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sHeroes: “Cultivate gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude; Nothing is more healing” With Writer and Speaker Esther Gonzalez Freeman

Cultivate gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude. Nothing is more healing than recognizing all that you have been given and all that you must give. Writing in a gratitude journal helps me keep things in perspective. It enables me to see how far I have come on days when I’m out of sync. It also helps […]

Cultivate gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude. Nothing is more healing than recognizing all that you have been given and all that you must give. Writing in a gratitude journal helps me keep things in perspective. It enables me to see how far I have come on days when I’m out of sync. It also helps me remember that my flow is in serving others more than in being served.


For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Esther Gonzalez Freeman, a Latina speaker, writer, and Board-Certified life, career, and business coach. The founder of E Powered Media, LLC (home to Empowered Campus and My Balanced Plate), Esther is passionate about motivating, empowering, and guiding others to create fulfilling, purposeful, and balanced lives. As a speaker, writer, and coach, Esther is respected for her unflinching authenticity regarding her own experiences and “tell-it-like-it-is” bluntness — all of which is delivered with warmth, humor, and empathy.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My parents worked long, hard hours in factory settings. Their examples taught me the value of hard work and consistency. Today my dad is in his seventies and he is still working twelve-hour shifts — not because he must, but because he loves his work. That work ethic is in my blood! But no matter how hard of a day either of my parents had, regardless of their exhaustion, they always made time to help others in need and to serve the community: at church, in our neighborhood, and in the community at large. I learned that it isn’t simply important to work hard; it’s important to give back and serve.

I carried these values with me when I went to college. I always knew that no matter what career I pursued, I would work hard and find a way to serve others. Initially, I thought I would become a lawyer or go into politics, which is why I have a BA in Political Science! But God had another plan. As a first-generation college student, I not only struggled to finish college but after graduation, I struggled to try to find my way. I ended up in a temporary position at a nonprofit, teaching middle school kids life skills — mostly sex ed. I realized a few things during those months almost seventeen years ago.

First, I learned that there was power in my story. There I was in a low-performing school across the street from my grandmother’s house, working with kids just like me. They grew up in humble homes, with hard-working parents, in a mostly Latino community. But somehow, I was different. I always saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I knew deep in my soul that I was not only going to make something of myself, but it was going to be BIG! However, the kids in my class didn’t seem to have that spark. That all changed after they heard my story. When they realized that I too was Latina, went to their church and that my Abuela lived in their neighborhood, they started to see the possibilities of other options. This taught me the importance of not only sharing my story but the importance of representation.

So, as a very young professional, I realized that I had an opportunity to make a difference in the world in my own unique way. Not only could I use my story, experiences, and education to make an impact, but that impact could affect an entire family and the community at large. I was planting seeds of possibility. Little did I know then that what I was doing was called mindset coaching. I also realized that if I could teach sex education to middle schoolers, I could do anything!

This experience opened a door into the world of higher education, and after 16+ years, I decided that I wanted to have a broader impact beyond the walls of a specific institution. In fact, I wanted to influence individuals and groups beyond the field of higher education. That’s why I started my company. My mission is to serve on a larger scale, taking what I have learned over the years and helping people and organizations build upon their strengths. I saw that there were gaps I was uniquely capable of filling.

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

Living “on purpose” takes work! For me it means living a mission-driven life; one in which you recognize that you have the power to decide how you respond to the circumstances around you. When you live on purpose, you make conscious decisions based on your values and the legacy you want to leave behind. It’s about the impact that you have every day.

I think that a lot of us live on auto-pilot. We wake up and let the day happen to us. We are reactive in the way we respond to the issues that arise, and we often see ourselves as powerless to affect the circumstances around us. I know, because this is how I lived for many years. And thanks to depression and anxiety disorder, it’s something that can become a daily battle for me — if I allow it.

I have spent numerous years of my life blaming my circumstances for my issues and failures. I struggled to get out of bed, and once I did, I struggled to make it through the day. Then I felt guilty for wasting the day and for feeling hopeless. There I was, a high-achieving professional woman struggling to make it through a meeting. Some meetings can be brutal, I know, but this was different.

I saw myself as a fraud! I was spending hours a day coaching people and helping them align their passions, strengths, and skills. I would challenge their mindsets and see them grow leaps and bounds; all the while, I was struggling to keep my own life together. I felt like I was merely existing, not living — and certainly not growing.

