Cultivating an attitude of impermanence also helps us get through the rough patches in our life. Believing that the bad times are temporary provides us that elusive feeling of hope. Hope can be a double-edged sword, however. If hope is not tempered with reality and complemented with a healthy dose of action, heartache is sure to follow. False hope and magical thinking rarely result in bouncing forward.


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 Susan Haworth.

Susan Haworth has been providing counseling, coaching and training to individuals, families and executives for over four decades. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and two master’s degrees — one in counseling and the other in management. Susan also has post-master’s certification in counseling. She is a contributing writer to StepMom Magazine and the author of A Change Would Do You Good: Proven Strategies for Creating the Life You Want (publication date January 2022).


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 began my counseling career when I was finishing graduate school over four decades ago. I worked every weekend as a psych assistant in a psychiatric hospital. Early in my tenure, I was transferred from the adolescent unit to the substance abuse unit. None of the psych assistants wanted to work on that floor so they selected the person with the least seniority: ME.

I learned a lot about addiction issues on that unit. I also learned about establishing boundaries as a provider. Upon finishing my degree program, I took a position in an outpatient mental health clinic working with adolescents and their families. I stayed in social service for about a decade before returning to graduate school in business.

In the early ’80s, I started a corporate training and consulting firm, designing and delivering communication skills training workshops and providing executive coaching. In the late ’90s, I pivoted to become an instructional designer, writing computer software and hardware training manuals.

One day, while sitting in one of those meetings that accomplishes little, I decided I wanted to get back to my counseling roots. I headed back to school to get a post-master’s certificate in school counseling. The next dozen years were spent working for several different school districts.

In 2017, I became an entrepreneur once again and launched a counseling and coaching practice, focusing on helping others navigate change. Thus, Cambios Coaching and Consulting was born!

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?

When I was starting my corporate training business in the early ’80s, I did a lot of cold calling on prospective clients. Of course, this was pre-internet and pre-email — a time when people actually answered their phones occasionally.

One day, I called the training department of a regional office of AT&T. The company was being divested at this time and, much to my surprise, the person I reached said her division (later named AT&T Communications), had lost all their training programs to another division and was very interested in meeting me. Soon after that call and a subsequent meeting, I was hired as a consultant and worked for that company for many years.

Much later, the person I had spoken with confided that she thought I had been referred by a colleague who said he would ask a recommended consultant to phone her the day I called. This case of mistaken identity became my lucky break.

The lesson I learned from that windfall is that you never know which effort is going to result in the next big opportunity. Leave no stone unturned became my mantra.

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

I think the breadth of my experience and training allows me to effectively help others reach their goals. A specialty of mine is supporting women and men as they navigate stepparenting. Although I’m no longer actively stepparenting, I have firsthand knowledge of the many landmines that parents must avoid in this role.

I write a monthly advice column in StepMom Magazine called “The Stepmom Whisperer.” A reader submitted a question recently about how to move past the pain of being excluded at her stepdaughter’s wedding. Since I had a similar experience, I was able to respond to her appropriately — with empathy and perspective.

All the changes I’ve undergone — the relocations and shifts in career and relationships — have enabled me to guide and support others on their journey.

None of us is 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 don’t believe in the myth of the self-made woman or man. Every successful person stands on the shoulders of countless others. I’ve had some amazing supervisors who mentored me and gave me invaluable feedback about my strengths as well as areas needing development. Even those supervisors who were less than encouraging propelled me forward in their own ways.

One evening, after I had given a presentation to a group of corporate trainers, a former supervisor, who had mostly ignored me when I worked for him, approached me with an enthusiastic greeting. He congratulated me on my presentation and said that he’d like to think that, as my former supervisor, he contributed to my success. I simply nodded and smiled. In a way, his dismissive attitude toward me when I worked for him helped me make the decision to move on from his organization. In this way, he did, indeed, contribute to my success.

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 largely understood to be the ability to adapt and respond well to difficult experiences. In order for our responses to promote our well-being (to be adaptive rather than maladaptive), we must have a certain amount of flexibility in our emotional and behavioral reactions. The degree of the challenge is not necessarily the determinant of the outcome. For example, some people experience a great deal of trauma in their lives and are able to move forward and have productive life experiences, while others who have experienced far fewer hardships crumble when faced with adversity.

Some researchers believe resilience has a genetic component, but most agree that the cognitive and behavioral skills needed to bounce forward can be learned. The characteristics and behaviors of resilient people include their belief and openness to change as well as a willingness to accept help and support from others. Resilient people see hardship as temporary; they have a bias toward action and away from passivity and are able to remain flexible in their problem-solving approaches.

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

Courage is one of those words that can mean different things to different people. Some people can be physically courageous but emotionally risk aversive, whereas others (like me) are wimps when it comes to physical risks but emotional challenges are second nature. We think of courage as being the absence of fear when, in fact, courage is acting in spite of fear.

