“Real power comes when you can share your voice, and you are open to supporting others in sharing theirs”with Dr. Suzie Carmack and Chaya Weiner

Today, when I walk into power rooms — government agencies or c-suite — and when I coach people who are positions of power, I remember that. No matter who a person is, or what position that they hold, they are still a kid inside. They are someone’s child, someone’s sister or brother, someone’s best friend. Their inner child wants […]

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Today, when I walk into power rooms — government agencies or c-suite — and when I coach people who are positions of power, I remember that. No matter who a person is, or what position that they hold, they are still a kid inside. They are someone’s child, someone’s sister or brother, someone’s best friend. Their inner child wants to be seen and heard. Real power comes when you can share your voice, and you are open to supporting others in sharing theirs. That’s a theme that drives me and my work today, especially when I am coaching and mentoring younger women.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Suzie Carmack, PhD. At work, she is Dr. Carmack — an award-winning author, speaker, thought leader, professor, coach trainer. At home, she is Suzie — fiancée, mother of three, daughter, sister and friend. Her books Well-Being Ultimatum (2015) and Genius Breaks (2017) help busy executives (and other high achievers) to find practical ways to optimize their professional performance without sacrificing their personal health or work/life well-being. Dr. Suzie Carmack has shared her research in over 150 journal articles, book chapters, customized keynotes, and tailored training workshops internationally. She has personally coached over 1,000 senior leaders to find practical strategies for the unique work/life well-being challenges that come with serving as an executive or commander in the “c-suite.” As a thought leader, Dr. Carmack is internationally renowned for her pioneering efforts to fight sitting disease by creating well-being promotion campaigns that de-stigmatized the practices of yoga, mindfulness and mindful movement in the workplace and in schools. Dr. Carmack was personally commissioned by the World Health Organization to design pioneering health campaigns that launched global efforts to fight sitting disease (2013); promote mindfulness in the workplace (2014); and reduce stigma around walking meetings (2015). More recently, her research and well-being promotion work has brought international attention to the stress challenges facing high achievers — maladaptive perfectionism, compassion fatigue, and burnout — in healthcare, education, legal and military workplaces. Dr. Carmack frequently leads customized retreats and convenings to support private corporations and government agencies in organization transformation, including the first-ever resilience training for senior leaders of the U.S. Air Force (2018). She has also trained thousands in her YogaMed well-being coaching method, which integrates the latest advancements in health communication science with traditional practices of yoga and other forms of mind-body medicine. When she isn’t writing, speaking, teaching, coaching or training coaches in her method, she enjoys applying her research in the practice of her own life — and loving every minute of it. Learn more at: www.DrSuzieCarmack.com

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in the suburbs of Pittsburgh in a family of six. I was number three in the kid line-up: the third and youngest girl. I was incredibly shy — the only place I felt like I could really be me was in dance class because I could get lost in the music, and I didn’t have to go through the stress of talking to anyone. I never would have dreamed back then that I would one day grow up to get a PhD in communication or spend most of my time putting myself and my voice out there in so many ways — writing, speaking, coaching, leading, teaching and mentoring — and helping others to find their voice.

Growing up, I loved school, and did the whole straight-A kid thing — possibly due to third-child syndrome yet who knows? I just loved learning, and although my mom was really smart, I know that I get my love of education from my dad. He was not just a physical education teacher for an inner city school — he was a Coach. One of the reasons I love coaching now, and training coaches, is to pass along his legacy. He taught me that it’s really about making a difference for other people.

Fast forward and I did well in high school academically but not so much socially. I was still shy and still a nerd. Thanks to my theatre classes, I learned that if I focused on the story that I was sharing and how it could move an audience to look at their life differently, then I could get out of my own way and actually enjoy being in front of people — a skill I still use to this day.

