Cami Smalley: Self-Care in the Midst of Crucibles #37

Warwick Fairfax

September 29, 2020

It’s hard enough to get through failures and setbacks — we only make them worse by beating ourselves up or trying to move past them too quickly. Author and wellness coach Cami Smalley stresses the importance of looking at crucibles through the lens of our strengths and being intentional about taking mindful pauses to fuel our recovery build resilience.

Highlights

  • The pain of her high-school sports crucible (5:48)
  • The power of encouragement to ease the sting of a crucible (7:16)
  • How crucible experiences grow our resilience (9:18)
  • The power of receiving appreciation and love in bouncing back from crucibles (9:42)
  • Attachments can cause suffering … and crucibles (11:31)
  • The ways in which “cumulative overwhelm” leads to crucibles (15:55)
  • The importance of thinking outside the box (22:18)
  • Discomfort can lead to conflict (23:30)
  • The importance of meaning-making (24:53)
  • How science and spirit complement each other in making meaning (29:24)
  • Getting past setbacks you can’t control (31:35)
  • Self-reflection must be positive to be helpful (33:42)
  • Understanding your strengths is a lifeline out of your crucible (37:33)
  • You’ll miss important lessons if you try to bounce back too quickly (40:54)
  • Finding purpose in the pain helps the healing process (45:01)
  • Key episode takeaways (48:40)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome everyone to this episode of Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger, the co-host of the show and the communications director for Crucible Leadership. And you have happened upon, you’ve clicked play on. We hope that you’ve clicked subscribe, too. A podcast that deals with talks about crucible experiences. Those moments in our lives and we all know what they are because most of us have experienced them. Those moments in our lives where we have experienced a failure or a setback or a tragedy or a trauma. Something that maybe has happened to us. Something that maybe we have instigated to happen to us in some way, shape or form. But what they all have in common, these crucible experiences, is that they’re painful.

Gary S:
That they can knock the wind out of your sails. They can knock you off the trajectory of your life. And we talk about them here, though, not because they are painful but because they can be overcome. We talk about them here because if we learn the lessons of our crucibles, if we apply those lessons and establish a vision that we make a reality, we can then point our lives to something more rewarding and that is a life of significance. And here with me as always is the host of the show, the architect of Crucible Leadership and a man who is indeed living a life of significance. Warwick Fairfax. Warwick, we got a good show today.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, Gary. Very much looking forward to it.

Gary S:
And I say we have a good show today, listener, because our guest is Cami Smalley. I’m going to tell you a little bit about Cami right now. Cami is a wellness coach and founder of Guided Resilience. And she offers a self-care and resilience process that transforms personal challenges into personal growth through mindful integration of mind, body, evidence-based approaches for well-being. Cami works with HR, business and healthcare leaders to develop group coaching and training programs to help develop the competencies they need to thrive. With decades of experience as a wellness coach, Cami makes sure that all guided resilience programs use evidence-based strategies to support efforts to stop the incessant pace and intensity of life.

Gary S:
Breathe your way to stability and ease. Think about your self-care and growth process and choose a life of your design. Her Amazon bestselling book, Mindful Pause: The Self-Care Guide to Resilience and Well-Being serves as a tool to share her work. Welcome, Cami. And this is going to be a great discussion, Warwick.

Cami S:
Thank you, Gary, and thank you Warwick. I’m so happy to be here.

Warwick F:
Well, thanks so much, Cami. I just love the whole concept of guided resilience and your book, Mindful Pause and love to talk about that in a bit. But I’d like to start just kind of how you grew up. I think you grew up in Iowa, I believe.

Cami S:
Yes.

Warwick F:
Obviously you’ve had some crucibles along the way. But just talk a bit about kind of your family and who is Cami Smalley and just how you grew up.

Cami S:
Oh, that made me smile, having that invitation because I’m really fortunate because I really had a blessed upbringing in Iowa. I had a great family. Intact family. Great parents. Two brothers and a sister. And then our extended family was, for me, family meant everybody. Grandparents. Aunts and uncles. Cousins. And we grew up very tightly knit. We’re a very active family so movement was always a part of our playtime. And we worshiped together as a family. Keeping sabbath was really important. And we would spend a whole Sunday at grandma’s house. And at that time, my mom was a stay-at-home mom. My grandma was a stay-at-home woman. And they really made a beautiful domestic church. I mean, it was a time for us to be together. To relax. To restore ourselves.

Cami S:
So I learned early on how important that sabbath was. And then I was an athlete. So I think I learned a lot about discipline and hard work and victory and defeat. While it seems not such a big deal as an adult when real crucibles come along, those early crucibles, I shared with Gary that our team got bumped from the state tournament in basketball which was like a lifelong dream. And that was the first time a real personal challenge came. But death of family members from both illness. I had a tragic loss in our family due to violence.

