7 Keys to Navigating a Crisis
Dr. Elia Gourgouris – Founder and President of the Happiness Center
Hello, everyone, thank you for coming up for today’s speaker presentation. My name is Vahish and I’ll be your main moderator for today. There are some general comments, please leave any questions you may have at the end of the presentation by utilizing the Q&A function, and our guest speaker will do his best to answer them. Today’s talk will be featuring Dr. Elia Gourgouris, and it’ll be regarding seven keys to navigating a crisis. Dr. Elia is the founder and president of the happiness center and organization of world leading experts in the field of positive psychology. Together, they help organizations go from just surviving to thriving even when facing multiple crises. Having obtained a PhD in clinical psychology, he’s also an author of number one best selling book, “Seven Paths to Lasting Happiness,” and the co-author of the recent “Seven Keys to Navigate Crisis.” Dr. Elia is also an executive coach and an international keynote speaker, focusing on his expertise of happiness and corporate wellness. With that being said, I will look to my personal Dr. Elia, who will begin his talk.
Yeah, thank you so much for the introduction, I hope everybody’s doing well. And I just wanted to share some thoughts with you about how we can best navigate the crisis that we’re facing. I feel like last year 2020 was probably one of the toughest years in modern human history. It’s almost as if some giant finger from the sky came down and pause and press the pause button on humanity. And it’s given us a lot of time to reflect and to think about and to ponder, you know, what’s really important in our lives. And, as with everybody else, a lot of our plans were hijacked in 2020. And in [inaudible], believe it or not, I had no plans of writing a another book. But, as I’ve shared with you, as the year evolved, and the changes took place, I’ve learned to be flexible and adaptable. And that’s something I’d like to talk to you as well. So, let’s begin. The world really is facing a multitude of crisis simultaneously, obviously, the pandemic. That’s number one. The second big crisis is the mental health crisis impacting the world. And according to the United Nations, this was several months ago, over 1 billion people that’s within B, are suffering from stress, anxiety, and depression. Between you and I, I think those numbers are way under reported. There’s no there’s no way only one out of seven people are struggling with stress, anxiety and depression. As a matter of fact, I don’t know of anybody personally, that doesn’t struggle with at least one of those or hasn’t, at some point over the last, you know, 12 months or so. And as a keynote speaker, I’ve had the opportunity, I would say, since the pandemic began to speak to audiences from all over the world, from India, to South Africa, certainly all over Europe and the United States and Canada. In the issues that we’re talking about are fairly common across industries, whether it’s for profit or nonprofit – in all kinds of organizations. So, employee, employees are struggling with PTSD with stress, anxiety, and depression. So that’s crisis number two, you throw in crisis number three, which is the economic and financial crisis. Think about, at least here in the United States, we have 10s of millions of people unemployed. Across the world, you have hundreds and hundreds of millions of people unemployed, in a couple of billion, either underemployed or basically feeling financially insecure, meaning how am I going to take care of myself and how will it take care of my family? That’s crisis number three, then you throw into that the social political and racial strife. And those are four major crises now. We’re not talking about people’s personal crisis. For example, somebody’s going through a divorce or a separation or, you know, a breakup with their significant other or having a child that has health issues unrelated to the pandemic. Or perhaps taking care of an elderly parent who struggles with Alzheimer’s, we’re not even counting those. Now, human beings are very resilient. In the past, we’ve been able to handle crisis before, typically one or two, but not five or six that are happening simultaneously, especially with no end in sight. So, and that’s why you see so many people, we have loneliness at an all-time high suicide prevention hotline, the numbers are, you know, at an all-time high again. So, when the pandemic first year in March, I had this very strong prompting, which is why not one of the seven keys to navigating crisis. And I heard that voice in my head, I said, Elia, you need to write a book. And you got to get out in 45 days, because there’s a tsunami of mental health issues that are coming up. Now, to put that into perspective, my first book “Seven Paths to Lasting Happiness,” which did become a number one bestseller, took me three years to write. So, the whole idea of writing a book in 45 days, sounded kind of insane. But, I have a writing partner, Coach Kon, and I called him up and I said, Listen, brother, tomorrow morning, I’m going to start writing this book. Are you in? Or are you out? In what without even, you know, flinching without even thinking about it, he says, I’m totally in and for the next 45 days, we did nothing else. But sit down and write this book that seven keys to navigating your crisis.
