Make connections. Staying connected to people can build up our resilience and restore our optimism. By engaging with others, we get a balanced perspective of our circumstances, which lessens the chance of us getting stuck in our thinking. If you’ve ever been in a funk, or worse, battled with depression, you know what I’m talking about when I say ‘stuck’. When we are alone with our thoughts it is likely we are hearing The Critic on automatic replay. To counteract The Critic’s insistence it’s right, we need to make connections with others who can open our minds to consider alternate versions of the situation and the possibilities at hand.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Amy Beaulieu, Founder of 3Shoes.
As a corporate leadership trainer, coach, and instructional designer Amy works with companies, leaders, teams and private individuals to achieve peak performance by gaining insights and enhancing skills for positive impactful results in the workplace. She is a licensed therapist-turned-learning-&-development professional, who, by combining her education and expertise, has helped thousands of people in varying levels of leadership and industries over her nearly 30 year career.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
I grew up in a small, rural town in northern Maine, and once I caught sight of the NYC skyline during a family vacation when I was eleven-years-old, I recognized there was much more to this world that I needed to experience. Getting bit by that ‘bug’ at such a young age caused me to make life choices accordingly; I ventured to live in Boston, New Orleans, Miami and now New York City, not to mention travel internationally, solo. Living and working in such culturally diverse cities allowed me to learn — among many other things — the importance of becoming resilient.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
One career experience that stands out for me is from my first job after college. I was providing children’s mental health services on the Westbank of New Orleans — an area that is extremely socio-economically underserved and afflicted with every imaginable related problem. I had a young teenaged client who endured extreme neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse from multiple family members. She walked miles to/from her weekly appointments — alone — without ever being late or missing a session.
Think about that. I wonder if I were in the same living conditions, would I have had the gumption to do that for myself at 13-years-old. The ‘take away’ from working with her showed me that what we value, we prioritize. And what we value sparks our human spirit to persevere despite intense adversity…to be resilient.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I utilize a holistic view of the complexity of human behavior, which allows me to serve the multifaceted needs of adult learners within their personal and professional environments. I believe the combination of my in-depth experience witnessing human lives at their worst, my education and intuition, plus my world travels prepared me to be exceptional at what I do. I bring a unique optimism and belief in people that contagiously affects people to believe in themselves, which inspires them to make their desired positive changes in their lives and workplaces.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful for several people whose positive impact has lasted decades for me — Fran Barter, Anne Blanchard and Mary Urban, to name only a few.
Walking into Fran’s Honors English classroom, I was greeted daily with the mantra and over-sized poster advising, “Think big. Take risks.” I do.
Anne was a role model who did just that. She actively modeled self-care, humor, compassion, and poise to be resilient in the face of high-schoolers reluctant to learn French in her classroom. Because of her modeling these qualities, I use this approach to be resilient whenever I am met by an audience’s negativity, skepticism, or unwillingness to learn.
Mary Urban was my undergrad Director of Social Work whose authenticity and confidence left a powerfully positive impact on me — to show up as myself, with my unique talents; don’t hide. Add to this her advice, [which I’ve cleaned up to be G-rated] that we Interns could — and should — let go of the fear that we’ll make a mistake that would gravely hurt our clients. Her reassurance has been useful many times over the years to override The Critic in my head that tries to insist I’m ‘doing it wrong’.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
As I see it, resilience is the ability to persevere through, adapt to, and recover from the setbacks that life puts in front of us. And further, resilience allows us to carry on despite those setbacks.
Resilient people are those who don’t get stuck when struck by a life event. The traits they possess include: optimism, healthy self-esteem, self-initiative, and the capacity to employ healthy coping skills to maintain their well-being (that’s body + mind).
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Resilience is about well-being. Courage is about bravery. Being resilient takes courage because you may need to do unpopular things that other people may deem unnecessary or unimportant. You may have to explain your stance as to why you’re doing what you’re doing for your well-being. You may have to establish and defend your boundaries which may, as a byproduct, disconnect you from people who do not support resilience.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
My mother. Her resilience started at an extremely young age — losing her mother at the age of eight. Then, after enduring an abusive stepmother for nearly 10 years of her upbringing, she lost her father in her early twenties. Add to that, within her first three years of marriage to my father, while raising a son and twin girls, my father endured a life-threatening car accident that left him being pieced together with nuts and bolts (literally nuts and bolts, it was the 1960’s), requiring months of multiple major surgeries and intensive care to recuperate.
