Cultivating a Positive Mindset! My purpose over the years has been to develop ways to happify my life, to enjoy more. Noticing when I was optimistic not pessimistic I had better outcomes, truly feeling better mentally and physically, I challenged myself to do this consistently. My strategy, take a positive approach in everything I do.
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 Deborah Mallow. Deborah Mallow, a born and bred New Yorker is no stranger to reinvention or honing her resilience muscle. Licensing her designs and illustrations in the 1980’s and 90’s to the home furnishings and gift industries, she reset and talked her way into a pharmaceutical sales rep position at one of the Johnson & Johnson family of companies, where she stayed for 17 years achieving chairman’s club elite status as a #1 ranked sales rep. Known to her inner circle as a ray of sunshine she now lives each day fueled by passion and purpose using her strengths and empathy as a mindset and success coach helping others get unstuck, sharing her strategies, solutions, and action items to live a happier, healthier more balanced life.
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 Manhattan with talented parents, both fashion designers. Excellent role models, meshing perseverance and creativity inspired resilience and my why for studying design at college.
My husband and I teamed up, as my parents had done, starting a business, licensing my designs and illustrations to many companies in the home furnishings and gift industries, throughout the 1980’s and 90’s, producing many top sellers. After 15 years, life took a different turn, we closed our business, and spent time with our young son.
A friend suggested I use my tenacity in pharmaceutical sales. With a desire to get back into the workforce, I chatted my way into a sales position at one of the Johnson and Johnson family of companies and remained there for 17 years, achieving chairman’s club elite status as a top performer and #1 ranked sales rep. It filled the wind in my sails as relationship building, chatting, solving problems, sharing kindness and compassion has always been my joy.
Talk about reinvention and resilience… from artist to a biotech sales rep… proves a positive mindset paves the way to try new things.
This brings me to today, life decisions aren’t easy, we owe it to ourselves to put energy and focus on what we want to accomplish. I believe when we focus on our passion and purpose our resilience emerges. We discover our why, and that provides the way! My why is the reason I shifted gears once again to share my wisdom as a mindset and success coach starting The Daily Decisions, coaching, doing workshops, even writing a book (in progress) on how to tap into resiliency, overcome negativity, fear, and live a life we love. Confidently melding a strong sense of self with a positive mindset.
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?
Oh so many… in the spirit of our interview this experience was a direct path to further strengthen my resilience. People can sense if you’re doubtful. My take-away, develop a thick skin, I’m not saying don’t be open-minded, what I am saying is put faith in your ability. Believe in yourself so much that it inspires others to believe in you too.
During the design phase of my life I had an opportunity with a huge bedding company. The first pattern I licensed to them had lackluster sales. When it came to the next design I presented, the marketing manager was hesitant to work with me again. My intuition said don’t give up, instead speak up. I persevered and that colorful leaf and texture pattern sold millions of dollars worth of products for that company and the dozen others we licensed it to.
If I had shown even an ounce of doubt when presenting the design, this particular manager would have said no to me, instead she became an ally selling it to her bosses. I love to use visuals in my mind to give me courage, so I immediately thought of a crystal ball. Since no one can predict the future I allowed my doubt, fear, worry, and any negativity to melt away. Yes, self-confidence fortifies resilience.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As a coach, a teacher of life skills with an emphasis on success not only catering to our professional side but our personal too, I focus on the whole person, total well-being, syncing body, mind and spirit. It’s my empathy, relatability and honesty that sets me apart. My experience, understanding the emotional piece, focusing on mindset health, even the science behind many of the issues those I coach are struggling with is what I use to guide them on their path to thriving, not just surviving. Their results are my proof.
A favorite story at this moment in time relates to the book I am in the process of writing. Initially it was a guidebook to help me navigate an easier, happier, more productive, purpose-driven life, containing practical strategies, simple solutions, peppered with life stories and salted with tough love. Encouraged by the success I achieve with my coaching method, my goal now, to get the book into the world so it can benefit many.
I get a rush of excitement when I mention this to you… the person editing my book cannot tell me enough about all the personal breakthroughs she’s had while reading the book. She gushes about how navigating her every day is so much more joyous simply by letting go of the things that don’t matter, focusing on what does. My beta readers and those attending my talks and workshops echo the same results.
Overnight success isn’t reality it takes years of work. Some people keep going others give up too soon. Ask yourself which is more appealing, then with courage move forward, bolstering your resilience. Difficult times are a part of life. Get in the driver’s seat, steer toward light not darkness. Control your controllables, don’t allow them to have power over you.
