I believe there are more than five steps to strengthening our resilience. The first thing we need to have is a purpose or meaning in life. Without this, we have nowhere to go. For myself, I was only able to start moving forward past my trauma when I discovered a new career. Early in my daughter’s cancer treatments, I knew I had to leave the HR world to devote my life to a higher purpose. I did not know what. It took a while for me to find a new purpose in my life. Once I did, I was able to start moving forward and through the experience.

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 Joy Gandell.

Joy is a certified critical life skills, parenting, and learning coach, speaker, and advocate who helps people overcome their daily life obstacles to achieve the goals and objectives they set for themselves. She is the creator of the Being With Joy processes that help you conquer your critical life skills challenges to live an easier, happier, self-regulated, and satisfying life. She advocates for pediatric cancer at the federal level and neurodiversity in school and work. Helping you move from frustration to liberation.

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?

Before my life changed, I was a regular wife, mom, and HR consultant. I experienced the same struggles as everyone else. I was doing my best to balance my work and family life and making being present for my children a priority. I helped with homework and volunteered at school. My children played hockey and ringette; it felt like we lived in arenas on weekends. On November 21, 2016, my life changed forever when I found out my 9-year-old daughter had cancer. She started chemotherapy for Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare soft tissue solid tumor in her 5th right rib two weeks later. Her first month of treatment was the worst month of our lives. We did not know what hit us; she needed a feeding tube, she lost her hair, and the antinausea meds did not work. The realities of a child with cancer were difficult to bear. In total, she endured ten months of treatment: 34 rounds of chemo, one rib resection surgery (removal of ribs), and 18 rounds of radiation. Six weeks post-radiation, she developed a rare and severe side effect of the treatment called radiation pneumonitis. In the beginning, we did not know if she would have to live the rest of her life on oxygen. She took more meds which worked. We never knew from one minute to the next what would happen. Almost every time we made a plan, it got hijacked by some unexpected event. We learned to live life minute to minute. Our family and friends rallied by our side the entire time.

As the end of treatment approached, I started experiencing anxiety. Treatment had become my security blanket; it was my guarantee that her cancer would not come back. It was ironic because I could not wait to get our life back while at the same time, I did not want to live a life in fear of cancer coming back. When the treatment did come to an end, she went back to school, and I crashed. I cried a lot; I was unable to enjoy our life post-treatment. I was a ball of anxiety, expecting cancer to come back at any moment.

Slowly, over the last four years (the time she has been in remission), I have learned to live again. My journey is not over. It continues to unfold and reveal itself. I have learned so many life lessons, lessons that have helped me move forward and apply to our Covid lives or any other rough patch we encounter.

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 life coach, I am present to support my clients as they reach their goals. There are times in a coaching meeting that thoughts pop into my head based on what they say. I use that opportunity to probe further as it always amazes me how people see things differently. I find their discoveries fascinating. I love these reminders that we all come to life with a different perspective and should never assume we know what the other person is thinking and feeling.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My company is a reflection of me and the eclectic knowledge I have learned. It reflects science, scientifically backed strategies, and a mix of thought leaders. At the same time, it is very customizable to what works for each client as each person is unique.

Many of my clients have ADHD, yet, each of their issues is unique. Without the breadth of knowledge I have, I would not be able to support them the way I do because I do not believe there is a one size fits all strategy.

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 eternally grateful to my husband. Since the day we met, he has been by my side supporting my ideas, goals, or anything else I need.

When I decided to leave HR and start a new career, he supported me without questioning me. His support does not end as my insights and discoveries draw me deeper. I would not have been able to be on this journey without him.

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 define resilience as overcoming challenges and difficult life situations by emerging a better version of ourselves. We can only do this by attending to the strong emotions arising from these situations and managing our stress response.

Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?

For me, courage is the emotion we must draw upon that sets us in motion to face the challenge/difficult life situation. Resilience is more than just an emotion; it is the transformative experience we have during and post.

Courage and resilience are part of the package. Both are different in that one is an emotion that sets the motion, and the other is the result.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

My daughter is the most resilient person I know. Born a preemie, she struggled in school pre-cancer, survived cancer, and post-cancer lives her life with treatment side effects, ADHD, and learning disabilities. Despite them, she continues to demonstrate an unflinching zest for life. She is such a beautiful soul; caring for others, funny with a bright and unique personality drawing people to her.

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?

No one has told me something was impossible. However, throughout my life, people have discouraged me from moving forward. Telling me the odds are against me. I struggled in grade and high school. Because of those struggles, my father did not think I would make it past high school. I went on to earn a Master’s degree. When I started my HR consulting practice, I met someone who had me complete a sales self-assessment. The results indicated that I would be lucky to make more than $40,000/year. When I left HR consulting, I was making significantly more. At one point, before my daughter’s surgery, her anxiety skyrocketed. The Doctors gave her Ativan. I wanted to avoid pills for such a young child and started looking for alternatives. People I reached out to either refused to help or could not help her. I persevered and found someone who taught her how to manage her anxiety and avoid taking the pills.

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?

