Develop your ability to imagine the best possible outcomes. Instead of just preparing for what could happen if the worst happens, build your ability to imagine all the positive possibilities.
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 Anne Armstrong.
Anne spent the past 3 decades creating adventures. In her classroom, with her friends, and finally for the son she adopted at 44, adventures have been the theme song of her life. She has now started her own business, My Gnome on the Roam, creating adventures for families across the world.
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 am the daughter of two college professors who made life an adventure. I grew up and became a teacher myself. I spent the last 24 years trying to create adventures in my classroom. When I adopted my son, I was confronted with the frustrating truth, that as a professional, I didn’t have time to have all the adventures I had dreamt of with him. I’ve spent the past several years trying to change that.
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?
As a teacher, I have adored many students. But as a rule, it was always fascinating to see which students would thrive and which would surprise me. Many of my students had cards stacked against them. Many would be the first to attend any form of higher education. One of my students arrived to 8th grade as a mother. She was wicked smart, asked great questions, and didn’t take any stuff. She knew who she was. In my pre-teaching days, I worked as a social worker. I maintained a few of those connections as I moved careers. I connected her with a great program and hoped for the best. Thanks to social media, I can keep up with her and many other students. They are parents now. Great parents. She is a supervisor. A wonderful parent. She still asks great questions. She still doesn’t take any stuff. So I guess my takeaways are, ask great questions. Get help when you need it. Dont take any stuff. And don’t spend too much time worrying about a card or two stacked against you. That is how you build your grit.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Every product has value because of the features and the benefits it offers. At My Gnome on the Roam, we offer something invaluable and somethings you can’t buy-time, connection, and moments that matter. We offer people the opportunity to connect more deeply with their family, their friends, even with strangers and causes they care about. If the pandemic taught us anything, we learned that we are better together. The goodness of the many helps to balance the absence of it in the few. Much like your grandmother’s recipe box, we offer daily ideas (recipes for connection) that help families create moments of magic, in as little as 15 minutes.
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?
One afternoon, many years ago, I was sitting alone on a beach. I had big decisions to make. There were no painless solutions. I was struggling to find hope. Down at the edge of the water, I watched as a man danced with the waves. He was clearly blissed out; unaware that there was anyone on the beach but him and the waves. In that moment, I realized that this moment is all we are ever guaranteed. If we spend it worrying, it is gone. If we spend it dancing with the waves, it is still gone. What we have left, is the memory. I realized that the memories I wanted to choose were the joyful ones. As the man walked up the beach, I watched him. And as he walked by me, he stopped and reached out for my hand. I realized, as he had, that my cheeks were covered with tears. It turned out that he was a minister. His name is David Leonard. I have visited his church a few times over the many years, but that memory, and the lesson it held, are still as fresh as the day it happened.
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?
Resilience is another word for endurance. It is usually a temporary experience that holds a lesson for the person going through it. A person who is willing to look at the lesson can move on. A person unwilling to learn the lesson that the challenge has to offer will get another chance. And another. Resilience is awaiting a phone call as you prepare for adoption. It is the faith required to continue to hope when biological families pass you by. But it is courage that is required to get onto the airplane and fly to meet the soul you have been waiting for.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
I think resilience and courage are similar but not exactly the same. Resilience is the day to day efforts someone makes to move through challenging times. It is the simple acts that keep the wheels turning, even when one might rather stay in bed. Courage on the other hand takes more effort. It is the energy expended in rising to an occasion; to finding out what you are made of in peak moments. Courage is the moments just before a surgery. Or your wedding. It is the butterflies in your tummy before a speech in front of people you admire. It’s the moments where you find out what you are really capable of.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
There are actually four people that immediately come to mind when I think of resilience. They all share one quality. Ella, Dane, Ben and Rette were all born with medical challenges. Their early lives were filled with hospitals. But they are all warriors, built with resilience to spare. They were all too young to have been broken by life, or failures, or other people’s expectations. They just fought. Because that is what we were all born to do. That is human nature and they were all born to fight. They are all now strong, healthy and maybe most importantly, happy.
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?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?
A couple years ago, I was diagnosed with a large brain tumor. I literally left a tradeshow one night and the next day, spent nearly two months in the hospital. My marriage was falling apart. My dad was not well, so my mom couldn’t come. So I spent those nearly two months mostly alone. As soon as I got out of the hospital, I went back to teaching. I needed the money. I needed to move. With a portion of my skull missing, and no hair, I went back to teach 5th through 8th grade. Of course we all know that middle schoolers are known for their manners and their general lack of concern that their new teacher has a dent in her head and no hair. (I kid, as you might have guessed). Nonetheless, and thanks to the magic of resilience, I have kept putting one foot in front of the other.
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 keep saying yes. From the days of stop sign fire drills and Rocky Horror Picture Show to driving the coast in California with no particular destination, I continue to say yes to adventures. They don’t all end well. But even the adventures without a happy ending are worth the effort. The lessons are often priceless. Garth Brooks sings a song that says “my life is better left to chance. I could have missed the pain but I would have to miss the dance.”
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.
- Develop your ability to imagine the best possible outcomes. Instead of just preparing for what could happen if the worst happens, build your ability to imagine all the positive possibilities.
- Throughout the challenging times, develop a gratitude practice. A simple journaling daily or weekly will help keep you grounded in the moment and see the positive things that are a staple in your life.
- Spend time in nature. I don’t know how to explain it, but I know that a good sunset, a long day at the ocean or a night of stargazing offer both peace and answers.
- Practice simple self care. Drink water, move your body, eat beautiful food. Because what you fill yourself with is what you are made of ultimately.
- Find someone to talk to. It’s helpful if that someone is an optimist.
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. :-).
I am actually preparing to launch a movement. In a world filled with distractions and electronics, families need opportunities to connect. Adventures don’t need a passport, or a week off work and they should not require you to spend your children’s college fund. They can fit into the pockets of time we often waste. The Magic Moments Movement offers daily ideas for ways to create, explore and contribute to the world with activities you can do in your own backyard or the park around the corner. And tools that help turn those ideas into adventures and memories.
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 🙂
I would love to connect with Kelly Clarkson. She has been the poster child for resilience, most recently in her contentious divorce, but before that in her career, in her struggle with weight, so many places where she continually demonstrates self love and acceptance, even when a part of the world seemingly is against her.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can visit us at our website www.mygnomeontheroam.com.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!