Although we are the creators of our lives, there will be times when things seem unfair, unjust, or downright wrong. Maybe someone cut you off, flipped you off, or lost a dear friend, family member or your job. Perhaps you misjudged, misspoke or made a mistake. Welcome to the human experience! Dwelling in the past serves no one — neither does worry, judgment, rumination or regret. In fact, all of these signal the stress response and all of the mental overwhelm you feel. Instead, train yourself to take action using the fuel from the pain of your past to propel you forward. Have the courage to practice forgiveness and acceptance of your current situation and know that you are only a few small changes from an entirely different experience in life. To optimize your mental wellness, listen to the messages in your mind so you can create a better home for yourself. Train yourself to accept those things you cannot change and use the fuel from them to propel you forward.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things, Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jesse Simpson, Health & Wellness Coach with Ama La Vida. Jesse Simpson is a Personal Development and Wellness Coach with Ama La Vida, A former US Marine and firefighter, kickboxing instructor and personal trainer, with a passion for helping others overcome adversity and take action towards their dreams. He is a fitness enthusiast, avid volunteer and world traveler that believes the best measures of a life well-lived are how much you give, how much you grow and how much you go! He’s inspired by the people he has met around the world who’ve shown him there’s nothing we can’t accomplish if we have the right tools, techniques, and team in our corner.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! 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 four years in the Marines, I learned the fundamentals of leadership and resiliency and the power of teamwork and discipline. Shortly after separating from the Marines, I decided to continue my education and discovered a passion for volunteering and coaching. I learned the power of routine and the importance of effective time-management and self-care as I balanced a full-time career as a firefighter and worked to complete my undergraduate studies. I call upon this experience to help clients find balance, energy and manage stress. Right after graduation, I founded a nonprofit structured around a leadership and resiliency training program serving veterans and “at-risk” youth which provided first-hand insights into business development, leadership, management, and human psychology.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
After the closing of the nonprofit and the realization that there had to be more to life, I walked away from what I once thought was my dream career to take a trip around the world. Now, after nearly a year of backpacking abroad, I’ve returned with the insights, ideas, and inspiration to focus my energy on helping clients create a life that they love. I’ve spent hundreds of hours volunteering, coaching and mentoring individuals spanning all generations, from all across the country and world. I’ve found purpose and passion in service to others which is what leads me here to Ama La Vida.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
Avoid burnout by simply implementing a few tricks with your routine, schedule, and surroundings.
• Let technology work for you.
• Limit distractions so you can make the best use of your time.
• Get organized; Organizing your digital life will allow you to reduce the overwhelm and stay focused while at work
• Set up your environment to help you be successful.
• Find ways to connect with your team and culture so you don’t begin to feel isolated.
◦ Make video conferencing your best friend.
◦ Really take advantage of your one-on-ones.
◦ Find time for non-work conversations.
• Set up opportunities for direct exposure to leadership.
◦ Be intentional and proactive.
◦ Really take advantage of your one-on-ones.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
• A happier team is a more effective team so leaders need to be very intentional about the type of energy and culture they are creating. When a culture of recognition is built, it creates a cost-effective and positive work environment.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.
◦ Your thoughts are what controls your life. You get to choose, good or bad, what you think of any situation, person or circumstance. Once you understand that you can change which thoughts you focus on, you can truly optimize your mental wellness and drastically improve the quality of your life.
◦ The way to practice gaining control of your thoughts is to first start to pay attention to them. It’s to be aware of them, without becoming them. You don’t have to become the thoughts or feelings you are experiencing — whether that’s anger, anxiety, or anything else. It’s a message.
◦ When someone calls you on the phone, you don’t become the phone. You simply listen to the message. Same thing here. If what you think determines your life, you wouldn’t be willing to not face the bad habits and belief systems that don’t support your most ideal self or those that are screaming at you for help. Simply put, you have to train your thoughts or your thoughts will train you.
2. Acceptance and Appreciation
◦ Although we are the creators of our lives, there will be times when things seem unfair, unjust, or downright wrong. Maybe someone cut you off, flipped you off, or lost a dear friend, family member or your job. Perhaps you misjudged, misspoke or made a mistake. Welcome to the human experience!
◦ Dwelling in the past serves no one — neither does worry, judgment, rumination or regret. In fact, all of these signal the stress response and all of the mental overwhelm you feel.
◦ Instead, train yourself to take action using the fuel from the pain of your past to propel you forward. Have the courage to practice forgiveness and acceptance of your current situation and know that you are only a few small changes from an entirely different experience in life.