Cami S:
But that was all done in kind of the womb of a family where I was resourced so well to be able to endure those. And the context of faith to kind of hold that and draw meaning from it and hope. So that’s my upbringing in Iowa. I often refer in coaching about the cow path and I have to watch myself because not everybody knows about the cow path. But part of habit changing is trying to redirect those cows, those brain pathways in a new direction and that’s not easy. So that’s an imagery from Iowa that has stuck with me.

Warwick F:
Right. Right. I mean, with your upbringing being so idyllic, it’s like, whoa. And we’ll get to your move here in a bit. But why would you want to leave? Leave parents and grandparents and family and such an idyllic setting. It’s like, well, why would you leave that? What could be better? So I can totally get that. So talk a bit about, I think you mentioned that you played three sports in high school where I don’t know if these days they allow you to do that.

Cami S:
Right.

Warwick F:
Yeah. You got to focus. And whichever your main sport is, the coach says, “Don’t even think about playing those other sports.” But so from what I understand your team was like really good and expected to win states and people probably, parents, family, just assumed, oh, this is your year. Right?

Cami S:
Yeah.

Warwick F:
You can’t lose. All those awful phrases when people say that. Because on any given day, anything can happen. Sadly. So talk a bit about that because it might not seem that much now but for teenagers or anybody, that can be devastating. That can be something you feel like, “Well, how can I carry on?” I mean, it’s easy to say it’s just a game, but when that’s what you love doing and that dream ends. So talk a bit about that crucible at that time and that dream that wasn’t fulfilled.

Cami S:
Well, it’s interesting. The way you ask that question makes me recall how deeply that wound hurt at the moment that it happened. And basketball is a winter sport, so I remember leaving the gym and just falling into a snow drift outside. And it felt like I needed … that that fit for how painful the moment was that I had to be in the painful cold. And it just really, really hurt. I remember feeling like life had ended. And I can see where young people have that very kind of short scope when things are disruptive. And I was a student teacher at the time also, and I remember showing up at the elementary school, second grade classroom. Some of the kids had been at the game. They didn’t even know we won or lost. And I showed up at the school and they had a poster out with my name on it and hearts and we love you and you’re awesome. And nobody even talked about losing.

Cami S:
So that just really … and I had a lot of adults trying to meet me cognitively and talk me through that. And it didn’t compare to the innocence of children. Just having that admiration for who I was as a person and just a beloved teacher of theirs. And that really turned my corner.

Warwick F:
That’s funny. It’s not so much you needed the cognitive. Well, you know, you tried your best. They were unexpectedly good and all the rest. And I don’t know a huge amount about basketball. Whatever your stats were they could say, “Cami, your stats were good for the game.”

Cami S:
Yeah. Right.

Warwick F:
Well, okay. Thank you. That doesn’t help. You know?

Cami S:
Right.

Warwick F:
You did your part. Okay. So. We still lost. And it wasn’t the championship game either, was it? It was-

Cami S:
No, no. It was the sectional tournament time and it was a team we had beaten twice in the regular season play. We were expected to win. We weren’t, by any means, expected to necessarily do well at state, but it was the trip to state that was so admired and sought after and was an expected feather in our hat for an accomplishment for the years of high school.

Warwick F:
Not to dwell on it, but it’s a microcosm. Afterwards, did you sort of beat yourself up and say, “Gosh. I should have done A or B”, or was it more like it was more, “Well, I did my best but we still lost”?

Cami S:
I’m trying to think back. I don’t think I dwelled there very long. I think that part of my resilience is I know that what I drew from it was yes, I always know I put what I can into a competition. And so I was confident that in that moment I did what I needed to do. So it was really … it became more about in the present moment, how was I going to deal with this new challenge?

Warwick F:
Right.

Gary S:
It’s fascination, Cami, to hear you talk about how those students just loved on you. Just expressed their appreciation for you and that that, you used the phrase, “It helps you turn the corner.” And Warwick, I’ve heard you describe in your own crucible experience with the takeover bid how for a while there you felt like nobody loved you or you weren’t lovable. Not that nobody loved you, but that somehow what had happened made you less likable or lovable. And that part of your bouncing back from your crucible, moving beyond it, was also understanding that you were not your crucible. That did not define you and that there were other relationships and other emotions that people had for you that weren’t tied to that at all.

Gary S:
And again, for the listeners to understand, for a high school student to have not made it to state versus the heir to multi-billion dollar media dynasty, those are circumstances that are quite different for a crucible. But listen to the emotions and listen to what got them past the crucible. It was love. It was appreciation. It was these very simple things, and those things apply to all of us who go through crucibles.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, exactly. Well-said. And obviously for me it was more I’m not defined by whether my takeover bid succeeded whether I’m involved in a 150 year old family business. It was still hard. I mean, this is sort of the early 90s when it went under and having a wife that loved me unconditionally and it wasn’t about the money or not. And obviously feeling like from a faith perspective, God loves us unconditionally. And He has works of service for us to do, but His love isn’t dependent on what we do. So a number of things. And yes, family, absolutely, is important.