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 have encountered many people who helped me along the way, deserving a shout out. No one sticks out like my mom, definitely a trailblazer. At 26 she started a dress manufacturing company, my dad joined her a year later, together they nurtured a multi million dollar fashion company when the majority of her friends had no desire to enter the workforce. Although the business is now closed, my mom at 87 still has her hand in the pot as a consultant. I am forever grateful for all I learned from her over the years about resilience, a positive mindset, confidence, and going for what’s in your heart, not taking no for an answer or allowing self-limitation to nail the coffin shut before trying.
Mom was one of my biggest supporters when I said I was leaving Johnson and Johnson to redirect and shift my life to help others flourish. Her words resonate to my core, be true to yourself, do what’s in your heart.
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?
I find resilience is the ability to be flexible, bounce back from difficult circumstances, switch mentally to positivity visualizing a best outcome, releasing fear, negativity and what’s in the way. Letting go of internal and external judgement; my why for tapping into mindfulness, a favorite way to center, recharge, release what’s clouding my thoughts.
Traits of resilient people: A strong sense of self, the confidence to march forward, get back on the proverbial horse and overcome adversity, release rejection, the inner critic, emotions, ego, other peoples’ hurtful, stinging words. I find when we’re motivated by purpose and passion, marrying that with a big picture vision, problem solving solutions, optimistic, self-aware, flexible, never allowing what’s unimportant to dim a bright future, able to change direction without fear of rebuke is when we are our most resilient self.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
Courage is a necessary part of being resilient without courage I ask how can we be resilient? I believe courage comes from confidence (one of my 5 main ingredients for a resilience recipe), it’s strength to persevere, believing in ourselves our mission without letting negativity, whether stemming from our own fears or outside influences muddy our vision or deplete our energy. Why are they similar? I believe they both depend on inner strength, developing a strong sense of self-(worth, belief, trust) to persevere.
I subscribe to this… if you are able to laugh at yourself, you have the courage to see your imperfections, aha… perfect doesn’t exist… it’s then our resilience muscle is ready willing and able.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
There are so many, Helen Keller was the first person that came to my mind. We have a choice; succumb to difficult circumstances or challenge ourselves to rise above them. A role model and hero to many, reading about Keller’s many accomplishments, her intelligence, generous heart, courage, determination, humor, kindness, and confidence helps me to center when I struggle with adversity. Heck, can you imagine piloting a plane if you are deaf and blind? My other take-away, we all need allies and a nurturing support system, a big part of hers, teacher, friend, mentor Anne Sullivan.
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’ve been told throughout my life I couldn’t do many things. Even when we’re doubtful I find if we lean in with our heart not our fears we are unstoppable, resilient and fierce. I believe if we want something enough, it’s then we will go out and make it happen. I often say, control, alt, delete im (from) possible, next fearlessly click enter and discover all that’s possible. The question you are asking is at the core of one pep talk in the book I’m writing.
Over the years, I discovered my own capabilities by hitting goals people said were unreachable. Told, I could never get a design director job because I was too young, secure a licensing contract because I wasn’t famous, or become a top sales rep because I hadn’t done it before, fueled my refusal to limit my choices, proving I could, and that trying anyway is worth it. (Excerpt from my book in progress.)
We all have strengths we can utilize, it’s our choice to shift to a positive not negative mindset, doing what we love, believing we can, opens doors to all that’s possible.
People say to me: I can’t do that, I don’t have a degree in it, no one will listen to me. It’s their fear talking, that negativity wreaking havoc, imposter syndrome at its height. I can list many successful people who don’t have a degree in their field, nor are they all college graduates. Resilience allows us to throw fear to the curb and persevere.
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?
Aha, yes and as embarrassing and painful as it is to talk about it was the impetus to shift gears and use my experiences and learnings to help others improve themselves living a happier, healthier life.
In a nutshell anger got the best of me, knowing my conversation was being recorded, not listening to my intuition allowing my emotions to take over, prompted by a desire to excel, I lost control. The long and short of it was my job and pension were at risk. I could have gotten fired if a few champions had not come to my defense.
I’m sharing this most unsettling time in my life to illustrate two points and hopefully allow the readers an aha moment. 1. ) Develop patience, refrain from reacting without pausing, think first, take responsibility for our actions. 2.) From darkness emerges light, when we’re honest with ourselves, recognize our flaws, willing to improve, clears a path to continue honing our resilience. I always thought of myself as a person with integrity but that day I fell victim to my emotions and an underlying fear of not succeeding.