I got myself into a private college (Allegheny) which was a really big deal for me and our entire family. My mom died unexpectedly my first week of college, and that really changed my world in many ways. I was just 17 years old. I remember being told by several people that ‘no one would blame me’ if I didn’t go back. But I knew that getting my education is what she would have wanted. I summoned my courage, and I went back a week later. My friends were there for me — friends I still have to this day. And ever since then, I have been committed to making every day count, in her honor. Not many people know that that is what drives me, yet I suppose now they will.

Allegheny really helped me come into my own — I needed the nurturing that a small college can give you. I learned that to be innovative you’ve got to not be afraid to connect dots that seem otherwise disconnected in order to make a solution happen. My senior undergraduate thesis connected Greek classic literature study, with dance choreography and the use of live media in a theatre stage production. This may not seem like a big deal today — using media to interact with live actors on a stage — but remember this was the 1980’s! We were still using dot matrix printers…you get the idea.

In addition to learning how to create and innovate, I was exposed for the first time in my life to people who had significant wealth and means — much more than I had ever seen in my quiet little suburb outside of Pittsburgh. At first that was intimidating but as I got to know my classmates I learned that they had the same challenges I had, and that their having means didn’t make them more or less important than me. They had their struggles too.

Today, when I walk into power rooms — government agencies or c-suite — and when I coach people who are positions of power, I remember that. No matter who a person is, or what position that they hold, they are still a kid inside. They are someone’s child, someone’s sister or brother, someone’s best friend. Their inner child wants to be seen and heard. Real power comes when you can share your voice, and you are open to supporting others in sharing theirs. That’s a theme that drives me and my work today, especially when I am coaching and mentoring younger women.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

I remember listening to an interview once with a comedian, and he said it took him 20 years to become an overnight success. I feel like that. It has taken me 30 years to get to where I am so honored to be now; I do not take for granted. When I walk into a keynote presentation in front of thousands of people, or into a one-on-one coaching session with a c-suite executive or commander, or see my work in print, I always check in with that shy, geeky girl inside. She’s still in there. We both take a deep breath, and we embrace what is in front of us for the day, with a servant’s heart and an open mind. It really is about their story.

If I was hard-pressed to pick just one moment where I realized things were changing to a whole new level, it would be this. I was giving a workshop at a conference, sharing my research on sitting disease (which was not really part of the national conversation yet) and showing my strategies for weaving yoga and mindful movement into the day to address it. At the time — in 2012 — this was still a pretty crazy idea — — that we could practice yoga at the office or in schools — yet I had seen it work with my clients. I wanted to share the method with other trainers and yoga teachers, so they could share it with theirs.

After I was done, a woman (who I now know is Vicki Hallett) came up to me and told me she was with the Washington Post, and she said she wanted to invite me to the Post offices to share the method with her team and that she wanted to do a full feature on my work. I almost fainted inside, still I smiled and said sure. Vicki and the team there loved what I was doing — bringing yoga into the office — and the story ended up going viral globally. It is the most bizarre experience to see your quotes in print in a foreign language that you cannot understand; I had to reach out to friends of mine to ask them to translate them to see if the quote still made sense. It was also pretty cool that one day I was driving down the road shuttling my kids to school and I heard an ad for the article on the radio — I had to pull over and I started crying in disbelief. Then, I had to tell my kids that mommy was ok, and that they were happy tears. Then, I had to explain how my research made big news.

After that article released, I was flooded with requests for speaking events, workshops, and coaching. Since then I have expanded my work in multiple ways around the idea that people today need unique mind-body connection and well-being solutions — in addition to moving during the day. I don’t do as much coaching today, because I spend more of my time writing and presenting my thought-work, but I have started mentoring other coaches, yoga teachers, educators, healthcare workers and military service members in my techniques, which blend the Western sciences of communication and well-being with Eastern ways of thinking and living more mindfully and compassionately.

