Step out of your comfort zone. When you challenge yourself to do uncomfortable things, you not only get reacquainted with your own bravery, but you may discover new things that bring you joy. If you keep yourself in a box, with the same routines, same people, same exposure to ideas, you only know what you know. On one hand, this could be a positive thing if your focus is being grateful for the abundance you already have, and there is nothing wrong with that. On the other token, by allowing yourself to return to the childlike wonder of exploration, new joyous doors may be opened. Learning brings me joy, and by taking that leap I was introduced to a whole new genre!
It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emmi Fortin.
Emmi Fortin is a Breakup & Relationship Coach based just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Utilizing her signature RED Process, she is skilled in helping women and men create a mindset transformation from one of loss and heartache after relationship trauma to one of immense opportunity, inspiring action and forward momentum to thrive. She is the host of her own YouTube interview series called CANDID, where she and her guests discuss relationship challenges, what was learned, and strategies to move forward.
Emmi’s mission is to inspire empowerment and action for people of all ages to take that first step in helping themselves heal and create happiness after a breakup, relationship, or situationship trauma. You can read more about Emmi and connect with her at www.emmifortin.com.
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 feel extremely grateful to have had a wonderful and exciting childhood in numerous ways. I attended a challenging primary school that instilled in me a rigorous work ethic, of which there were many nights when my mother would have to tell me to stop doing my homework and go to bed! It was the summer weekends at my parents’ house on a lake in Maine, however, that I truly looked forward to and gave me the wings to be an explorative, confident, and joyous child. I, my younger sister, and the other children would play outside and on the water from dusk until dawn (and after!) allowing us to form meaningful friendships, take courageous risks in trying new and sometimes scary things we thought we might not be able to do, and learn without words what it means to be part of a supportive and loving family.
My parents have been happily married now for 47 years, and together for 50. I grew up in a holistic-minded household where my sister and I were taught at a young age the science behind the workings of the human body. Immense value was placed in taking care of our health physically, mentally, and emotionally through lifestyle choices and understanding the powerful innate wisdom of the human body when it has what it needs to function in balance. These principles have been the foundation for everything I have achieved in life so far.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I was inspired to pursue this career through my own personal relationship experiences. I had been involved with a man for years in a “situationship”, which is a now-common uncertain type of relationship that can be incredibly confusing and damaging. Oftentimes there is almost no accountability for each person’s behavior due to the fact that the terms and direction of the relationship are not clearly defined. After struggling deeply with the side effects of this situationship, I dove head first into personal development in an effort to pull myself out of the emotional trench in which I perceived myself to be.
I had a lucid moment where I realized from that point on, I wanted to help others who may be in similar situations and got my certification as a Goals Success Coach. I knew I would someday share my story and help people find themselves and the strength to move forward from the seemingly endless loop of pain one may endure from a toxic relationship or heart-wrenching breakups. I am always honored when people invite me, into what could potentially be the most challenging and devastating time in their lives, as a guide to offer the needed strategies and support that will set them up for success.
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 spent my younger years having no idea what I wanted to do as a career. In fact, I was often heard saying throughout the years “I don’t want to grow up!”. Little did I know, I’d been training and acquiring skills my whole life for my greater purpose and for what I’m doing now. It all started back in third grade: I had to give my first oral presentation about a topic of my choice. My parents are both chiropractors, so I chose to research this profession and started writing my one-page report just like any other kid would do. My dad, however, instilled this spark in me when he asked if I wanted to “really learn” how to give a great presentation. He taught me how to use flash cards as reminder notes rather than reading from a paper, to use a powerful visual such as the life-size mold of a human spine I would show to the class, and to practice my talk over and over again until I could deliver it with confidence and passion from memory. Needless to say, the teacher stared at me wide-eyed as I spoke with ease at nine years old about subluxation degeneration and how the precise curvatures of the spine allow our nervous systems to function optimally. From that point on I was hooked on the science of how the human body works and taught as a high school biology teacher for 16 years, which was incredibly rewarding on so many levels.
