Being a great leader is really about empowering those with whom you work. Notice I didn’t say those who work “for you” because I really do believe that as a leader, in many ways you work for them. You must be dedicated to empowering them, helping them to grow in their careers and to feel safe in the space you have created to stretch and grow and try new things. When everyone has a common shared vision and feels like an important part of achieving that shared vision, then each individual feels like an integral part of the whole.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Taylor.
Erin Taylor is a PCI Certified Parent Coach,® motivational speaker, host of the Powerful Parenting for Today’s Kids podcast, author, and a happily-married mother of four.
Erin founded Revolutionizing Life, a company and online school dedicated to supporting therapists, coaches, and other professionals trying to make a difference in the world as well as parents and children.
Erin was able to take the tragedy of the death of her infant daughter and turn it around, using her hard-earned wisdom to help people from all walks of life step into their power and live their best lives and you can connect with her at https://erin-taylor.com/.
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?
I have known since I was 11 years old that I wanted to help families. I had a wonderful childhood being raised by my parents who were kind, conscious, and deeply connected to me. But I knew at that young age that not every child was as fortunate as me, and so I vowed to dedicate my life to making a difference in the lives of children. I had a classmate in 3rd grade who I knew was growing up very differently than me. She would come to school each day in tattered clothes, her hair greasy and unbrushed. She had a “chip” on her shoulder and none of the other kids wanted to play with her. This bothered me so much, and one day I went home and begged my parents to buy me a new coloring book and box of crayons, which they happily did. I took my new treasure to school the next day and asked the girl if she wanted to color with me at recess, which she exuberantly said yes to. That was the beginning of me learning about my life’s mission.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I once worked with a parent who had such a tremendous breakthrough in our first three weeks of coaching together that she told me I was able to help her accomplish what 15 years of psychoanalysis had not. That was a highlight of my career.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Being a great leader is really about empowering those with whom you work. Notice I didn’t say those who work “for you” because I really do believe that as a leader, in many ways you work for them. You must be dedicated to empowering them, helping them to grow in their careers and to feel safe in the space you have created to stretch and grow and try new things. When everyone has a common shared vision and feels like an important part of achieving that shared vision, then each individual feels like an integral part of the whole. This is very much the way I view parenting as well. And let’s face it, a company is basically like a large family that just doesn’t share the same DNA.
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?
My dear friend, Dr. Shefali wrote a book called The Conscious Parent. Her profound wisdom totally and completely changed my understanding of what I was being called to do as a parent and as a result also completely transformed my work with other parents. Reading her book helped me to understand that my goal as a parent was not to raise a “good, obedient child” but rather to truly see the unique child (spirit) that was in front of me and to create a space that allowed that child to grow into the fullest expression of who it is they came here to be.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
Mindfulness is a fundamental requirement to becoming the parent your child deserves. Being mindful involves being aware of how you and the people around you are showing up and moving through the world. It means maintaining insight into how you are feeling in response to things that happen in your life. It means checking in with yourself before you react to a situation and figuring out a way to respond rather than react. It also means being aware of how the other person is showing up in a given situation. When we react to another person who is not being mindful or aware of what is happening for them, we become less mindful as well. In my life, I have found that the more deeply I embrace living mindfully, the less reactive I have become towards others and the calmer my life has been. This doesn’t mean that my life has been smooth sailing with no challenges. It’s just that being mindful allows me to weather the storms of life more successfully. And that is a vitally important skill during this pandemic where our routines and life as we knew it are hanging in this strange, suspended animation.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Being mindful helps us to respond rather than react. When we react, it is because something has triggered us and many times, we get triggered into a fight or flight response. Our adrenaline surges, our hearts race, our breathing increases and becomes more shallow. We get more agitated and our thinking becomes less clear. When we are in that physical state, we do not behave in a productive way with the people around us. When we are being mindful, we are calmer and more centered. Things don’t trigger us as intensely as they used to and we don’t have that fight or flight reaction. When we move away from that and into a more mindful way of living, it helps us to feel better emotionally as well as mentally. Our lives just become calmer. As I said before, it doesn’t mean that challenging things no longer happen, either in our lives or in the world. It just means that we are better able to respond from a place of being centered, grounded and calmer.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
Practicing mindfulness during quiet periods of life is a great idea, but sadly many people don’t choose to practice at that time. They get caught up in the rat race and put a mindfulness practice on the back burner. Tough times deeply challenge people to find a way through the crisis, to find a way to survive the situation. With this pandemic, we are experiencing this challenge on a global, collective scale. Here are some ideas I would love to share with readers about how they can practice mindfulness during this uncertain time in the world.