Sure, I’m damn busy, but who isn’t today? It’s not about slowing down; it’s just about learning how to manage what you sign up for and what the world throws at you — the good stuff, the hard stuff, all of it. I have spent my entire career figuring that out, and it would be tragic really if I didn’t share what I have learned, because most people don’t have the time today to pull over and study it like I have. So I hope that all of my work — the writing, the speaking, the college teaching, the mentoring, the coach training, all of it — can help move the needle on the well-being of this country. Because about 70% of the healthcare visits we have today are caused from stress, life isn’t slowing down anytime soon, and those of us who are what I would call “high achievers” have a lot of people counting on us at work and at home.

It is actually our gift to them when we take care of ourselves, so we’ve got to get more strategic about the ways that we live, and we literally need to give ourselves a break every now and then for being a human. That’s why I wrote my two books — to share with folks how I hope they can do just that.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I am busy by choice; I do not take on a commitment unless it is in alignment with my strategic priorities, my personal values, and I pace myself. I also want to say here that I think women have it hard today — we are all trying to live authentically, and yet if we start to excel, and we start to go fast in our lives, we get messages that we are doing too much. I stopped worrying about whether or not anyone was watching a long time ago, because I feel it’s a distraction to whatever problem I am solving.

So if nothing else, I want to reassure anyone reading this that you’ve got to find a way to do your day that’s authentic and uniquely yours. I will share my day. Please don’t try to compare it to your day — just pull what works for you, and let the rest go.

My days are different based on what is going on personally or professionally. I believe we all have to do what works for us. As long as we are being proactive (more than we are being reactive), it’s all good. That said, the military has a great framework: 2/10/5/7 that a former client and dear friend shared with me. He is a 4-star general. He uses it and recommends it for the thousands of people that he leads. I think we can all learn from it:

2 hours to yourself for self-care (working out, spiritual time, meditation).

10 hours of professional work

5 hours of personal life time (fun with family and friends; hobbies)

7 hours of sleep

So for my two hours, I start the day with self-care. Depending on the day, I go to the gym to see my trainer, I practice yoga or Pilates (I have a machine at home), or I take time for meditation. I listen to my body, and give it what it feels like it needs for the day, and I listen for guidance. I have three angels now — my mother and both of my sisters have all passed. So in the space of quiet, I listen for what they and those who came before me have to say, and I ask God for strength and clarity.

Part of my two hours also includes well-being ultimatum time — the title of my first book but also the name of a strategic framework that I developed for busy people to make sure they are optimizing all of the different dimensions of their well-being. I developed it when I had hit the wall of burnout a few years ago — and I have helped many people with it to either manage or prevent burnout, too.

Here’s how it works. You pick a different dimension of well-being for each day of the week, and you make your plan for the next seven days based on that to make an “ultimatum” with yourself that you will carve out time for that area in your own unique way — and get strategic about it.

It goes like this:

Mondays are for physical well-being — I plan for my exercise, nutrition, and physical wellness for the week. I make sure that I have scheduled time for at least two strength training bouts, at least three stretching bouts, and at least 150 minutes of moderate or vigorous cardio. I also have to plan meals because I have food allergies — and it makes you be that much more cautious.

Tuesdays are for financial well-being — I plan the family budget, check my investments and other household “stuff.” I like to think of this as the time I’m planning for the ‘business’ that is our household.

Wednesdays are for social well-being — I plan for social time, making sure that I’m connecting to family and friends no matter how busy life gets.

Thursdays are for mental well-being — I plan for time to de-stress, unwind, or just be. Creative projects fit here for me too because deep down I’m a creative and it is a way for me to relieve stress is to be in that flow.

Fridays are for purpose well-being — I plan for career goals like writing projects, talks, or networking groups.

Saturdays are for emotional well-being — I plan for fun for the family and date time.

Sundays are for comprehensive well-being — I look at last week and reflect, and journal if I have time. I also check in with my boys, who are now grown, graduated and living on their own. I also take time to work on the family calendar short-term (for the week) and long term (travel and events).

