With inspiring confidence and a warm smile, it’s easy to see why Judge Tanya Acker is a huge hit on the television show Hot Bench. A professional litigator for nearly three decades and a judge on the show, Tanya demystifies the law for viewers and courtroom participants while also serving on the board of the largest provider of free legal services, Public Counsel.
Yet despite her success and having made history by helping the first class of female Eagle Scouts get their wings, the law wasn’t Tanya’s first passion — nor has she been immune to the self-sabotaging beliefs many of us experience in life.
“As a little girl, I wanted to be a lot of things,” she shares with Woman’s World. “I dreamed of being an English professor or majoring in art history. But my parents said ‘since they lost the trust fund that I never had,’ I needed to focus on making a living, then buy any art I wanted,” she explains. That advice resonated with Tanya, who decided pursuing a law degree would help her fix the issues near to her heart while giving her the means to provide for herself.
Today, the 49-year-old wears many hats, and although Tanya excels at getting it all done, she’s had to learn to prioritize self-love and care too. “I’ve learned to be forgiving of myself,” Tanya says. “When times feel tough, it’s important to be mindful and deliberate in gratitude — that gives me the boost I need to face any challenge!”
Here, Tanya shares her tips for staying healthy, being kind to herself, and celebrating all the joys life has to offer.
Focus on your goals.
“I try to not allow myself to get distracted from my goals,” Tanya says. “Whether I’m picking up groceries or trying to work through something difficult, the best lesson I’ve learned is to stay focused. If you want something, no matter what it is, you have to anticipate a certain degree of opposition, but you shouldn’t let that overwhelm you. If you stay focused on your goal, you’re more likely to find a way around a distracting roadblock to that accomplishment and be successful in the end.”
Start your day in a peaceful way.
“It’s hard to find time for yourself, especially when you’re pulled in 10 different directions at once,” Tanya admits. “To maintain balance, I carve out a few minutes in the morning to read the Bible. I’ll read whatever page I open to and see how the words fit into my life at the time. It’s a great way to strengthen my faith and slow down to take time for peace.”
Keep your eyes peeled for joy.
“Judge Judy once shared with me the importance of finding joy — even a little bit — in everything you do!” Tanya says with a smile. “I’m blessed to love what I do, but that passion is boosted by taking time to be happy about helping someone settle a problem or a five-minute chat with a co-worker. When you see anything you do as a chance to find joy, day-to-day life is a lot more rewarding and leads to so much happiness!”
Take time for you.
“There’s nothing like hiking in the woods to clear your mind!” Tanya enthuses. “Hiking is my preferred escape, but I try to make time every day for some activity. It’s as good for the soul as it is for health! My go-to workout is on my stationary bike. Even if I only have five minutes, I’ll hop on my bike. On good days and bad, it’s so energizing and calming!”
Indulge a little bit.
“The pandemic has created the perfect opportunity to be more deliberate about eating healthy,” Tanya says. “But the other day, my husband was craving fried chicken, and it sounded so good that I decided to treat myself! I also love Coconut Girl ice cream sandwiches, which are made with organic coconut cream, but sometimes I’ll have traditional ice cream too, to give myself a break from all the rules. A little treat now and then just gives me a lift!”
Try to follow the golden rule.
“My first job was as a law clerk to Judge Dorothy Wright Nelson,” Tanya recalls. “She gave me the advice to ‘always do justice,’ which applies to more than the law. We all have a sense of how we want to be treated, but we don’t always see that we’d be better off if we used that expectation as a guide for how we treat others. I strive to do that, and it changes my whole outlook.”
Buy Tanya’s Book!
If you’ve ever wondered how judges make up their mind in court, Tanya’s book, Make Your Case, will take you behind the scenes to get a unique view of the legal system (Buy on Amazon, $17.59). Peeling back layers of the justice system in a way you’ve never seen, she walks readers through just what to expect if you find yourself headed to the courtroom — and everything in between! Looking for even more legal information? Tune in to her podcast, The Tanya Acker Show, on iTunes!
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.