Warwick F:
Cami, talk about sort of fast forward a bit. I think you got married to a guy you met in high school? Is that correct? And you were settling in Iowa and he was a doctor but there was a move happen which wasn’t easy.

Cami S:
No. That wasn’t easy. Because we had landed back at home and that vision of life that I described to you at the start of our conversation, I thought was going to be my life. And one of the things that I’ve learned is attachment causes suffering. And I had to take … I had to do a lot of personal work in getting through that decision. And as always, love is the course that just makes it seem so easy. And I knew that staying was going to make my partner unhappy. And I was being called to love in a way that asked me to give up something in pursuit of a collective happiness that I knew that we both needed to be happy in order for our family to thrive.

Cami S:
And so that’s the decision I made. And I also know it’s a personal commitment of mine that I’m very deliberate in my decision making process because I don’t want to leave room for regret going forward. And if in the moment I make a decision with what I understand to be available to me at the time, then mistakes just happen. And I can deal with them in the moment. But there’s no room for regret, because I’m confident when I made the decision that I made it with right intention.

Warwick F:
And that’s such an important point, is I’m also, as I jokingly say, when I don’t make $2 billion takeovers, normally I’m actually a very thoughtful considered decision maker. One massive aberration and there are obviously reasons for that which I’ve talked about in earlier podcasts. But yeah. I mean just thinking it through carefully and then so okay, based on available information that’s the right decision for me. So that was a big decision. You obviously came to it collectively but you obviously felt like it wasn’t so much you were being pushed into it. You felt like it was the right thing to do. You obviously thought about it, prayed about it, talked about it, and you made that decision. But to leave a family when it’s so close, I mean, I love that whole attachment thing you mentioned.

Warwick F:
But gosh. That is … I mean, that’s got to have been hard. So you moved to Minnesota and I mean, you’re a strong person. You’ve grown up in a strong family. You’re resilient. Even the basketball game, it was very painful but it wasn’t like life was over. It’s not like you went into your shell for the next five years. I mean, it was devastating, but you moved on. So you’re not somebody that’s … you would think, “Gosh”, you’ve always been resilient. Obviously, we’re just chatting. I don’t know you that well, but that would be my guess. But yet somehow, Minnesota was different. Somehow despite all of this resilience, somehow it was really difficult. So talk about why was it so difficult? What was the pain and why was it so difficult, do you think?

Cami S:
I’ve given a lot of thought to that because I’ve tried to understand why I was more vulnerable. And I think it has to do with age truly, and now the work that I do with adults, I recognize that age plays into it. And so I think really my brain got tired. I spent a year in a new place. Even driving, your brain gets very accustomed to familiarity. And so everything seemed hard. Driving places. Just trying to find the junior high basketball court that my daughter was competing in and getting lost. And this was before GPS. So, it was me listening to John Denver play Take Me Home, Country Roads, as I’m wandering around a state I didn’t know.

Cami S:
So I think it was partly age and just fatigue. I think that having everything so new was compounding my fatigue. And then just being very devoted to try and resource my children first. So making sure they made friends. We’re a musical family, so finding the right musical instructors. getting to know the teachers in the school system. Finding new places to shop. I think it was just accumulative overwhelm. And we hear that, I have a lot of clients. That’s part of what … they’re surprised when it’s not a big crucible. Sometimes it’s just that life mounts up with these tensions, distractions, irritations that grow into an overwhelming mass that leads them feeling fatigued, and for me, depressed.

Warwick F:
Yeah. No, that totally makes sense. And do you look back and you were so focused on your kids and your family that maybe you didn’t take enough time for yourself, you know?

Cami S:
Yeah. Funny that my theme in life now is self-care.

Warwick F:
Yeah.

Gary S:
Yeah.

Warwick F:
But I think for … I imagine a lot of mothers, the whole concept of self-care is like, “Are you kidding me? Who has time for that?” That’s just … it’s not reality.

Cami S:
Right. And whether you’re a woman at home taking care of children or my husband and men or women out working in their careers, that tendency is so easy to prioritize. So many things ahead of our own self-care. And it was my husband that I mentioned earlier that it was the children. The universe has had beautiful ways to send teachers to me and they’re never consistent, and they come in so many different ways. And it’s been plum trees, my husband, children, the natural world in a lot of ways, but on this particular time, Steve and I were on a walk and I really believe the body speaks the mind. And while I was having a difficult time, we were on a walk because I couldn’t run.

Cami S:
And he recognized my isolation in this transition time, and he encouraged me to look at a graduate degree. To get out and go engage in something for myself. And as we were walking, he said, “I’m excited for you. I’m excited to see you run with this.” Which the way he said it to me, because I was physically unable to run at the time was my turning point, again. It’s funny how those … the apple falling from the tree. A stroke of insight. And that really began to shift my mood. I had his encouragement. I had this way of running that I had not thought of before. So, that was real important.