Despite all of these major traumas and setbacks, her ambition never faded and she went on to pursue her dream of a college education. Not only did she earn her bachelors and masters degrees in her 40s, she did so as a full-time employee, wife and mother who earned the Valedictorian status and then Salutatorian status, respectively. Oh! Did I mention she also beat cancer with surgery and radiation? Yeah. My mother is resilient. She’s the first person who comes to mind.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I had a boss once who used public insults and criticism to share her opinions about people’s work. She said it would be impossible for me — because she saw me as incapable — to successfully design a training for a particular work group. Her disbelief in me sparked my tenacity and I readily produced a solution that worked successfully. Not only did my work earn rave reviews from the attendees, I also earned deeper trust and respect from many others. Due to that effective learning experience I created, and the successful impact it had, leaders from across the organization as well as the other instructional design professionals on my team sought my input for future work. And yeah, to this day, I continue to ‘do it anyway’ — here I am independently running a successful business doing exactly what she said I couldn’t do.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
My resilience was tested when I was diagnosed with a lifelong health issue in my late 30s. After the initial bouts of tears, I rebuilt my spirit by doing research, talking to multiple health professionals in different fields, and designing a lifestyle based on that collective knowledge. I was determined to keep myself at my best possible health despite the diagnosis. I became extra vigilant about overall health — after all, mind and body are inseparable. Strengthening my resilience was a critical priority so as not to spiral downward to a defeated mindset, which of course would have negatively impacted my physical health too. My continued resilience comes from bouncing back from each health scare by incorporating complementary mental and physical activities for my overall health.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I cultivate resilience through methods that I call the 5 M’s: Move your muscles. Make connections. Manage your mood. Map your direction. Meditate.
Incorporating these 5 practices into my life has gotten me through heartbreaks and headaches. Helping others find ways to become (more) resilient is also an influential part of what makes me thrive…working through their circumstances enables me to strengthen my own resilience habits.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
Amy’s 5 M’s of Becoming Resilient –
- Move your muscles.
Yes, I intentionally use the term ‘move’ and not the word ‘exercise’. If you’re not someone who exercises, you’ll be less likely to do anything that resembles it. So instead, I emphasize to my clients to move your body, whether or not this movement is rigorous enough to produce a sweat.
Intentionally moving throughout the day can allow your body the physical reprieve from the stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline to name two) that surge when we are stressed. Movement can flush those hormones out of the body faster so they do less damage.
Movement may be as simple as shifting our posture or getting up from the desk to get new scenery and even more basically, move us away from sources of stress. When was the last time you raised your arms toward the ceiling? When was the last time you bent over to touch your toes? For some of us, that was decades ago during a warm-up in high school gym class!
Set a timer at hourly intervals or less, and intentionally move your body in the ways that feel good to you.
Some ideas while seated are: reach your arms upward, fingertips reaching toward the ceiling. Do some slow neck rolls in each direction. Stretch your arms wide, at shoulder level and make circles in one direction, then the other. Grip one arm rest with both hands and twist in that direction; repeat on the other side.
While standing — bend forward, as if you’re folding yourself in half. Allow your head and arms to hang loosely toward the floor. Another option while you are still bent over, place both hands on the outer edge of one foot and feel the stretch through the leg; repeat on the other side.
Movement allows us to release the stagnant air in our lungs, circulating more fresh oxygen to gain clarity of mind, increase focus and productivity. These are all elements that contribute to our capacity to be resilient and handle those inevitable setbacks that show up in a work day. Get up, get moving.
