Jeremy Vaughan of JVMovement: “Being able to control your emotions would be the next step”

Gaining a different perspective or multiple perspectives of your current situation. This will allow you to see how you may have gotten into the situation you are in. By gaining more perspective of what is going on, you can have a clearer understanding of how you may need to pivot and react. In this interview series, […]

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Gaining a different perspective or multiple perspectives of your current situation. This will allow you to see how you may have gotten into the situation you are in. By gaining more perspective of what is going on, you can have a clearer understanding of how you may need to pivot and react.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremy Vaughan.

Jeremy is a movement coach specializing in a holistic approach to one’s vitality, movement, and overall lifestyle through evidence based practices. Jeremy is focused on providing empowerment for his community and clients, so they can find a lifestyle that they thrive in.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Thanks for allowing me this platform to share space and time with your readers. Let me start off by saying my life has been a constant zig zag between the ups and the downs. Growing up near Vancouver, BC, I lived the dream of being able to hike and camp in any season throughout this beautiful Province. One day I hit a big roadblock in life. I had just graduated from high school but felt lost in life. I felt disconnected from my family and I was seeking love and a sense of belonging from a community. Being young and naive, I found a group who were involved in the drug trade and I embraced the lifestyle. Down I went into that dark hole for the next 5 years of my life.

It ended when I was arrested in California on drug charges, as a 21 year old Canadian boy, I was slapped in the face with the reality of what I was doing and the consequences that ensued. I spent 3 years in the federal prison system of the USA.

It was the biggest pivoting point of my life, learning valuable lessons from the solitude and from the interactions with other inmates throughout my journey in the system. Upon release, my life drastically changed for the better. I went to University for Kinesiology, moved to Vancouver and created a fantastic friend group and community to really thrive in. The experience of being incarcerated allowed me the time to go within and see who I truly was without all the masks of society on, but much more on that later. Now my days are spent coaching people 1:1 about movement and their lifestyles. I also just launched a membership program that is making a daily practice of wellbeing accessible to just about everyone.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Yes, it was back in 2018, I was working 6 to 7 days per week, always striving to stay “busy”. I was talking to a colleague of mine and she asked what I want to create in this world that I haven’t given time to yet. This question hit me like a ton of bricks, I was so busy trying to stay busy that I hadn’t even checked in with myself with where I was and where I wanted to go. I was training clients one on one and teaching group fitness classes like it was going out of style, not looking at the horizon asking what could be on the other side. When she asked that question, I realized that I hadn’t given time to expand my accessibility to the world with the gifts I have to share. The experience of going through prison and the valuable lessons I learned there I felt I needed to share with people. This was my calling. My calling was not to be so busy being busy that I forgot to look up at other opportunities in life that were right in front of me.

I had the incredible insight that change is a constant, things are always going to be shifting like a wave in the ocean. Life is always changing from minute to minute. When we’re open to the change to occur, beautiful things happen in our lives.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I come at health from a view of what it was like when I wasn’t taking care of myself, my whole self, not just the physical. Movement represents the beginning of self care, and it transcends into our mental, emotional and spiritual health. As I go through life, I see how important it is to look at life through a lens that is empowering, inspirational, realistic, and focused on how I can learn from a given situation. This is what I put into the business that I run, and it allows others to do the same in their lives. The people I work with have the ability to create their own well-being in life; I show them that they are in control of choosing that each and every day. Whether their day calls for them to just sit with their thoughts; go for a walk; go and sprint it out; or they feel a calling to go see their therapist to talk through hard times; I help them listen to their intuition. Each day presents us with a choice of how we want to show up in our own life, and that is what I’m on a mission to expand.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Back in prison, there was a gentleman named Vladimir. On the outside he was a tough looking man, a former KGB agent I guess that comes with the job, but his head was filled with the great wisdom of life. I was a youngster at 23 when I met him, he was in his late 40’s, and he got me into running track with him everyday. On the track he would give me insights on my mindset and how to build resilience in life. I took this to heart coming from a man who had endured some incredible hardships from growing up in communist Russia; being in the KGB and now in America serving a 10 year prison sentence. His outlook on life at times seemed harsh, but after understanding where he was coming from, he had built his mentality to endure hard times and come out on top rather than suffering through them. Whenever I think of him, I am filled with gratitude on crossing paths with that fine Russian!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resiliency to me is seeing that the obstacles in life are the major growing points. When we lean into uncomfortable situations or situations that are scary, we get stronger. The more hard situations we are exposed to, the stronger an individual we become. Not hardened, but strong to carry ourselves through the tough moments handed to us over our lifetime. Not succumbing to our current situation thinking that it’s going to last until the end of time, but seeing that the darkest moments in one’s life are the ones that will make you shine the brightest in the world.

