Dr. Paige Williams, Valorie Burton, and Louis Alloro
Recorded Thursday, September 10, 1:30-3PM PT
Sam Levine: Without further ado, let’s get to our wonderful panel with Dr. Paige Williams, Valorie Burton and Louis Alloro, change champions, best selling authors, and experts on wellness, resilience, and antifragility. We’re so excited to have the three of you here to have this meaningful conversation.
I want to give each of you about 90 seconds to answer these four questions: What do you do? Why do you do it? Why is it important to you? And what do you hope to offer our community today?
Dr. Paige Williams: Thanks, Sam, it’s great to be with everyone this morning. What do I do? Basically, I help leaders learn how to thrive through disruption and change and lead their teams to do the same. I teach, I coach, and I mentor. My expertise comes from being a leader. I have led international teams throughout Europe, the U.K., and Australia for over 20 years. More recently, I have academic expertise in positive psychology, systems science, and neurosciences underpinning.
What I am hoping people take away from today is practical strategies about how they can get out of their own way. Because sometimes that's the biggest barrier to us feeling well, doing well, and leading well. I want people to leave today with some practical, real, and relatable actions they can take, so that we all can—as much as possible—learn to thrive in these uncertain times. So that's me, I'm here for service and I'm happy to answer all the questions that I can and to acknowledge the ones I can't.
Valorie Burton: My mission is to inspire others to live more fulfilling lives. I do that through writing and speaking. I had an epiphany over 20 years ago, and that's when I first started writing and speaking, until I discovered coaching in 2002. I discovered positive psychology and went back to grad school at Penn University where I sat next to Louis many times in class. The core of what I teach is happiness and resilience. Not only helping people find that for themselves whatever season of life they're in, but also learning to coach themselves and others. We train personal executive coaches, which we've done for the last 10 years.
What I hope people will take away from today is a very personal action plan, even if it's just one action that can help you to thrive in the midst of all that is going on today. Thriving for you may look like having more calm and peace, being less anxious, or finding joy in the midst of all of the challenges that we're dealing with.
Louis Alloro: My mission is to empower people to empower other people to make life better. I work with organizations to help change champions become more effective at leading change and building an understanding not just of what they do, but why they do what they do. Like Valorie said, we help people learn the science behind the interventions in real-time. Together we're more powerful than alone. I believe.
What I hope people take away from today is that they just remember something they knew and perhaps forgot. I think when we wake up to something that we've forgotten, something powerful happens for ourselves, our own well being, and the people around us
Sam Levine: Thank you all! Let's jump into what we'll cover today. For those of you who are not familiar, there's a 75-year study conducted by Harvard University that started in 1937 and just finished in 2014. The researchers followed over 600 participants and measured their emotional, physical, and mental well-being over many decades. What they found is the following: “The clearest message that we got from this 75-year study is this: good relationships keep us happier and healthier. It's the quality of our close relationships that matters most.” Above and beyond anything else, the close relationships that we cultivate in our lives can cause fulfillment and improve health and longevity.
Before we jump into the panel, I want to have you reflect on a moment over the last few years where you felt a peak experience, like a 10 out of 10. A time when you just felt alive, happy, and fulfilled. See if you can place one of those moments. Try to recall who you were with, what you were doing, and how you were feeling.
Then on the other side, I want you to reflect on a low point. A moment when you found yourself experiencing a 1, 2, or 3 out of 10. I’ll give you a moment to reflect on that high moment in that low moment in your life.
Now I'm curious, when you reflect on the peak experience, were other people a part of that experience? Next, ask yourself that same question about the low point. Does your lived experience align with the Harvard study? Odds are they do. Relationships drive our highest highs and our lowest lows. That brings me to our first question for our panelists, what can positive psychology teach us about cultivating strong and lasting relationships.
Louis Alloro: A lot. That study you just brought up, the “Harvard adult men study” they call it, looked at men throughout their lifespan. It looked at their families and the people around them and showed that the happiest and healthiest of those people were the ones that have strong relationships. That means that relationships are one of the single best predictors of the quality of our lives. Positive psychology is a scientific field that looks at quality of life, satisfaction, and well-being and tries to understand what factors contribute to making us feel good and function effectively. There's lots of research that tries to address this question in different ways—research on relationships, on having meaning and purpose, connecting to something larger than yourself, etc. We also study things like engagement in the workplace and in our lives. We don’t just feel our best when we’re accomplishing things, we feel our best when we’re contributing to something larger. For example, my strengths are different than Valorie's, but together our strengths create something even more magical than either one of us alone. So positive psychology is a research-based field that attempts to answer the question that philosophers and theologians for centuries have been asking, which is, “What is the good life?”