Initially, we wrote it to help individuals. We thought, we can see what’s coming. And we want to get a book out. That’s practical, that’s applicable. You know, at the end of every chapter, we have a couple of points for the reader to ponder, a couple of things to consider, a couple of questions that are answered. But more importantly, is what we call take action. What we didn’t anticipate is that, I’m going to say by the middle of June, as the economy began to open up after the original lockdown here in the United States anyway, that companies began to reach out to us and said, you know, Dr. Elia and Coach Kon, our employees are a mess. We don’t know what to do with them in our organizations, there’s, they’re depressed, they’re anxious, they’re stressed, a lot of them don’t want to come into work, or they’re afraid. We’re trying to navigate, you know, working remotely, can you help us? And interestingly enough, the first company that hired me was Bank of America out of New York, that the, you know, and I got to speak, obviously, on Zoom, like I’m doing here, to 1,000 employees, and kind of share the same thoughts that I’m going to share with you today. How do you navigate a crisis and face all these challenges, while maintaining kind of employee morale, and employee happiness? What is the first thing that comes to mind? And we have to start with self-care. In other words, how well do we take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And before I go into that, I just want to share with you one more thing, that there’s a big difference between danger and fear. This is just as an opening statement. If somebody comes up to you or nine Kushner faces, that is dangerous. That’s a factual statement. That’s a scientific statement. That’s not a political statement. That’s a fact. However, fear is not your friend. We don’t want to be making decisions both personally, professionally, or in the corporate world based on fear, because that’s not going to have a good outcome. And why do I say that? When there’s a challenge that we’re facing as humanity, there’s typically four personality types in how they react to a crisis to a challenge. So let’s go through them one by one. The first personality type we like to call the victim and the victim basically is why is this happening to me, like Poor me, as if it’s only happening to them, not 7 billion other people, so the victim is number one. The second personality type is the critic. Now the critic, regardless of what the federal, state or local government says, or the United Nations, or the World Health Organization, they criticize everything. For example, aelia you should wear a mask when you go outside with us stupid. Okay, Yulia. never wear a mask when you go outside. Well, what are you trying to kill me? No matter what is being said they criticize everything. The third personality type we call the bystander. Now, the bystanders in mind, you’re a good person but Think of it as the deer with the headlights look, they are so overwhelmed by the constant changes in lack of control in the feelings of powerlessness, that they’re just frozen in fear and they do nothing, they might look to the left, they might look to the right look to the neighbors to see what they’re doing. But basically, there’s paralyzed in Bharath. All three of these personality types have in common is the following. None of them offer a solution. None of them move the needle, there is no positive outcome, whether they’re poor me that criticizing or the deer, the headlights look, they don’t do anything productive and effective. Now we come to the fourth personality type, which we like to call the navigator. And the navigator begins with self care. And then goes on to the you know, we’ll talk about is aware listens to their inner voice into their intuition. They’re flexible and adaptable, they prepare, they take initiative, they have a positive attitude. And ultimately, they are kind and helpful to those around them. So those are the seven keys to navigating a crisis. But the one thing that I want to share with you as far as these four personality types is the following. And this is more of a my psychology hat putting on my the first half of my career as a clinical psychologist in private practice, before I switch over to the corporate world, all four of those personnel that exists with a nice human being. In other words, it’s like, well, I’m the navigator, you’re the victim. No, we have all four of those.