When it comes to bouncing forward from setbacks, emotional courage is one component of resilience. Courage is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient. We do need a certain amount of courage to take action when the road ahead is unknown. Sometimes, however, the behavior must precede the attitude. In other words, we can act as if we’re courageous in order to develop a courageous attitude.

In a way, all the disappointments and setbacks we experience are gifts — they help us practice resilience and become more courageous. The more we practice these skills, the more resilient we become.

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

We humans are a resilient lot. We can endure more than we think we can. When we hear of others’ tragedies, we may think: How can they cope? I’d be devastated. In reality, we’re programmed to respond to crisis. Every day we learn about ordinary people, who are facing enormous challenges, yet doing extraordinary things.

Currently, I’m awestruck as I follow the story of Ady Barkan, a young man who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, five years ago at the age of 32. Following his diagnosis, already paralyzed by this disease, Barkan became a staunch healthcare and disabilities advocate. Although he can no longer speak, he maintains his campaign to promote universal health care and funding for home- and community-based services.

While facing his mortality and losing his physical abilities, Barkan continues to display heroism. Barkan has proven that bravery is possible even in the most compromised situations.

For every Barkan who captures our attention, there are scores of others quietly coping with their own physical and emotional hardships. For some, simply carrying on with life can take immense effort. The essence of resilience is putting one foot in front of the other when the chips are down.

A friend has been coping with an undiagnosed disorder that is gradually eroding her lungs. Although, like the rest of us, she has her good days and bad days, she’s learning to accept her situation and live her life with the knowledge that she doesn’t have time to waste on regrets or postponing pleasures. This is what resilience looks like for ordinary people.

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?

My parents considered many of my ideas harebrained. During my final year of college, I decided that I wanted to spend at least three months traveling abroad — just me and my backpack. I had to raise sufficient funds for a plane ticket and a meager amount for living expenses. I worked multiple jobs and had just enough to make my dream a reality. To this day, that trip remains one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.

I’ve also started two small entrepreneurial pursuits. Lots of people thought I was off my rocker, especially going on my own in the early ’80s when the economy was in the throes of a deep recession. Somehow, I made my venture work even during lean times when I had to rob Peter to pay Paul. I likely could have made more money as an employee somewhere, but the years I spent on my own were rich in other ways.

When I was in my early forties, I decided to become a marathon runner. I had been jogging for decades but never surpassed the seven-mile mark on my own. At a colleague’s suggestion, I joined a marathon training group, primarily for the comradery.

While training for my second marathon, I experienced acute tendonitis in one of my hips. I could barely walk. Coincidentally, my father had just died and my intention was to run the marathon in his honor since I would be running through the boroughs of New York City where he was raised. With only six weeks left in my training schedule, I couldn’t give up my goal even though my physical therapists and quite a few friends thought I should.

I strapped an aqua-jogging belt around my waist and spent the last six weeks training in the pool of my apartment building. I was somewhat of a curiosity among the residents as I could be seen jogging in place in our very small pool several hours every day. Frankly, I can’t believe I endured the boredom but I completed the marathon — upright!

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?

One thing I know for sure is that heartache and trauma are not meted out equally. I consider myself a very fortunate person in that my personal and professional setbacks have been minor compared to those of many others. Having said that, life provides a steady stream of disappointments and opportunities to learn and grow from these setbacks.

One of my biggest disappointments came when my fifteen-year marriage dissolved. Like other divorced women and men, recovering from a failed marriage wasn’t easy. I had emotional as well as financial challenges to overcome.

I relied on supportive friends, family members and counselors to help me bounce forward. I do remember a turning point for me in my recovery was when I realized that I was no longer angry with my ex-husband. Releasing the ball and chain of resentment around my ankle helped me move forward and reclaim my life.

I do believe that I became stronger and more determined after my divorce.

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?

Honestly, I think the biggest contributor to my resilient personality was being left alone a great deal during my childhood. I was a middle child, born at a time when my parents were overextended with growing our family business and caring for my elderly grandparents. I never considered myself to be neglected in a physical sense or underprivileged, but I had to fend for myself much of the time, especially emotionally.

Some children learn to be self-reliant in such situations, while others wither. Fortunately, I had the right genetic components and personality to land on my feet. I grew up with the attitude that I had to work for my accomplishments and create the life I wanted. I never expected that opportunities would magically appear for me, whether those opportunities were related to acquiring jobs or relationships.

After my divorce, I decided that I wanted to have another long-term relationship. I didn’t assume that my prince would discover me at the ball and would automatically be attracted to my beauty, intellect and charm. I told everyone I knew that I was interested in being in another relationship and would appreciate their help. After I was introduced to the man who would become my husband, I let him know what my intentions were. I never believed that I had the luxury of being coy.