Dr. Paige Williams: The central question is, “What makes life worth living?” Relationships are a huge part of what makes life worth living and what can sometimes make it unbearable, too. That's a really important aspect to understand right now because relationships are one of the things that we can have some semblance of control over, even in such uncertain times. There's so much in our world at the moment that is outside of our control, but we can control how we show up in our relationships with other people. I think that's a really positive thing and a strong basis from which we can grow our well-being during these uncertain and disruptive times.
Valorie Burton: This pandemic has tested our relationships, I think about the lockdown and how it’s impacted parents like myself, trying to homeschool three kids and have a business at the same time. If you happen to live with other people, that's your only one on one connection, which we're not getting a lot of right now. I think the dynamics of relationships have changed so much that we need to manage them differently. Even though we aren't locked down in most places anymore, so much has changed. If you were going into an office, there's a good chance you're still not, especially if your kids are attending school virtually at home.
I think right now it’s necessary to recognize the importance of the relationships that are immediately around you. If you are alone or spending more time than ever before alone, you must find those ways to connect. I know we, we knock technology because it's addictive and can get in the way of real connection, yet, I have found during this pandemic, that technology has been a new way to connect and allowed me to connect even more than in the past because we became more aware of how isolated we are. We have some extra challenges right now and it's important to notice what has changed in our relationships, so that we can still cultivate them in meaningful ways.
Sam Levine: I love that. One of the things that I've reflected on during this time is how do I maintain and grow relationships with family and friends that I haven't seen in a while? And I found that even via Zoom, I've been able to have some of the more vulnerable conversations with folks in my life than I have had in a very long time. I'd be curious to hear from the three of you. How can we continue to grow relationships and strengthen them with the opportunities that technology affords, as Valerie mentioned? How can you cultivate stronger relationships during COVID?
Valorie Burton: I think by being very open, by being a bit vulnerable and inviting others to have a meaningful conversation with you, both by asking for what you need and finding out what others in your life need. Try something new for a week or for a month and see how that works. I'll give you a simple example we did in my family. Every summer, we have a family reunion, but we didn't have it this summer for obvious reasons. My mother at the last minute wanted to have a Zoom call. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but what happened was we had family members join the call who could never join us on the actual trip because they live in Australia. I had two cousins join that I hadn't seen in 30 years. I found that sometimes it's a matter of gathering people in new ways, especially those older relatives who might feel even more isolated. In the end, we decided to do a family Zoom call every few months to get everyone together. Unfortunately, I'm on the hook for organizing all of that, but that's just one example of using technology to do what you can as opposed to focusing so much on what we can't do.
Dr. Paige Williams: I think one of the interesting things has been how now we're perhaps using technology for good and to connect rather than disconnect. And for so long, we've had this story around how technology is pulling us apart, and yet, used in the right way, it's actually pulling us together. I’ve heard from my clients that they’ve noticed they’ve had fewer “water cooler conversations” in their organizations. When they’re not physically around a water cooler, they’ve seen the level of proactive checking in drop off substantially. While there are some communications tools that have been taken away by these circumstances, a lot of teams have actually been saying they feel more cared for now because we're having to reach out in a more intentional and explicit way via technology. That's actually helping those relationships grow and strengthen. It is interesting to see how people are using technology in a healthier way than before to support their well-being and connect with others.
Louis Alloro: I agree with what both of what my colleagues have said about how technology is a blessing, but I'm going to take a different angle there. I want to discuss real-time connections. Our brains are neurobiologically wired for connection and to evolve in groups. We need each other. But, our brains don't really know the difference between a strong tie and a weak tie. When I am walking down the street with my dog, lI try to be mindful and connect with strangers—these are weak ties. It gives you a little jolt of joy in that moment and, if you are open, maybe take a little bit of vulnerability. In the grocery store, I think the masks make it more challenging to connect with other people. We try to emote with our eyes and “smize,” or smile with our eyes.These little micro-moments in our day are connection opportunities. Oftentimes, we miss these moments. We walk through the grocery store in our own lane or on our phones, not interacting with the people around us and missing out on those micro-moments of connections. Smiling with your eyes, saying hello, using someone's name when you see it on a tag—all of these small things can have big impacts in your well-being. Now more than ever, we need to step up as social emotional leaders and take a smart risk to say hello, be engaged, and connect in real-time. You'll see that those things add up and get easier. You don’t have to always do it, but see if you can be more mindful and capitalize on those small moments.
