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Dr Carla Marie Manly: “Thinking is the hardest thing there is; that’s why so few people engage in it”

If I could inspire a movement, it would be one geared toward educating people about emotional intelligence. Although this term is now over-used, the concept — which is profound yet simple — could change the lives of children, families, couples, and work environments. It’s the “must” we all need as a basic tool for having positive, respectful, and kind […]

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If I could inspire a movement, it would be one geared toward educating people about emotional intelligence. Although this term is now over-used, the concept — which is profound yet simple — could change the lives of children, families, couples, and work environments. It’s the “must” we all need as a basic tool for having positive, respectful, and kind interactions. I’d love to institute an emotional intelligence program in every school (K-12), college, and corporate environment.


As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Carla Marie Manly, PhD, clinical psychologist.

Dr. Carla Marie Manly, a clinical psychologist and wellness expert, makes her home in Sonoma County, California. In addition to her clinical practice, she is deeply invested in her roles as an author, consultant, advocate, and speaker. With a holistic, body-mind-spirit approach, Dr. Manly specializes in improving professional and personal relationships through mindfulness and communication skills. With a focus on self-development as the foundation for optimal wellness, she builds teams by fostering individual awareness. Blending traditional psychotherapy with alternative mindfulness practices, Dr. Manly knows the importance of creating healthy balance, awareness, and positivity. Her motto is this: “A well-lived life is a journey of consciously crafting the best version of oneself. Wellness and joy do not occur by chance; they are fostered by manifesting one’s true light with courage and strength. Overall wellbeing occurs by creating a respectful, aware relationship with oneself and others.” Dr. Manly’s highly acclaimed books, Joy from Fear and Aging Joyfully — plus her newest title, Date Smart, offer life-changing insights and wisdom-filled tips to help readers create positive, purpose-driven lives.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I grew in as the ninth child in a family of ten children. My parents — both of who were incredibly hard workers — taught me in the importance of important values such as education, integrity, and diligence. My life has been incredibly challenging. I’ve suffered a great deal of loss and many tragedies, yet I have refused to let any of those issues define me. Instead, I use what I’ve learned to help others navigate their own paths in a self-aware, empowered way. Life would have been a great deal easier if the current version of who I am had been available to offer support and advice to my younger self.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I first knew I wanted to be a psychologist when I was a young child. Something inside my heart yearned to help others. The image I held in my mind was Charlie Brown’s Lucy offering advice for 5 cents. My path was not linear by any means; I’ve attended law school, have my master’s in counseling, and my doctorate in clinical psychology. I spent years in the investment realm, yet it is my love for helping other that brought me back to the world of psychology and speaking to spread the word about mindfulness, wellness, and mental health.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

My most interesting story is the evolution I experienced during doctoral school. When I went to the campus for the first time, I felt instantly at home among “my people.” I’d never known such kinship as I did during my doctoral program. My body, mind, and spirit knew I was on the right path. I learned a vast amount about myself as I made the five-year journey.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest mistake I made was limiting myself by thinking I had to be one type of person based on my upbringing. It wasn’t funny at the time, but I now look back and laugh at how much I let the opinions of others rule my life for far too long.

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?

My mother and my sons were my greatest supporters when I left my work in real estate investment to earn my doctorate. I continued to work full time during my doctoral program, and there were many times my eldest son would drive the 16-hour round trip to my doctoral program so that I could study (and sleep).

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

As a moderate introvert, speaking did not come naturally to me, yet — by not allowing my fears to control me — I’ve found that I’ve a great passion and ease that allows me to make genuine connections with small and large audiences. I love support people, and speaking to groups allows me to reach many people at one time. Early on in my career, there were absolutely times that I felt challenged, intimidated, and on the verge of going back to my “old life.” Yet, something in me knew that I had to break free to live the life of my dreams. If I had any advice to offer others who want to embark on a new career path — or any other new path in life — I’d say this: Believe in yourself. Listen to whatever your heart and spirit call you to do. Follow the voice inside that leads you to expand yourself and your life. If you do this and invest in your path, you will ultimately succeed.

What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

I am driven every day to get up by the sheer desire to spread the joy and peace that has come to reside in my heart. Although, of course, not every day is trouble-free, the joy I now embrace has been hard-won. Thus, when I speak to others, I know — from my very heart — that my challenge-filled life is what allows me to connect deeply with others. When I talk about surmounting struggles and overcoming fears, the audience instinctively knows that I “have been there.” My genuineness shines through, and that’s what others feel. I want people to know that they can face their fears and move through their challenges as I did.

Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?