My mother was also a life coach for many years, and had always encouraged us to reflect on our self-talk and how to identify and communicate our emotions effectively. It wasn’t all sugar plum fairies during my late teen and young adult years, but now as an adult and in my profession I circle back to these basics. As a breakup and relationship coach, I rely on these foundations and merge my knowledge of physiology at the cellular level with the coaching strategies I use with clients in my WAKE UP from Your Breakup Coaching Program.
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?
Ok, I am going to share a story that is truly mortifying for the sake of a larger important point, which I promise I will get to! When I was a high school teacher, I put 100% of my focus into my students, classroom, and the work I needed to complete rather than getting sidetracked by conversations in the hallways with coworkers, so I often stayed in my room to be as productive as possible. One day I attended a meeting to assess a student’s education plan and progress. These meetings usually include the student, parent(s), and the student’s other teachers, so I had it in my mind that the student’s parent(s) would be there. When it was my turn to speak about how the student was performing in my class, I was addressing the man seated across from me, thinking it was the boy’s father. Turns out, it was one of our shop teachers and I hadn’t recognized him! We had a brief chuckle about this after I apologized in the meeting, but let me tell you, tears of laughter were shed when I told my coworkers in my department what I had done because of how ludicrous it was. They all knew that I normally didn’t stray too far outside of my department friends when it came to socializing, and I definitely should have known this person.
So, one of my biggest mistakes has been missing out on connecting with the individuals within my prior work community due to me actively avoiding it. I was always pleasant with everyone in my building, as that is my general nature, but that’s the thing: how many moments for years were pleasantries exchanged when a meaningful moment of connection could have been established instead? I have realized, and is now the major emphasis in my life, that relationships are absolutely everything. It’s not that you have to be everybody’s best friend, but the value of even a moment’s meaningful connection with someone could make the most impactful difference on your day, someone else’s day, or even their whole outlook based on how you made them feel. Your outlook could also be impacted just by taking the time to learn one new thing about someone else.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
I am SO excited about the projects I am working on now and over this next year. Remember my story about my 3rd grade presentation? Well I’ve decided to use my speaking skills to do a TEDx talk, of which I am now in the application process for my idea to be accepted. It is a work in progress and I become even more inspired as I see my message and talk evolve with every rewrite. I am focusing this year on impactful speaking opportunities which will motivate people to take action on their own healing and create what they want in life, rather than waiting or hoping for it to someday happen in an ambiguous future.
My second project is to edit and publish a book I wrote a few years ago. It’s a memoir that reads like a romance novel set in the spicy salsa dancing scene, with anecdotal dating stories in between the main relationship, but that is also self-help. You’ll cry, you’ll laugh, you’ll reflect. Heartbreak is an emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually intense, REAL thing that requires the transformational work that resides in the self. I share this because my new purpose in life was birthed from my own personal struggles in relationships, and I think it’s important to share our stories so that others can see themselves in us and our situations. We can feel connected and supported, knowing that we are not isolated nor alone in our journeys.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The first character trait instrumental to my success I acquired as a child, which is being bold enough to ask the universe for what you want and deciding, without wavering, that you will get it. Early on I was taught the phrase “Ask and you shall receive”, which I have come to learn is one of the main pillars of manifestation. You don’t ask out of greed or entitlement, but out of expectation that as long as you consistently take the necessary steps to prepare yourself for what you desire, it will come to you. I have manifested many things in my life, in fact a running joke amongst my friends that I am the queen at manifesting amazing parking spaces. But one more impactful example was my very first teaching job which ended up lasting for 16 years. I prepared for this “request” by first deciding, without a doubt, that I was going to become a teacher. Next, I prepared myself by getting my masters in education and doing my student teaching. The biology position I snagged was literally handed to me in a newspaper job post clipping from a 90 year old woman named Dorothy, who I found mildly irritating due to her occasionally manipulative behavior, but who ended up giving me such a life-changing gift. She waddled into my place of work with her cane, looked at me sternly over her coke-bottle lenses sitting at the end of her nose and said, “You should apply for this job,” as she handed me the clipping. Sometimes when I think about that moment my mind is blown by how thoughtful it was of her to do that for me, and how that one action affected the course of my life. The point? We never know where our good fortune will come from, but it is our job to stay open and aware, and prepare.