Sam Levine: That's a great transition to Valorie’s work around resiliency. These micro-moments that help cultivate relationships, they take work and resiliency and repetition. The next question I'd love to focus on is what tools can we use to navigate difficult times and build our resilience and our well-being over time?
Valorie Burton: Right now, we need to be aware that the current situation we're in requires more mental and emotional energy than we needed a year ago or eight months ago. This applies to everyone and I think a level of self compassion is extremely important. Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that you might need a little more rest or connection and conversation than you used to. You might feel alone or anxious because we’re just facing so much uncertainty. We all are about what's coming next. There is so much going on and all of it requires resilience—even the fact that we're all sitting here right now is a sign of resilience. We’re all reaching out and asking, “What tools do I need? What new knowledge might help me?” So I would like to remind us all that it's easy to say, “I need to be more resilient,” but it’s important to notice how resilient we already are. You must become aware of what's going on in your mind. Resilience is largely—not completely, but largely—about our thoughts.
There are basically three things that empower our resilience. One of them we don't control, which is our genetics. We can have some underlying genetic factors that cause us to be less resilient, but oftentimes we don't know until we're going through something and those things start bubbling up. Unfortunately, we can't do anything about those. What we can do something about is our resources and our thoughts. Resources are everything from your experience, your background, your money, your relationships. In times of need, it’s important to be able to know what resources you can call on and ask for advice.
The one thing we can change immediately is our thinking. Resilient people think differently in the face of opportunities and challenges. What I would ask you to do is make a list of the things that are stressing you most. What are the stressors? What are the things that tend to trigger counterproductive reactions and actions? Are you getting stuck, procrastinating, or just not moving forward? Are you finding yourself angry and irritated all the time? Just being able to notice what those reactions are is really important, especially when they're different from your normal reactions. You need to be aware of what you’re saying to yourself about the circumstance because our thoughts create those reactions, meaning what you feel, say, and do. This process takes practice. When I was going through a divorce more than a decade ago, the thoughts that were coming to me were insane. I felt like my life was over. I don't know if I’d ever find love again. If I’d ever be able to be a mom. If I’d have to quit what I do because how could I tell other people how to live better lives if my life wasn’t perfect. Little by little, you have to take each one of those untruthful and counterproductive thoughts and be able to say, “What could I change this to that leads me to where I want to be?” This is so simple, but I wrote a list of the crazy, unhelpful stuff I was saying myself and I wrote a replacement list. Those thoughts didn’t become automatic immediately, but over time I began catching myself saying things that were counterproductive and replacing it even when I didn't feel like it.
My question to everyone in the middle of this pandemic is, “What are you saying about your circumstances that's creating more anxiety for yourself?” Are you saying, “This is never going to get better. We're going to stay in a pandemic for the next decade. I'm never going to get a job again. My spouse is never going to get a job again” and other unhelpful things? Being intentional isn't just about thinking positively, it’s also about being accurate and finding the thoughts that help you. Instead, think “Maybe life's not gonna turn out exactly the way I wanted, but I'm not giving up on my vision.” That was my thought to myself during my divorce. I'm going to keep it in front of me and I'm willing to take the risk of disappointment if my hope doesn't materialize into my reality. Those are my initial thoughts on resilience because so much of resilience depends on your thinking.
Sam Levine: One of the things we’ve been talking about is choice and how you always have a choice to frame things positively, even within your own thoughts. How important is the concept of choice in the conversation of resiliency?
Louis Alloro: I love what Val said about thinking about how you think. Worry is such a misuse of our imagination. Resilience is learning how to navigate struggle well. It doesn't take away the struggle, like Val was explaining, it just helps you learn some tools and techniques to work through the struggle. I like the saying, “you have to go through it to get through it.” That’s why it’s important to learn these techniques, especially this one I'm going to share now that really gets at this idea of choice. There are 20,000 moments in every given day and we measure it by the number of breath cycles we take. Each of those moments we have a choice to perceive what's about to happen in front of us before it actually happens. In that split second, we choose to perceive this next moment as either an opportunity or a threat. The reality is we've evolved to spot more threats than opportunities. At this inflection point in human history where chaos, disruption, and change are the name of the game, this is a a great opportunity to perceive an opportunity in this particular moment. Who do I want to be? How do I want to show up to this circumstance? What would an optimal future look like even if I can only see the next week, hour, or minute? We have to try connecting our brains to our hearts in order to learn that we have a choice. How we want to look at this doesn't take away the struggle, resilience helps us learn how to struggle.