Warwick F:
And I think you’ve mentioned somewhere around there that your parents, they were not well or they had Alzheimer’s? Was that around that time? Or was that …

Cami S:
That was a little later.

Warwick F:
A little later. Okay.

Cami S:
That was a little later. So it was during my graduate studies that my dad became sick. And he was my … I adored my father as a lot of people can say. And that was really … and he was so healthy. He was the athlete that always encouraged me to work hard. In fact, he’s the inspiration behind clean and fill. Clean and fill. He was a restaurant owner, so you were always busy. Even if it wasn’t busy, you found ways to stay busy. So when he got sick, that was a really difficult time for me. He was also the entrepreneur. He ran a restaurant. So at that time, I was in grad school and I was working for a holistic health resource center serving people with chronic illness, and I withdrew from that because they lived in Iowa and I wanted to be able to be present to my family during that time.

Cami S:
But I also loved working. I knew that was an important part of my self-care, and that’s when Guided Resilience was born, simultaneous to my dad’s dying. And I think I was living into, I think, a genetically endowed gift of having my own business. It was my dad’s life. His love. My mom never worried about my dad being faithful. He always accused him only of the restaurant being his mistress. But yeah. He was an important presence and motivation in my life.

Warwick F:
That was another tough crucible. So between your dad and this move to Minnesota, it seems like Guided Resilience was born. How did that happen and how did that grow out of your experiences?

Cami S:
The business Guided Resilience?

Warwick F:
Yeah. Well, and your personal journey, too. Because probably as you’re trying to center yourself and get out of that sort of somewhat depressed state, did the business start first? Did you start thinking about these things as you were trying to help yourself and how did that whole thing happen?

Cami S:
I haven’t thought of it quite like that before, Warwick. I think the graduate degree over at St. Kate’s is a very personal growth oriented, as well. So I studied energy work there. I pursued my coaching degree while I was there. I pursued my yoga training while I was there. So it was kind of a … they had curriculum but then it was also very self-designed as well. So that’s when I started adding some of my education in. And it was simultaneously healing me at the same time. So it was resourcing me in very important ways to heal my own journey, and it inspired how I wanted to then … the call for me to bring that work into what I already was doing. I’ve always been a coach. I mean, I was a coach of athletic teams.

Cami S:
Then I was a personal trainer and a fitness instructor. And always interested in holistic growth for people. But as I said, the universe kept calling me to wounded people at the Holistic Resource Center. People with cancer, which I really resisted. There was a reason I went into wellness. But I was placed in certain places. And so it was both a simultaneous personal growth process that transformed into how I feel I was intended to contribute to goodness, growth and energy in the world.

Warwick F:
So as you were taking these courses and learning, what was some of the key things that you discovered that you found very helpful to yourself?

Cami S:
Oh god. What just flashed in my mind when you asked that is I was in a spirituality and health class, and they talked about thinking outside the box. And that’s been a really consistent theme, because my box, I viewed, I was a Cradle Catholic and as I described my childhood, very safe and homogenous and a lot of good qualities. But I didn’t have a box to get out of. I had a fortress. My box had like six foot thick walls. And it’s not that it was bad, it’s just that I wasn’t making room for a lot of other lenses, perspectives in the world. My studies took me to India to further my yoga understanding.

Cami S:
And it was a really beautiful and safe and supportive way to cherish the foundation that I had in my Catholicism and at the same time, expand my lens to looking at the other ways that people work. And the other ways that people are inspired. And living in the Twin Cities, I’m exposed to a very diverse environment. So that was new for coming from Iowa. So, I think that that was an important part of that journey.

Warwick F:
Yeah. No, I think a lot of people can relate that you get comfortable in your own box. I mean, I’ve lived in a bunch of different places from England where I went to college, and the U.S., back to Australia. And when the whole takeover ended, it’s like, well, I’ve got a lot of friends here in Sydney. I really don’t want to leave but yet it was clear that I had to, because it was such a prominent thing. I couldn’t really carry on a normal life. But yeah, I get comfortable with my rhythms, as I call them, and I don’t know. I’ve lived so many different places. I guess it would seem like I’m adventurous, but in some ways not. I don’t know. I kind of force myself bit by bit. But I think most people are like that. Very few people like doing new things, irrespective of the culture. You get comfortable.

Warwick F:
But yet by not trying new things, comfort is not always good for growth. To grow you got to be-

Cami S:
No.

Warwick F:
… have some level of discomfort. So I imagine with those walls coming down, you probably made some conscious, thoughtful choices that I got to get out of this box here. It’s not good for me to stay in the box.

Cami S:
Yeah. And there’s always reward with that, right? I mean, it’s scary at first. But seek and you find. And I learned early on that if I keep seeking, I trust that on the other side of that unknowing is going to be a reward and that has proved to be true.