Being an effective and empowering speaker is, for the most part, about speaking from your heart. When you have something to say that you are passionate about — a topic or topics that set you on fire — your energy radiates outward to the audience. When I speak, I always choose topics that I truly am invested in, and this makes all the difference in my energy and excitement. Of course, I always prepare well in advance to make sure that I hit the key points. I create an outline that feels very solid and highlights the key points. I take this outline (or PowerPoint) with me, but once I am speaking, I generally trust that my brain and heart know what to do. I recall getting ready to speak to a large audience on my book, Joy from Fear, that had just been released. I was still practicing my “speech” even as the car exited the freeway. But, after taking a few deep breathes in the parking lot, I knew I “knew my stuff” and purposefully let go of my fear. By imagining all my anxiety and fears floating off into the sun-filled sky, I was able to walk inside with a fresh, positive attitude.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear? As mentioned, I’m a moderate introvert or, at best, an ambivert. Thus, I’ve had to work very hard at being comfortable speaking in public. Although I was in drama in school, I never really practiced speaking directly to audiences, so that talent didn’t carry over very well. When I was in doctoral school, we were required to give presentations, so I became more comfortable at talking in front of small audiences. During my doctoral internship, I began to speak to others groups, and this also helped me become more adept at offering presentations. Now, as an author with three published books, speaking is actually one of my favorite experiences. My advice to others is simple: Speaking before crowds is not easy for everyone and, in fact, many people avoid it at all costs. Yet, if you’re interested in speaking, start by practicing before small crowds — even if they are your friends. Work your way up slowly and steadily. Before you know it, you’ll be speaking to audiences larger than you’d have thought possible. And, if you worry about making mistakes — as everyone does — remember that humor and positive humility are all you need when those inevitable hiccups come.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Listen to every offer to speak, but take care not to accept every one. I was offered a speaking tour that sounded fabulous and was, in theory, very positive. It also paid quite well. However, after talking to the organizer and doing more research on my own, I discovered that I was not aligned with the leader’s messages. I knew in my heart it was not the right offer for me.

2. Rest well the night before your speaking engagement. Although sleeplessness is common before new adventures, it’s important to avoid alcohol, late nights, and any other issues that interfere with your sleep. A well-rested speaker is an enthusiastic, focused speaker!

3. Avoid caffeinated beverages before you speak. Many people make the mistake of drinking caffeine before a speaking event to increase their energy, but feelings of edginess and irritability can arise. As well, a drink of water or herbal tea doesn’t irritate the bladder the way caffeine does!

4. Have a friend or loved one in the audience when you start off. Especially when you are new to speaking, it’s so important and comforting to have a “special someone” in the audience you can focus on. Having an “anchor” in the crowd can reduce anxiety and give you an affirming sense of ease.

5. Laugh before, during, and after your speech. I used to get very serious before speeches and, indeed, it’s important to be confident and serious about your message. Yet, a adding a dose of humor really lightens your energy and allows you to present in a more relaxed way. I make sure to find something wonderful to laugh about before, during, and after every speaking engagement.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

I’ve three books that have given me a wonderful platform. Joy from Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend. It is a profoundly deep book, and I continue to work on projects that are offshoots of this book. My second book, Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for her 50s and Beyond also continues to keep me busy with speaking engagements. My newest book, Date Smart: 33 Mindset Shifts to Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly is certainly keeping me busy on many levels. My next book — also focused on relationships — is slated for release soon.

Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

1. I walk early every morning with my pup, Freedom. Walking is my go-to exercise as it can be done anywhere. Walking is meditative and very cleansing for me; it keeps me centered.

2. I guard my sleep time as I know I need eight hours of sleep to do my best. I have a terrific sleep hygiene routine I follow every night. I don’t watch evening news, and I really allow myself to wind down slowly and naturally.

3. I start off every day with a list of gratitude statements. I listen to Louis Armstrong’s “It’s a Wonderful World,” and I truly focus on being appreciative of all the beauty and goodness I have in my life.

4. I’ve practiced yoga for over 20 years and meditation for over 10. Both of these practices keep me centered, mindful, and at peace.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A famed section of William Ernest Henley’s Invictus “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul” has always spoken to me. As well, my father would often say, “Thinking is the hardest thing there is; that’s why so few people engage in it.” I believe this is so true, so I strive not to lapse into non-thinking.

You are a person of huge 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?

If I could inspire a movement, it would be one geared toward educating people about emotional intelligence. Although this term is now over-used, the concept — which is profound yet simple — could change the lives of children, families, couples, and work environments. It’s the “must” we all need as a basic tool for having positive, respectful, and kind interactions. I’d love to institute an emotional intelligence program in every school (K-12), college, and corporate environment.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

My thoughts on this have changed over time, but if I could have lunch with anyone, I believe it would be Melinda Gates. She has a great mind, a philanthropic spirit, and the ability to make great changes in the world.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?

Website: https://www.drcarlamanly.com

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/drcarlamanly

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drcarlamanly

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carla-marie-manly-8682362b/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drcarlamanly/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQmSoiWGJEBasrIV3lrPsXw

This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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