Let me give you a personal example. When the pandemic first hit, in March, at least here in our country, only speaking engagements across the globe get cancelled with a one week, I got one email after the next ‘Sorry, we can’t do the conference.’ You know, cancel, cancel, cancel, cancel. I was supposed to speak in Barcelona in October, I ended up doing the conference, but he was on zoom where he was right here. Not quite the same thing as Barcelona, I would have loved to be in Spain. It didn’t happen that way. So initially, when that happened, I had a dear in the headlights moment with myself. I was stunned, like, ‘Oh, no, what am I going to do now?’ And I did feel like a victim. I kind of feel like well, you know, what, if this happens to me, I was so looking forward to, you know, I love to travel, I love to go to different places, I love to spread the word of, you know, happiness and wellness, corporate wellness, wherever I speak, gone in an instant. So I have that initial reaction and have I been critical of the response of the federal government last year to this pandemic? You’re darn, right I have. And I think rightly so. But here’s the key. If you’re going to be the victim, or the critic, or the bystander, do it for a couple of hours, not for six months, I could have criticized the government for the last nine months, actually, if I wanted to do, but what good would that do? And that really would take, you know, my own happiness level down a notch or two. It’s normal to feel like a victim from time to time. Just don’t do it for two months, or even two weeks, do it for a couple of hours. Feel your feelings, like really dive into your emotions, and then pivot and navigate. Because the creation of this book really was me a Coach Khan actually pivoting and navigating saying, ‘Look, we can’t speak, we can’t travel, what can we do?’ And we decided to write this book, we were fortunate because we work really well together. I’m more of a big picture guy. He’s more of the details. We’ve actually gotten interviewed on podcast, not about the book, but how we were able to write a book in 45 days. And I said, You know what, there are no ego involved. If you had three great ideas in a row, we go with these ideas. If I had a couple good ideas, we went with my ideas, and we complemented one another and we’re able to get this book out, which now, has been its messages in the from how to navigate a crisis has been spread truly throughout the world. And we really didn’t anticipate that it was a very pleasant surprise. So now let’s go back to the navigator because the call to action for each one of you listening right now is to become a navigator of your own life. So let us begin with key number one which we like to call self-care and why self-care so important. Why is that number one? And I’m not one during the Q&A, if or three new jobs but give me one second to see here. Okay, I don’t have a headset, but I hope that the sound is comfortable, rather loud and clear. If there’s any issue, please let me know. So back to self-care. Here, I created a personal health assessment that looks at the four different areas of one’s life, our physical health, our emotional health, our mental health and our spiritual health. And, I basically do up by three interviews every single week sends me different podcasts on radio and television, in the personal health assessment is something that a lot of the audience audiences want to focus on. So, I’m going to share that with you. If you have a, a pen or a piece of paper, if you’re on your computer, in essence it’s 20 questions that will give you in real time right now will give you an idea of how well you’re doing. So I’m going to share my screen here in one second. And let me bring this up. There we go. share screen. Let me let me know if you’re able to see the screen of the personal health assessment, if everybody is able to see that.
So, let’s begin with what with physical health, how’s your energy throughout the day? And this is, of course, ranked one through five, five, I’m doing grade four, I’m doing pretty well, three, you know, I’m doing okay, sometimes. Two, I seldom do this or one, man, I really suck at this, I’m really just not one of my strengths. The only Of course, this is not a test, this is a personal health assessment for you to get to where you are right now in your life. If you score four or five, really pat yourself on the back and say, ‘Man, I’m doing great in this year.’ If you score a three, it’s just an indication that, you know, ‘I’m doing it somewhat [good], but there’s certainly room for improvement.’ But if you find yourself honestly scoring a one or a two, now, those are red flags, because those are key indicators that not only are impacting your health, but just as importantly, your happiness. You know, and I’m a happiness expert. This is what I speak about. In our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health is directly tied to our happiness levels. So question number one, of course, you know, what is your energy throughout the day? In other words, am I full of energy? Am I energetic? Or do I have fluctuations throughout the day where I you know, my energy drops? Or do I get out of bed in the morning and I’m totally exhausted? So how would you rate yourself on a scale of one through five? Second question, how do you feel it when you wake up in the morning. One of the biggest challenges that people have had, has to do with their sleep patterns during the pandemic sleep patterns or have been interrupted. And there been studies done already people are dreaming about the impact the pandemic has. So there’s a lot of restless sleep, not a lot of that deep, rejuvenating sleep. So when you wake up in the morning, you know, how do you feel? Number three, how healthy is your diet? Again, thinking about as our own stress level increases, our self-care has to increase, we can’t maintain what we used to do before and expect to have great results. Have you made some adjustments in your in your diet? What’s your level of daily activity? You know what’s funny about that before the pandemic hit, I used to walk about three times a week for one hour three miles, just because I’m getting older and just need the movement. It was something that I felt like I had to do, because I’ve we all know that movement is important for our health. Well guess what, as my own stress level increased with a pandemic hit, having to take care of my family, my extended family, my friends, my clients and so on. I had to make an adjustment in my self-care. So since April, honest to goodness, I’ve been working every single day, for an hour, seven days a week, no exceptions. And now, this has become something that I want to do not have to do anymore. And my hope is, you know, between you and I that once this crisis is over, that I will maintain that level of physical activity and movement. Does that make me a triathlete? No. But there’s something very powerful when we go for a walk outside. You know, oftentimes, I don’t even bring my phone I would say 50% maybe I’m walking and talking to people on the phone but the other 50% I leave it behind. And I just get in touch with nature. We live in a beautiful part here in the state of Colorado. They’re beautiful trails and ponds and you know, creeks and blue skies and the birds singing. It just helps me, It lowers My stress level. So it’s not only the impact physically, but it’s also what it does to me mentally and emotionally. And last, but not least, how well do you function without escaping? Now, the studies that have been done since this started is that people are escaping actually even more so than they used to do before, whether that’s watching more television or spending more time with a computer, or, you know, since a lot of people are working from home, you know, they call it the COVID-19 minute, sort of the COVID 15, meaning that on the average, people have gained 15 pounds, because they’re their refrigerators right there. They’re stressed or they might be bored, or they might be anxious, in their accessibility to food is so close. Again, honestly, what is your level of, you know, perhaps escaping into some of those things that are not necessarily constructed for you. We also know that alcohol and drug abuse has gone up as a result of these continued lock downs. So now we’re done with your physical health, add up your score from those five questions. So put that number down. And let’s move on to mental health. Question number one, what’s your ability to maintain a positive attitude?