- Self-care — This is the most important piece n my opinion. If we are not taking care of ourselves and refilling our buckets, we will not be helpful to our families and loved ones. There is a famous saying, you can’t pour from an empty cup. We are seeing that on a global scale now with parents working from home or being laid off from jobs, kids doing remote learning at home, families dealing with the fear of the pandemic or the virus infecting a loved one or even losing a loved one to the virus. There is so much that is challenging and stressful to us right now, and there has never been a better time to carve time out each day to care for ourselves, whether that involves exercise, eating better, sleeping more, connecting (virtually) with loved ones, reading a book, doing a puzzle, taking a walk, etc.
- Hit the Pause Button — This is a technique I teach parents with whom I work. There is great value and power in pausing before we react to our children when they have engaged in behavior we deem as “undesirable.” When we pause and give ourselves a moment to collect our thoughts, take a deep breath and calm down, we are able to access our intuition (which always knows the right path forward) and a creative channel that helps us to navigate the current challenge. And we are hitting the Pause Button on a massive, global scale right now. Through this devastating pandemic, humanity has the audacious opportunity to choose to emerge from this dark tunnel new and better and wiser than we went in. I wake up every day and fervently wish for this to come true.
- Breathe — When we are stressed to the max, we can easily slip into fight or flight, with all the symptoms we would experience if a bear was chasing us — sweaty palms, elevated body temperature, racing heart, increased shallow breathing, etc. The thing is, there is no bear chasing us. When we are in fight or flight, our higher-level thinking minds go offline, and we sink down into our reptilian brain that is only concerned with survival. Our Vagus nerve is a giant nerve that connects all of our organs to our brains. Our Vagus nerve sends signals between our brains and our organs with messages of whether we need to slip into survival or if things are calm and safe. When we begin breathing quickly and shallowly for example, our Vagus nerve tells our brains that there must be a bear chasing us and we must shift into fight or flight immediately! On the other hand, when we choose to stop and take a few, deep breaths, the Vagus nerve sends a signal to our brain that all is well and there is no bear chasing us. So, we really can control whether we slip into fight or flight in many cases by something as simple as deep breathing. It’s fascinating to realize just how much power we have over our own life and experience.
- Be mindful of what you are consuming — The 24/7 news cycle is both good and bad. It is great that we can access up-to-the-minute breaking news, but too much of a diet of that kind of news can overwhelm us the same way as eating too much candy can. We must be very careful of the kind of media we are consuming and in what doses. Enjoying a family movie or tv show is a great idea during this time of quarantine. Or just turning off the news for a little while.
- Give — When it feels like life is out of control and we start to feel like a victim of our circumstances, it helps to give to others. There are some ways we can do that right now by making cards for frontline workers, baking cookies or treats to deliver to friends, neighbors or essential workers, checking in on elderly neighbors and family members, etc. When we spend time helping another, it helps us to not feel like such a victim in our own lives.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Tune in to ourselves — The first thing we must do in order to support another is to tune into ourselves and see how we are feeling. It is nearly impossible to help another if we are in a state of panic, anxiety and uncertainty ourselves.
- Listen — Often when we are struggling and stressed, it helps just to have someone listen to us without judgment or even suggestions. Rather, just to create a space where we can download what is bothering us and release it from our bodies and minds. This is a wonderful gift to give to someone who is stressed.
- Choose to find the positive — There is a silver lining in every cloud, as they say. Challenge yourself to find the hidden blessings in this global pandemic and share these discoveries with your loved ones to offer hope and to remind them of the blessings that really are there hidden in plain view.
- Offer support — Whether this involves grocery shopping for a relative, making food or just checking in, do what you can to offer support to those around you. It will be appreciated more than you know, and it has the added blessing of making you feel pretty good too!
- Share resources — If you have found a teacher, a book, podcast or a video that has been helpful to you, share it with others who may also find solace, comfort or hope in it.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
My dear friend Dr. Shefali is offering daily support in her Facebook Group, Superpowered: Transform Anxiety into Resilience. In addition to her being a dear friend of mine, she is also my all-time favorite, most-beloved wisdom teacher. I highly recommend checking out her group on Facebook.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
One of my favorite quotes is from the Buddha, who said that “The mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it’s difficult to see. When it’s calm, everything becomes clear.”
I find in my life that when things get stressful and chaotic, my impulse is to move into action and move more quickly. My most successful times in navigating those challenges are when I catch myself faster and slow down and calm down so that I can see the situation and the part that I am playing more clearly.
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. 🙂
I would start a movement that encourages people to commit to recognizing the lessons that are available during this pandemic and how they will use those lessons to create a better life on the other side of it.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Readers can connect with me at https://erin-taylor.com/.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!