During this time, I was working with a therapist, but I didn’t feel like I was getting any better until I had an “aha!” moment: I was expecting the therapist to do all the work, and I was not taking responsibility for my role in my own life. Instead of recognizing the power I had over my own reality, I was busy looking for the answers to my problems outside of myself. Don’t get me wrong; my depression, anxiety, and past experiences were real — but they weren’t my only roadblock.

You know those moments in movies where the protagonist has a moment of clarity? They swipe everything off the desk onto the floor and suddenly become transformed. Think Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. That didn’t happen for me! Living on purpose is a slow and sometimes painful process. Notice that I am using present tense? This is ongoing!

Every day I must make multiple conscious decisions to live on purpose, from the moment I open my eyes to the moment I close them at the end of the day. It isn’t as simple as the movies make it out to be. Yes, I had to make the choice to be mindful and decide that things needed to change, but that was part 1a of the process. The rest is made up of small decisions; the ones I make every day, hour, and minute.

Living purposefully can be overwhelming, and for someone like me with an anxiety disorder, it can feel impossible. The key word is FEEL. Notice I didn’t say it was impossible? You need to find what works for you, but I do have a few suggestions to help you get started.

  1. If you are struggling with a mental health issue, please seek the help of a licensed professional. I have several calls a week from people seeking a coach, but upon talking to them, I recognize that what they need is a therapist. Don’t get me wrong; I have clients who are also in therapy, but I have made it very clear to them that I am a board-certified coach, NOT a mental health professional. It is vital that you have the right type of help for your needs.
  2. Seek clarity. I, like most of my clients, lacked clarity for a large portion of my life. I wasn’t moving in the right direction because I didn’t know where to go! I thought I was struggling with motivation but what I really needed was direction. Today, most of my work is centered around helping people find clarity of purpose. It’s much easier to develop a strategy and implement it if you know where you are going and why you want to go there! This is also true for organizations that are struggling to live on purpose.
  3. Reach for the low-hanging fruit. What I mean is that we often worry ourselves solely with the big things, and in doing so, we miss out on the small wins. It might be as simple as getting out of bed in the morning on time and making your bed consistently for a week. Or you might celebrate that you are unplugging after a certain time and being truly present in your life outside of work. If you want to live life on purpose and you have been living on auto-pilot, the small wins will help build your confidence and keep you on track.
  4. Bathe daily. You can take this literally, but what I mean is that living on purpose is not a once-and-done thing. It’s all about HABITS! I must remind myself daily of my goals and dreams. I have a vision board as well as reminders on my bathroom mirror, my cell phone screen, my laptop wallpaper, etc. Keeping my mission at the forefront of my mind helps me make those minute-by-minute decisions. I liken my reminders to the bumpers on a bowling lane. When my circumstances change, and I want to go back to my old way of thinking, they help keep me on track.
  5. This is a team sport. Make sure you have a solid support system and take advantage of your resources. There are days when I am STRUGGLING, but I have a team to lean on during those moments. My therapist, my minister, my family, an accountability partner, my coach, my mentors…you get the picture. It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help. No one is successful alone.
  6. Cultivate gratitude, gratitude, and more gratitude. Nothing is more healing than recognizing all that you have been given and all that you must give. Writing in a gratitude journal helps me keep things in perspective. It enables me to see how far I have come on days when I’m out of sync. It also helps me remember that my flow is in serving others more than in being served.

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?

As I mentioned earlier, my parents taught me the importance of having a strong work ethic, a solid education, and the importance of serving others. They would tell me that although I may never have an inheritance in the traditional sense, I would always have my education. I was a high achiever and even earned a full scholarship to college. But as a first-generation college student, I struggled. Like many first-generation college students, I was focused on finding a career that would allow me to help others while making me wealthy. I never really gave thought to purpose or meaning until my life hit a wall.

It didn’t take long before I went from being a high achiever to struggling with basic tasks like getting out of bed or going to class. I felt like I was fighting myself daily! What I didn’t recognize then was that I wasn’t only overwhelmed by the transition to college; I was also fighting severe depression and anxiety disorder. By the time I came to that important realization, I had already received the dreaded “your scholarship is officially revoked, and you are no longer welcome here” letter. I, the overachiever, had flunked out of college.