Do you know how crucial that is? There are so many things that are beyond our control, that are imposed upon us with these lock downs and the restrictions and so on. But what do we control? Like, honestly, I don’t control what the federal state or local government does, I really don’t. But I do control what takes place in here. If any of you have ever read the book by Viktor Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” an amazing, you know, Austrian psychiatrist who spent a long time in Auschwitz. And he talks about the stories in amazing book, obviously a bestseller, a great story. But the bottom line in, in under the most horrific circumstances, in being in a concentration camp, that he was still able to maintain the one thing that he did control was versus what takes place in in his mind. I personally believe that this too shall pass. It has taken longer than I expected myself, I really thought we would be out of the woods by now. And but we haven’t, but the vaccines are here, more are coming. And I think 2021 will be a little bit better than 2020. But not a not a perfect year, we may not be out of the woods fully until next fall, or maybe even 2022. But maintaining a positive attitude is the one thing that we do have control over. Question number two, what is your ability to stay focused right now? Honestly, this is probably one of the few areas where I get – I would give myself a lower score. I find myself with a stress in in all the demands that are that I’m facing, that I may be in on one project, it may be 75 – 80%, towards finishing it up, and then something else happens. And I find myself distracted. So staying focused, has been a real challenge for me, which is pretty normal, when people are stressed out that lack of focus. Number three, how well are you keeping life’s events in perspective? That’s a very interesting question. I think the perspective to me, sometimes I pull the camera back, so I can see really the big picture. Because when you’re in the midst of a crisis, you can’t, sometimes you can’t see the you can’t see the resolution. It’s kind of like being in the middle of the forest and you’re trying to find your, you know, an exit and it’s come to the light. So perspective is huge. This too shall pass. And this is tied in a little bit to the positive attitude. I firmly believe I know, humanity is down on one knee, and we’re getting our butts kicked by this pandemic, it continues to morph into change and to have, you know, new strains. And it’s been very, very challenging for the doctors, for their research, you know, pharmaceutical companies and so on, who are doing their best to come up with vaccines that are that are going to help us. It seems to be elusive at times. But in the end, this is not going to be the end of us. I know it’s killed a lot of people and certainly a lot of people have gotten COVID themselves, as we speak. Actually, my whole family had it – I’m the only one that’s negative. They got tested last weekend – this week. And I feel in my own household. I’m surrounded by people that tested positive, except for me. So I’ve kind of been so that has increased my own stress level for the last you know, six or seven days. Because I have to isolate I have to I mean it’s it’s a kind of a crazy situation here in my own home. But I know this too shall pass. And I’m confident with that. So let’s keep that in perspective. How grateful do you feel right now? This is also my happiness expertise coming into fruition right now, we know that somebody who is lives in is in a state of gratitude cannot be depressed at the same time, that’s physiologically impossible. Now, it’s easy to be grateful when things are going well in life, isn’t it? That’s the easiest thing in the world. But how about being grateful when things are not working out? I like to say that we’re all graduates from the same university. I call that the University of adversity. And the older we get in life, the greater the adversity that we face. What do I mean by that? Initially, you know, at some point, we’re going to lose people that we love, bottom line. Perhaps initially, our grandparents, or a favor aunt or uncle, at some point, we’re going to lose our parents. You know, God forbid, we lose our significant other in this lifetime or, or a brother or sister, or the worst-case scenario that we lose our child?
