We all have bad things happen to us in life. But it is our thoughts and actions about those bad thoughts that affect us either positively or negatively. We attack by changing or re-framing those negative thoughts. Right now, in the midst of this current crisis we are all living, I could say, “This is never going to get better.” But that mindset makes me feel out of control. Instead, I attack those feelings by saying, “It won’t always be like this. Today, I can do these things, which are in my control.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Many of us now have new challenges that come with working from home, homeschooling, and sheltering in place.
As a part of our series about how busy women leaders are addressing these new needs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alli Worthington. She is known for her straight-talking encouragement and practical tools that help women reach their dreams in business and life. She’s a business coach and advisor who has worked with companies such as Intel, Disney, Microsoft, and Procter & Gamble. She is the co-founder of Called Creatives, where she coaching writers and speakers.
Author of The Year of Living Happy, Fierce Faith, and Breaking Busy, Alli is a well-known speaker and host of the popular podcast, The Alli Worthington Show.
Her no-nonsense, guilt-free take on business, family, and balance have led to appearances on TODAY and Good Morning America. Alli lives with her husband, Mark, and their five sons outside of Nashville with the only golden retriever who refuses to retrieve.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Over ten years ago, my husband and I went through a devastating financial crisis, resulting in bankruptcy and the loss of most everything we owned.
I knew I never wanted to be in that position again, so with a broke-down laptop and free McDonald’s WIFI, I started a blog. The blog led to a conference, and the conference led to me becoming a business coach and a published author.
It sounds like a very linear path looking back on it, but like everyone’s life, it was a winding road to walk for more than a few years.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My fourth book, Standing Strong, is releasing soon: September 29th.
As women, we are often taught or expected to shrink back, make ourselves small, not ruffle feathers, and not be too full of ourselves. Standing Strong is a book that teaches women the power of pressing into their purpose and passion in order to overcome adversity and live with confidence.
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 about that?
That’s an easy answer. It’s my mom! She was so incredibly strong, despite what seemed like insurmountable adversity. Widowed at a young age, she became a single mom dealing with her own grief and the grief of a child. She instilled in me a belief that I could overcome anything and to reach for the stars. Learning to “be yourself,” to be comfortable in your own skin, and to embrace your own unique gifts and talents, are all life skills I learned from her. She not only let me be me (even when “me” was a bookworm who checked out 12 books at a time), she taught me to encourage others to do the same. I think that ultimately led me to have the desire be a business coach. I wanted to help women achieve their dreams and goals no matter what adversity they are facing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. Can you articulate to our readers what are the biggest family related challenges you are facing as a woman business leader during this pandemic?
Hands down, the biggest family related challenge I have faced as a woman business leader during this pandemic has been balancing the educational and emotional needs of our children.
We have two in college, one in high school, and two in middle school, all learning in online and hybrid environments. Balancing being there for them, running a business and a home, all while making sure I’m taking care of myself emotionally has been a big challenge. Sometimes it feels like the learning curve is straight up. I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan, but I can’t always keep the mess from hitting the fan!
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I’m so glad you asked this question because I don’t think anyone is talking about how we as women who are business leaders give all day, to our family, to our companies, to our employees, to our clients. We have to be diligent to take care of our own mental health right now.
I start by giving myself grace. Nothing is going to be perfect. We are living in a pandemic. There’s no how-to for this.
Next, I make sure I give myself some time each day to do something just for myself. Whether it’s working out, reading a good book, or sitting outside on my back porch and sipping hot tea. Time to myself is not selfish, it’s self-care.
And lastly, as much as possible, I try to do something that feels “normal.” My sons and I love to go to movies, and that has been a big deal to us in this season. So to try to keep things “normal,” we have embraced drive-in movies!
Can you share the biggest work related challenges you are facing as a woman in business during this pandemic?
I think because most all of us are working from home these days, it’s very difficult to separate the components of our life; work, home, friendships, and extended family. Carving out a workday, answering the needs of clients, working on business development, and planning for the future is messy. And it’s messy because we have spouses, kids, friends, and family who are also vying for our attention.
Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
I am pretty good at compartmentalizing things, and much like the principles I shared in my book, Breaking Busy, I have prioritized family and work and let everything else slide in this season. As a family we have identified our priorities and given ourselves permission to cut out expenses, activities, and commitments that aren’t necessary right now.
Can you share your advice about how to best work from home, while balancing the needs of homeschooling or the needs of a family?
Boundaries and schedules for everyone help tremendously. There are times when I cannot be disturbed: when I’m on a podcast, or on a client call as a business coach. Knowing there are defined times when I’m unavailable helps everyone to know there are also times when it is fine to disturb me.
Now that school is back in session, having a daily schedule is even more important and helps everyone feel more in control. When the world feels out of control, it’s good to have something that can give you back a little bit of control.
Clear expectations are also important. “If my door is closed and you have an emergency, ask Dad first.” Or, “If you have a school question, and I’m on a client call, ask one of your brothers for help, or write it down, and we can discuss it as soon as I am available.”
Can you share your strategies about how to stay sane and serene while sheltering in place, or simply staying inside, for long periods with your family?
Keep expectations low. This isn’t a time to expect everyone to learn Latin or start knitting sweaters. Be realistic, enjoy lots of screen time, and focus on everyone being kind to each other.
Move your body. Go for a walk, ride a bike, dance to your favorite 90s hip-hop, whatever gives you energy. And if all else fails, call a good friend and vent for a few minutes. Sometimes we just need to hear from another friend who gets it.
From your experience, what are a few ideas that one can use to effectively offer support to their family and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
In my book Fierce Faith, I teach a concept for coping with fear and anxiety called the Four Good A’s. They are as follows:
1. Aware — Be aware of your feelings. Admitting that we are feeling a certain way is so much better than ignoring them or shoving them down.
2. Avoid the Bad B’s (Busy, Blame, Binge, Bury, Brood). The bad b’s are negative ways most of us cope with stress. Be aware of them and avoid them.
3. Ask for help. It’s okay to need help sometimes.
4. Attack — We all have bad things happen to us in life. But it is our thoughts and actions about those bad thoughts that affect us either positively or negatively. We attack by changing or re-framing those negative thoughts. Right now, in the midst of this current crisis we are all living, I could say, “This is never going to get better.” But that mindset makes me feel out of control. Instead, I attack those feelings by saying, “It won’t always be like this. Today, I can do these things, which are in my control.”
Having a plan for coping helps us feel more in control when the world feels out of control.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”– Maya Angelou
My husband and I, along with our five children lived through catastrophic financial failure. And, we have faced incredibly difficult personal health crises. Each of those things are defeats, but in walking through those things, I have learned who I am, what I am meant to do in this world, and most importantly, how to pivot.
Encountering defeats is going to happen. Being defeated is optional.