Sam Levine: Louis, thank you for that. Paige, you just wrote a book on antifragility, could you share a bit more about what antifragility is and why it’s so important? Then, could you tell us some of the key distinctions between resilience and anti-fragility?
Dr. Paige Williams: The word “antifragile” comes from the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb who wrote about it in economic and political terms. In essence, it means how does a system have more upside than downside through disruption and uncertainty? How is it that some organizations thrive and others are more fragile?
I came across the word in the middle of last year and I was wondering what it means for us as humans. What does it mean for a person to be antifragile? What could it look like for leaders to lead teams and organizations in that way? The essence of antifragility is actually working through the struggle in a better way. Now, what does better look like? Firstly, that will look different for different people at different times and in different contexts. I think it brings together the understanding that sometimes we are our biggest saboteurs based on what we're thinking and how we're talking to ourselves. Secondly, if we learn something from it, those skills are transportable.
How is it that we can see and reflect on the lesson that we can take from an experience? Often, they go hand in hand. Think back on a time when you were most proud of yourself. Even when I've struggled through something, I've been proud of the way that I've shown up. Finding what you can learn from an experience will help you go forward. Being antifragile is this idea of moving forward, not just bouncing back. We can shrink the timeframe in which we're able to do that. You can’t look back immediately and see the learning. We sometimes use the term “real-time resilience” to address being able to deal with what's going on in the moment. Antifragile goes beyond that. It asks the question, “What's the learning for me in this?” during an experience or struggle. How do I take that learning and move forward, so that I'm finding something positive during my struggle. It's about reflective learning and your internal dialogue and framing of an incident is a really important first step in that process. If we're not aware, conscious, and mindful of what it is we're telling ourselves, we can't learn, move forward, and keep ourselves from entering a similar situation again. This learning piece is one of the critical aspects of being antifragile. We need to learn and grow from our experiences, rather than becoming fragile and staying in these unhelpful patterns.
Sam Levine: Coaches often talk a lot about reframing. How you need to be able to reframe an experience and find the positive in it. What does that really look like in practice? How can you successfully reframe difficult experiences?
Valorie Burton: First, we have to recognize the importance and legitimacy of our negative emotions and allow ourselves to process them. It can be very easy to misunderstand how important positive emotions are because negative emotions are more powerful. We need more positive emotions and thoughts to undo the effects of the negative, but when there’s so much negativity in our world, it can feel like we have to push the solution aside.
I always like to say that positive emotion is a success strategy. Research tells us that individuals with more positive emotions have more successful outcomes—they’re more likely to get raises and promotions, have successful marriages, and live longer. These are all the wonderful benefits of positive emotion!
The first step is noticing when you feel the negative, acknowledging it, and not being afraid of it. You must begin in a place of truth. Think back to the beginning of this pandemic. We thought it would last just two weeks and that ended up spanning five months. At the end of the summer, we had a coach training event planned. People had already paid for their tickets and we were faced with the dilemma—do we cancel it? All these crazy negative thoughts made me feel crazy and I remember just wanting to get in bed, pull the covers over my head, and avoid making any decisions. I had this thought in my head—if I try to take my coach training event online all these people are going to be angry and cancel and we’ll have to refund all their money and we still don't know when this pandemic will end. I'm a coach. I teach resilience. But these were my honest thoughts. Once I processed all my thoughts, I cleared my head and asked myself, “Now what?” At some point, I decided what I was going to do. I was going to take the event online and accept that whatever is going to happen is what's going to happen.
One of the ways we reframe things is by getting honest about the things we are most afraid of. Ask yourself, “What am I most afraid of? Now, what if that happens?” For me, this always leads to a more resilient response because I'm forced to go onto the other side of my fear, picture myself there, and decide who I want to be. Nobody got angry at me about taking the event online. In fact, more people registered and thanked me because now they didn't have to fly to Atlanta. I had participants from Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Australia, and England. I couldn’t believe it.
At the end of the day, sometimes you just need to be truthful about what you're afraid of and picture yourself handling that fear. You can decide what your plan B or even your plan C is to give yourself peace of mind and prove to yourself that you’re ready for anything. From a resilience standpoint, we must face our fears and find a way to empower ourselves, even in the face of adversity.
