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“I believe American culture today equates happiness with accumulating things and that being seen as “popular” on social media is the holy grail.” with Michelle Burke and Dr. Marina Kostina

I believe American culture today equates happiness with accumulating things and that being seen as “popular” on social media is the holy grail. How many Likes or Followers do you have? This obsession is a set-up for disappointment, resentment, bullying and ultimately being disconnected, because it’s a false sense of connection and happiness. The minute […]


I believe American culture today equates happiness with accumulating things and that being seen as “popular” on social media is the holy grail. How many Likes or Followers do you have? This obsession is a set-up for disappointment, resentment, bullying and ultimately being disconnected, because it’s a false sense of connection and happiness. The minute you get the ‘Like’ you are happy, the minute you find out that someone else got more ‘Likes,’ you’re unhappy. It’s temporary.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Burke, a highly respected and sought after consultant, leadership coach, and speaker. As founder and president of Energy Catalyst Group, a consulting and training company for well-being, she has devoted her 20-year career to helping individuals, teams and organizations shift negative attitudes and behaviors that get in the way of a thriving, energized life and workplace. Burke’s deep experience and knowledge consulting with Fortune 500 companies includes Disney, HP, Microsoft, Genentech, Snap and Sony, and have established her as a leading expert in bridging communication, team and cultural gaps — her latest book, “15 Minute Pause: A Radical Reboot for Busy People”provides simple ways to reassess your life and reclaim time for yourself.


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

I had many jobs in my 20’s, looking back I was not sure what I was supposed to be, although I knew it would be about helping others in some way.

It was not until I met my mentor, Charles, at a consulting company who told me that I too could be a consultant and years later hired me. At that time I thought it was a crazy thing for him to say since I was currently an executive assistant to the CEO. I thought, “How can I do consulting work?” It was then that the seed was planted.

We both eventually left that company, Charles started his own firm and asked me what I needed to be a consultant, jokingly I said, “Well, I need some business cards.” He laughed; days later a box of business cards appeared on my doorstep with my name and the title of “Consultant” on them, saying ‘it was time to get to work.’

He gave me the opportunity to consult and conduct executive team buildings, learning the ropes alongside him. During that time, I realized that these team buildings were missing one of the key members of the team, their executive assistants, the person who works most closely with the executive and yet weren’t allowed to be part of this team building process. Having been an executive assistant, I knew how important it was for them to get more than just technical skills training — they needed communication and management skills to ‘manage their boss,’ which at that time was unheard of.

That was the impetus for launching my first consulting business in 1992, Executive Counterparts, which bridged the communication gap between management and support staff. Over the years my coaching and consulting business evolved into the Energy Catalyst Group where the theme of empowering and inspiring others remains. I don’t know if I would have forged ahead as a consultant if it hadn’t been for Charles’ constant mentoring and support.

What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?

Living on purpose means that I’m making a contribution to the greater good using my unique gifts, strengths or what I call ‘internal energizers.’ I live “on purpose” through my work. Whether it’s co-creating a game, book, coaching or consulting, it’s all about empowering, inspiring others to find their purpose and live an energized and joy-filled life.

This comes from deep self-reflection and my mentor, who prompted me to keep a beginner’s mind, to question, and from my father, who continuously encouraged me to live life to the fullest and be humble.

If you want to find and live your purpose, find a mentor or coach and ask yourself the tough and deep questions:

· How can I make a positive difference?

· What is my impact on others?

· What are my innate gifts?

· What brings me joy?

It’s important to be clear on what you value and what your value is. Ask people you’ve known a long time what you were like as a child. We often lose sight of the excitement we had as children, and what we loved to do. Knowing your value and your innate gifts will radiate out through your words and actions with enthusiasm and positive energy.

Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?

There are many moments of pain that have guided me along my journey to find and live my life with purpose. One that comes to mind is losing a dear friend who was only 38-years old on Flight 93 on 9/11. Like the rest of the world, it was a wake-up call for me, yet on a hugely personal level. It took on a much deeper meaning, and not just the obvious “life is short.” I really understood through the pain of losing someone on that horrific day that we are each here for a specific period of time, we each have a purpose and that it’s about discovering what that purpose is that helps us move forward in a more joyful way.

It doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges or pain along the way, it means that the time in between those painful moments are more meaningful and joy-filled. This moment in my life clarified for me that the consulting and training work that I was doing was what I was supposed to be doing. My relationships with family, friends and work with my clients became more significant. And, there was a sense of urgency to help people find their purpose, find what energizes them and find how they could live with more joy.

The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?

I believe American culture today equates happiness with accumulating things and that being seen as “popular” on social media is the holy grail. How many Likes or Followers do you have? This obsession is a set-up for disappointment, resentment, bullying and ultimately being disconnected, because it’s a false sense of connection and happiness. The minute you get the ‘Like’ you are happy, the minute you find out that someone else got more ‘Likes,’ you’re unhappy. It’s temporary.