The second character trait I possess, which I partially attribute to being an Enneagram type 9, is being able to understand all sides of a story, making me a good mediator and able to offer opposing sides the opportunity to see things differently. Doing this Includes holding space for others, truly listening, and then using my insight to extrapolate the deeper meaning behind what people say or do. I have been told by my clients that they too have been able to shift their perspective about things that were holding them back based on the exercises we do together, and that I think play to this strength.
The third trait is definitely being solution-based in tandem with time efficiency. I guess being a teen in the 90s rubbed off on me more than I expected…as Vanilla Ice once eloquently said, “If you got a problem, yo, I’ll solve it…”, and that’s how I approach challenges. I know that when I have sought a mentor or leader, I want to know what my end goal is and what steps I need to take to get there, and in what time frame. As a coach, I employ this strategy in my business, my relationships, and in my personal life.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
I think the true question is whether we find joy vs create joy, and whether or not our fears and insecurities override our desire to do so. I coach people on how to identify their fears and insecurities, along with the stories they have created around their experiences. We analyze whether these stories, though they may be true, are serving them or not. If we can rewrite the narratives that we say to ourselves and to others into ones that empower us and set us up for success rather than keep us in the past or in a victim role, we can step out of our past patterns and neurological conditioning to create a new program. Our old patterns and programs may be preventing us from allowing joy into our lives.
There is so much science to back up the fact that our thoughts affect our emotions, which in turn can change our physiology at the cellular level. And, over time, if negative stress is not removed or processed with intention, we know for sure that chronic stress leads to disease, which, in some cases, could lead to death. In order to create joy, we must take the time and space to process our emotions and experiences, rather than just focus on moving on for the sake of it. By doing this, we create space and energy to invite new things into our lives, or even just see things in a different light, which can liberate us from one version of reality, transform it into a new reality, and create joy from within. Sometimes our core limiting beliefs about ourselves can actually be preventing joy from being a part of our lives because we believe we are not enough or that we don’t deserve it. By processing our feelings and limiting beliefs, we can let them go and then allow ourselves the gift of receiving and experiencing joy.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US?
Particularly in the U.S. we are conditioned in our society to look outside of ourselves for joy, happiness, and fulfillment. We seek people, things, and activities to make us happy or give us a thrill, which we interpret as joy. In the book Awareness by spiritual teacher Anthony DeMello, he proposes that what we as humans are always seeking is thrills, not happiness. When we get those thrills, they excite us and cause feel-good chemicals to be released. If we are spending lots of our time waiting in anticipation of those thrills, such as a vacation, or a wedding date, or purchasing a new car, there will undoubtedly be a crash afterwards. What happens when the thrill is over or gone? We are only left with ourselves, which is the time many people “crash” or feel depressed. Until our happiness radiates from inward to outward vs looking outside of ourselves, which is what our society indoctrinates is the sure path, we will always be searching for joy and will most likely feel flat or sad when we’re not experiencing it at that moment.
I don’t mean to paint the picture that I’m an enlightened sage or guru, believe me I have plenty of joy-less days and have spent much of my life seeking adrenaline-induced “thrills”. However, as long as we are able to embrace the fact that we are always learning, growing, and doing the best we can at any given point in our lives with the skills and strategies we have at the time, we can give ourselves grace and accept what it means to be human.
What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
I tell my clients in breakup and relationship coaching that you can’t just wait for time to pass or hope to feel better someday, or hope to meet your ideal partner and have your ideal relationship some day, you have to create it. You have to prepare for it. And I will say the same for “finding” joy: You have to prepare yourself for it! Condition your physical body to be in tune or “vibing” with the frequency of joy. So, if you don’t feel particularly joyful about anything right now, is there any moment that has brought you pure joy in the past? Is there anything right now that brings you joy?
