Building Resilience, with Global Keynote Speaker Margie Warrell

Exclusive Interview with: Margie Warrell

Coach, author, and mother of four Margie Warrell is constantly sought by conferences, corporations, and media outlets for her advice on taking risks, living courageously, and building resilience. Margie is a renowned leadership and change management keynote speaker and an international thought leader in human potential who is passionate about inspiring people to live and lead more boldly.

The good news is that no matter how poorly someone may have handled stress in the past, we can grow our resilience…

SPEAKING.COM: Why are some people more resilient to stress than others?

WARRELL: It ultimately comes down to mindset. While certain circumstances can trigger a stress response, it’s the ‘story’ we tell ourselves about those circumstances that can amplify our stress response. People who tend to be the most resilient aren’t immune to stress, but they have developed a degree of psychological Teflon that enables them to respond to it with greater calm and clarity of thought.

The good news is that no matter how poorly someone may have handled stress in the past, we can grow our resilience simply by developing habits that help us to short circuit our psychological and physiological stress response.

SPEAKING.COM: What is the difference between stress and stressful thinking?

WARRELL: There’s no such thing as stress per se; there are simply people thinking stressful thoughts, which trigger a physiological and psychological response in our bodies. It explains why two people can be in the same situation and one falls to pieces while the other calmly gets on with addressing the cause of the problem.

SPEAKING.COM: How do men and women react differently to stress?

WARRELL: There is no evidence to show that men and women are wired differently when it comes to stress. However men and women are often socially conditioned to respond differently to stress, which over time can lead to a gender stress gap.

My research and experience has shown me that from a young age boys are encouraged to take more risks. For example, there is research that shows that on the playground boys are more likely to be actively encouraged to use the monkey bars whereas girls are more likely to be cautioned about them. Over time the boys in the studies built up a greater tolerance for risk and confidence in handling it, skills that would potentially help them to manage stressful situations better later on. This research also explains why we have a substantial ‘gender confidence gap’ as men tend to have more confidence in their ability to handle challenges compared to women.

It’s not the circumstances we’re in that drive negativity, but what we tell ourselves about them: the interpretation we are creating about the situation we are in.

SPEAKING.COM: What are a few steps people can take to curtail negative emotions when they find themselves in high-pressure situations?

WARRELL: First, adopt some very simple mindfulness practices that help us to be more in tune with the emotions we are feeling in any given moment. We can’t control emotions if we are operating in a mindless state of auto pilot.

Second, notice what we are telling ourselves about a situation that may be triggering and amplifying those emotions. As I mentioned above, it’s not the circumstances we’re in that drive negativity, but what we tell ourselves about them: the interpretation we are creating about the situation we are in.

SPEAKING.COM: What is the correlation between a person’s age and their capacity to build resilience?

WARRELL: Good news! While many things tend to get worse with age, our capacity for resilience (which is an aspect of our EQ) actually improves.

SPEAKING.COM: What are some common myths about work/life balance?

WARRELL: That there is a magic formula and once you’ve found it, you’ll forever live with it. The truth is that life’s responsibilities, commitments and pressures are constantly in flux so balance is never static. However, in my experience, when the way we spend our time is in alignment with what we are most committed to, the balance naturally sorts itself out. Rather than striving for perfect balance, it’s more important to simply work towards living in alignment with our deepest values while taking time to reflect on what we need to adjust and tweak on a regular basis.

SPEAKING.COM: The conversation on the balancing act between work and family seems to focus more often on mothers. What advice do you have for fathers who are struggling to dedicate enough time and energy to both work and family?

WARRELL: First, be kinder to yourself. As a working mother of four teenage children, I know how easy it is to beat up on ourselves for not getting it just right. I see so many people – women and men – who constantly feel like they aren’t measuring up. So my first advice is to cut yourself a little more slack when you don’t get it ‘just right’ all the time.

Second, make time to schedule in quality time with each of your children rather than waiting for the time to show up in your calendar. When our children were younger my husband Andrew set up a regular ‘date’ with each of our four children to ensure they each got some quality 1:1 time with him. They got to choose what they’d do together and would look forward to it with great anticipation.

The key thing here is to be deliberate and intentional about how you spend the time you do have. If you’re glued to your phone when you’re supposed to be hanging out with your kids then you’re missing a precious opportunity to connect with them.

Third, be sure you invest regular time in yourself –body, mind and spirit – so that you have the energy you need to show up fully and be genuinely engaged in what you are doing. If you’re constantly exhausted, out of shape and overwhelmed, you can’t be who you want to be for your family, your colleagues, clients or anyone… much less for yourself!

There’s plenty of stuff I figure out as I get to it. In fact, if I were to give advice to my younger self…my biggest advice would be to just trust myself, that I can figure it all out as I go along.

SPEAKING.COM: Could you share a bit about your own experience balancing your career with a family of four children?

WARRELL: I live by the mantra ‘good enough is good enough.’ There are many days that my kids and I are on opposite sides of the country or the world, so I try to focus on the really important things and to be fully present and fun for my kids whenever I’m physically with them. I make sure I connect with them regularly and truly listen to whatever is going on for them. I try to outsource whatever ‘low value’ activities I can – like cleaning, laundry and ironing – so that I can focus more time directly on my family.

I also invest time every day in rituals that enable me to bring my best and bravest self to whatever I’m doing and whomever I’m doing it with. For instance, I exercise nearly every day and take time to look at what I’m prioritizing and adjust as needed. I am big into journaling as I find it a great way to process my thoughts, emotions and the mindset I’m bringing to my life.

Finally, I try to be as organized as I can, without planning too far in advance – as that can lead to mental overwhelm given all the balls I have in the air at any given time. There’s plenty of stuff I figure out as I get to it. In fact, if I were to give advice to my younger self – back when I had four children under six and was just starting out on my “second career” in coaching, speaking and leadership development – my biggest advice would be to just trust myself, that I can figure it all out as I go along, because that’s pretty much what I do. There is no perfect formula or system. The systems I do use have evolved and changed as my family has grown and as my business has expanded.

SPEAKING.COM: What is the key factor to avoiding burn-out?

WARRELL: Investing regular time to renew, refuel, recharge and reconnect to whatever fuels our spirit and re-energizes our body. I am not one to deprive myself of sleep and even though I travel around the world and across time zones regularly, I make sure I allow enough time to get sleep as I know that going without it for very long will not allow me to show up as the person I want to. My mission in the world is too big to afford time off for burn out so I invest regular time in ‘topping up’ my reserves to make sure that I can operate at full capacity.

SPEAKING.COM: What are some ways people can gracefully say “no” to others and not feel guilty?

WARRELL: We can say “no” to an invitation or request without saying “no” to the person. I make sure I let people know how much I value them or the opportunity before explaining what else I have on my plate at the time and why I simply can’t commit to whatever they are asking of me. If I can do something that is less time consuming that helps them out and takes care of the relationship, I do, but often I simply have to decline. I’ve written about the importance of saying no in several of my books and while it can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful to say no to people, when we are clear on what we MOST want to say YES to, the guilt evaporates.

To bring inspiring keynote speaker Margie Warrell to your organization, please contact Michael Frick at:

©, published on June 17, 2018

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