Can you imagine the conversation I had to have with my hard-working parents — the parents who had worked insane hours in a factory for years so that I could have a good education? Let’s just say that I got it both in English and Spanish. Beyond my parents, I was so ashamed and embarrassed that I didn’t tell a soul.

Today, I find this amusing because I have shared my story with thousands of teens and college students across the country, professionals, entrepreneurs, and now your audience.

I did go on to finish not only my BA in Political Science but also an MS in Leadership. Thanks to a dear friend of my father’s who was a faculty member at a local college, I was able to push forward and earn my undergraduate diploma. I started doing the work to help me better manage and understand my mental health issues, and I learned the importance of leveraging my resources to overcome setbacks.

I didn’t realize until much later that I was given a gift. Maybe you didn’t flunk out of college or struggle with mental health issues, but I am sure that you have had to deal with some sort of major setback on some level in your life. And when it comes to pushing through and living on purpose, the obstacle you face is bigger than just the setback itself; it’s also the loss, frustration, shame, other negative feelings you’re bombarded with. Because of my experiences in college, I learned to fall with grace and get back up to fight another day.

Since then I have encountered a steady stream of setbacks and failures in several areas, but I have come out on the other side. I now have the ability to help others who are struggling with similar pain learn lessons from it, let go of the shame they attached to it, and move forward as much stronger and resilient people. Failing big-time at such an early age went from being a liability to one of my greatest assets.

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?

It all comes back to what I discussed earlier about living life on purpose. I believe that we are focused on the wrong things and have developed a taste for unrealistic expectations. The wild part is that most of these expectations aren’t even our own; they’re what we’ve been fed by others! We seem to be living by such a narrow definition of success that people are hurting themselves trying to achieve the impossible, especially since the perfection we seek doesn’t exist.

We live in one of the best and wealthiest countries in the world, yet we are a country where most people:

  • …are unhappy with the work that they do.
  • …don’t find any meaning or fulfillment in their careers.
  • …are attached to electronics from the moment they wake up. (Many individuals’ most meaningful relationship is with their smartphone!)
  • …have no division between work and home.
  • …work even while on vacation (that’s if they even take a vacation).
  • …put major effort into keeping up Instagram-worthy appearances.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Then we wonder why we’re depressed and anxious! This may sound overly dramatic, but is it really?

Working with college students over the last almost-two decades, I have had the opportunity to see what we have been teaching our youth to focus on. Our culture’s narrow definition of success, the need for perfection, and the desire to be admired through likes and shares have all led to some troubling results. I have seen an increase in the number of teens and young adults suffering from mental health issues, stress disorders, sleep disorders, eating disorders, cutting, poor self-esteem, and suicidal ideation.

When I was an academic adviser I would have an initial meeting with my advisees during orientation. During each conversation, like clockwork, I would hear stories of what these students’ parents wanted them to study or what their parents wanted them to participate in. They would constantly talk about feeling lost or empty because they couldn’t figure which thoughts were their own and which ones were given to them. The amount of pressure that was being placed on these young people was astronomical. They had no room for error because if they make a mistake, it felt like a catastrophic event. The source of the pressure varied based on the family’s education level or socioeconomic background, but across the board, a crushing pressure remained nonetheless.

This isn’t just a problem facing college students. We all keep living a life made up of “shoulds,” and then we take the same life that’s making us miserable and place it upon our kids. As an educator, I know that parents mean well. They want what they believe is best for their kids. That’s the intention driving their high standards and expectations. However, there is a distinct difference between intention and impact. The impact well-meaning parents have on their children is often the opposite of their initial intention! Instead of pushing our kids higher and farther, we are simply feeding into a vicious cycle — a cycle that can lead towards self-medication and self-destruction.

This knowledge has greatly influenced not only how I choose to live my life and run my business, but also how I parent. It’s becoming increasingly more important that we do live life on purpose and use our voices to show others that they can choose differently. They don’t have to live life on anyone’s terms but their own. It’s freeing, and that freedom allows us to live in a more joyful state.

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

This question excites me because I have never really thought about my life in these terms! I try to use my success to bring goodness into the world daily. I believe that we are called to pour into others and be a light in the world. For a long time, I thought that I needed something outside of myself to leave an impact on the world. I thought that I needed to start the next big thing. But the reality is that we can all bring goodness into our world every day at no cost, save the cost of time and energy that we pour into others.