After my daughter’s cancer treatments were over, my consulting business died after a year away, and I could barely get out of bed. I had spent five years building it to where I was successful. Losing all that hard work was rough. I had lost my purpose and had lost my energy and enthusiasm for life. I healed, found a new purpose, transitioned careers, and started a new business. At the rate I am currently working, I will surpass what I did in HR consulting at the same time. Also, as a person, I am healthier (physically and mentally), more confident, resilient, and resourceful.

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 did not purposefully cultivate resilience in my life. I moved through life like I thought I was supposed to. Being a student in grade and high school was hard for me. I made it through with the help of tutors, friends, finding something I was interested in, and using my strengths. Before my daughter’s cancer, I worked towards a goal I thought had meaning for me. I did possess a deep belief that I was worthy and capable of achieving my goals.

Only after my daughter’s treatments, when I lost my goals and vision, did I feel lost for the first time in my life. I did not know HOW to move forward into the scary unknown future. I burned out. Hitting rock bottom forced me to start from scratch and learn what it means to cultivate resilience. I have learned that we are all resourceful and resilient. We possess all the tools we need. We need to find how to access them and turn them on.

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.

I believe there are more than five steps to strengthening our resilience. The first thing we need to have is a purpose or meaning in life. Without this, we have nowhere to go. For myself, I was only able to start moving forward past my trauma when I discovered a new career. Early in my daughter’s cancer treatments, I knew I had to leave the HR world to devote my life to a higher purpose. I did not know what. It took a while for me to find a new purpose in my life. Once I did, I was able to start moving forward and through the experience.

The second step is being able to self-regulate through the challenging situation. For me, self-regulation is about managing our stress response. How we do that is key to minimizing the effect it will have on our bodies and minds. Each of us has unique ways of self-regulating. I had to find and connect with healthy avenues to self-regulate for myself. I had to start eating healthier and listening to my body when it needed rest. Also, I started learning how to practice mindfulness exercises. I noticed that when I was able to be calm, I was at peace. The mindfulness exercises I leaned towards were yoga, breathing, Emotional Freedom Technique (Tapping), and guided meditation.

Once I found peace and calm, I moved to step three, thinking about my emotions. Just thinking about them was an enlightening exercise. It was not until I accurately labeled them and understood their story that I moved even further along my journey. Yet, it was still very uncomfortable sitting in those emotions. I had to accept the discomfort and be patient with myself. That is where I have found yoga to be a great teacher. Holding certain positions was and still is very hard for me. I had to exercise self-compassion to sit in the discomfort. I was also amazed at how, during our nightmare, I was able to find things for which to be grateful. To this day, I practice gratitude often. One final note about emotions, it is ok and natural to experience conflicting emotions concurrently. I was able to feel gratitude and find moments of happiness while also feeling resentful, angry, anxious, and afraid. All those emotions were applicable. It was not an either-or situation.

Despite being surrounded by my husband, family, and friends during my daughter’s cancer journey, I felt lonely. When I started connecting with others in our situation, I felt less lonely because I connected with people who understood. There are times in our lives when we can feel lonely every when surrounded by loved ones. So, another step to developing our resilience is finding people with who we can connect. We are not alone in this world.

Finally, throughout her treatments, I had to lean into my strengths to get through. The first month was rough. So many things were hitting us at once. It felt like absolute chaos that was quickly spinning out of control. I felt the need to have some control in my life. I love routine, and lacking it was stressful. So, I leaned into my strength and built a schedule for my daughter and me. I got organized. I made schedules for family and created many lists. I was always able to find the information I needed and tracked it as much as possible. Because of the unpredictability of our situation, our routine was general and flexible, and it helped give structure to our unpredictable lives. I am also curious and love to learn, so I would ask many questions and help problem solve the situation. These were the strengths I have leaned on my entire life. Being organized and scheduled also got me through school. It is the only way I know how to be. Looking at your unique strengths and finding ways to use them to move through your difficult situations is a gift you can give yourself.

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 wish for people to learn about our stress response and the impact it has on our well-being. The more I understand it, the more I can take actions in my own life that help with my self-regulation and resilience to get through difficult times. I believe understanding our stress response is a game-changer for mental health, learning, and growth.

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 🙂

It would mean the world to me to speak with Dr. Edith Eger. I read her book and have heard her talk. I am fascinated by her journey and would love to have the opportunity to ask her questions.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my work by signing up for my distribution list on my website, LinkedIn by connecting with me Joy Gandell or following SETA Coaching & Training, on Instagram @gandelljoy, and Facebook at SETA Coaching & Training (@setaefskills).

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


  • Savio P. Clemente

    TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor

    Savio P. Clemente, TEDx speaker and Stage 3 cancer survivor, infuses transformative insights into every article. His journey battling cancer fuels a mission to empower survivors and industry leaders towards living a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. As a Board-Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), Savio guides readers to embrace self-discovery and rewrite narratives by loving their inner stranger, as outlined in his acclaimed TEDx talk: "7 Minutes to Wellness: How to Love Your Inner Stranger." Through his best-selling book and impactful work as a media journalist — covering inspirational stories of resilience and exploring wellness trends — Savio has collaborated with notable celebrities and TV personalities, bringing his insights to diverse audiences and touching countless lives. His philosophy, "to know thyself is to heal thyself," resonates in every piece.