Louis Alloro: Getting in touch with the truth is quite a valuable technique, but we need to acknowledge that it's hard. As human beings, we don't like to sit in discomfort too long. We'd often prefer to cope with unhealthy behaviors that might help us check out. Like Val said, we might want to put the covers over our heads and avoid responsibility or drink too much or do whatever it takes to numb the pain. But it’s important to remember that when you numb the negative stuff, you're also numbing your capacity for the positive stuff. You can’t separate the two when you're trying to check out of what's difficult. But, you also have the opportunity to see the future by imagining yourself handling anything life throws your way. In fact, if you think through your life to this point, you have struggled, but you have also learned how to navigate challenges and change. Change is constant but human beings are always adapting to the challenges around us. We may not think about it that way, but we get used to this “new normal” and all the good stuff and the not so good stuff that comes with it. Before we jump in to reframe our circumstances in a more positive light, it's important to just sit in discomfort, acknowledge that this is hard, and remind ourselves that, as Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.”
We know how to do hard things and we're not alone.That's why relationships are so important. Research shows that people who reach out in tough times have a growth mindset. As we show up as friends to those conversations, put away the idea that you need to be the solution finder or problem solver for that particular challenge. Just showing up and listening to them is enough. Change can be hard, but it doesn't always help to think of it that way. It doesn't help for you to show up thinking this is going to be more difficult than it is right now. So sit in the difficulty, sit in the discomfort and then be the change you want to see.
Something that's really helped me over the past few months has been not waiting for things to be different in order for me to be happy in my life. In June, I remember thinking “I can't wait for the gym to open back up again to workout my body in the way my mind needs me to.” Then, I realized I was waiting for something to be different in order for me to be well right now. I got online and I found used weights and a bench and set myself up at home. I just challenge everybody to remember: don't wait to drink your good champagne. Now is always a good time to do something.
Sam Levine: I love that. Thank you, Louis. Paige, a lot of positive psychology focuses on positive emotions and how important they are to our well being. Could you tell us why positive emotions are so important to this conversation around well-being?
Dr. Paige Williams: As Valorie and Louis highlighted, our brains are wired for negative emotions and our brains are wired to keep us safe. That's the organizing principle and that really serves us in the short term. From an evolutionary perspective, we needed to have strong negative emotions so that we could recognize when we were in a threatening situation and could manage it accordingly. Research suggests that positive emotions play just as an important role in our lives, but perhaps with more long-term gain. If negative emotions are about us surviving, then positive emotions are really about us thriving in the long-term. Positive emotions give us resources because they help us build relationships. And as we've already covered, we're hardwired for connection, because as a group we are more effective problem solvers and we're more creative when we're in positive emotional states. While positive emotions make us feel good, they actually help us do well, as well.
What's interesting is when we ask people, “What do you think of when you think of positive emotions?” The words that spring to mind are happiness and joy, but there is a whole buffet of positive emotions that if we don’t acknowledge them as positive emotions, then they don’t have the same impact with us. So whether it's just a gentle sense of contentment—like sitting on the back porch, going for a walk in nature, or being proud of your family—there is a larger range of positive emotions than what usually comes to mind. If we acknowledge them and become more conscious of how we are experiencing them, then we can broaden the impact they have in our lives. This is something we need to draw more on right now. One of the things that I've taken to doing is going for a walk each morning to connect with the day, step away from technology, and just be present with my body and my breathing. It lets me really connect with how I'm feeling and focus on the actual experience which gives me an overwhelming sense of contentment. Actively noticing what the positive emotion experiences in our lives are can help us fill up our emotional energy bucket, which is a really powerful and useful tool for us to use everyday.
Sam Levine: I'd be curious to hear from Louis and Valorie, what is a wellness practice that you have adopted during COVID to stay sane and healthy?
Louis Alloro: I have taken out my paints, bought some canvases and created a little art space on my dining room table. Painting has been so cathartic for my well-being and it's something that I've just incorporated into my daily life. Even if I go and do one stroke on the canvas a day, I feel better. Art is a process. It’s also a great opportunity to challenge our minds in that moment. I often think “that's not good enough”, or “I shouldn’t have done it this way.” It's also a great mindfulness exercise because you never know how a canvas is going to turn out when you start. You have to constantly adapt to what's happening, by putting this here or trying that there. It requires you to be present and to be mindful. We don't always just have to sit on a cushion to meditate. You can incorporate practicing mindfulness into your life, whether you're at a canvas or washing the dishes.
Valorie Burton: I think we all have to just ask ourselves: “What brings me joy? In what way can I play?” One of the ways we get rest is by using the other side of our brains to do something that engages us. We don’t have to be good at it or we have to perform well to relax. This refresher then helps us to then go back to the things we do need to perform well on and do better at them.