I bounced back with a deep desire to change my attitude and my life’s direction:
1.) I worked harder than ever and for the next 2 + years remained at #1 nationwide outperforming 110 other sales reps.
2.) I made a self-promise to always treat everyone the way I wish to be treated and to incorporate self-respect too, never again succumbing to sub par behavior or accepting that from others. Compassion first! Take the high road be kind and empathetic. Self-kindness spreads outward, when we let toxic in that’s what permeates our lives.
People in my inner circle noticed my transformation and asked for help. It was then the germ of my next chapter, what I am pursuing now was born. Let’s thrive not just survive!
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 remember it like it was yesterday… 6th grade science class, with Mr A. It was parents’ visiting day, Mr A. called on me to answer a question. I didn’t know the answer, I wasn’t prepared. My 10 year old self wanted to impress my mom, instead my face turned red and I burst into tears. The sting of that moment stayed with me; instead of retreating, I saw the opportunity to improve, taking pride in a job well done became my calling card. My work ethic was born and with that I learned how to accept that doing my best, doesn’t mean I will have every answer or be #1 at everything. I realize looking back on this experience today what I started to hone was my resilience muscle, and from that day forward I never stopped giving my all, putting a best foot forward, adding effort, a can-do attitude (confidence) and perseverance. The choice is in our control to step up or fold. Stepping up builds resilience, with accomplishment we build self-trust. Mr. A. changed positions at the school, we met again in 11th grade biology where my work ethic earned Mr. A.’s praise and my effort returned that “A”.
Resilience is the courage to try something new, greeting the other side of your fears.
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.
Whether in turbulent times as we are facing now, challenging situations, curveballs thrown our way, resilience ensures we never diminish our potential. The ability to reset, rebuild, recharge, even reinvent ourselves by mentally shifting, resisting fear, the inner critic or rejection, rests on building then sharpening our resilience, something we’re not born with, doing this in turn secures what we crave, more inner peace and happiness.
I find visualizing then clearing the path, leaning on passion and purpose, with energy and focus, firmly placed on the desired outcome is the way through. Change is a constant; controlling what’s in our control, being able to let go without stressing about what isn’t, allows us to bounce back more easily from adversity.
My recipe for resilience and my 5 main ingredients:
I find understanding why, will provide a way to find our own strategies and solutions.
Let’s start with:
1.) Cultivating a Positive Mindset! My purpose over the years has been to develop ways to happify my life, to enjoy more. Noticing when I was optimistic not pessimistic I had better outcomes, truly feeling better mentally and physically, I challenged myself to do this consistently. My strategy, take a positive approach in everything I do.
Coincidentally, I came across scientific proof, that it’s possible to change our behavior. I did my own experiment, using a positive approach.
These 2 things helped me: 1. We are in control of our thoughts and actions. 2. The brain loves patterns/routines… predictability, lessens stress.
My solution, practicing this until it became intuitive, routine, a habit. Positive outcomes encourage us to keep pushing through our fears lessening the stress, making a day easier. The result: Realizing we’re capable garners self-trust, building resilience.
Henry Ford’s quote illustrates my point: “Whether we think we can or think we can’t we’re right!”
Now add in:
2.) Managing Emotions: I think constructive not destructive; using it as a mantra. As I mentioned in a prior question I had a tendency to anger easily. Concerned about my well-being, my strategy, take a deep dive in my journal (journaling helps me problem solve). I asked myself was there a pattern, a routine I can disrupt?
I noticed when I felt vulnerable not in control, worried, stressed, anxiety ridden, exhausted, or someone said something hurtful questioning my ability, I angered easily.
My solution came from the running list in my journal. I worked on being more gentle toward myself, putting importance on controlling what’s in my power, not stressing about what isn’t, such as other peoples’ words and actions, or the variety of life circumstances torpedoing at us, not allowing them to have the ability to disrupt my day or my focus. The result: Being in the driver’s seat is the road to resilience.
Continue to Mix in:
3.) Self-Confidence; Self Worth, a strong sense of self: Look at the big picture: What’s really in the way? Fear of: Being wrong, making a mistake (failing), even being laughed at may stop us from achieving a dream, making new friends… fill in yours.