I have had some amazing opportunities to use my story to bring light to youth. I was honored to work with the “It Takes A Village” Project in Alamance County, North Carolina. The program is housed at Elon University and uses a collaborative approach to help children in the community who are struggling to read. It was initially focused on younger children up through middle school. Several years ago, I had the opportunity to use my expertise in leadership development to create a similar program for high school students who had aged out of the initial program.

Many of these students were struggling in school academically and behaviorally. They also faced issues stemming from systemic poverty. We would meet for six weeks a semester, two hours a week. Each week I would teach a different lesson focused on Sean Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. We had Odyssey Scholars from the university serve as near-peer mentors, and they would share their own stories of overcoming challenges with their mentees.

Over time we noticed a distinct shift. Students were reporting fewer school issues and suspensions. Many of the students stopped experiencing behavioral issues altogether! Most of them are now thinking about or have already started to attend college; something that seemed like a foreign and impossible concept at the beginning of our work. My class was made up of predominantly Latino kids. I was the first Latina teacher they’d had, not to mention the first one they’d met who was a college-educated professional. Talk about visibility mattering.

I will never forget asking a student who had struggled in all areas for a long time, “What do you think contributed to your turn-around?” He said, “You were the first person to tell me I was worth something, and I believed you. You showed me that it was okay to ask for help. If you can do it, so can I!” My mind was blown! This young man waited 16 years to hear that he was worth something.

We are all fully equipped as we are in this moment to make a lasting impact on at least one person. This young man will forever be a reminder to me of that important truth.