We’re not talking about just sitting in front of the TV and binge watching a show. We’re thinking about what you can do to engage yourself. For me, I've prayed and meditated to help me to connect. I see the difference on days when I rush into my work day without stopping because I didn't get up early enough to have that moment to myself. That moment is so very important not only because it slows you down and lets you be mindful, but also because that's when I get my best ideas. That's when I can push the problem or the stressful thing I'm working on out of my mind and usually, with no effort at all, the right idea or solution pops into my head.
My husband actually created a little hiking trail behind the house, but because I was going to the office everyday, I never really used it. Now, being at home, I take a lot of my meetings and coaching sessions while walking and exploring the trail. What being home made me realize is we had this available to us the whole time, and yet, we weren't using it. It inspired us to be more intentional with our time. My husband has been writing outdoors more and I have helped weed and maintain the path. It got me wondering, what do you already have at your disposal that you've ignored and taken for granted?
The other way I've practiced mindfulness more is with my six year old. Some of us are natural at play, and others of us, myself included, are not. It comes naturally to my husband, he’s number one in strength, humor, and playfulness. As a parent, sometimes your kids want to do stuff that you have no interest whatsoever, right? You can become distracted easily. I've used this as an opportunity to just breathe. I try to just focus right here with him now, even if I don't really care about Lego ninjas, let's listen to what the ninjas are up to. That's a form of mindfulness that takes me away from the other stuff that I'm doing and helps me connect with my son. And for me, I mean, there's what's more important than connecting with the people that you love. He's not going to be this age forever, so having the opportunity to slow down and really connect with him makes me feel good because it lines up with the values I want to live by, but sometimes don't.
Sam Levine: I have practices that I use to start and end my day. I find that my evening practices are more useful because I'm on Zoom all day and need to unwind. How I close my day used to be the drive home from the office, but now I have to do it in a more intentional way. I've set up a sacred space and I'll journal and it just starts the flow the rest of my evening. I find it's incredibly helpful for me to make sense of the chaos all around us. So Thank you for asking, sir.
Louis Alloro: What you're saying is mindful transitions. I heard something last week that asked, “Are you working from home? Or is your home at your work?” People used to have that physical transition between work and life, but now work is at home and the lines blur. I have a colleague, Margaret Greenberg, who taught me this years ago. At the end of the day when she's done with work, she takes this bouquet of flowers she kept near her computer and she puts it away. That’s how she’d get her mind to turn off and acknowledge that work is now done. It would signal to her, I'm going to go into this next segment of my day and I’m ready to show up for the Lego ninjas or whatever else is there. That’s especially crucial in this era where everything is a mishmash of work and home life.Just like you're saying, it's a great strategy to just have a little tradition or ritual to help support that mindful transition.
Live Q&A: What is the hardest unexpected challenge you've faced during COVID? How did you get through it? And what are some of your learnings?
Dr. Paige Williams: One of the things I found toughest is actually the homeschooling piece, which I'm sure resonates with so many people. I have two teenagers and I’m fairly introverted, so the the time where the girls were at school was kind of my sanctuary time because I work from home and always have. Lucily, I didn’t have to make the transition to working in an office to working at home, but still it now feels like they're invaders in my space. I'm used to having a house that's quiet and if there's music on it's the music I want on and it's certainly not a show on the TV in the front room. I was doing a podcast recording the other day and my youngest daughter came down with her AirPods in and started making toast. Because she had AirPods in, she couldn't hear quite how loud she was being and didn’t notice I was recording. I couldn't say, “Hey Pixi, can you turn it down?” What I found I have to do is when I can see that I'm reaching the points where I’m becoming that little emoji with its brains blowing out of its head, I have to actually physically remove myself and go for a walk around the block. I often not just one I do a day, Sam. You can tell how well or badly the days going by how many walks around the block I have to do to actually create that space for myself.
The girls sometimes ask if they can come when I announce I’m going for a walk and I have to say, “I love you dearly, but this is about me creating some space.” We've talked a lot about being compassionate and some days I beat myself up wondering if I'm a bad mom, but mostly, I know this is going to make me a better mom when I'm back in the house in 10 minutes. It's going to make me better to show up for them, show up for myself, and better serve my clients. What I loved about when we were talking earlier on reframing is that you don't have to always reframe an experience to be positive, you can reframe it to be constructive. For me, I don't have to feel great about the fact that I want to pull my hair out being around my kids, but that's the reality of it. Finding the constructive action I can take in that moment, which is removing myself from the situation and taking a walk, is what I do. That's been the unexpected challenge and that's how I’ve been getting through it.