My strategy: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable; consistently doing the things that challenge us gets us comfortable. Make it a gift to yourself. It comes back to our brain liking routine. Leaning in with our heart, (passion, purpose) helps us to step through fear, get out of our head, and stop worrying about what others will say.
I used to get tongue tied if I had to speak to a group or on video. My solution, I stepped up, kept practicing until I felt comfortable. I continually remind myself I am the only one that can do this for myself.
Ask yourself: Who doesn’t make mistakes? Here’s my secret, my solution, I’ve relabeled the word failure, calling it education. How else can we learn, adapt, then grow, improve and elevate, except through trial and error. It’s the way forward, seeing our world won’t crumble, we build character and discover our value. Result: A direct path to strengthening resilience, Robert Frost said it best, “The best way out is always through.”
4.) A good support system: My strategy: focusing on the key word support, and what that looks like for me. We saw through pandemic lockdowns how important connection is to our well-being. Human beings are hard-wired to connect, to have social interaction.
I wanted to be part of this group and fit in, but our vision wasn’t in sync, nor was the respect to have a meeting of the minds. My solution was my choice to let go of what doesn’t work, and be true to myself. I discovered positive, compassionate, empathetic, kind and grateful people that lift each other up in tough times and celebrate together in good times empower me. Result: I’ve found our resilience multiplies by spending time with people that motivate us and make us feel good.
Fold in the last ingredient:
5.) Problem Solving / Decision Making My strategy: Simplify the process so we don’t procrastinate! I ask myself what’s the task at hand? My approach, jump in with a mindset, done is better, perfection doesn’t exist. I mention these two P’s because it stops us from moving forward, we stagnate, lose flexibility.
My solution, refuse to belabor a decision, instead tap into intuition, lean on courage, strategize, make a decision using the information at hand. As I mentioned earlier there’s no crystal ball. Remember how good it feels when the internal stress subsides, when we just take action. Result: This activates our resilience muscle. Simplifying the process = less stress = greater opportunity to do it again = welcoming our resilience.
Personally I let go of these three O’s, overcomplicating, overdoing, overwhelming. If Covid taught us anything it’s that tomorrow isn’t promised. Today my response always is, make the decision, problem solved!
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. 🙂
My goal is to give all young people in their formative years ages 2–6 (pre-K to K) a foundation in life skills at their level, to teach, practice and nurture a strong sense of self, compassion, kindness, tolerance, patience, dealing with anger, healthy habits such as eating, sleeping, exercising; focus on subjects such as well-being and intuition, resiliency, a positive mindset (which in turn demonstrates early-on that opportunities are within reach; their destiny is in their control). In order to create a kinder more tolerant world we need to start at the very beginning with young, receptive minds.
Tutoring for tests and entrance exams are prevalent. Why not teach life skills, working to nurture them earlier, rather than later, or never? When we reach a certain age it might be too late, or we make many mistakes before working it out for ourselves, maybe even seek therapy, already set in our ways, even poisoned by negative influences. Our youth, it’s been said over and over are our hope for a brighter future. I’ve started writing the curriculum with a goal of partnering with pre-schools, public and private schools, counselors, and companies that develop and print these materials.
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 had no idea this would be a question. A resounding yes! Arianna Huffington founder and CEO of Thrive Global. Reading about her workaholic past, constantly pushing herself, sleep deprived, her health scare was was my wake-up call to change from what I called my Type A, stressed-out phase, to now a Type Happy, thriving existence. Typical of my morning routine, having no life balance, after having worked the day before until 10 P.M, I was up at 3 A.M strategizing, planning another day. I started to shake uncontrollably, it scared me so, in a split second I thought of two things, I envisioned the possibility of having a stroke and remembered what I read about Arianna Huffington’s experience with exhaustion, inspiring me to take accountability for my actions.
I would like to thank Arianna personally for her honesty and starting an initiative that focuses on burn out, lessening stress, including balance, syncing with our well-being, potential, and joy. Once I reconciled with enjoying my life, helping others do the same was my mission, it was then The Daily Decisions was born. Thank you Arianna for being a hero to many, including me! I also would delight in chatting about Greece (I traveled there for the first time this summer), and if you have time my other favorite subject is gratitude and paying it forward.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
I look forward to connecting over LinkedIn, sharing who I’ve been working with, my quest to connect with an enthusiastic publisher for my fun easy to read and adopt, inspirational self-development book.
Sharing an inspirational newsletter to my email list with a website refresh underway.
Creating inspirational videos and posts on Instagram!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!