“Mindfulness helps me understand myself and the world around me.” With Beau Henderson & Terri Broussard Williams

Mindfulness helps me understand myself and the world around me. I show up more from a place of comfort and competence. I’m happier and can come to solutions easier. As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Terri Broussard […]

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Mindfulness helps me understand myself and the world around me. I show up more from a place of comfort and competence. I’m happier and can come to solutions easier.

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Terri Broussard Williams.

Terri is an award-winning lobbyist, philanthropist, social impact strategist, and professional speaker who has spent the past 20 years helping leaders and organizations create systemic change to further their missions. In 2018, Terri launched her blog, #MovementMakerTribe, to inspire others to lead change and build movements. She is also the author of the forthcoming book “Find Your Fire: Stories and Strategies to Inspire the Changemaker Inside You.”

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’ve always heard that voice telling me to make the world a better place. That I am responsible for what’s around me. By day, I do that as a lobbyist. But my side hustle is running #MovementMakerTribe, a platform that gives people the information, inspiration, and tools to do creative things in the world and be change-makers. The blog has allowed me to express myself in a whole new way, connect with people all over the world, and help those people connect with each other.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

In September 2019, I was on a work trip to Washington, D.C. During an event I was attending, someone lifted a sofa to see if their cell phone was underneath it. And that sofa came crashing down on my head.

Talk about something that forces you to see things differently! I had a concussion and had to take a couple of months of medical leave. During that time, I started wanting to change my life.

I’ve always been an overachiever. But I realized that I needed to center myself to get where I really wanted to go long term. I realized I needed to be on the balcony sometimes and not always on the dance floor.

When I couldn’t work, or use my phone or even read, I realized how exhausted I was. I realized how long I’d been living off adrenaline. And I started to get sad. I realized how much of my identity was wrapped up in job titles and the outcomes I created. Who was I when I wasn’t being productive and coming up with solutions? That’s what started my journey toward mindfulness.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Having led a team of 32 in house lobbyists and 30 additional contractors, what I learned was to let people do what they do best and to give them space to recharge. As leaders, sometimes we focus on the task and not the person. We get so intent on “win-win-win” and hitting the next goal. But if you don’t give someone space to recharge and be creative, they might lose their drive, hustle, and authenticity — the very reasons you hired them.

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?

I first read “Leadership on the Line” by Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky when I was part of a fellowship for under-40 leaders sponsored by American Express. At the time, I was depleted because the size of the team I led was doubling, but I was still working in the same way. Leading people as I had led them before was no longer going to work. I was good at what the authors call the technical aspects of leading. For example, if people weren’t talking, I would respond by calling a meeting or creating a new tool.

But I learned from this book that when things are really complex, you have to use adaptive leadership skills. You have to look at the underlying assumptions. Like if people aren’t talking, it’s probably because they have too much on their plates and you need to determine what they can remove. To this day, the tools that “Leadership on the Line” gave me help me sense when a team is dysfunctional. I reread it once or twice a year just to think about how I show up as a leader. The balcony-dance floor metaphor I used earlier is from this book.

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?

For me, being mindful means connecting my mental, physical and emotional selves instead of being compartmentalized. When I get in a mindful space, I talk to my inner self: What do you need? What is it that you fear? What do you need to think about more?

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?

Mindfulness helps me understand myself and the world around me. I show up more from a place of comfort and competence. I’m happier and can come to solutions easier.

As an introvert, I also have more energy to connect to others. Before I got centered, I wouldn’t call or text back. That just seemed easier. Now I can really be with people.

Before my concussion, I didn’t realize my body was always tense. I thought that was just how bodies felt! I wasn’t sleeping because I was burying so much inside. I’m now more relaxed and in tune with my body.

OK. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past five 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?

1. Own what you can around you. As part of my job, I write reports analyzing coronavirus cases and deaths, closing and cancellations in communities, changes in government, and economic impact. All of those things can make you anxious and fearful. But, as my breathing coach told me, we can’t be in the results business. As overachievers, we want to figure things out and “fix” them. But no one knows what’s ahead. Our job is to own what we can around us, to do what helps us feel as strong, safe, and secure as we can be.

2. Write it out. Writing helps me get things out of my system and reach a more creative space. It gives me the words I want to use when people ask me how I am.

3. Be grateful. And show that gratitude. This is the way out of paralysis and to a more mindful space.

4. Be vulnerable. Vulnerability and authenticity will help us get through all of this. When I am vulnerable and more mindful, I let go of perfectionism, being emotionally stuck and fear of failure. Vulnerability doesn’t come as easily to us during a crisis as anxiety, fear, and obsessing over uncertainty do. If you’re goal-oriented, make your goal grounding yourself in vulnerability. Just having that goal to work toward can bring comfort.

5. Take a walk. Going to the gym used to be just another thing on my calendar. But during quarantine, I’ve been taking walks in my neighborhood. This takes me back to a time when life wasn’t so structured. It reminds of what’s important and helps me prioritize my day.

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?

1. Don’t ask them how they are doing. It is human nature to want to directly ask people how they are doing, but by doing this it could be a trigger. Instead ask them things like, “Did you have a good day?” or “Tell me one thing that made you smile today.” This will be an open-ended question that will get them talking.

2. Send love. Drop them a note in the mail, send a text, or help them with a task. By showing them someone cares this might soothe their soul.

3. We are in this together. Remind them we are all in this together albeit we might have different levels of concern for what is going on around us, none of us know what will happen next. They are not alone and reminding them of that part could help them get through the day.

4. Give them a purpose. Help them find something that they can do that day that will give them a win, but might put them in the driver’s seat.

5. Take time for themselves. They should incorporate routines in their day that will allow themselves to be centered. Perhaps they could take a walk, have a bubble bath, or write in a journal. By creating time for ourselves we also take control of what we can control.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

I collaborated with LumenKind to curate the Mindful Marks Movement Maker Pack. Mindful Marks are beautiful temporary tattoos that serve as reminders of your intentions. The designs symbolize what you want to change, who you want to be, connection and communication, and making new habits stick.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

You’re not required to set yourself on fire to keep others warm. I realized this in a deep way after my concussion. During my medical leave, I felt things I hadn’t felt in a long time. I felt still. I felt grace. I was able to take care of myself first. And repair.

I started thinking of things this way: Before the concussion, I was a fast, high-performance car — but I was actually going nowhere. I was moving full speed in all directions. That’s not the way to reach your destination.

By slowing down, I became the leader of my own life. And I’ve led from a place of heart and intention vs. what “makes sense.” By not chasing results, I’ve gotten more results than ever and become more of the person I want to be.

My car is fueled by faith and fortitude. I don’t have to push myself. I just have to steer. The car will move on its own just fine.

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. 🙂

For me right now, that movement is #BeTheLight. With Covid-19, I felt that people around me were sad and depressed. Some are feeling like that we’ll never get out of this. Others are in denial and think it will be over quickly. So this movement is about starting a contagion of energy and light that would give people purpose and help them realize they have a responsibility to bring light to where we are. We can make decisions every day to make this a little bit easier. We can have each other’s backs. If we don’t do this together, we will fall apart.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

You can keep up with #MovementMakerTribe on my website or through my newsletter. I also invite you to join our community on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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