Gary S:
And that brings me to one of the words or phrases that you use, Cami, when we talked first. You talked about meaning-making and the importance of meaning-making. How does that, for people who are listening, they’ve been through a crucible, they may be in that more stuck point, that more high centered point, what is meaning making by your definition, and how can that help move you beyond a crucible experience?

Cami S:
I don’t think self-reflection comes naturally for some people, but I think it’s critical to connecting the dots so that meaning emerges. So, kind of foundational to that is a meditation mindfulness or prayer practice that allows thoughts to emerge. And I continually sought out instruction and support. So always present in my life was not only the loved ones that I know had my best interest, but it was always important to have contact with someone that isn’t necessarily vested in me. Coaches, spiritual directors, teachers in areas that I needed to learn more. And so by the inclusion of other instruction, then bringing that into meditation and prayer and beginning to process it. I often joke with my family about the Gospel according to Cami.

Cami S:
Because we know that events in our life, we’re meant to learn from them. And we can only best learn from them … learning for me means having a lot of different resources and information. And then me synthesizing it based on my perspectives and intuition and … so I think that’s how it happens for me.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s so profound what you’re saying and that has to be maybe part of the cornerstone of Guided Resilience perhaps is most people aren’t reflective. I mean, I actually am pretty reflective. Fortunately or unfortunately I’m kind of wired that way, which has its pluses and minuses. But overall, it’s a good thing. But just reflect on kind of what’s happening, what am I feeling. I know for me, if I’m feeling depressed or agitated or even angry, I have to understand why. Why am I feeling this? Sometimes I don’t know. Fortunately. I mean, my first stop is typically to my wife, who knows me very well, saying, “Why am I feeling this?” And eight, nine times out of 10, she’ll get it. And she’ll let me know and that helps.

Warwick F:
But yes. Self-reflection. Meditation. Prayer. There’s different ways of doing it. It’s critical. But then the second piece you said, outside resources. Obviously it helps if you have some support within the home. Some do. And not everybody does. But whether it’s at church or coaches, counseling. A lot of folks think counseling is a bad thing, but it’s not. I think it’s hard. I don’t think there are too many people that can’t be helped just a little bit by counseling. I know I’ve been at times, definitely. But that outside help who can give you a perspective or just ask you that right question that unlocks learning and understanding. And as you say, you synthesize it and then say, “Okay. So what do I do with this?”

Warwick F:
And usually you have that … I don’t know I think of that phrase in the Bible. That still, small voice. You just have that sense of okay, this is what this means. This is what I’m meant to do. This is what’s going on. But that comes through prayer, meditation, counsel. That’s sort of the building blocks, right? Those are some of the key cornerstones. So, yeah. Talk about some of the other elements of Guided Resilience. Is that a fair statement that part of that is start with self-reflection and outside counsel that’s part of the vision?

Cami S:
Yeah. I mean, I build self-reflection. In Guided Resilience, kind of the methodology is grounded, growing and gifted. So it’s grounded. And this is my personal approach too. It’s grounded in evidence-based practice and an understanding of the holistic nature of all things. Those lenses also don’t come very naturally for people. We get very siloed and try to solve problems in a silo. And not recognize the holistic interconnectedness of things. And then evidence-based, we’re in a really exciting time in seeing the bridging between science and spirit. And I feel really comfortable and called to walk that line. Warwick, as you mentioned, in the way you approach your conversations. I think that there’s been made plenty of room for us to have conversations about really deeply meaningful human experience from a lens of scientific understanding now has really ramped up, and from the wisdom traditions that have been trying to describe it as best as they could for thousands of years.

Cami S:
And the two really mutually support each other these days. And so those kinds of conversations are really exciting.

Warwick F:
Yeah. I think that’s so true. I mean, obviously, medicine is important but it’s medicine, meditation, prayer. Obviously good nutrition. Fortunately, my wife is a big believer in good nutrition. Avoiding some foods that are a little bit more toxic than others and more organic. And I think a lot of people obviously try to do that. But yeah. When you’re agitated in your spirit, I think we know now that is not good for you medically. It doesn’t matter how understandable it is. Like for me, if I’m anxious, it tends to affect my stomach. And I have to watch what I eat. I mean, obviously if you’ve got a somewhat sensitive stomach you stay away from tomatoes, chocolate and that kind of thing. They’re sort of basic things that you understand. But if I’m agitated, I got to be more careful than normal. And say, “Okay. There’s clearly a problem. My stomach is telling me there’s a problem. I need to find a way to calm down, whether it’s prayer, meditation or taking a long walk.”

Warwick F:
Whatever it is. And do something about it. And it’s not just a matter of, oh I’m just going to keep being anxious and taking antacid. It’s not wrong to take an antacid. But meditation or prayer or a long walk is good, too. You do a bit of everything. Does that kind of make sense kind of what you’re saying?

Cami S:
Oh, absolutely. And the really empowering thing that you mentioned is having some control over that because very often the things that causes our anxiety are things that are outside of our control. And so knowing that I can self-regulate and make choices that are going to help me with the very natural response to upsetting things in the world that are outside of my control really strikes a chord at what makes us fully healthy and human, and that is autonomy and self-empowerment. To be able to choose how to self-regulate.