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. Keep it 100 percent authentic. I cannot face the day with a “ravenous thirst for life” if I am not being authentically me. I must be true to myself and walk in that truth. It sounds easy, but how many of us wake up dreading the hours ahead because we know we have to be someone we’re not to make it through the day? I’m not talking about code-switching. I’m talking about being straight-up fake to survive. I once worked in an organization that had a lot of serious personnel issues. Everyone walked around in fear and no one did a thing about it! Every day I woke up and had to mentally prepare myself for a full day of charades. At the time it was the highest paycheck I’d ever had, and when you owe money to Sallie Mae you don’t simply jump ship! It took six months, therapy twice a week, and a cocktail of medications before I finally decided that I was not going to give that organization another second of my life. From that moment I was convicted that I would never accept another position where I couldn’t be authentically me. How can you face your day with exuberance if you’re busy adjusting a mask?
  2. Stay spiritually grounded. When I start to feel depressed or down, one of the first things I do is check my spiritual health. Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” I believe that connection to something bigger than myself has been a key to living life with exuberance. For me this includes meditation, prayer, reading my bible, going to church, spending time in nature (especially around water!), and service to others. (I want to clarify that this isn’t a magic formula or the “right way” — I encourage people to find what works for them.) In my darkest moments, my faith has been the light to guide me through. Over ten years ago, I had to make the difficult and painful decision to get a divorce. It was the best thing for both of us, but that knowledge didn’t make the separation any less painful. During that time, on the nights when I would cry myself to sleep and wonder how I was going to make it financially or whether I should go back to my home state of New Jersey, my faith grounded me. Taking the time to meditate and pray gave me clarity, an overwhelming sense of peace, and the knowledge that this difficult situation was going to work out for the best. It’s hard to experience joy when peace isn’t present.
  3. Be a quitter. At a recent event, Eric Thomas said, “You need to move from dreams to legacy!” Dreams are surface-level extrinsic goals: the cars, the house, the promotion. But legacy is a deeply entrenched sense of purpose; your intrinsic motivation. Legacy is about others and not you! It’s about what lives long after you are gone. Simon Sinek would call this your “why.” If you don’t know your “why,” you probably feel like you are constantly moving but never going anywhere. Your why is what pushes you to do the improbable. It’s what helps you make the tough decisions — decisions that can determine whether you move from chasing dreams to building a legacy. To make this shift, I needed to become a world-class quitter. Yes, you read that correctly. QUITTER. I needed to quit competing with other people and start competing with myself. I had to quit comparing myself to others and instead compare the me of today with the me of yesterday. I began to ask, “Did I grow?” I quit apologizing for my desires and goals. No one needs to buy into my vision but me! I also quit worrying about what I can’t control (this one is a work in progress!). Successful people who live with a thirst for life are excellent quitters! They know that the key to living their best lives and building their legacies is quitting the behaviors — and sometimes people — -that may be keeping them from the success they desire. The moment I realized that the only one keeping me from pursuing my calling and living life with peace and joy was me, I quit doing that too!
  4. Celebrate the success of others. This is one of my favorite strategies for living my life with exuberance! On the days when I wake up and feel like I want to simply go back to bed, I phone a friend and ask them to tell me something good. I want to know what success they are currently celebrating so that I can celebrate with them! In my world, the success of my friends and those closest to me might as well be my success. Heck, I celebrate the successes of people I don’t even know! It inspires me and reminds me that there is more to life than this present moment. Too often we operate with a scarcity mindset, believing that when something good happens to another person, there’s less success left for the rest of us. Nothing could be farther from the truth! When you succeed, you’re in a better position to give me a leg up, and in turn, I can pass an important lesson on to someone else. See what I mean? It’s not always about me, and that’s an inspiration!
  5. Be present. I can’t imagine facing the day in what Tony Robbins calls “peak state” without mindfulness. Embracing the moment has helped me manage both my anxiety and depression without medication for some time now. Breathing exercises, meditation, and using an acupressure mat have been instrumental in my mindfulness practice. Growing up, mindfulness wasn’t something we really discussed in the Latino community. I wasn’t introduced to mindfulness practices until about 12 years ago when I started working with the best therapist I have ever had. (Love you Carol!) She suggested that I start small with simple breathing exercises before bed, and over time I added more. How could I live my best life if I was constantly in a state of fight or flight? How could I have a meaningful impact right now if I was obsessing over the past or worrying about the future?
  6. Know you are enough. It’s almost impossible to live with a true zest for life if you never feel that you are enough. When I am feeling especially off my game, it’s often due to feelings of inadequacy. I start backsliding into a place where I feel like an imposter who has somehow made a wrong turn and ended up in a place where I don’t belong or deserve to be. If I added up the money I have spent over the years trying to find ways to be enough, I am sure that it would knock my socks off! And for what? None of the things I bought were necessary, because all I had to do was recognize that I was — and always had been — enough as I am. Don’t get me wrong; I am a strong believer in investing in myself, but there’s a caveat: doing it because I love myself, not from a lack of self-love. Every morning, I look in the mirror and remind myself that I AM ENOUGH. There is something powerful and invigorating about looking into your own eyes, the window to your soul, and reminding yourself of who you really are and who you are meant to be.

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

Maybe it’s because we’re getting close to the end of the year, but I have been on a decluttering kick. I loved The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. It’s hard to live an inspired life if you’re bogged down with clutter or if you are wasting time hunting for things!

I am obsessed with Audible! Some of the books I have recently listened to or have in my queue are:

  • Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
  • Kick-Ass with Mel Robbins by Mel Robbins
  • The Hollywood Commandments by DeVon Franklin
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • High-Performance Habits by Brendon Burchard
  • Start with Why by Simon Sinek

I also subscribe to several podcasts and catch up on them when I’m not listening to a book. Some of my favorites are:

The Secret to Success with CJ and Eric Thomas

Tiny Leaps, Big Changes with Gregg Clunis

Gratitude: UnFiltered with Joshua T. Berglan

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?

Progress over perfection. For so long I was pursuing an impossible quest for perfection, and as a result, I accomplished NOTHING. I was frozen. I took ZERO action because whatever I was working on wasn’t perfect just yet. I needed another certification. I needed another class. I needed another degree. I needed more money. I needed. I needed. I needed. I was consuming information on overload and I wasn’t executing a single thing!

I was miserable because I was stuck. I failed to launch because I was afraid of not being perfect. I wasn’t living because I couldn’t bring myself to leave the safety of my comfort zone, which was basically a bubble of inaction.

The moment I shifted my mindset to embrace progress over perfection, my procrastinating tendencies started to dissipate. I began taking small steps and what I called “mini risks” towards my goals. The more I took, the more confident I felt — and still feel. Crucially, it isn’t an extrinsic confidence.