A big part of resiliency is understanding what is going on in your current environment and from there you can make a plan of action to move forward. Being resilient doesn’t mean you don’t feel the emotions that are coming up during stressful times. What it means is that you feel those feelings and know that every moment won’t be great but you have the strength to go through it. I think men especially have a hard time with feeling emotions during hard times, many times it’s expressed through anger and rage, but we must be able to dive deeper than that or we are run by our emotional being.

My short definition of resilience is being able to endure what is happening and be conscious of how you choose to react to the situation. Similar to riding a wave in the ocean, no two waves are the same: just as in life, no two situations are going to be the exact same. Riding a wave on the ocean requires you to be present with where you are, what is being felt, and making the right choices. There will be hard waves to ride and then waves that are going to seem like you’re in a flow state.

I believe that resilient people are able to learn from their mistakes; are empathetic towards others; have the emotional intelligence to handle the array of emotions that pop up during stressful times; are good at setting boundaries for themselves and others; have a self care routine and have some sort of meditative practice (meditation can be practiced in many different forms other than sitting on the floor, people find meditation during running, being out in nature, etc).

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Viktor Frankl comes to mind immediately. To endure a concentration camp surrounded by possible death at any moment and develop self-love and keep his will to live is incredible. If you haven’t read his book “Man’s Search for Meaning” I suggest it be the next book you read. He came out of that horrific environment with such a will, not only to live but to share all he learned while going through that experience.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Absolutely. This story happened while I was in San Bernardino County Jail awaiting my transport to the prison where I was set to do the rest of my time. I ended up being in this institution for 5 weeks, and it was a maximum security facility. Without diving deeply into prison politics, when you first get to an institution like this one, you need to affiliate yourself with a certain gang in order to survive.

I was already on a different path within my own life having served 17 months of my 36 month sentence. I hadn’t affiliated myself with anyone the entire time and I wasn’t going to start then. I was told I was crazy to do such a thing, no one walks alone out there in the yard where you can get jumped or stabbed among many other things. I did this for two reasons: if I were to affiliate myself with a gang I would possibly be involving myself in rival gang wars and adding time onto my sentence and because I knew it wasn’t the right choice given my new mindset. Everyone that I told said it couldn’t be done, that I would be forced to run with a gang.

I’m here today to prove that I did it. I didn’t succumb to the peer pressure of that environment telling me that I had to do something that I didn’t want to do. If you don’t take ownership of your life and the choices you make within it, then you aren’t living your life, you’re living someone else’s expectations of you.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

My greatest setback happened to me in 2008 and it forever reshaped my life. At the time I was a 21 year old who seemed to have whatever I wanted, but there was an underlying secret I was keeping: I was involved in a high level drug gang. It all came crashing down when I was arrested in California in the summer of 2008. I was charged with transporting drugs and taken to federal court. Through the many tribulations of my case, I ended up getting sentenced to 3 years in prison. I experienced many dark days inside of prison, days I thought I’d never escape from. It was during those dark times that I saw a light inside of me that was flickering and wanting to be ignited. I started to hone in on it through meditation, mindful eating (as best as that can be done in prison, which is essentially trading my bread for other’s vegetables), exercise, reading, writing, and conversations where I listened rather than talked.

I was faced with a decision during an incredibly hard time of my life, I either play the victim of my environment and go deeper into the prison system, or I rise up and take ownership of my actions and my life. I grew into a totally different person throughout those 3 years of incarceration. I would never ask to take that part of my life back because it showed me my true passion and purpose in life.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

One experience comes to mind and I think it highlights my purpose and passion earlier in life, prior to my arrest in 2008.

I was a teenager playing on the gold level soccer teams which require you to go to try-outs each year to make the team. I was an all star defensive player for the previous 3 years going into tryouts and I thought I’d be able to cruise in and take it again. I underestimated the competition and I got my butt handed to me. I wasn’t accepted to the gold team. It crushed me because much of my identity and sense of belonging were wrapped up with being on the team. I went into a tailspin, nobody wanted to be around me with my negative attitude. I needed to check myself quickly or I was going to have no friends left in my life at the time.

There was a young kid at high school who mentioned that his dad taught Taekwondo, a form of martial arts that teaches you defense, and that seemed right up my alley. I was a bit hesitant due to it being an individualist sport rather than a team atmosphere, but I decided to check it out. Taking that step saved me from myself. Going into the Taekwondo gym helped me build myself back up with confidence. Taekwondo taught me that I can always get myself back up when I get taken down and I can control my emotions; it all lies in the choices we make.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Gaining a different perspective or multiple perspectives of your current situation. This will allow you to see how you may have gotten into the situation you are in. By gaining more perspective of what is going on, you can have a clearer understanding of how you may need to pivot and react.