Warwick F:
And that’s where I feel like for me having a wisdom tradition, faith tradition, I think is a big help. Because if you feel like God or the universe is in control and it’s not my responsibility to solve things that I can’t control. I’m responsible for trying to make a difference where I can. But whether it’s kids, parents, illnesses, a lot of things in life that we can do some things about but we can’t control everything and just try to force yourself through prayer or meditation to let it go. That in itself, that’s a huge challenge. A lot of people just say, “No. I’m just going to keep angry about it.” Or another thing I often talk about is forgiveness. Which is a different conversation but from a health and wellness perspective even if you have every right to be bitter at somebody that wronged you objectively, typically they could careless which is galling, but that’s just life.

Warwick F:
But the person it hurts physically and mentally is you. So I often say, “The reason you should forgive is because you’re worth it.” You know?

Cami S:
Yes.

Warwick F:
Forget them.

Cami S:
Oh, that’s just great.

Warwick F:
So that’s, again, it’s a discipline. It’s like I can’t afford to be angry and vengeful because it’s going to hurt my health. You know?

Cami S:
Exactly.

Warwick F:
And it’s going to hurt my mental state. So I’ve got to … So talk about some of the other elements of … I love some of the things you have on like the Mindful Pause Process. The stop, breathe, think, choose. I mean, there’s so many good things. So talk about some of the other elements. Obviously self-reflection. Getting good counsel. What are some of the other elements in just this wonderful concept you have of Guided Resilience?

Cami S:
Well, I think it’s important to know that how we think is really important. So when we do self-reflection, self-reflection can be guided in a proper way, too. We have a built-in negativity bias. So if somebody can come to their self-reflection very harsh, critical, judgemental. Which just really interrupts the restoration and forward growth and movement. So how we think is really important. And so when I work with myself and with folks, I come from a strengths-based and positivity lens. So, first thing I do with clients is have them do a strengths inventory. I use the VIA survey of character strengths. Nine times out of 10 people can’t tell me. They can instantly tell me everything that’s wrong about them that they want to fix, but when asked, well what are your virtues, what do you value? They stammer and stumble and can’t come up with what makes them … what really lights them up.

Cami S:
And so I ask them to know that and then there’s the concept of the signature strengths, and that’s knowing your top five. Having them on the mind all the time. And as a coach, then, I want to know their top five. And so when I’m visiting with them and listening to them speak, I’m listening for and helping them train themselves to hear how they’re living into their strengths. So strengths-based lens is really important. And then part of what we’re amplifying when we do that is all of the theory around positive emotion. We’re getting out of the judgemental and critical mindset that’s narrow and leaves very little room for expansive, creative or collaborative thinking, and we’re trying to really broaden our awareness. So being very intentional about shifting. Barbara Fredrickson describes three to one. And when you think about the natural evolution of a day, it’s very easy for there to be way more disruptive, frustrating, challenging moments than being not only acknowledging but savoring the good.

Cami S:
And with the folks I work with, healthcare, not only are they … they have the natural negativity bias, but then they go into a discipline where they’re trained to look for what’s wrong. So they’re trained to look for symptoms and things that need to be fixed. So again, we’re back to habits. And not that those aren’t good things. Obviously we want professionals that are able to help us diagnose problems and fix them. But not to the detriment of training and reinforcing the ability to see the good and savor it and let it have a role in shaping our lens of life and how we live. So that’s a very important part. And to your point about self-reflection, I have folks do a chip. I call it a chip. I give them prompts for their self-reflection. So I have them start out with the C stands for celebrate.

Cami S:
I have to force them to do that because that’s not where they’ll naturally begin. What went well? The H is happen. I want you to stick with the good. How did it happen? Who was around? What were the circumstances? I want to know all of that. The I then, finally we’re in a place. We’re in that up spiral of confidence and celebration. Now I can identify. Where were my stumbling blocks? And then that naturally evolves to the P which is plan. Now my intuition is kind of primed. And I’m like, “What naturally am I being called to experiment with next that’s going to move me forward?”

Warwick F:
Yeah. I mean, this is really, to me so profound because when you go through a crucible, it’s easy to beat yourself up. In my case, it was pretty simple. It’s like, how could I have been so stupid? Launch this big takeover. Alienate my family. Company goes under. It affects thousands of people’s jobs. The company went on, but it was a little dicey at the time. And you just want to relentlessly beat yourself up. That’s normal, irrespective of the crucible. You just want to crucify yourself. You just …

Cami S:
Right.