Create joy within yourself by reflecting and visualizing: What does it look like? What does it feel like? Who may or may not be with you? Where are you in the joyful moment? Where do you feel it in your body? Does it feel like a buzz of energy or does it feel like a general calm and peacefulness? What action steps do you need to take to set yourself up for the things you’ve just visualized?
In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
There is a difference between doing things you enjoy or spending time with people whom you have a meaningful connection with vs. doing activities that create a distraction or escape, or spending time with people as a codependency. I am a prime example of mistakes made when trying to find happiness. As I mentioned above, I was a thrill-seeker for many years. Because I felt depressed, anxious, stressed, and perceived myself to not be enough when in my years-long situationship, I tried to fill my own voids with highs to feel good in the moment and escape my reality. I developed addictive behaviors around salsa dancing and needing to get that euphoric fix in order to function week to week, and my emotional state was completely dependent on the status of my situationship and the behavior of the man I was with. In our “off” times, I serial dated in a frantic quest to find “the one” who would make me happy. It wasn’t until I got honest with myself and consistently did the growth work that I started to feel inwardly calm and got back to the person I had lost for quite a while. Finding and growing yourself brings happiness and joy, when often the mistake is choosing yourself last.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)
- Connection. Connection to self and to others with whom you have meaningful relationships is pivotal. In the TED talk “What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness” by Robert Waldinger, it was discovered that the happiest people had the highest quality relationships. I had felt so isolated in my struggles in the past that I started to believe that there was something wrong with me as a person, that I was broken, and that my experiences were unique, as many people can tend to do. The truth is that I was not even close to alone, and there were so many people going through similar if not way worse related circumstances. I transitioned into my current profession because I want deep in my soul to find a way to help other people feel connected and supported in their experiences, because that sense of connection can be the lifeline you need to show up for yourself. To live with more joy and happiness, the first step is to bring awareness to people you may not have paid much attention to, every act of kindness or smile gifted to you, and connect yourself back with people, animals, nature and your true self.
- Set and maintain boundaries. Boundaries define everything: your experiences, your relationships, and your habits. How often do you do things that you really don’t want to do just because you haven’t set a boundary? For example, maybe in order to keep your own mental and emotional health you commit to spending time with certain people or helping with a specific responsibility only two times per week rather than four times per week. In a relationship, have you made clear what kinds of behavior you will or will not accept, and the ramifications of what your action will be if your stated boundaries are not respected? Creating boundaries around your own personal behavior is key as well, for instance if you allow yourself to stray from your exercise routine or healthy diet, what is your limit for maximum pounds you will allow yourself to gain before you get strict again? 5 pounds? 10 pounds? Maintaining boundaries builds confidence and gives us a feeling of success, because we are controlling how we are shaping ourselves as individuals. This sense of basic self-pride and accomplishment leads to feelings of happiness and joy.
- Stay in flow. When something in life becomes stagnant, whether it be a job/career, relationship, or way of life we lose momentum and that zest for life can be lost. An even greater danger is when we start to focus our energy on that stuckness and it becomes a consuming negative energy based in lack. I am human, and therefore I experience an influx of emotions day-to-day, whether they be frustration and anger or love and joy. One of my favorite things I have learned is that I can always hit my own “reset” button after I’ve processed the feelings and then allow them to move on their way if they are not serving me. It is our job to constantly assess whether we need to let go of something (such as toxic emotions or anything that no longer serves our highest good) and/or introduce something new. Not that you’re seeking a distraction, but something that excites your curiosity or grows your skills and talents. Sometimes staying in flow just means you need to move your energy by engaging in movement through exercise or an activity you enjoy, express yourself through creativity, or take a few moments for breathwork and meditation. These are all practices that you will benefit from when performed consistently.