What if we put down our phones long enough to:

· love more,

· have meaningful conversations,

· celebrate each other’s successes,

· focus on finding our purpose and living it,

· be more kind to ourselves so we could be kinder to others

This is what will bring us joy over and over again. If we truly understand what we need is already inside of us, we won’t feel the need to rely on the “things” outside of us. And, when we are genuinely happy or joyful, that energy is contagious and naturally spreads positive feelings to all we interact with. Imagine what a difference it would make.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Bringing goodness to the world is what my work is ultimately about — helping others to be seen, valued and heard in their careers and their personal lives; my clients have been promoted, changed careers to one that has purpose, discovered their innate gifts, kept a job they loved, mended an important relationship, became leaders and developed collaborative and inclusive teams. Each success radiates out with a ripple effect of positive feelings, creating goodness to all those in their lives and so on and so on.

Every training program, workshop or product developed over the years is based on helping people with self-awareness and self-care so they may live a more joy-filled and energized life. My ultimate success is seeing others be successful.

What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1. I start each day with a prayer or meditation before I get out of bed — it sets the tone for the day. If I forget, I make sure to say my prayer during the day.

2. I don’t check my phone right away in the morning. I get up, grab my coffee and do a gratitude walk with my black lab, Roxie. Enjoying that first cup of coffee before jumping into emails helps me appreciate the little things before the “crazy” begins with emails, phone calls and meetings.

3. I practice mindfulness and use it in my consulting and coaching practice as well. Mindfulness is a form of meditation and a practice of being in the present moment and deliberately paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement. It helps me quiet my mind, stay calm and be joy-filled.

4. Another way that helps me maintain my “Joie De Vivre” is what I call “Feet on the Ground,” to pause and literally feel my feet on the ground, wiggle my toes and feel the ground beneath my feet. And if I really need to, clench my butt cheeks (yes!) and it will immediately get me present and in my body. This helps ground me and reminds me where I am in this moment and that I’m alive and well.

5. Take a pause — or more specifically a 15-minute pause which is also the name of my latest book. I practice pausing daily — it’s ‘me time’ to focus on what’s good or brings me joy. I love fresh flowers, cutting roses from my front yard and putting them in a vase to see in my kitchen every day is one of my pauses, and it’s pure joy for me.

6. I have positive affirmation cards that I read each day, many of these are posted in my office as a reminder of the abundance, harmony and joy that I have in my life. For example: “My life works beautifully,” “All of my relationships are harmonious,” “I open new doors to life,” “I am joy-filled, I am blessed,” are a few.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?

When I was a teenager, my dad gave me and my siblings the book “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse as a stocking stuffer. He asked each of us to read it because he wanted to have a conversation afterwards. Reading that book was profound and so was my conversation with my father. I’ve reread that book over the years and continue to get new insights like, ‘stay on my path’ and ‘what works for me may not work for someone else.’

Back when I first discussed the meaning of the book with my dad, its meaning didn’t have the depth and layers that it has today. What was most valuable was listening to my dad share his insights and how it changed his life — that conversation still has an impact on me today. He used to tell us, “live your life with joy, because it’s a choice.” If anyone is lost or looking for the meaning of life, this book is deep and rich in lessons. It’s a journey.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I can’t just choose one so here are my two favorites:

“Ancora imparo,” “I am still learning,” by Michaelangelo and “There is a crack in everything, that is how the light gets in,” by Leonard Cohen.

Both of these quotes inspire me to live life with a Joie De Vivre. Cohen’s reminds me that I don’t need to be perfect, that the light in each of us is what makes us unique. Michaelangelo’s reminds me of how important it is to keep learning and growing and to be the best I can be.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I’m very excited about launching “ReEnergize your Life Wellbeing Workshops” in 2019. This is in response to my clients who are experiencing higher stress levels and a lack of self-care that seems to be endemic in our society because of the busyness we’re engulfed in. It’s important to note that self-care is not being selfish, it’s about caring for one’s self so you can care better for others. Like my latest book, “15 Minute Pause: A Radical Reboot for Busy People,” the workshops provide tools, tips and time to reflect for those who are overworked, overwhelmed and tired of being busy, and to give themselves a much-deserved time out.

Workshop participants will be able to take a pause and explore, “Where am I now? Where do I want to be and how do I get there?” Pausing allows you to see what areas need re-energizing, what areas are thriving, and ultimately, how to live a more joy-filled life.

You are a person of great 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? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are all in constant motion 24/7, in reactionary mode — a continual ‘fight or flight’ state, which feeds our stress and destroys our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. This directly impacts our relationships with ourselves, and thereby others.

I believe that we all need to learn to be a ‘Pauser.’

· Pause to make a better choice

· Pause to reflect

· Pause to re-energize your life

· Pause to see the “joy gems” in our life

· Pause to forgive

· Pause to show kindness

· Pause to stay calm under stressful situations

In pausing, we learn to be kind to ourselves which allows us to be kind to others. Imagine what would happen if everyone (men, women, children) simply paused before responding to emotional rhetoric at home, school or at work? Instead of wishing one could take back mean words or angry Tweets, what if they never went out into the world because someone simply paused?

If more people became ‘Pausers,’ that would be the way forward to a kinder, gentler world.

Thank you so much for joining us!

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