Updated: Aug 13, 2020
From July 26, 2010 interview on WASH-FM, Washington, DC
How To Face Life’s Challenges With Grace, Guts & Gusto
Maybe you’ve lost your job, gone through a divorce or are facing a variety of life’s challenges. Sandra Strauss, speaker, coach and author presents strategies for 97.1 WASH FM listeners on keeping your wits and well-being through times of transition, turbulence and personal and professional transformation.
By Marilyn Thompson of BeautyInDC.com
Q. Sandra what led you to become an author, speaker and coach?
A: Perhaps that career path was paved by my early fascination with butterflies. As a kid, I spent summers chasing after them; the ultimate symbol of transformation. Life is all about movement, sometimes desired and other times dealing with the forces of change and that takes tools to manage all our dreams, desires and detours. Helping people take charge of their destinies and creating life in tune with their desires has been a lifelong pursuit—witnessing transformations by clarifying goals, getting out of comfort zones, overcoming obstacles, and building and sustaining nourishing relationships, and the thrill of achieving what some might consider impossible.
Writing, speaking and coaching are all connected—inspiring movement toward what is desired, and heeding those inner rumblings and awakenings to move in the direction of those desires. We often know, even if deep down and unspoken, what we need or want to do, but it may take reading something that resonates right down to your bones, or perhaps a story of a courageous soul who made choices to act that’s the starting point for change to happen. The speaking, writing and coaching are all tools for assisting those seeking greater well-being, in harmony with their inner vision. I think of them as needed power tools for shaping our destinies.
Q: You speak about facing life’s challenges with resilience and courage. Would you share your journey?
A: We all face life-changing times in our lives which will tap our inner resources, and we must hunker down and hang on through both planned as well as uninvited twists, turns and detours. Even as much as I had written and presented programs about the fragility of life, I was lulled by the illusion that life would simply carry me into my carefully crafted future. I embraced that life doesn’t always go according to our plans, but with my “take charge” philosophy never considered that mine wouldn’t go as I had envisioned. Then, bam! My plan, with all its expectations, exploded when my husband who was never sick in the nearly 30 years of knowing him, became acutely and mysteriously ill in 2004. He was stricken with so many symptoms that defied diagnosis, affecting both his body and brain. It was a terrifying journey into the unknown, suspended for an unbearable time without any answers. Ultimately the degenerative condition was linked to multiple and chronic exposure to environmental toxins and that has further fueled my passion to be of service supporting wellness and well-being.
Q: What perspectives have you gained from your journey?
A: It often takes time for the “good” to be revealed in what we experience from undesirable experiences. That usually takes some distance to shift perspectives. What I’ve witnessed as a result, is a frightening reality of 21st century life and its corresponding toxic impact upon our health. Both the deteriorated quality of our food, air, water and daily exposure to common products used at home and work are brewing up a toxic stew. Compelling research findings increasingly link these to major health issues that are unraveling quality of life as well as lifespan.
Being thrust into the unknown percolated a full range of emotions–confusion, fear, frustration, anger, betrayal, resentment, grief all taking front and center at times. Through the process there have been many opportunities for learning lessons in patience, acceptance of new realities of “what is”, of letting go and carving out new directions.
In re-engineering my own life, I share ideas in both my writing and speaking to support and help sustain others undergoing transformations. I now focus on making choices in the areas of wellness and well-being:
Our choices for living life with guts, grace and gusto—of firing up our power, wisdom, and courage through times of chaos, crisis, and confusion, as well as discovering our gusto, of living life in tune with our heart and finding meaning and purpose in that expression;
Our choices for taking charge of our health destinies to maximize our energy, wellness and vitality.
Q: What are some ways to handle life’s inevitable shiftings?
A: Because life is continually changing, we often need to cope with unexpected and unwanted circumstances: relationships and roles end, careers come to a close, jobs disappear, business deals fall apart, family and friends move away, disease or disability erode capabilities and health, loved ones die, support systems collapse. These events can shake our faith, rattle our world, and force us to grow in ways we never imagined.
Such events clearly demonstrate how fragile life is and how much we take for granted. We may want to deny the reality of what’s happened, and hanging on to “what was” is natural, but trying to control something over which you are powerless is a lesson in futility.
Happiness may not seem tangible when you’re reeling in a world turned upside down, but acceptance propels you in the direction of a more positive state of well-being as well as a path of power. When you accept “what is” you become more resilient and more willing to embrace a hopeful future.
Q: What advice do you have for people facing unemployment right now and seeking a new job or career?
A: Imagine what changes we might see if we’d create a Dept. of Optimism and fill our minds and expectations with positive news instead of all the gloom and doom that whittles away hope. Focus on what is desired instead of the steady stream of statistics of job loss and the tough job market. If you think something will be hard, difficult, or impossible, that leads to hopelessness. Remain expectant in spite of appearances and if you find yourself losing faith, keep holding the vision of what you want and let it work its magic.
Let people know what you’re looking for and use the power of networking and all the connections that flow from it to support you in your search. Coincidentally, just as I was writing this my unemployed daughter who’s seeking production work in Hollywood, shared how an absolute stranger just texted her of a promising job opportunity. Remain steadfast!
Q: What are some ways we can overcome fear and take risks in our lives?
A: Risk-taking takes you to the edge and often beyond your comfort zone and why many delay making the trip! However, without willingness to risk, you get stuck in places you don’t want to be. Or in a humdrum lifestyle which bores you to tears and traps you doing things you don’t want to do.
Part of overcoming fear is clarifying what you want and recognizing what you’re unlikely to experience if you don’t take some risks. With a mindset of having no limitations, brainstorm things you’d like to manifest. Ask yourself a few questions and reflect on your answers: What would I regret if I never get a chance to do? What is missing in my life? What am I waiting for? If not now, when? Those answers can be very revealing and provide motivation to overcome our blocks and head in the direction of our desires.
An intentional life in which dreams are plotted and planned is typically paved with plenty of risk and failures. You might lose your footing on the way to the top, fall into the pits, but then brush yourself off, map out a new strategy and reach the top–the best part–savoring the view of how far you’ve come, what you gained along the way, with courage.
Q: When you coach someone how does that process work and what do you help them accomplish?
A: We all get stuck at times in sorting out options or sometimes even identifying them. Sometimes we forget we have options, yet our power of choice can change our life path, and close the gaps of where we are and what we desire. Coaching includes the facilitation of uncovering desires, mentally overcoming perceived obstacles, and making choices to shift what’s not working to create a life in alignment with an individual’s vision. When there’s a gap between your current reality and what’s desired, the motivation is then in strategies for closing that gap. It’s about digging down to discover your truth, waking up to what you really want, setting intentions and making choices in attitudes and actions to achieve those dreams and desires. Coaching helps to sort out confusion, clarify choices and encourage taking the actions that assist in create states of improved well-being and quality of life, and that is priceless.
Sandra Strauss is a speaker, coach and coauthor of Dancing through Life with Guts Grace & Gusto—Fancy Footwork for the Woman’s Sole and Get Along with Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere—8 Keys to Creating Enduring Connections with Customers, Co-workers . . . Even Kids!
Sandra works with corporations, agencies, associations, nonprofits, and individuals with a focus to energize the winning spirit—put passion into action, navigate transitions with courage and resilience, and make smart choices for wellness and well-being. Visit www.SandraStrauss.com or contact Sandy@SandraStrauss.com.