Warwick F:
At the extreme, some people would get to I’m worthless. I shouldn’t be here. I make everybody miserable. You can really get in a downward spiral. But helping people understand that we all have strengths? Fortunately I was able to find that being a reflective advisor, analytical, I’m good on boards because I’m able to ask questions and speak truth in a way that can be heard. And so I found some areas of gifting but it’s not natural. It took me years. And maybe with your process it would have shaved off quite a few years. But this concept of just helping people understand what their strengths are, what their values are, and that there are things that they’re good at. And I’m sure a part of it is just letting go of the things, mistakes and things you’re not good at. And that’s okay. We all make maybe poor choices or bad things happen. That’s so … and just your whole celebrate. It’s sort of interesting.

Warwick F:
We’re always quick to talk about the bad, but I often find it’s very difficult to remember the good, because we tend to want to forget that. I mean, one of the things we do in our family. It’s funny. It was Father’s Day on Sunday, but it was also my daughter’s birthday, so we had to share it. So-

Cami S:
The same thing happened at our house.

Warwick F:
No.

Cami S:
Yeah. Yeah. My husband, obviously, Father’s Day. And Meredith, our oldest, her birthday is on Tuesday but we used the weekend to celebrate her birthday as well.

Warwick F:
Yeah. So I at least got a couple hours in before we shifted to the main event. But it was all good. But one of the things we do on birthdays, and we’ve done this ever since my kids were small, we go around. So the youngest to oldest. And we say, “Okay. What do you most admire about that person?” And really talk about it. Well, I grew up in a journalistic family, so at least some of my kids, they’re writers. They know how to communicate. And it’s fine until it’s your birthday. Then watch out and they go into exhaustive detail. And they’re typically very accurate too. So it’s not just … yeah. Not wrong. But I’ve always felt that that’s really important.

Warwick F:
And so year after year, you’re hearing these positive messages. More than once a year. But just why your family thinks you’re so valuable and why they admire you so much. Not just, “Oh, you’re wonderful.” But being very specific about it. So I just feel like we don’t do that enough in our society. And that, I think, builds strength and resilience when we not false praise, but honestly praise somebody for the good that they do. And does that make sense?

Cami S:
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely makes sense. And I also … The direction this is going and this often comes up with clients, there’s an expectation when they come to a resilience coach. When people are having those crucible moments, that whatever I am inviting them to do is going to alleviate their suffering immediately. And that’s where I put that almost right upfront when I have conversations. That you’re where you’re at for a very important purpose. And so we don’t want to rush that process. There are things to help you endure the discomfort, the confusion, the anxiety, but we’re not going to rush through that. Because those are really important times too.

Cami S:
I think it was Sue Monk Kidd that wrote a beautiful book called When the Heart Waits, and that I read at my darkest times. And it’s also very important to have the presence of someone who trusts the darkness. That I can help you feel good because I know that that’s an important part of healing, but we don’t have to be afraid of what comes up in those crucibles. And we can’t say how long they’re going to last. Nobody can say. The resilience coach can’t shorten your suffering. Life has a plan for that. But we can trust that you are going to be learning and growing and all of that is still available in that process.

Warwick F:
And that’s, again, another such an important point is it’s like a broken bone. It doesn’t heal overnight. And as I often say, sadly, “Sometimes there are scars.” You might quote, unquote, “get over it”, but it doesn’t mean to say there isn’t some residual pain, be it physical, emotionally. I mean, for me most of the 90’s as listeners know, was somewhat of a dark period. It took me years to bounce back. And some of the elements you’ve mentioned. Self-reflection. Support of family. Friends. Counselors. Coach. A variety of folks. But one of the things that helped me is I found there are things I could do and not screw up as I thought at the time.

Warwick F:
Baby steps. I began to see there are some things I can do that people respect me for. And because my self-worth was very low. And so gradually it’s like, wow. And it was bit by bit. So I often talk about when you’re finding things that you can do, especially from my perspective that somehow helps others, there’s a healing balm in that. There’s a healing kind of ointment if you will.

Cami S:
Oh. Yeah.

Warwick F:
I mean, maybe this is an obvious thing to you. Maybe not to all listeners. But as you were studying and then as you’re helping others, did you feel like, “You know what? There’s something I’m doing that is worthwhile”? And it’s okay to admit I feel good about helping people. It’s not wrong. It’s not why you’re doing it. But is there an aspect of Guided Resilience that when you get to the point where you can focus on helping others that that’s another step on the journey to wholeness and wellness? Does that make sense?

Cami S:
Absolutely. And I think it’s a little less linear and a little more integrative. So it’s not somewhere I get to eventually. And for each person it’s really individual. That’s something that I don’t attempt to even try to prescribe. I’m thinking of a cancer survivor that I worked with at one point who was so fatigued by her treatment. Not only the disease, but the treatment causing additional illness that she couldn’t serve. I mean, she couldn’t even mother her own children. And she found joy. She expressed her finding joy in watching her mother serve her children. To watch her mother be happy when happy was really hard for her to muster up the energy for.

Cami S:
So the idea of serving others, again, has a lot of expressions that to wherever somebody finds themselves in their crucible moment, having to have some flexibility on what that looks like could be very not what they’re used to.