Because I don’t think there’s anything worse than that. That’s just part of life, isn’t it? Financially, people are – throughout a lifetime, they’re going to have some financial ups and downs, maybe be underemployed or unemployed for a period of playing, maybe we have to file for bankruptcy or, or have their house foreclosed or have an inability to pay the rent. People are going to get sick. I’m not even talking about the pandemic, you know, there’s cancer, diabetes, heart disease, all kinds of things, relationship issues. Again, maybe a child doing drugs and being in and out of rehab, or an elderly parent that has Alzheimer’s, that’s as part of life and life is full of adversity. The question of course becomes, is it possible to be grateful in the midst of adversity? And I’m here to tell you, there’s no question about that. That’s possible. As a matter of fact, the happiest people in the world, I want you to write this down, do three things differently and this is very applicable to this. The happiest and most successful people in the world, do three things consistently. Number one, when there is a setback, whether it’s a human frailty or human weakness, a mistake, that they make, a disappointment, they tend to take personal responsibility for it, meaning I’m responsible, this is on me. Nobody put a gun to my head to make that decision. I own this. And they own that part of their lives. Number two, they learn from them. And like the great Nelson Mandela said, you know, either you win, or you learn, right, there are no mistakes. Either we’re winning in life, or we’re learning. And the third thing that successful people do and happy people do, which, personally I think is even more important than the first two, is that they have the ability to let it go. What do I mean by that? In other words, they don’t carry the heaviness or mistakes or disappointments from last year to this year, or from last month to this month, or from last week to this week, or even from yesterday to today. When I was in private practice, I work with thousands of people who would wake up every single morning. And would put on a backpack – an invisible backpack full of rocks. And all those rocks represented resentments, weaknesses and mistakes that they had made. Things that they hadn’t forgiven themselves about. And do you know how many people walk through life with that extra dead weight? So many do. Imagine what it does to them mentally, emotionally and physically. So the antidote to all of that is gratitude. Gratitude is one of the easiest way ways I believe, to go from, you know, being down, or even feeling like a victim like we talked about before, to restoring some sense of balance and some sense of happiness. Gratitude is very, very powerful, especially when things are not going well. That’s the extra credit. And the last thing on the mental health, of course, is how open are you to hearing other people’s insights in point of view. We live in a society that is so divided. Think about it, just not by politics alone. You know, the left doesn’t hear the right the right doesn’t hear the left. There very few people in between and everybody’s screaming at one another. So why is that important for our mental health? Here’s the reason why. The mind is like the parachute. It only works when it’s open. Think about how important that is to be open. So how open are you to hearing other people’s points of views? Especially if they’re different? I’d love to hear people that have a different opinion for me because I’m a curious person. I’m like, ‘Well, why do you think that way?’ Or ‘tell me where you’re coming from,’ you know, rather than getting defensive or trying to prove my point, I want to hear where they’re coming from. It’s so I can at least begin to understand why their viewpoint is so different. So we’re done with mental health, count your points for those five questions and then write the number, the total number, next to mental health. Now, let’s go to emotional health. How well do you practice self-compassion or self-forgiveness? The greatest gift we can give ourselves in the greatest act of self-compassion is self-forgiveness.
