“Dreams only remain dreams until you take action”, Susie Levan and Parveen Panwar, Mr. Activated

The advice I would give to young women, now that I am 70 years old, would be to believe and stay true to yourself Do what you love. Dreams only remain dreams until you take action. Trust your instincts as they speak louder than words! Remember to respect yourself, be kind, patient, confident and authentic. […]

Thrive Global invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive Global or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

The advice I would give to young women, now that I am 70 years old, would be to believe and stay true to yourself Do what you love. Dreams only remain dreams until you take action. Trust your instincts as they speak louder than words! Remember to respect yourself, be kind, patient, confident and authentic. Say yes to all opportunities that come your way — there is no responsibility beneath you as everything you do will be a training towards who you become. Forgive and move on. Change your thinking and change your life. Give yourself a break — it is okay to fail — that’s where experience and lessons happen. Every choice you make will not only impact your present, but your future. Build relationships that will last a lifetime. Learn to meditate — it will be life changing.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susie Levan.

Susie Levan is a spiritual warrior, author, philanthropist, community leader, certified non-denominational pastoral counselor, hypnotherapist, teacher of meditation, life coach, and Reiki master/teacher. For the last 30 years, she has been teacahing the importance of meditation and helping women live their best lives. She founded The Work-Life Balance Institute for Women (a 501c3 nonprofit) and founded and published Balance Magazine — a magazine for women directed towards personal growth and self-development. For over 20 years, she has facilitated a bi-weekly Women’s Wisdom Circle to empower, inspire and guide women to amplify their greatness to create a more meaningful life.

On November 19, 2019, Susie released her book, “Getting to Forgiveness — What a Near-Death Experience Can Teach Us About Loss, Resilience and Love” which was #1 on the near-death experiences category for Amazon when released. With a powerful foreword by multi-GRAMMY® award-winning artist Gloria Estefan, this fast-paced, riveting true story of how Levan emerged a stronger soul after her kidnapping and near-death experience is a must-read for women of any age. Levan blends practical advice and engaging thought-provoking lessons learned — relatable and actionable.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in Havana, Cuba. My parents honeymooned in New York City in 1948 and fell in love with the United States. A few years after I was born, we moved to Miami where I grew up. My first language was Spanish, so when I started first grade, I had no clue what anyone was saying. My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson was very caring and understanding. She took me under her wing and by Thanksgiving, I had made lots of friends and was totally bi-lingual.

My entire family (on both sides) emigrated to Miami a few years after we did, and all moved within walking distance. This was many years before Castro came into power. My family was incredibly resourceful, industrious, and hardworking. As a child, I observed my maternal grandmother become an entrepreneur. I remember her buying a double-wide playpen and told the neighbors in her “Spanglish”, that she was open for business, babysitting from 9–5. She was proud that she made her own money. She had tremendous energy with also having to do laundry, cook three meals a day and clean the house. My grandfather worked in an eyeglass factory. When he got home, after work he would turn on his Berlitz LP records to learn English. I would be on the floor playing jacks or cutting out paper dolls while he would be there pronouncing each word.

My mom got a job at a dress factory, sewing on a Merrow sewing machine with a daily dress quota she had to complete — she was extremely competitive. She would come home tired and sweaty. She also had to clean, do laundry, and cook for my dad, two sisters, brother and myself. My father was a union-card carrying plasterer and had a team of men that he managed. His job required for him to arrive at job sites early and stay late. I was only a teenager when he became another family example of entrepreneurship for me. His dream was to own his own home. On weekends, we pile in the car and drive around going to “open” houses. He subsequently purchased many houses that he thought had good bones and sales potential, gutted the bathrooms, kitchens and remodeled them ready for sale. He was the OG of house flipping — he could’ve had his own show on HGTV! I became his student and project manager. It was a wonderful learning experience for me that I would use later in my life.

Who or what inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear that story.

My family and I were victims of a horrific crime — 4 days before Christmas — December 21, 1988 — a date I will NEVER forget. Who could have predicted how incredibly hard and difficult our life would become? From that moment on, our old life ceased to exist and would never be the same. It was1988 and I was turning 38 years old when I married the love of my life that September. My new husband was a CEO of a local banking institution.

My new husband, daughter from a previous marriage and I were targets of a bank robbery and kidnapping. My daughter Lauren and I would spend five hours in a stifling trunk of a car as hostages in the extreme Florida heat. We survived, but barely.

While in the trunk, I experienced a Near-Death Experience — travelling through a tunnel into a heavenly realm and surrounded by beings of light, I emerged from this dark terror traumatized — a broken human being suffering from what can only be described as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome — PTSD — the condition you most often associate with military men and women facing death daily, who return mentally damaged from war.

