Rising Through Resilience: Susan S. Freeman On The Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient During Turbulent Times
Savio P. Clemente | Original Article
Have a sense of humor — When everything else fails, try laughter! I find that if I can watch or hear something that tickles me, it breaks the intensity and helps me “re-set.” Discover your own brand of laughter yoga!
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan S. Freeman.
Susan S. Freeman, MBA, PCC, NCC is an ICF and EMCC0 accredited Executive and Team Coach, leadership development consultant, speaker, and author of “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others”. Her passion is working with senior entrepreneurial leaders and teams by helping them lay the critical foundations required for scale. She writes on humanistic leadership based on her unique system blending Western strategy and Eastern wisdom to activate the Guru Leader Within™. Visit her at www.susansfreeman.com and www.guruleaderwithin.com.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
The most interesting story from my career involves how I transformed a painful experience into development of a unique approach to coaching. A few years into starting my yoga practice, I had an “accident.” It turned out that the damage that was done from this seemingly innocuous injury lasted much longer than I imagined. I had developed what appeared to be a serious, chronic physical situation. I suffered great physical and emotional pain for over five years. When I exhausted all known medical treatments, I felt frustrated and wanted to give up. Yet an inner knowing guided me to yoga. What if what I learned to do there could help me heal my body? That is exactly what I did, and eventually, I transitioned again into a state of well-being. I began experimenting with clients where there was trust and permission to integrate some of these principles into our coaching work. What I discovered was that people were hungry for this approach, but didn’t know how to ask for it. Little by little, I developed this into a system.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
There are over 30,000 credentialed International Coach Federation coaches worldwide. What makes me stand out is that I am the only one with my particular combination of life and career experiences. This is what makes every coach unique. It is our “being-ness” that makes us unique. My wide range of experience from working in large, global organizations in New York and London, to founding and leading a non-profit organization, to helping build a boutique executive search firm, to most recently building my own coaching and consulting company. I believe nothing was wasted. I can listen to the concerns of my clients from a perspective that is both broad and deep. Finally, it is my deep commitment to helping leaders learn how to become fully integrated as human beings that is not commonly found….
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
There are so many people to thank. Honestly, bosses, colleagues, and clients I have had has helped me learn and grow. However, I would say that no one has helped me more than my husband of forty-two years. He has been the wind beneath my wings, helping balance my “yin” with “yang” and encouraging me to take risks without fear.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is the ability to regulate while navigating life’s challenges. We are guaranteed to be offered many learning opportunities in our lives, some of them are guaranteed to bring us to our knees. What matters is how we are being in relationship to what life serves us. I believe resilient people are curious and have the ability to go beyond the “event” or circumstance and to see it symbolically. By that I mean inviting inquiry into questions such as “what are the gifts and lessons of this that can help me grow as a person?” and “am I being who I want to be right now, even though this makes me unhappy, uncomfortable, or even angry?”
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
It takes courage to be resilient and resilience to be courageous. When I am being my most resilient, I bring the courage to look inward and see my thinking patterns, beliefs, and even my resistance. Then I get to choose how I wish to be in relationship to the challenge. When I am being courageous, I will usually need to dive deep into my resilience muscle to be strong in the face of fear and adversity.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Although there are so many examples of resilient people all around me, the first famous person who comes to mind is Victor Frankl, who wrote “Man’s Search for Meaning.” While enduring the worst atrocities imaginable as a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp, Frankl learned and then shared that we all have the ability to choose how we are in relationship to what is happening to us, and that this can never be taken away from us. We can make our own meaning.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I recall 1988 when I served as Founding Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts, a non-profit, and the only Florida affiliate of a national organization founded by David Rockefeller dedicated to helping increase business investment in arts and culture. At that time, I visited with many local President’s and CEO’s offering them our vision of what we were trying to create in Tampa. I was often met with “you’re going to do WHAT?” There was disbelief in the vision and in its suitability for our community, yet that did not dissuade me. Seven years later, we had grown from eleven member companies to eighty, had conducted the first Economic Impact Study of the Arts in Tampa Bay, created the first Leadership Development Program to train and place business leaders on the boards of arts and cultural organizations, and the first large-scale awards program for over 450 people to recognize business investment in the arts through financial and strategic partnerships.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
I think one of my greatest setbacks was the time when I had to hit “pause” in my career because I didn’t have clarity on where to go next. It turned out to be the greatest gift, as it led me to the work I am doing now. However, in the process I had to cultivate a lot of discomfort, fear, and shame. I recall being embarrassed to go to events when asked what it was that I did and not being able to answer confidently. It was a tough time, yet one of the most invaluable lessons of my life — -learning to be patient and trust the process, being curious, and taking small steps, even without being certain.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
I challenged myself in a number of ways growing up by pushing the envelope with my musical training. I competed and won two opportunities to solo with an orchestra in high school, and yet when I experienced a national playing field at the National Music Camp at Interlochen, I saw what it took to make it at the professional level. I had to ask myself what it was that I wanted, and this involved letting go of a strong identity as a “musician-in-training.” Since then, I have re-invented myself a number of times, each time building on all the learning from the past, while moving towards what attracts me in the present.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
5 Steps Someone Can Take to Become More Resilient:
- Take the Long View-It is important to not become attached to the present challenges and jump to conclusions about the future. It is just what is happening now. The future depends on what you do with what you are experiencing now and will change based on your response.
- Be Curious-The times when I can become an observer of my feelings and thoughts are the times when my resilience muscle kicks in the fastest. I like to journal my experiences, looking for opportunities to fill the page with questions to which I don’t have an answer.
- Cultivate Sympathetic Witnesses-It is not about what happens, it is about having people you trust to witness your experience. Have a few folks like this in your circle, and you will find your resilience capacity expanding quickly.
- Practice self-compassion — One of the most important things we need to learn is how to not be so hard on ourselves. Many of us who are our own bosses are harder on ourselves than any other boss would ever be. I am working on this one all the time, looking at how kind and compassionate am I being in response to what I am facing. It’s an ongoing journey for me.
- Have a sense of humor — When everything else fails, try laughter! I find that if I can watch or hear something that tickles me, it breaks the intensity and helps me “re-set.” Discover your own brand of laughter yoga!
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. 🙂
If I could inspire a movement that would bring the most good to the most people, it would be to help each person discover their inner guru — -the ability to experience their own presence as a human being — -and then to go out to meet others from this spacious place of integrated presence.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
A person in the world with whom I would love to have a private meeting is the Dalai Lama. I believe he embodies the best in human potential and can offer us much wisdom and experience for how to grow ourselves so we can bring that essence into our world every day.