I had the pleasure of interviewing Suzanne Monroe, Founder and CEO of the International Association of Wellness Professionals (IAWP), a global education company that trains and certifies Wellness Coaches worldwide. Suzanne started the IAWP to inspire others to share the important message of holistic health and wellness while creating a career following their passion and purpose. Today the IAWP is a thriving community of over 25,000 wellness professionals worldwide that are a part of the IAWP mission to change the health of people everywhere. Suzanne is the Director of the IAWP Wellness Coach Certification program which provides a world-class education from the industry’s most renowned experts in holistic health, natural medicine, wellness, coaching, entrepreneurship and holistic business. Suzanne is a leader in the conscious business movement, that includes creating success by aligning your passion with your health.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get to be where you are right now?
I started my career in the pharmaceutical industry, first as a marketing consultant and later as a sales representative. After six years in a corporate environment, I felt something was missing. I was burned out from working long hours and still remember the time when I spotted one of my co-workers sleeping under his desk because that was the company culture – “work till you drop”. That moment hit home for me, making me realize that there was a better way to work and live. I felt that there shouldn’t be a trade off between being successful and being well and set off on a personal mission to discover how I could create a career that combined both success and well-being.
In 2007, I started my own health and wellness business. To get started, I established a small practice as a Wellness Coach to individuals and organizations, then grew to a professional association and multi-million dollar, global education company (The International Association of Wellness Professionals) which trains and certifies Wellness Coaches worldwide. Today I live a life of both wellness and business success and I am committed to teaching others how to create healthy and successful lives doing work they love everyday.
Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How did this quality help you overcome obstacles on the path of becoming an influential and inspiring leader?
I am introvert well-disguised as an extrovert. On a daily basis I do a lot of extrovert-style activities like leading my team, teaching and coaching students in our community and sharing the IAWP message through videos, interactive classes and social media. So I do a lot of extrovert-style activities. I’m able to do this confidently and from a place of balance because I make sure to fill up the introvert side of me during my personal time. I take a lot of time for self-care and downtime. This helps to keep my mental well-being in check. Being able to maintain this balance has helped me to inspire others as I share my story and practices, especially for those in the holistic health field who often are introverts or more sensitive people in general.
What does it mean to be mentally-strong in the hyper-competitive world of running a business or an organization?
Running a successful business requires you to have a lot of brain power on on any given day. So it’s critical that you balance that output of brain power with an opposite input. I think being mentally strong starts with knowing ourselves on a deep level and what fills up our inner tank. What works to help us stay in balance? What activities do we need to truly nurture and care for ourselves? How can we fill up our inner tank so that we don’t feel depleted and can operate at our best? It’s different for everyone and knowing what supports your mental well-being is important so that you can engage in the practices that fully support you.
A lot of people in the business would feel as if talking about mental health makes them appear weak. How do you feel about showing mental strength and setting an example of what it takes to have strong mental stamina to succeed?
Historically, our culture has celebrated strength in an external form – whether that’s appearing strong, being powerful or creating outer success. But I think success is not just what we see on the outside, the external results. It’s also the internal – our mental well-being, how we feel and our overall health. Too many people achieve external success without internal success, leaving them ultimately unfulfilled. It can show up simply as not feeling happy or content, or can manifest in greater symptoms like adrenal burnout, chronic fatigue or illness. I think we can achieve both inner and outer success when we understand that both are equally important and that the two work together.
The “old” way of doing business, where we try to appear strong, fierce and powerful but emotionless is dying. This is one type of energy, that can certainly be useful, but it needs to be balanced with vulnerability. The “new” way of doing business is a shift toward vulnerability which includes addressing mental strength and well-being. We are seeing this shift toward the importance of wellness and mental health in organizations and corporations who are recognizing that their employees need this support to be more effective. It’s a slow process, but we are making steps in the right direction. The best way to keep the ball rolling is to not be afraid to set an example when you have an opportunity to demonstrate your mental strength to others.
Is there a particular person, a book, or place of wisdom that has inspired you to become a successful and mentally-strong leader?
Throughout my career I’ve worked with different mentors and coaches to support different goals that I’ve had. The single most important mentor was Michelle Bersell, the author and creator of the process “Feel Every Emotion as Love”. Through Michelle’s book, process and support, I have learned how to understand my emotions from an empowered place. Rather than trying to tuck negative emotions away, Michelle teaches us how to work with our emotions to achieve greater success. This has been a part of building my own mental stamina and has supported me to step into my role as a leader in a more authentic way.
Can you give us 5 tips on maintaining strong mental health stamina to succeed in the modern business world? Tell us a little about why each point matters.
Keep a Mindset Journal – While many business owners keep journals and notes of team meetings and creative ideas, keep a personal journal for your mental health. Write down your thoughts, personal challenges and fears. The benefit is two-fold. One, it clears the deck for the day and gets things out on paper rather than taking up too much mental energy. Second, it’s a chance to do some inner work and examine your mindset so you can make empowered shifts.
Meditate More – Meditating is a practice that can restore you and build your mental stamina. It’s not important how good you are at it or what style you do. Just setting aside 10 or 15 minutes per day to focus on your breath or be in stillness can boost your well-being.
Take Time for Self-Care – Business owners often take care of a lot of people – their team members, their clients or customers and perhaps their families, too. Finding time to take care of you is essential to feeling rested and restored. Engaging in self-care supports you to approach things with mental stamina and also keeps you out of resentment when others need your help. Find your version of self-care – what works to help you restore and feel balanced?
Chill Out, Don’t Numb Out – Downtime is a must for leaders. But today a lot of people mistake chilling out with numbing out. Chilling out is resting and enjoying activities other than work-related ones that allow your body and mind to relax. Numbing out, often confused with restful downtime, is using things like technology of substances to bring us down. For example, spending too much time on our smartphones or consuming too much refined sugar or drinking too much alcohol. These activities can make us feel like we are relaxing but we’re actually not engaging in true relaxation that promotes our well-being.
Practice Presence – It’s not always easy to do when there’s a lot on your plate, but practicing being in the present moment at any moment can improve your mental stamina. When you’re listening to an employee share a challenge, be present and focus on exactly what the person in front of you is saying rather than thinking about your next meeting. When you’re home from work for the day and your child is asking you a question, put down your phone and enjoy the present moment that is happening right in front of you. This is a mindfulness technique that improves our well-being as we experience more peace and joy, rather than stress and anxiety that often comes from multi-tasking.
Can an imbalance in private life cause a mentally-strong leader to deviate away from the path of success? Why? How to alleviate this problem?
Absolutely. We might try to power-over our challenges in our personal life, attempting to push them aside while we focus on success, this is a temporary solution. As I’ve mentioned in this interview above, success is not just external success – like more profit in our company or more money in the bank. Success is a holistic view of our life, which includes both personal and professional aspects. At the IAWP, we teach a wellness philosophy called Wellness 360™ which examines all areas that impact our well-being, including Food, Movement, Rest, Career, Relationships, Finances, Spirituality and other factors. The goal is to understand how these elements are not isolated in a box but rather work together to impact our overall wellness.
If the readers of this interview series would like to read more about you, how can they reach out?
Suzanne Monroe and the International Association of Wellness Professionals can be found at https://iawpwellnesscoach.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/InternationalAssociationOfWellnessProfessionals