2. Make connections.
Staying connected to people can build up our resilience and restore our optimism. By engaging with others, we get a balanced perspective of our circumstances, which lessens the chance of us getting stuck in our thinking. If you’ve ever been in a funk, or worse, battled with depression, you know what I’m talking about when I say ‘stuck’. When we are alone with our thoughts it is likely we are hearing The Critic on automatic replay. To counteract The Critic’s insistence it’s right, we need to make connections with others who can open our minds to consider alternate versions of the situation and the possibilities at hand.
Recently, my former colleague called me for advice about internally interviewing for a new role, a promotion, with her current employer. Because she knew another internal candidate was applying, she convinced herself that person would get the job over her. For 2 weeks before connecting with me, she had sat inactive…sitting in turmoil…not completing the application process. By the end of our conversation, not only was she counteracting The Critic in her head, but she also had a renewed belief in herself and the talents she’s capable of bringing to the role. She took the necessary action to apply. She got the promotion.
Another important layer of making connections is to forgive, so that you can reconnect with a person with whom you have severed ties. The energy it takes to not talk to someone and to remain angry or hurt is far more damaging to our bodies than the energy it takes to let go. Harboring resentment and grudges leaves a huge deficit in our abilities to be resilient.
Visualize this image. Imagine a glass of water representing the grudge you’re holding. If I asked you to hold that glass at arms’ length for 3 minutes; you could likely do it with few to zero repercussions. If I asked you to hold it for 3 hours, you might be able to do it, but not without pain, cramping, fatigue, or even temporary nerve damage. Anger, bitterness, hurt, or sorrow can have the same effect. So, as part of your resilience plan, put down the glass. Forgive someone and reconnect. And hey, if you deem that reconnecting with someone after you’ve forgiven them isn’t the best route, you don’t have to let them know you’ve forgiven them, but your mind and body will know!
3. Manage your mood.
We can find our resilience lowered by an overflowing to do list, time pressures, a racing mind, or maybe even the aggravations of being with other people. Want to change your mood almost instantly? Play some music. A few notes of a familiar tune can change your mood in a matter of moments.
Pick your music according to what you need — a mood lifter, a mood energizer or a mood calmer.
By triggering the circulation of feel-good hormones such as seratonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, you’ll be able to handle the next stressor that shows up with .
To demonstrate the positive effects of music, at specific transitions during my trainings, I play strategically curated playlists of upbeat, instrumentals for writing and high energy songs for breaks. When I’m in person, I may even demonstrate and encourage dancing to get some movement, sure, and most importantly to manage moods.
Managing your mood also means learning how and when to express emotions in ways that are helpful to you and your relationships (which is a whole other interview!)
4. Map your direction.
When life gets turbulent it is easy to lose sight of yourself. Our personal needs are typically the first to be sacrificed when we are under pressure. At these times, it is essential to press pause. Pause to reflect and reidentify your purpose, values and passions. By reviving what matters most, you won’t just succumb to pressure, you’ll have the clarity and a sense of direction to intentionally select your priorities.
List — also called journaling — what is on your mind so that you can directly see what is ahead of you. I say, “Let the paper hold the information, so your brain doesn’t have to.” From there, I recommend that you book those to-do-list items on your calendar. We are far less likely to erase things or postpone items scheduled on our calendars, especially the paper/pen version of calendaring. This is another way to calm the turbulence with a habit of resilience.
Meditation is a scientifically proven method to improve your resilience. Think of it as training your brain to press pause long enough to get it back into high gear, performing like the well-oiled machine it can be. In the midst of turbulence, it can feel like things are too urgent to stop trying to problem-solve or make decisions; yet that’s exactly what is needed. You need to press the brakes, so your brain and body get a break.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
The movement in this world I wish to see is for people to press ‘pause.’ In simplistic terms, I mean rather than live on autopilot, pause for a few moments to intentionally choose a response that will best serve you — and others. Don’t just float through life without intention, without meaning, without reflection. I believe not only will our physical and mental health improve, injustices and crimes against each other would be fewer…making our world, and workplaces, a better place for all.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Arianna Huffington, of course! Because her philosophies about living a healthy, happy life resonate so deeply with me. I believe the impact of enjoying a meal while exchanging ideas with her would have far reaching positive effects…far beyond me. In other words, in return for her generosity, I would pay it forward multiple times over.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!