This well-being ultimatum planning time only takes about 10 minutes per day — it’s kind of like a “stand up” with myself to make sure that I am feeling connected and not losing the big picture of what is really important. (If you want more tips for this time, see Dr. Carmack’s book here or the full well-being ultimatum toolkit here). For the rest of that two-hours for me, I also check in with my team on what’s coming up for the week for my speaking and coach training businesses; I couldn’t keep those going and still do the work itself without that their support.

I get all that in within 2 hours, then I get ready for the actual work day — that 10 hours.

Now I know as a stress and performance expert that we all hit the wall of productivity at about 6 hours, yet I love what I do. When you love what you do, the hardest part is actually stopping. That said, if I need a break I take it; that’s why I wrote my second book, Genius Breaks. — to teach people the importance of breaktaking and how they can use mindfulness and movement practices to reboot themselves and get back to being a genius at whatever they are a genius at. (If you want the free toolkit which includes free Genius Break practices for your work or school day, as well as a free Genius Break mentor training so you can lead them at home or in the office, see Dr. Carmack’s free Genius Break Toolkit here). A typical work day might include conference calls from my home office, travel for coach training or speaking events, college class teaching, and/or time on the couch writing my next thought leadership piece, article or book. I try to flow my day with about two hours on average of each of the following: response to emails, long term strategy and collaboration (R and D), client work, business development, and team mentoring support.

The five hours of free time are spent with my fiancée and daughter, and just good old fashioned hanging out. We try to make normal stuff fun; like going to the store as an outing, or walking at a lake near our house. And yes, sometimes you will see my fiancée and I on the deck of our country club enjoying a glass of merlot at sunset. Others you will see me in my jammies on the couch watching a movie with my daughter. Sometimes I split up my day — I might work a bit, take a few hours off to meet a friend or attend a school event, and then work later into the evening. I am blessed to have that kind of flexibility. I have consciously worked to get to a place where that can happen.

I try to get that 7 hours of sleep in; it doesn’t always happen if I am being totally honest, especially when I am traveling, but I do not let myself go more than two days per week with anything less than that. I know too much from my research about what sleep deprivation does to you — and I want to be here for a long time. I also know I’m crankier to the people around me, and I don’t want to do that to them.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be beneficial to their development?

As a well-being researcher, I get to study a lot of different disciplines. In my doctoral dissertation (2014), I discovered that social support predicted multiple dimensions of well-being. That means that feeling supported by people who care about us can make us feel physically, mentally, and emotionally better. If that is true for the general population, that is true for the ways we engage with our children.

So when we think about that from a parenting lens, I think it’s important to not just think of it as quality time, but as social support. To me, it means that our kids know they can call us when they need us. I am an older mom now — my kids are aged 17–23 — so that means that they call me differently than they did when they were young. Back then, they called me to help them with a toy or in the middle of the night because they were scared. Now my boys (who are on their own now and don’t live with us) text me when they want to talk. And my daughter sometimes just looks at me and I know she is calling for me to ask her how her day was — really — so that she can feel supported in her life.

That’s what quality time as a parent means to me — that they know that they can trust that when they need me that I will be there emotionally for them to the best degree of my human capability. That means being fully present, and not distracted and that may or may not mean we are actually together in person. Either way, they set the agenda of what it looks like; it’s not about me making some kind of architecture of how it has got to look.

On a related note, some recent research I did explored the phenomena of stress contagion — the idea that stress is actually contagious. In the study from 2016, teachers who were burned out actually had students with higher cortisol levels than the control classroom. What that means for all of us is that personal stress management, well-being optimization, self-care — whatever you want to call it — matters not only for us but for those we love. There’s a ripple effect of our stress. If we aren’t living our best life (my way of saying managing stress), then everyone around us really can feel it. So putting yourself first isn’t selfish — self-management and self-care is the greatest gift we can give to everyone who depends upon us.