◦ To optimize your mental wellness, listen to the messages in your mind so you can create a better home for yourself. Train yourself to accept those things you cannot change and use the fuel from them to propel you forward.
◦ The quality of your life is directly proportional to how proactive you are, so take action to manage your mindset so you’re always moving forward in life. Action is the greatest adversary of adversity. More specifically, actions based on your own values will keep you from living a life that’s not yours, effectively eliminating a significant amount of the mental stress and overwhelm predictably popping up in your life.
◦ When you know who you are and make decisions based on that, you’ll prevent an unbelievable amount of undue stress. In fact, I’d offer that another major contributor to mental illness is that you are not living a life according to your values. Perhaps you don’t know them or you’re sacrificing yours for someone else’s. Coaches help with that. There’s always hope as long as you are moving forward.
◦ Mental health is a journey, not a destination, which requires us to remain aware of what’s working and what’s not so we can adjust our approach along the way.
◦ Albert Einstein once said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.” Not managing your mental wellness is insanity. If something you are trying isn’t working, adapt your approach to help you consciously manage your mindset each day. Take action and then make appropriate adjustments to optimize your mental wellness once and for all.
◦ If you want to move laterally in life, go at it alone. But if you want to move vertically, out of your current state of stress and realm of overwhelming you’ve got to find someone to hold you accountable. This also includes having the courage to reach out for help.
◦ When you are out consciously creating your life and proactively managing your mindset, know that you don’t have to do it alone. You cannot effectively meet the demands of life by yourself — especially if you are managing a family, a team or creating change in your community. Find a mentor, close friend or coach to help you consciously create a life that you love.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
• Search for ways to serve something larger than yourself. By definition, the stress response is meant to protect you. Depressed and anxious people are often focusing on themselves — namely their insecurities, past mistakes or other things outside of their control.
• Our mind magnifies our mess-ups and in doing so we attract more of the same. As long as you focus on yourself, the pain will be there.
• Try focusing instead on others. When you help someone less fortunate than you or someone in your community in need of a hand, you’ll literally lessen the burden of the stress you’re feeling.
• Volunteer, mentor, serve on a board of directors, start a movement or simply smile at a stranger. When you go into service mode, that sense of selflessness is a signal to your body that you are not in survival mode. It adds meaning and purpose to your stride and provides an opportunity for you to share your insights and lessons learned from a lifetime of experience with someone struggling along the way. Selfless service is the best way to optimize mental wellness after retirement and beyond.
How about teens and pre teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre teens to optimize their mental wellness?
We live in a society that favors suppression and the treatment of symptoms, instead of addressing the root cause of underlying stressors, trauma, and mental disease. Contrary to popular belief, it’s a fundamental fact that you have control over the quality of your life. Emotionally and mentally fit people will not settle for a life of chronic stress. Fortunately, stress management is a skill that can be learned and practiced by each of us. Our mindset, just like our bodies, is malleable. The bad news is, the work is often unpleasant and uncomfortable, but that’s also the good news because, on the other side of it, is freedom from the stress and pain that makes managing your mindset so hard. Teens can optimize their mental wellness by finding out who they are and what they value and making decisions based on that. It takes patience, and is a lifelong practice, but will truly create an intrinsically formed level of self-worth that no tweets, post or person can ever take away. The more each of us takes ownership of our lives and finds our worth from something inside of ourselves, the more we are able to master our mindset and this beautiful gift we call life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂
After returning home for nearly 18 months of nonstop travel, I am convinced that the most amount of good for the most amount of people would come from a movement, a government stipend perhaps, that allows for the opportunity to send fresh college graduates on a cultural immersion trip abroad. There is truly no better way to destroy the limiting beliefs and fears — what I call monsters in your mind — that hold so many back from a life that they love than sending them off to experience the world for themselves. One of the greatest gifts of traveling is the shift in perspective the trip provides. Something about life on the road, and the people you meet, brings you out of your own head and forces you to be present with those you come across on the path. You learn that you’re not alone after all. It’s easy to get so caught up in ourselves we forget to engage with the world. It’s easy to take for granted the blessings we’re born into or to get overwhelmed by small stressors that really don’t mean a thing. But when we stop, and think, and engage and, for just a second, step outside of ourselves and our own problems, we can learn more in a minute in the world than in a lifetime of rumination. A movement of immersive travel and experience abroad is the surest way to master yourself and make the world a better place. We’re all not so different after all.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“We only have this one life to live, so it’s our job to make the most of it while we still can.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!