I have approached most opportunities in my life with that same dogged determination. I’ve not assumed good fortune would fall in my lap. I discovered that being passive didn’t yield results. An important component of resilience involves taking action. This I learned early in life.

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 firmly believe that resilience can be cultivated at any stage of one’s life. One of my clients is an inspiring example of how this can be done. Let’s call her Alicia. Alicia came from an abusive family. Both her father and her brother were violent; sometimes the violence was physical, especially toward her mother, and often it was verbal. Alicia grew up with steady stream of messages about her inadequacies and intellectual shortcomings.

As a result, Alicia became a classic underachiever — taking mind-numbing jobs that demanded little. She also avoided interacting with others fearing their criticisms. When she lost her job, her small world started crumbling. Her fears and self-doubts grew. But her sense of self-preservation kicked in before she hit rock bottom. She began slowly reaching out for help. The help came in various forms and she was able to enroll in a degree program that both challenged and affirmed her.

Gradually, her world became bigger. As her self-esteem increased, her visions for a future expanded. Connecting with others in a meaningful way is perhaps the first step in building resilience. These days, numerous folks depend on social media for their connections. Too often these connections are weak and foment competition. What makes social connections meaningful is sensing that we’re being heard and understood.

Cultivating an attitude of impermanence also helps us get through the rough patches in our life. Believing that the bad times are temporary provides us that elusive feeling of hope. Hope can be a double-edged sword, however. If hope is not tempered with reality and complemented with a healthy dose of action, heartache is sure to follow. False hope and magical thinking rarely result in bouncing forward.

Practicing resilience takes energy and energy is often what’s lacking when we’re feeling down. This is why self-care is critical. Hardship and depression wreak havoc on one’s self-care regime. Taking care of oneself is more important during turbulent times than when we’re coasting along between storms.

Of course, eating well, exercising and getting adequate sleep are important, but so is protecting our spirit. Monitoring the information that we consume is as important as monitoring the food we eat. I put myself on a serious news diet during the early days of the pandemic when everything felt bleak. Self-care also means being assertive and protecting oneself against toxic situations and hurtful people.

Finally, recognizing and appreciating one’s strengths will enable us to cope with adversity. As long as we’re functioning, we all have strengths that have helped us withstand disappointment in the past. Those same strengths will propel us forward if we acknowledge and use them.

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 can remember being energized by the random acts of kindness movement decades ago. In 1982, Anne Herbert started this movement by writing these words on a placemat in Sausalito, California: Practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty. As word spread and bumper stickers appeared with this message, some of us looked for opportunities to randomly practice kindness to unsuspecting strangers.

Similarly, I would like to start a movement of deliberate acts of kindness and caring toward community members. Somehow and somewhere along the way, we’ve lost our communal spirit. The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated our me, me, me culture. Simple safety measures like masking were viewed as a threat to personal liberty by a segment of the population instead of as an act of kindness and caring for fellow humans.

Right now, I’m looking at a pile of junk my neighbor is amassing on the sidewalk in front of his house. If my neighbor had considered the impact this eyesore has on those around him, he would have removed this junk months ago.

Undoubtedly readers can come up with many more examples of our me, me, me culture. There are countless small ways that we can act more communally and that would cost us little — from leashing our dogs and cleaning up their waste in public places to acting civil on social media platforms. Often those small gestures make a big difference. The bumper sticker for my movement could read: Give a Hoot About Others.

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 🙂

Nothing would thrill me more than meeting Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Sotomayor has been an inspiration for many people, especially women and women of color, in particular. Sotomayor overcame a host of obstacles including family dysfunction and her own health challenges (childhood diabetes). Growing up with an alcoholic father (who died when she was nine) and a distant mother, Sotomayor became fiercely self-reliant.

As the consummate outsider, self-reliance and a passionate work ethic helped Sotomayor conquer prejudice. She compensated for her lack of financial resources and childhood opportunities with grit and determination. Being a believer in asking for help, Sotomayor recognized her shortcomings and sought help throughout her academic and legal career.

Even so, there were those who doubted Sotomayor’s abilities and attributed her every success to affirmative action. Through it all, Sotomayor has held true to her roots, supporting causes related to equity for women and minorities. In my private meeting, I would want to ask the Justice: “What kept you going during your dark nights of the soul when the naysayers’ doubts crept into your psyche?”

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can subscribe to my blog on www.cambioscoaching.com and can follow me on Instagram and LinkedIn. My book, A Change Would Do You Good: Proven Strategies for Creating the Life You Want, will be available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in January 2022.

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

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of your series! This has been great fun for me.

Author(s)

  • Savio P. Clemente

    Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 Best-selling Author, Syndicated Columnist, Podcaster, and Stage 3 Cancer Survivor

    The Human Resolve LLC

    Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head ?, heart ?, and gut ? — in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.