I don’t mean that I am taking risks left and right. I still have my perfectionist tendencies, but every day I remind myself that what truly matters is that I am making progress. I remind myself that there is someone out there who needs me to show up, even though I don’t have it all together all the time.

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

Yes! I am in the process of scheduling a speaking tour of colleges for the upcoming spring. I have worked on college campuses for years and have spoken at events held at many educational institutions, but I have never done an actual tour! I hope that I can be for someone the voice I needed to hear when I was struggling in school. I look forward to sharing my message of resilience and inspiring students to look for opportunities to fail. Yes, you read that right. If students aren’t failing, it means they aren’t trying new things. I want students to embrace the lessons they learn from their experiences — good and bad — because that’s how they will begin to identify the unrealistic expectations that have been placed on them by other people, pinpoint what they actually want for themselves, and live on purpose.

I am also in the process of outlining my first book. To be honest, this project terrifies me! Never in my wildest dreams did I believe that writing a book could be a possibility. When English isn’t your first language and you grow up feeling extra self-conscious over your writing, a book doesn’t feel realistic. But I found a purpose much bigger and much more powerful than fear! I hope that it inspires people to step outside of their comfort zones and live authentic lives.

And through all of this, my coaching business is continuing to grow. I am looking forward to working with more budding entrepreneurs and facilitating corporate professional development workshops.

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 look at my perfectly imperfect little girls and think about how deeply I want them to succeed in life. I want them to dream big and go bigger. I want them to look at themselves in the mirror and know that not only are they AMAZING, but they have what it takes to overcome whatever they encounter. I also want to protect them. And because I want to protect them, I do the exact opposite of what every bone in my body wants to do. I let them fail. I let them fall. I let them figure out problems on their own. They know that my husband and I are here to support them and guide them, but they also know that we want them to exercise what our family calls their “resilience muscle.”

In my work with teens, college students, and young professionals, I have seen the negative impact of preventing our youth from exercising their “resilience muscle.” They struggle to manage adversity. They freeze amid struggle and are so afraid of failure that they’d rather quit than make a mistake. That being the case, I would like to inspire a movement of people who embrace failure and recognize that failure brings opportunities for success. Resilience is about adapting to setbacks and bouncing back instead of falling apart. It isn’t a destination, but like a muscle, it needs to be constantly exercised.

Resilient people take chances and have an insatiable thirst for life because they know they can get back up again no matter what. The Mayo Clinic says that “resilience can not only help protect us from mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, but it can also improve our ability to cope with existing mental health conditions.”

As I look back at my own life, I realize that my biggest successes came out of my most devastating failures. But if I wasn’t resilient, I would have been unable to recognize and embrace the lessons in the failures. Without resilience, I would have berated myself mercilessly, told myself how much I sucked and stopped moving toward my goals! Can you imagine a friend coming to you because they experienced a setback and you telling them that it’s all because they suck? Of course not! You’d tell them how capable they are and encourage them to keep pushing forward. We all need to be as kind to ourselves as we are to other people. If I had viciously and unfairly criticized myself in those moments instead of choosing kind self-talk, seeking support, and finding meaning in the experience, I would not be living my life with such a sense of purpose and joy.

Can you imagine a world in which we can bounce back from setbacks, suffer less stress, better cope with mental health issues, take ownership of our experiences, and live life with more grace? A world where we don’t have to use unhealthy coping mechanisms and are able to live more meaningful and happy lives? I’m not talking about a perfect world; simply a way of living in which we extend grace, compassion, and support to ourselves as well as others. Sure, it’s a big goal, but I wholeheartedly believe it’s an attainable one. And the key to reaching any goal, big or small, is to take it one step at a time.

So, here’s my challenge to you: purposefully begin to exercise your resilience muscle. The next time you experience a setback, pay attention to your reaction. Do you feel like hiding, quitting, or staying in your comfort zone? Is your first inclination to place blame — either on yourself or an external source? What does your self-talk sound like? Examine your reaction without judgment, then exercise your resilience muscle. Find the lesson in your failure, extend the same kindness to yourself that you would to a friend, and plan for moving forward. (I know that’s easier said than done — but many of the tactics I’ve shared throughout this interview should help!)

If we can spark a resilience movement — in other words, increase each person’s joy, strengthen their purpose, and sharpen their clarity — just think about the avalanche of positivity our world would experience!

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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