I work with a lot of people that when I, when my private practice, I used to work with a lot of addicts, I – my dissertation was on Alcoholics Anonymous, so I kind of know addictions inside and out. And as they would go through the 12-step program, to restore them to sanity, if you will, and to maintain their sobriety. Part of that process is to make amends to those people that they have hurt, as a result of their addiction, oftentimes, the people, that are closest to them, their families, and so on. So, they would go through that process. And we would get to the point is, so have you, you know, extended forgiveness and ask for forgiveness from absolutely, you know, they go through, which is a lot of hard work, you know, the last person they on that list that they have not forgiven was? Themselves. And that’s human nature. As human beings, we have a very difficult time, forgiving ourselves. And I have a process that I actually want, I can share this with you today. Most people understand that self-forgiveness is important. They don’t know how, you know, Gandhi said forgiveness is the attribute of the strong, it takes a lot of strength to forgive not only others, but especially ourselves. So here’s a quick side note, how can we forgive ourselves? When I work with people, I ask them to make a list of everything that they have not forgiven themselves with, like, I don’t care if it’s a spilled milk last week, or a blunder that they made, or some major transgression. And once they made that list, I asked them to put a number to it. Next to each one of those statements on a scale of one to 10. One being all really well, no big deal. It’s you know, something very mild, something very, it’s almost silly, actually, that I haven’t forgiven myself for that to 10 being you know, something major, like perhaps having an affair or just committing a crime or do something, you know, just attend. And then I ask them to prioritize, and start going through one by one, and begin the process of, of self-forgiveness. What’s really interesting is, some people start by actually, I would say most people start with the smaller numbers, that the easiest things for them to forgive. Like, I was kind of rude to my sister yesterday, okay. Because as they begin to forgive those, they gain momentum. And, again, practice it again, expertise and self-forgiveness, and then they can move up to the 8, 9 or 10’s. They’re really big stuff. What’s fascinating is that some people, and this is especially true for type A personalities, because I work with a lot of executives in the C suite. You know what they tell me like, I’m gonna starting with one I’m starting with 10 I’m starting with the biggest thing that I have here because if I can forgive myself on this level, well, everything else after that comes easy. Honestly, between you and I, I don’t care which way you go as long as you do it. And so you can live your life without that, you know, invisible backpack. That backpack is full of stones, rocks, pebbles, boulders, whatever you want to call them. And they typically have self-forgiveness written all over them. So, forgiveness is huge for our happiness and our emotional wellness. How well do you maintain a healthy life work balance?
Life [to] work balance is elusive, if we’re honest with one another, I like to think of it more of life. Life work integration. is so many people have started working from home for the last six, nine months that life for a balanced has gone out the window for a lot of them because they’re never work – a lot of them even though they can they’re at home and you can say well I’m my life should be even more balanced because I’m not commuting back and forth to work. They don’t know how to get off work. They get first thing in the morning they jump on their phones or their computers and then they stay up on delayed on the In other words, there’s no way it’s five o’clock time for me to back up and go home. They don’t have that anymore. So I feel like over the last nine months, this has gotten worse. And HR studies are showing that people that work remotely are less in balance with their life and work. So that’s a big issue right now facing organizations. Next one, how well can you maintain flexibility under stress? Man, flexibility and adaptability. I’m gonna take another break here, let’s talk about that specifically. In flexibility, is the third key to navigating a crisis. Why is flexibility important? Let me share with you this, this parable of the oak tree and the palm tree. The oak tree, as you know, is a very powerful tree, it’s huge going up 100 feet, it’s massive, strong has been around for 5080 years. immovable, right? But at the peak of the storm, or there’s a hurricane or a cyclone, if when there’s enough saturation on the ground, enough wind, what happens to oak trees, they come crashing down on cars, people homes, that’s what happens to oak trees, right. On the flip side, the palm tree, which I would say is relatively thin, you know, kind of cute with, you know, palm trees at the very top at the peak of the storm. Now I really want you to think about the storms of your life. It bends. And then at some point in the storm it’s been parallel to the ground at the very peak of the storm. But when the storm passes, guess what happened upon tree, it rises up again, it survives in not only does it survive, but it’s actually stronger than it was before the hurricane, before the storm, because its roots had to dig, dig deeper, and hold on for dear life. So, the call to action to all of you is be a palm tree, not an oak tree. Now, as I’ve shared this message with audiences across the world, some people have said, you know, ‘Doctor Elia that’s a cute story, I’ll remember that I can see the visual and so on. But what does an oak tree look or sound like in human terms?’ This is what it sounds like? Well, that’s the way things have been done around here for 40 years, I’m not going to change now. You know, basically, I don’t want to change, even though the entire planet has changed, all of humanity has changed. I refuse to change. Why is that detrimental? Let me share this story with you. Elite athletes, football, soccer, baseball, basketball, I mean, you name it track and field, the elite, the best athletes in the world, before the big game starts. Before they go out there and perform for all these fans. What are they doing out there in the field for half an hour? And they all do it by the way. And these are the most these are the best, the best of the best, right? Professional athletes, they get paid millions of dollars to play a game. What are they doing out there on the field? They’re stretching? Why are these athletes stretching? Because if there aren’t stretched, if they’re not flexible, when the game starts, they’re gonna get injured, they might pull a hamstring, or an Achilles heel or even something worse, right? So, you and I are in the game of life. If we don’t practice flexibility and adaptability, we’re going to crash and burn. Remember that the navigator, just like I was before, I had no plans to write a book. But when everything got canceled, I had to pivot and navigate into something different to be a value. And I ended up writing this book that me was practicing flexibility. I could have like, stayed as a victim is that what I can’t, I can’t travel anymore. I can’t speak, you know, my revenues going down and all that stuff. So, in life, we’re going to have setbacks. And we’re going to have challenges. We’re facing multiple challenges right now. I am asking you to think about what is your level of flexibility and adaptability? And are you willing to try something different? Are you willing to go outside of your comfort zone? Personally, the biggest growth I’ve ever done in my life hasn’t been when things are gone well.