So I would say to any parent who would ask me, that the first step to making sure you’re having that quality time with your kids, is to make your well-being ultimatum — your personal commitment to self-care and self-compassion that helps you to make sure you can give the best of yourself to all that you do (at work and at home). And I would encourage them to check in with their kids to see what quality time means to them — let them drive it — and then fold in all of that good parenting stuff that we know we’re all supposed to be doing, to make sure they feel safe, protected, respected and loved and that they can share those gifts as they go out into their lives with compassion.

Above all, I would say that it’s ok to seek outside help if you need it — that’s what coaches and other providers and consultants are for. Why not get an expert to help you with the most important job you’ll ever do — instead of wasting time and energy trying to figure it all out on your own? Of course, I do recall my earlier days as a struggling single Mom; I certainly would not have had the means to find a coach then. Remember, support of any kind is good — finding meetups or coops where you can share is a great first step, and not being afraid to tell your doctor if you need some resources is important, too. Making support possible for all parents is necessary.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is so important to make time to spend with your children?

Just make the time that you can make because they grow up too fast — but stop judging yourself right now for it never feeling like it is enough time. I feel like it was five minutes ago that I was having crawling races with my oldest son (who is now 23). I fast forwarded in the movie of my life to see both of my sons graduate from college this past year and my daughter is blossoming into a woman who leads. She is now the same age that I was when my mother died — 17. This is a bittersweet irony, but as I say to my daughter often she has an angel looking out for her, always.

So go ahead and make the time, and stop worrying about whether or not it’s enough. The idea that it’s not enough (no matter what we do) is a very Western way of thinking. Thinking of yourself as a work in progress that is doing the best that you can and evolving every day is an Eastern way. I like the latter, because perfection is the point at which growth is no longer possible. Who wants that, really?

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a 3–5 stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

My answer to this one has changed over the years. Today, quality time has a different meaning for me than when they were young. When they were younger, I would schedule one outing per week over the course of a month to places like the library, the zoo, a museum and some type of event. (Usually someone was having a birthday party at least one week per month). With today’s technology, which I didn’t have then, I’m sure there are apps that could help parents make time for what is most meaningful to their family — if nothing else an outlook reminder to schedule the event, and then go do it, would be one quick tip. Aiming for one of these types of events per week (on average) can take the edge off.

Today, my life looks much different. I have to travel to see my two oldest children (my boys) because they are grown and living on their own. So my boys and I Facetime or text when we can, and I schedule time to see them over the course of a year. I would love for there to be more of that time, but this is what works for right now. Raising boys means that we need to allow them to be young men — and that comes with independence. It is hard on a mom’s heart to let them go, and at the same time, I could not be more proud of who my boys (men) are becoming. Allowing them to be in their truth and to celebrate with them is what quality means to me now — I get to applaud and cheer from the sidelines of their lives, because it’s theirs. They know I’m there for them anytime they need me. So while the quiet between the phone calls can be hard because I miss them, it actually means that they are doing their life on their own term — what every parent really wants for their children

For my daughter, who still lives at home with my fiancée and I, we are actually finding new ways to spend time together as she has come into her own. I also am very aware that she only has a few more months (about a year) before she moves away to college and I become that “empty nest parent”. I try to enjoy this time as much as I can, and we do enjoy the normal mother-daughter stuff, like shopping and going out to lunch or just enjoying a good binge on TV, but we are also sharing something else that’s pretty special right now. She is training with me to become a yoga teacher in my YogaMedCo Yoga Teacher Training program, and she is really finding her voice. I know this doesn’t really count as ‘quality parenting time’ because we’re in different roles — as teacher and as student. That said, I could not be more proud as her mom to see her on this path, and to get the chance to see her thriving in a different (training) setting.

She is really a great yoga teacher already and making plans to bring the tools of yoga to other students, to help them to manage stress, and she wants to study medicine. I am also proud of her for sticking with the training journey — becoming an RYT yoga teacher with our Yoga Alliance-approved YogaMed program takes a big commitment as it takes 200 hours of training — and she’s doing it during a busy junior year where she has IB classes, student government commitments, SAT’s, and college visits.