For the next two years I was in a deep hole of hopelessness and despair. Numb. I lived with excruciating psychological and physical pain — my body holding on to the trauma of the kidnapping in every bone, muscle, tissue, and cell. I cried much of the time; I was in a rage much of the time; I could not sleep, think, focus or care for my daughter or my new husband, go to work or leave my house. Most days I was just unable to get out of bed.

After two years of helplessness — of feeling powerless — of being locked in my own paralysis — ranting and raving against the way I was feeling, I took a step. It was a small step…a small decision I made…in fact it was a tiny one…nevertheless it was a step. For me, all evidence withstanding, I had to acknowledge I was not able to get through this by myself — all alone. I was going to need help. Ultimately, I was the one who was going to have to connect the dots and climb out of the horror of my own suffering, to a different place. I could not continue living like a victim.

I asked for help which became a giant decision. I had no blueprint for this — no idea my baby steps were going to amount to dramatically changing the conditions and circumstances of my life, but they did, and I want you to know that it’s possible. My baby steps became bigger and bigger. I set up an appointment to see a therapist. I had to find the courage to get out of bed and drive to her office. I neglected to mention that I would not even drive, fearing the criminals would be around to follow and finish the job.

My amazing therapist (Suzanne) helped me heal. She’s the reason I’ve pursued my path and career. From 1991–1995, I returned to school to become a pastoral counselor, hypnotherapist, (like she was), teacher of meditation, life coach and reiki master. Credentials I felt I needed to help others heal.

I began feeling extremely fortunate and grateful for what I had gone through because it had gotten me to this point. I felt really empowered too. I had been awakened to what had turned my world upside down, and the promise of a purpose-filled life came as a result of it. I came to the realization that empowering other women would become my life’s work — helping them transform their lives as well.

In 1996, I started a women’s group — Women’s Wisdom Circle — which after all these years, continues to be active, today. I started it to inspire and support emotional, metaphysical, and spiritual expression with the atmosphere of confidentiality and respect. Women that participate and experience “the circle” with my personally curated process and self-help exercises, enjoy synergy, honest interaction, and work-life shift. Additionally, one of my key and most important processes is teaching all attendees how to meditate. Meditation changed my life.

In 1999, I founded and was President/CEO of The Work-Life Balance Institute for Women — a 501c3 nonprofit. We produced Balance Magazine that was distributed throughout the South Florida tri-county market. We had our annual Ultimate Day of Balance Conferences with national NYT personal-growth, bestselling authors as keynote speakers with 1,500 women in attendance.

For the last 25 years, I’ve been very involved with giving back to my community — Broward County, Florida. I am the co-founder and co-chair of the Nova Southeastern University, Susie & Alan B. Levan Ambassadors Board — with over 200 C-Suite members. I’m a member of the Executive Committee and on the Board of Governors of the NSU H. Wayne Huizenga School of Entrepreneurship; a member of United Way of Broward Alexis de Tocqueville Society. I was the first to be given the United Way of Broward Magnolia Award — now in its eighth year. A huge honor. The award recognizes women of dignity, strength and perseverance. I was asked to be the 2020 co-chair. I’m the 2021 incoming chair for the March of Dimes Broward/South Florida. I’ve been very fortunate to receive many awards and recognitions from different corporations and organizations — too long to list throughout all these years.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I am so grateful for all the love and support that has been given to me by so many. I stand on the shoulders of the countless men and women that helped and encouraged me. However, the most important person that gave me the most help and encouragement was Alan, my husband, soulmate, and best friend.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

My most interesting story was when I was directed (via a vivid and detailed dream) to pick up the newspaper and look for an ad about Steven Halpern — Grammy® nominated new age musician who would be speaking at the Broward Convention Center. In my dream, I was to go to his Sound Healing Workshop (happening that weekend) and shake his hand at the end and tell him that I was to make a meditation tape with him and his music. What!? I did what was vivid and clear in my dream. He said, “OK when can we get into the studio?” We made two channeled, guided-visualization meditation tapes together — Meditation for Healing Stress and Meditation for a Peaceful Heart two months later!

