual basis. So, after many years in the field of law, I decided to focus my coaching efforts on attorneys.
You write a lot about balance in life. Have you discovered what that is and how to achieve it?
I’ve discovered that the definition of a balanced life is different for each person, but there are common threads. For instance, it may depend on other people in your life who are very important to you. It may mean doing engaging work that is meaningful for you. Of course, having fun and pleasant times is important. It takes a combination of all of these things. It includes learning too. Perfecting your skills could be a component of a fulfilling life. Balance is not a mathematical formula. It’s really delving into different parts of our lives to find what makes it worth living, what makes good relationships, what brings us meaningful work. It’s about finding the right combination, based on your own values.
What’s next for you as you continue your efforts to help people live better lives?
I’ve been accepted into the Master of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a new branch of psychology developed over the last decade by Martin Seligman and other positive psychologists. The theory is based on following your strengths and looking at what’s right with people instead of focusing on the dysfunction. Seligman has studied people who are flourishing in order to understand why. This theory perfectly aligns with the philosophy of coaching and having a more fulfilling life.
Eventually I’d like to take these positive psychology principles and apply them to the practice of law where there is so much unhappiness. I want to learn how to bring optimism to people in a field with such a high rate of depression. The program will be fascinating as it will bring together students from around the world, from different cultures and different business settings.
How has TTN impacted your life?
I found the book “Smart Women Don’t Retire” in 2008. I’d recently retired from practicing law and was experiencing more transitions than I’d bargained for. Both my mother’s and husband’s health were declining, and suddenly I was spending a lot more time caregiving. No one was addressing what happens to women in this stage of life and the philosophy of TTN – the notion of reinventing ourselves - spoke to me. I was inspired by my own transitions to start the chapter here in Ohio in 2009. That year, the transitions were rampant. My husband died – just seven months after my Mom – and I came out with The Dog Ate My Planner: Tales & Tips from an Overbooked Life. The support of the women in the chapter was critical, and it continues with several members driving to the Chautauqua Institution just last month to surprise me at a workshop I was presenting on the bereavement process entitled, “Why Am I Laughing at a Time Like This?”
Follow Pat’s continuing journey at http://www.PatSnyderOnline.com and http://www.LawyerCoachPatSnyder.com. Her newsletter, “Balancing Tips” will feature “from the classroom” updates as she begins her Master’s program.