Yet, she made the time, and I can see her thriving as she learns more about herself, how her body and mind work, and how to inspire others to find themselves on and off of their mat. I am excited to see where she takes this work next, in her own unique way — just as I have seen so many of my trainees do over the years. It is also cool to share this coaching legacy that came from my dad. I don’t want her to follow my or his footsteps though — I want her to carry the coaching legacy torch forward on her own amazing journey.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

1) Hold Space in Your Heart and Mind: Get up 10 minutes early, and focus on your breath. Hold the image of your children in the space of your mind’s eye and heart, and go into the feeling of gratitude for their light and how you get to share it for the day whether or not you actually get to see them. If they live with you, give them a hug and greet them into the day. If they aren’t in person, close your eyes and imagine you are wrapping them in a warm embrace of care and compassion.

2) Plan: Check out your calendar, and make quality time a priority — whether its digital or in person. Put it in as an appointment. If anyone asks, tell them it’s a client meeting. While you’re at it, put in your self-care time too, as the ultimate gift to them.

3) Just Do It: If you’re traveling, use Facetime. Sometimes my kids open up more over technology than they do in person; there is actually research to support this. Technology is their world today, so use it. If you’re home, connect in person. It’s important for them to practice good old fashioned eye-contact based communication, and that starts with us parents.

4) Be a Mommy (or Daddy) Lifeskill Mentor: Ask them to help with dinner, and make it a time you spend together. If your kids are old enough, give them a day of the week that they are in charge of the menu and its execution. It’s a great way to teach them planning and life skills, too.

5) Ask Them for Ideas: Have an idea (suggestion) box for family night, that they can write out ideas for ways to spend the family time. It’s like a lottery — so you have the element of surprise in the choice and they also populate the options…which with teenagers helps them have more control and feel more engaged. If we want to develop our children’s ability to speak their truth, we’ve got to start with giving them ways they can do that in easy “small level of effort” ways.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or story?

I don’t believe that parents are good are bad. That is…either idolizing people as good, or shaming people as bad — and both of these practices fail to separate the person from the behavior. If we call people bad, that is unchangeable. Life is much more complicated, and parenting happens over days, weeks, months years — it is definitely something that changes day by day.

So, to me a more productive way to think about it is that there are no bad parents; only people who make bad (maladaptive) parenting decisions. And I think people who make bad parenting decisions have a story in their mind’s eye of why they make the decisions that they do — they don’t try to make bad decisions; it just happens. Maybe they don’t know better, and they need to develop further in their parenting skills. Maybe they are suffering from an addiction or mental illness, and their judgement is clouded. Maybe they were taught that what they are doing is Ok in their own childhood — not realizing that its totally not ok. Maybe they have a mental illness and they do not have the neuroscience that they need to have a filter for their emotions, or behaviors. The list goes on.

I think we need to shift the conversation so that we can help people so that they can learn to be better parents — and stop vilifying people for being bad or idolizing people for being good. I have made some really bad parenting decisions along the way — and some really good ones, and in both cases I was just trying to do my best to get through the day. When I realized I was wrong, I went and got help and apologized to my children, and I did my best to recalibrate how I was parenting. We need more of that — a no judgement zone.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

I love all three of my children, more than I have the words to say. I have always told them that it’s ok with me if they do anything they set their mind to, as long as they are not hurting other people or themselves in the process. And that still holds true.

I will also say that I tried to show them by my own example — to model the pursuit of dreams myself even as I was raising them. They have seen me go after different dreams, and fail at some while succeeding at others. They saw me go from being a single mom a few years back, who struggled to get food on the table, and they saw me decide then and there that that is not how I wanted my life story to go. I decided to get my PhD — with three teenagers — and we would do our homework next to each other at the dining room table. They saw the struggle. And they see me now, living the dream I worked hard for, for all of us — so that they have the opportunity to go after their dreams, too.