The lesson I learned was to trust the messages that come through me (in whatever form they show up). Trust and listen to my dreams, inner voice, intuition, sixth sense, subconscious mind or whatever you want to call it. What I know for sure is they are constantly sending us messages about our life direction. I’m a vivid dreamer and write down what I remember from my dreams, first thing when I wake up. From my many personal dream experiences, I believe our dreams have constant messages for us all.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

The advice I would give to young women, now that I am 70 years old, would be to believe and stay true to yourself Do what you love. Dreams only remain dreams until you take action. Trust your instincts as they speak louder than words! Remember to respect yourself, be kind, patient, confident and authentic. Say yes to all opportunities that come your way — there is no responsibility beneath you as everything you do will be a training towards who you become. Forgive and move on. Change your thinking and change your life. Give yourself a break — it is okay to fail — that’s where experience and lessons happen. Every choice you make will not only impact your present, but your future. Build relationships that will last a lifetime. Learn to meditate — it will be life changing.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am a voracious reader, so this is a very difficult question for me to answer as there have been many books that have made a huge impact on my personal and professional life. I’ll answer this question with the book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napolean Hill — published in 1937! This particular book resonated with me so much because it was the first personal development and self-help book I ever read. It taught me how to focus my mind and achieve my goals.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“A goal is a dream with a deadline.” — Napolean Hill. Writing down your dreams with a deadline and creating a plan is the first step to achieving anything you want in life. I operate my life with daily journal writing. I put down my feelings, emotions and dreams. I also teach and create my own personal annual vision board, connecting with what I want to “be”, “do” and “have” for one year, five years, and beyond.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The projects I’m working on at this moment is I’ve been on many Zoom podcasts from all over the world regarding my book on a weekly basis. These Zoom events help people by me telling my story and having a Q&A session afterwards. I get many wonderful emails afterwards as to how the book changed their lives.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of the interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits. Can you share a story or give some examples?

Human behavior is habitual. Good habits are important for many obvious reasons. Most of our (good or bad) habits are unconscious choices or learned behaviors that we repeat daily, over, and over. It’s sometimes hard to break bad habits to create new ones, but with they say that will power, persistence and self-control aren’t always the way to break bad habits. Unfortunately, sometimes our habits are started by cues or rewards. Remember what Mom use to say, “Eat all your dinner and you can have dessert!”

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

One of the most important success habits I have been able to sustain over the last 30 years is to meditate daily. This one habit has played a significant role in my success and has truly been life changing in my journey. Through meditation the benefits both mental and physical are endless. As a mediator, I am able to be more intuitive, productive, creative, more present, relaxed, focused and less stressed. I sleep better and my body is less tense and tight.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

I would recommend you start super small to develop either good or bad habits. Start with a habit that you can commit to and be positive that you can achieve it. I always teach meditation at 2–4 minutes to start the process of learning how to take deep belly breaths and then build your time up from there. Identify triggers, behaviors and any possible obstacles that continue to keep you from your good or bad habits.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas: Wellness, Performance and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Living mindfully and being present is the beginning of creating good wellness habits. For starters, an emotional wellness habit might be surround yourself with happy people. To transform by making small choices every day and live your best life, the three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness and a healthy lifestyle is not an end but a constant way of being. These are my three: (1) Having a daily meditation practice; (2)Proper nutrition — drink more water and less soda. Make time for real food, as Dr. Joel Fuhrman, author of “Eat to Live”, (an eating lifestyle I follow) says — “Eat these daily — G-BOMBS (Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds/Nuts” and you will be in optimum health. (3) Exercise, walk, yoga, swim, golf, tennis, ride your bike. Find an activity or hobby that is meaningful to you that brings you joy. In the end, it’s all about finding habits that keep you in balance and that will make a dramatic difference in your life.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

Flow is an interesting concept. I experience it often when I’m knitting (I’m an obsessed knitter — currently working on making big cozy blankets for the holidays for family and friends). When I’m in the “flow” of my favorite creative pursuit — knitting, I give my full attention, I’m fully immersed and in a state of total focus. When I’m feeling stressed or I have a lot of pressing responsibilities to tend to, I start to knit for an hour or so and I immediately start to find myself feeling calmer, relaxed, time seems to slow down and great ideas seem to pop up in my head.

OK we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

The movement would be to teach the world, starting with young children to meditate. This would change lives on so many different levels and make the world a better place.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with and why? He or she might just see this especially if we both tag them.

Having recently written a book, “Getting to Forgiveness — What a Near-Death Experience Can Teach Us About Loss, Resilience and Love” — I would want to sit down and discuss my book with Oprah Winfrey. As a voracious reader myself, we would both laugh, cry, and commiserate about my story that she absolutely adores. She would have me on “Super-Soul Sunday and of course, pick my book for the Oprah Book Club.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Website: www.gettingtoforgiveness.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Susie_Levan

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

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

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susie-levan-59964045/

Share your comments below. Please read our commenting guidelines before posting. If you have a concern about a comment, report it here.

You might also like...


“Why you should wake up earlier.” With Beau Henderson & Susie Levan

by Beau Henderson

Susie Levan: “Believe in yourself — don’t get discouraged”

by Ben Ari

7 Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Start Doing

by Brooke Allison
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.