Sam Levine: I love that Paige. And you remind me of a phrase I read in a comic: “I'll take care of me for you, if you take care of you, for me.” There's a lot to do with those walks and taking that time for yourself even on a chaotic day. Thanks for sharing. Louis and Valorie, anything to add about a challenging time and lesson that you've learned during quarantine?
Valorie Burton: I found that the biggest challenge of COVID is that we are not just COVID. At first, it felt like we were just dealing with COVID but then here in the US that was followed up with the protests after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. All of the political back and forth, the division, making COVID a political thing, and not being able to have conversations that I thought would be basic conversations. Now, we have fires in the west. There's just so much and there's probably more stuff I'm leaving out.
In late 2016, I started the practice of not watching the news but just reading the news. I deliberately chose news apps that were as neutral as possible. I just want to read the facts and come to my own conclusions. I find that to be important now more than ever because there's so much coming at us. This year, it's just one thing after another and they're not small things. We're in the middle of so much change and it makes me wonder what’s on the other side and who we're going to be. I always ask “What's the opportunity and the challenge?” I believe that when we go through really difficult things, we have to make a decision to be better and not bitter. My hope is, as a world, we can do that and I think each of us has to ask ourselves that question.
But one of my biggest tips is don’t stay glued to the television. I hardly turn it on, especially for the news. The news is so sensational because they’re trying to get an emotional rise so more people watch and they can sell more ads. I just don't want to get sucked into that. I think it's important to be informed, but take note of how that news impacts you, particularly when talking about murder and other aggregious crimes. I can't watch that stuff over and over again. It's important to know what's going on, but then decide for yourself: “How do I want to show up? How do I want to make a difference?” Don’t just get sucked into the sensationalism of the news, which can amplify the emotions that you have.
Louis Alloro: Is it inciting or is it informing? One of the things that I did during quarantine was I unfollowed both of my parents on Facebook. I was being sucked into a different political point of view and it was like one of the best things I did over COVID. I’m going to be more decisive about where I put boundaries. But that wasn't the hardest thing I did during COVID, I would say the hardest thing I did was go through a break up. That came to me because some of my needs were not being met and my values were not being lived in this particular relationship. Basic, simple things that help us live our lives well is something that we're not always taught in schools. Something so crucial and essential to a well-lived life is an awareness of what you value and determining if you are aligned with these values and how they show up your life.
Sam Levine: I love that Louis and how it pulls so much on what we've talked about around positive emotions and relationships and how it's so important to be in relationships that feel aligned to your values. Thank you for being so vulnerable and sharing that with us. I want to make sure that we get to our last question here for the three of you. What's one thing you'd like leaders on this call to remember from our time together today?
Louis Alloro: Hang out with Val and Paige more often! (laughs)
Valorie Burton: (laughs) I would say to remember that leadership is contagious and that the people you lead, whether in a work environment, in your family, or in your community, are looking to your response. The more authentic and open you can be when you're going through difficulties, the better. Be mindful of the impact your reactions can have on them and don’t pretend everything is easy when you're going through difficult times. Be mindful of the impact your reactions can have on them because they’re contagious. As a leader, when you say “This is hard, things are not what they were a year ago,” you have the power to bring down morale. If instead you say that and follow it up with, “But we can figure out how to get through this. This is our opportunity to find and use our strength to pull us forward. Let's figure out how we can be better on the other side of this,” you can inspire and lift up your team. Just knowing that what you say and do matters. As a leader, it carries more weight and you have to be cognizant of that.
Sometimes as a leader, that might mean you don't speak immediately from a place of emotion, but that take a moment to be mindful, to maybe talk to people close to you in private and process your emotions, so that whatever your response is, it’s one that lifts everyone up. That's a big responsibility. I just want to remind leaders that you can do it. It does take a bit more intention and it’s hard, but you can do it. Ask yourself, “What do I need in order to lead? In order to be resilient and to show my people what it looks like to be resilient?” I think one of the most important ways we can do that is to be good parents to our kids. Your kids are saying, “This is too hard. I don't want to be inside. I want to see my friends.” But you need to be able to say, “I know it's hard, but this is what it is now. How do you want to show up? What do you need? How can I help normalize that? You need to find your way through and you can.”