For example, if you suddenly get called into your boss’s office and are let go from your job, this can send you into a spiral reaction of “Why me? What did I do wrong?” [Taking a moment to reflect, you may realize the job may not have been right for you all along and there is an opportunity to pivot into a new career. When we get stuck in the vicious cycle of playing victim, it keeps us from growing and learning from these hard times in life; we end up repeating the same cycle in future events.

A good way of gaining a different perspective is to ask yourself “What good can come from this? What are these hardships opening my eyes to?”

The next step would be looking at your narratives. Are you creating positive narratives or are you being stuck in negative, self harming narratives that are stopping you from experiencing growth during hard times. How we talk to ourselves or how we see ourselves in the world is powerful and can either propel us upwards from a hard situation or can keep us stuck in the mud. Ask yourself a question, “Who controls your narrative? Is it you or is it everything outside of you?”

For example, if all I listen to is negative news, I’ll be influenced to see the world in a certain light. I’d also be letting a news outlet control my narrative. When we expose ourselves to many different perspectives, we broaden our ability to change our narrative.

Another example would be when I got arrested, I was blaming everyone but myself for where I was. Everyday I would wake up and say “How dare they put me here!” or “They screwed me over, I can’t wait to get them back.” I was taking no ownership of my narrative, everything was external. I took back my narrative and replaced it with “I put myself here, how can I move forward to better myself here?” and “They were acting out of their own traumas, this isn’t their fault but my own patterns that put me here, how can I now recognize my patterns so I don’t put myself in that same situation in the future?”

When you replace your negative narratives with more empowering and positive narratives, you’ll notice a big shift in how you view yourself in the world. It can be as simple as switching up the phrase “I have to be here” to “I get to be here”. I got to be in prison to show me my purpose and passion, to experience things that I can now teach to others.

Empathy. Both for yourself and others around you. The realization that hardships in life happen all the time, and to everyone, that no one is immune to the challenges will help soften your inner critic. This isn’t happening only to you and it will not last forever. To be able to sit with the feelings that come up and hold no shame for them can be vulnerable and powerful to do. When you allow yourself to process the emotions, rather than stuffing them into a dark closet where they grow into something much bigger, you allow yourself the time to see their root cause. When you can detect the cause and when you are being emotionally triggered in a situation, you can detect the patterns you wish to change.

For example, our current environment! Covid has brought hardships onto the human population: people are stressed out, worried about enduring these tough times, and may be lashing out without realizing it. Everybody is fighting a battle they are trying hard for you not to see, when they lash out most of the time it has nothing to do with you. This is where empathy comes in. You realize people may be acting out of character; you recognize that it is because of their internal conflicts and not directed at you. This helps to let go of the emotions they are tossing your way. You can also look at yourself and see if you are doing that to others during times of stress.

Being able to control your emotions would be the next step. Let me be clear, controlling your emotions is different than not acknowledging your emotions like a hardened rock. Controlling your emotions means that when a stressful situation occurs, we aren’t running wild on emotions and causing damage in our lives. When we make an emotional reaction, it most likely isn’t our best decision and we later regret what we did or what we said.

For example, when I was in prison I had huge emotional swings dependent on what I was exposed to on any given day. If I was to make it through prison having experienced tremendous growth like I did, I could not let my emotions run me. There were moments when I wanted to lash out in anger, make decisions when I was upset that would have given me more time behind bars or would have set me back in my journey of post traumatic growth. It’s not that I didn’t acknowledge what I was feeling, but I didn’t let it run me or allow it to influence pivotal decisions while behind bars.

Lastly, I would recommend making your environment more resilient friendly because it will unconsciously allow you to grow that muscle without always having to focus on it. Your environment includes where you live; the friendships you choose to invest in; your daily self-care which includes moving your body; nourishing your body; sleep health; self-talk; the conversations you’re willing to have and much more. Surround yourself with people who are also working on their resilience in life or who have gone through hardships because it’ll help you learn from what they have gone through.

For example, we can read what Viktor Frankl went through in his vivid recount of the Holocaust and the concentration camps he was at, but we also get a glimpse into his mindset during those hardships. When we can learn from other’s hardships, it also strengthens and inspires us to take on some of that individual responsibility in our 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. 🙂

Creating better accessibility for mental health and with self growth coaches. The power that comes to an individual when they are taking care of their mental health and knowing how to achieve self growth in life will bring much joy and fulfillment.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Yes!! I would love to sit down with Tim Ferris. I resonate so much with his message, the topics he promotes on his platform, and the work he does. I find his vulnerability and curiosity of life inspiring. I feel like we could chat for hours about our experiences and I would love to learn directly from him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I would love to connect with the readers who resonated with this, you can follow me on instagram @jv.movement and @jeremydvaughan. I look forward to connecting and hearing about each person’s experiences with resilience.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Much gratitude!

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