Warwick F:
Absolutely. I think one of the ways I look at it is, how do you find purpose in the pain? How do you find meaning? Sometimes you might feel like this makes no sense, but if you can use what you’ve been through in some ways to help others, somehow giving the pain a little bit of meaning can make it easier to move on. And obviously some circumstances you’re not physically capable of. But to the degree whether it’s an abuse survivor or whatever the circumstance is, you have a unique gift. And unfortunately, in a sense, where you can use that to help others. And people can say, “Well, you get where I am.” Because you’ve been there.

Cami S:
That wounded warrior kind of idea is so powerful. To have that wisdom and perspective and a little bit of distance from your crucible. Absolutely. I think that that’s very empowering. And I feel like part of the natural evolution of why life happens the way it does. So that it produces warriors that can be out there to be present to and lift up and support the ones that are next in line for suffering.

Gary S:
That is an excellent point for us to begin the process. All right. I think I heard the captain turn on the fasten seatbelt sign and it’s getting to be time to land the plane. But what you just said, Cami, about having a wounded warrior to help guide people along the process of coming back from their own crucibles. That’s your story. So how can listeners who have been part of this conversation, how can they get in touch with you? How can they learn more about Guided Resilience?

Cami S:
Probably the first place to start would be to go to my website at guidedresilience.com. And then there’s ways that they can connect with me there. And they can learn about my process and a little bit more about how I work.

Gary S:
Warwick, you had another question. I cut you off. I apologize.

Warwick F:
No, no. That’s fine. No. I just want to thank you, Cami. I mean, just the whole concept of Guided Resilience that I think what you’re helping people understand that there is hope when you go through a crucible. There is a path back to wholeness, wellness. There is a way to find meaning, purpose in the pain. And really helping people focus on not so much shortcomings but their gifting. Their passions. Their values. It’s not a short process. But I love that phrase guided resilience. But with the appropriate help, guide and coaching, the path back, it is possible. You can help. It won’t be linear. It won’t be easy. But there is hope. So thank you so much for what you do and sharing, and it’s very encouraging. I think it’s a message people really need to hear.

Cami S:
Warwick, if I may, I think that there would just be one kind of a capstone that I would really love listeners to be able to hear in that they have everything they need, and that they are perfectly whole in the moment they’re at. The suffering and pain, woundedness, physical disease, does not separate them from the concept of perfect wholeness in the moment. And so I think that’s really important too, because we don’t need to postpone. While it is a journey and that’s a very important journey, this moment, the way I find myself now, is I have everything I need and I can be perfectly whole.

Gary S:
Now that, what you heard listener, was the plane hitting the runway. That was a great place. That, Cami, was a fantastic bit of encouragement to land on. And I’m going to close us out with some takeaways I think that listeners can pull from this extremely interesting conversation that we just had between Warwick and Cami. One, first one would be lean into love after your crucible experience. The short description of this podcast is you are more than your failures and setbacks. That’s how we describe it to people. But it can feel like crucible experiences define you. Whether it’s missing out on the state basketball playoffs, or whether it’s losing the 150 year old family media dynasty, those things can feel like that’s what’s defined you.

Gary S:
But the ones you love will remind you there is more to you than your failures and setbacks. Their words and care will help you move beyond your crucible. Second takeaway point from this conversation would be take time for self-care. We all have responsibilities to other people and we all have responsibilities to other projects and things in our lives. But we will not be available for others and other tasks if we don’t take care of our own needs. Nurture yourself. This is something Cami said to me, and we didn’t say it here but I’m going to get to say it here. Personal reflection is a poverty in our culture. We can change that. We can put money into that account. We can change and make personal reflection something that is rich in our culture.

Gary S:
And the third point, I think, for all of us to remember moving forward is to practice guided resilience. To focus on our strengths and our values. When you’re going to respond, not really react to difficult circumstances, that’s what you should be doing. Including your crucible experiences. Bring your strengths and your values to bear on your crucible experiences. And this is an extraordinarily important point to end on. Take your time. It does not have to be fast. Many times it won’t be fast. So thank you listener, for joining us on this episode of Beyond the Crucible. We’d ask, Warwick and I would ask that you do us a little favor. On the podcast app in which you’re listening right now, please click subscribe. That will help us reach more people and it’ll help ensure you that you will not ever miss an episode of this podcast going forward.

Gary S:
So until the next time we’re together, remember that crucible experiences are something we pretty much all have in common. They’re painful. They can knock us off the trajectory of our lives, but they’re not the end of our stories. They are, in fact, if we learn the lessons of them, apply the lessons of them. Apply some self-care. They can be the best new chapter of our lives. That does not mean that that chapter is going to be written quickly. It may not be a novella. It may be a James Michener novel. It may be a long book. But those books will be written and they will be the most rewarding chapters and books of your life because where they end up, the last page of that book, brings you to a life of significance.

Leave a Comment