- Step out of your comfort zone. When you challenge yourself to do uncomfortable things, you not only get reacquainted with your own bravery, but you may discover new things that bring you joy. If you keep yourself in a box, with the same routines, same people, same exposure to ideas, you only know what you know. On one hand, this could be a positive thing if your focus is being grateful for the abundance you already have, and there is nothing wrong with that. On the other token, by allowing yourself to return to the childlike wonder of exploration, new joyous doors may be opened. For example, years ago, I never ever (ever) thought I would choose to travel on my own to a different country where I didn’t yet speak the language for weeks at a time. However, I jumped into extreme discomfort and did it anyway, figuring it out as I went. That first trip sparked an intense interest to learn more about other cultures and ways of life, which has deeply influenced my ideas and beliefs after travelling to over 20 different countries. Learning brings me joy, and by taking that leap I was introduced to a whole new genre!
- Relinquish fear. I know this one is much easier said than done, but at least introducing the idea that you can assess your fears that could potentially be reduced or banished is a start. When fears and insecurities run the show, they prevent us from welcoming and experiencing joy to its fullest, if even at all. Granted many fears may be completely valid, fear elicits a stress response. So if you’re making life choices based out of fear, you are experiencing life or your relationships through a stress response.
For example, what if you don’t go on dates because your fear is, “what if the guy is a total dud?”, or what if you don’t join a new community of people because you might think, “what if I have nothing in common with these people, or they don’t like me?”. There are endless scenarios that could be played out here, but the idea is that by at least asking ourselves if our fears are accurate and valid can allow us to reduce stress and live a more lighthearted life. One strategy around this that I found helpful was demonstrated by Randall and Beth from the series This Is Us, where they verbalized their worst case scenarios for a situation. This allows us to first acknowledge, and then ask ourselves if we can accept, the worst of our fears in order to move past our fears. For example, when working with my clients, we discuss the importance of speaking your truth and needs as a unique person honestly. Many people do not authentically express themselves out of fear that the other person will not accept what they have to say and therefore reject them. This leads to people entering or staying in relationships that are not in alignment with what they truly desire. So, in this case, what’s the worst case scenario, or in other words, your biggest fear in this situation? The other person is saying “no” to something that is important to you, maybe even a core value. Is that a person with whom you would want to be your partner and walk through life? If you can accept that you may be rejected (your fear) and allow yourself to be okay with that, you can more easily express yourself without feeling the need to hide or hold back. True expression = joy. It is not a nice feeling to not be able to be ourselves, and this expression is our basic freedom.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
I would say most people just want to feel heard and supported, and like they matter to someone. One great strategy friends, colleagues, and life partners can do is to listen with full attention, mirroring back what the person is telling you to let them know you understand what they are saying. Next, simply ask more questions about what the person is telling you so that they may come to their own conclusions, rather than giving your own proposed solutions. Let them know you support them and are there for them, which establishes a sense of connection. You can also establish some kind of accountability partnership for a common goal or even unique ones so that your connection with each other exists even when you’re not in each other’s presence or speaking in the moment. That person knows he or she will have to check in with you at some point, or that you will be checking in on them, which can also decrease feelings of loneliness often felt with depression.
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.
Everything I am working towards right now is to inspire a movement! My idea is that we, as individuals and as a society, need to normalize taking action to process our breakups and relationship trauma so that we may form and maintain relationships rooted in balance and love vs. fears and insecurities from unprocessed trauma.
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, whom 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 🙂
Hands down I would choose lunch with power couple Tom and Lisa Bilyeu of Impact Theory and Women of Impact to learn more about what a “day in the life” looks like for them, and frankly to see what they conversate about at lunch besides what I know they talk about on their social platforms. I only envision them speaking about everything with absolute intensity, so I kind of giggle at the thought of them talking about watering their house plants or who’s going to get the next round of groceries, but who knows!
I’ve been getting social media invites to salsa dancing brunch lately, so I’d have to ask Lewis Howes to brunch so we can discuss his School of Greatness while grabbing a few salsa dances in between!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
They can visit my website www.emmifortin.com, or connect with me on social media on Instagram @emmifortin or Facebook.com/emmifortin. They can watch my interview series CANDID on Emmi Fortin YouTube.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!