Dr. Paige Williams: I think it's that we don't have to have all the answers. A lot of the work I'm doing is encouraging people to take off the superhero cape, particularly right now when one person could never have all the answers. At times like this, acknowledging that we’ll find our way through this together can take that pressure off of yourself to think to have all the answers. The research that we've done where Louis and I work together revealed that one of the things helping leaders most right now is understanding how they can move between taking command and letting go. At times, we need a leader to take command and, particularly in uncertain times, people want direction around what we’re doing now and what will happen next. But then other times, it's very much about letting go and working together to co-create the plan moving forward. As Valorie acknowledged, it takes more energy, mindfulness, and thought to determine what's the best way to serve your people or address the situation. That takes being in the moment and understanding where your mind is at to determine whether that's the helpful or less helpful space to be operating from right now. So the lessons I want people to leave here today with are: you have permission not to be perfect and to not to have all the answers. You have the agility to move between when people need direction to feel safe and creating space for co-creation when that’s a possibility.
Louis Alloro: I’d add the importance of learning how your and your team can show up for each other as compassionate coaches in this time of disruption. It’s a set of skills and strategies that are an important set of tools to have in your belt. We do a lot of work at The Change Lab to teach people how change works and of course Hone does so much to help upskill coaches and managers to develop this skill set. I would say for leaders to remember that they don't have to show up to the job having figured it all out, in fact, having the awareness and the vulnerability to admit what you don’t know is incredible. None of us have ever navigated a pandemic before, so you're not expected to know it all and have it all figured out. In fact, it goes a long way to even send a correspondence to your team saying, “We're still figuring this piece out.” That can ease the stress that people are feeling in the uncertainty. I like to think about leadership as the space inbetween people. It's not a function of where someone sits, it lies in between people. Just showing up as a human being can go a long way to show we're all in this together.
Sam Levine: Thanks, Louis. One of the themes that I hear through all three of your answers is this concept of humanity and authenticity and being real during a very difficult time. It reminds me of a Google report around the importance of psychological safety and how important it is to have a leader who says it's okay to fail and it's okay to be yourself. That’s incredibly important for not only our well-being, but also for our organizational efficacy. Thank you all so much, this has been such a fun conversation. I've enjoyed it so much.
I just want to remind you that we're offering free enrollment in 15+ courses this fall. Come hang out with Louis and learn more about The Coaching Mindset or How to Build a Thriving Team Culture using some of the concepts we discussed today. Or, try Embracing Diversity with Inclusion, part of our diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging curriculum. We’re also adding a number of other new courses: mindfulness, energy management, and parenting during COVID-19 to make sure that we can support all of you during this difficult, but perhaps opportunistic time.
Appreciate you all being here today. If you like what you heard and want to go a little deeper, please go to Honehq.com and use promo code WELLBEING to sign up for 30 free days and try our 15+ courses this month. If you're a member or leader of a team, you can also sign up 10 of your team members for free membership, as well. Hope to see some of you in class and thanks again for making the time today. Wishing you all happiness, health, resilience, antifragility and all those beautiful things. Thank you again for making the time and hope to see many of you soon. Take care to all and Paige, Louis, Valorie, thank you all so much!
Paige Williams, PhD teaches people how to leverage their energy, attitudes and mindsets to benefit from the dynamic, complex, and uncertain environment in which most organizations operate. An Honorary Fellow of the Centre for Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne, Paige uses a potent blend of positive psychology, neuroscience, leadership research, and her 20+ years of international business leadership experience to provide practical, evidence-based pathways to help leaders and organizations thrive through change. You can find out more about Paige’s work at www.drpaigewilliams.com
Valorie Burton is a national bestselling author, international speaker and life strategist. She is the founder and CEO of the Coaching and Positive Psychology (CaPP) Institute. Her life-changing message has an intriguing, research-based emphasis in the pioneering field of applied positive psychology – the study of what happens when things go right with us. She teaches that resilience is a skill that can be learned – and anyone who wants to have fulfillment, high impact and success must learn it. Her company provides coaching, coach training and resilience training and has served clients in all 50 states and 15 countries on six continents. Since 1999, she has written 13 books on personal development translated into nine languages, including the bestsellers Successful Women Think Differently, Successful Women Speak Differently and What’s Really Holding You Back? She has been a regular guest expert for the TODAY Show, CNN, Dr. Oz, and Essence, and has spoken for hundreds of organizations around the globe.
Louis Alloro, M.Ed., MAPP is a change-agent, one of the first hundred people in the world to earn a Master of Applied Positive Psychology degree from the University of Pennsylvania and has been working as a social entrepreneur in the human benefit space since 2007. He is a senior fellow at the Center for the Advancement of Wellbeing, co-founder of the Change Lab and has certified thousands of change leaders in wellbeing, learning and development. He consults to optimize DEIJ culture, engagement, and performance by using scientifically informed tools and strategies. and is currently pursuing his PhD in systems informed leadership, change and social impact evaluation.