I mean, that’s great, obviously, and I do celebrate the wins. And I when I work with people, we celebrate their wins every single day. However, the greatest growth has always happened outside of my comfort zone. The greatest growth has always happened when things didn’t work out very well. And I had to become flexible and adaptable and resilient in order in order to overcome those challenges, by far, okay, so that’s enough for flexibility and adaptability. I’m sure you get the message of how important that is. How much is humor, laughter and playfulness part of your daily life. Actually, as a happiness expert, and not that I’m happy all the time, but I, for the most part, I’ve lived my life with a positive attitude and so on. Humor, laughter and playfulness on a daily basis is, is a huge contributor to one’s happiness. There was a more recent study that said, if people laugh for an hour in a day, and I, listen to this, and now today, the chemicals that are released, those happy chemicals that are released in our brain last for an additional 24 hours. So, for some people humor and playfulness, and what’s the other one? And laughter, it comes natural and easy. But it doesn’t come easy if we’re too hard on ourselves. In other words, if your inner critic is running wild inside of you, it’s very hard to be playful and, and have a sense of humor. This is again, where self-forgiveness comes in very handy. When we’re able to forgive ourselves, or even laugh at our mistakes and be lighthearted towards our imperfections. We tend to be a lot happier that way. So, seek opportunities, to be lighthearted, to be playful, to laugh, even to laugh at oneself, and your emotional health will be a lot healthier. And finally, how healthy are your relationships? Now, here’s the deal with that. In my first book “Seven Paths to Lasting Happiness” I talked about, very specifically, if you want lasting happiness, not something temporary or something superficial, here’s some of the things we need to be doing right? Self-love or self-care. Having an attitude of gratitude, like we talked about before, forgiveness and self-forgiveness being important. You know, our connection to our spiritual self was number four, knowing your purpose, and being passionate about what you do in life, and in the end being of service and be kind to other people. If we were to do all of those things, but we surrounded ourselves with toxic relationships, I promise you, your happiness levels aren’t gonna be that high, even if you practice all the other six paths. So, the question is, how can we be happy if we have toxic relationships around us? It’s very difficult. Let’s be clear about that. I personally made a commitment to myself, when I transitioned out of a psychologist and they went to the corporate world and I went through major life crisis in a health crisis. That was a conscious decision. I don’t want any more toxic relationships in my life period. And I will tell you for the last 15 years, I don’t have it. And people have said, Are you serious? You don’t have anybody who’s toxic in your life? I’m like, actually, I don’t. And here’s why. Because I’ve identified where the toxicity was coming from. And I said some very healthy boundaries. And again, people say, ‘Well, okay, well, that sounds almost like, I don’t know how you did that. What if your toxic relationship is in your family? I can’t divorce my mother-in-law.’ You know, for example, I’m like, ‘No, you can’t. But you can set healthy boundaries,” and here’s how that works. If I treat you with love, kindness and respect, I have every right to expect that you treat me back the same way. Of course, the responsibility first is on me, I have to show up lovingly, you know, kindly and respectfully towards all my relationships. But as long as, in other words, I can’t be a jerk, and then expect you to be loving and kind to me, that doesn’t really work. But as long as I show up a certain way, loving, kind and respectful, I have every right to expect that from you. And I’ve actually said that to people. Initially, they’re kind of shocked. It’s like, ‘Well, what do you mean?’ I’m like, ‘Well, number one, do I treat you with love kindness and respect? Yes or no?’ ‘Yeah, Yeah, you do.’ Okay. Well, the next week you to treat me the same? And if you can’t, you’re out. ‘What do you mean, I’m out?’ I’m like, I don’t want to talk to people in my life period. And if you enforce that, and you set those healthy boundaries, consistently, that’s the key. You do it once, twice, three times, the other person will get the message. ‘Do you want me in your life?’ ‘Of course I do, but you have to start behaving differently – at least around me. You can’t be toxic around me.’ That’s a key ingredient. Whether it’s your family, the colleague at work, your own boss, or a direct important [person]. You show up, loving and kindly and respectfully, you deserve that. That’s the last one – in terms of emotional health. Add your score, and see where you are. So, a score for emotional health.