Beyond this, I hope that they have seen this: for me, it was never just about the climb — it was really about lifting other people up along the way while you climb. There is plenty of room at the top of the mountain — and it’s a lot more fun when we get to celebrate with those we helped along the way, and those that helped us. That’s why I love coaching — I get to help other people to get to their own next level, whatever that level is.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

Success is having congruence between the story I tell myself, those I love, and the world. This is actually the theory I developed based on my doctoral research and my work with clients — it’s called centered well-being theory. It basically says that if we can own our narrative, aren’t afraid to share it, and are willing to “perform” it openly in the world as a way to inspire or advocate for others, then we are making well-being happen. This takes what I call role identity negotiation — the ability to get all of the roles we play in life at work at home and at play, to get along and to negotiate for the best use of our time. It is my framing for what others would call work/life balance.

Now, I caught a little flak from fellow well-being scholars for my theoretical work, because it challenges the idea that well-being is happiness, or life satisfaction or goal orientation. I would not disagree with the idea that well-being can be those things, too — but my research has found that we get to those things when we can own, share, and perform our life story well in an integrated, congruent way. My dear friend writer Sara Lewis Holmes says, “we write to know we’re not alone”. I think that is true in writing, but also in the ownership, sharing, and performance of our life story — day by day by day. It’s important that we not only give voice to our own story, but that we encourage others to do the same.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

In my early parenting days, I read every book under the sun. (Remember, podcasts weren’t around yet!). Over time, though I became more sure about myself, and I learned to balance learning tools with trusting my intuition. I also learned to listen more intentionally for what my children need — they often have the answer.

I learned this ability to trust my intuition not from parenting resources, but from the practices of mindfulness and yoga that I have studied for over 20 years and that I now share in my coach and yoga teacher trainings. They have helped me to be the best human I can be, and to know I am a work in progress that learns every day. I am not in a race to be better than anyone at anything; I am only trying to evolve in my self-understanding and my self-expression. I try to bring this same mindset into parenting.

I find that many of the people who I train in well-being coaching or yoga teaching find transferable skills from those developments that they then take into their parenting. For example, in our YogaMedCo Well-Being Coach training I teach well-being coaches to not try to “fix” their client but to instead ask questions that encourage the client to discover the answers they have within themselves, so that they can optimize their many dimensions of well-being: physical, financial, social, mental, purpose, and emotional.

In our YogaMedCo Yoga Teacher Training, our trainees learn to love the amazingness of the body’s system, and how we can use yoga postures and positive self-talk themes to help our students, and ourselves to manage the stress of our lives and to summon our courage to become the change agents we were built to be in the world. My trainees often tell me that they bring these lessons home to their lives as a spouse, partner, or parent. A trainee of mine from last year just told me that our YogaMed coaching framework actually saved her marriage — because it shifted the way she was owning and expressing her voice.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken. — Oscar Wilde

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. 🙂

I continue to want to change the way we engage with each other today at work and at home, so that is more healthy, compassionate, and brings out the best in all of us. This has been my focus for the past 28 years in my writing, coaching, speaking, teaching and coach training it will definitely continue. I am especially concerned about the professionals that teach us, care for us, lead us and protect us (in healthcare, education, military and legal fields). Often times they are so busy taking care of everyone and everything that they forget or choose not to take care of themselves — and we need them too much for them to burn out.

This is why burnout and compassion fatigue are so prevalent today in all of those fields. I would much rather find ways to help them to thrive so that we all can reap the benefits of their service to us. They can do what they can by buying into the idea that self-care isn’t selfish. But these conditions are not the individual’s fault — they are systemic issues. Our workplaces need to bring them out into the open, and be willing to invest in well-being programs if they are going to really change their culture — one team at a time.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

I am very grateful to you and publicist Carolyn Barth of Digital Content Strategy for arranging this interview. Thank you.

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