Now, let’s go to spiritual health. How strong is your belief in a positive outcome? Again, this goes back to a positive attitude. I believe that with every challenge there’s a solution to every problem. And, like Winston Churchill once said, ‘Optimists find solutions to every problem. Pessemists find a problem to every solution.’ I love Winston Churchill’s quotes. So again, there should be a positive outcome, regardless of what challenge you are facing. We aren’t even talking about the pandemic right now – your personal challenges or financial challenges or health issues. Number two, How close do you feel to God or your higher power? And this is not even a religious question. If you believe that there is a higher source, are you close to that higher source? If you don’t believe that, then how about yourself. You know that part of you that is the wisest part of you, how close are you in alignment with that voice, right? Again, the third one, how much you pray or meditate creates mindfulness. Again, not a religious question, but more of a ‘Do you take some quiet time?’ To reflect, to ponder. I will tell you that some of the greatest answers that I’ve ever received, personally, come from prayer or meditation or just, you know, listening. But, I call it listening to your intuition. To that small voice. If you’re a spiritual person, to the spirit. Every time I’ve heard that voice and acted on it, which is key by the way, it has always worked out. This is one of the few absolutes in life because I don’t know if there are too many absolutes. I’m a human being, I’m not perfect. Every time I’ve listened to that voice and ignored it, you guys, I’ve always paid the price. So trust your intuition, trust your inner person, trust the spirit, whatever you call it, and then act upon what you hear. That’s very important overall for our happiness levels. How often do you practice kindness or do acts of service towards others? You think that’s actually a very simple statement, right? Would you believe it that that’s one of the most controversial ones? As I share how to navigate a crisis, or how to be happy around the world, when I, and again, for both of my books, being kind and acts of service is the last one, it’s key. So we start with self-care and self-love and went this way. Happy people, by this nature, can perform acts of kindness because their [inaudible] are full, they’re totally full, right? So, it’s easy for them to help them and serve somebody else. On the flip side, when we perform acts of kindness, something happens to us innately. On the inside, right? We just feel better about ourselves. And I co-host a podcast called “The Kindness and Happiness” and basically there’s a reason for that. Having happiness and kindness are interrelated, you can’t have one without the other. Now, let’s go back to kindness. As I’ve shared this with the audiences, I’ve invoked them to go and do something nice for someone today. Sometimes I’ve gotten push back on live podcast interviews or live television interviews. People who have basically said ‘Dr. Elia, are you crazy? I’m unemployed. I don’t have anything to give. I’m a, you know, done, I’m depressed, I’m stressed. Are you serious? You’re asking me to go help someone else? What am I? My brothers keeper?’ This is an actual direct quote from somebody, so when they told me, I kind of leant into the camera and said ‘No, you’re not your brother’s keeper. You’re you’re mothers keeper and your sisters keeper and the neighbors keeper, and the homeless person down the street, or somebody who is 10,000 miles away because in the end, we are all brothers and sisters on this Earth and humanity is taking a beating and if you are listening to the sound of my voice, I guarantee you that you are better off than somebody else. All you need to do is look around.’ So, typically when I push back like that, there’s silence. But, 80 percent of them reluctantly agree with me, like ‘Oh I guess,’ you know, but I’m had a couple smartasses who say, you know, ‘I know what you’re saying, but I’m quarantining. I can’t help anybody. I’m stuck in my home.’ And I push back on that too. You don’t have to physically do something for somebody else. The opportunities to serve and be kind to somebody else are endless. Let me give you a specific example, back in April, and this is where listening to your spirit, or the inner person, or your intuition, because one evening I got a very strong prompting from a friend of mine who actually lives in Greece. And we have been friends for 40 years, when she got her PhD at USC in America, she went back to Greece and is a professor at a university now. We’ve been friends since we were kids. And the prompt was very strong: ‘You need to reach out to Helen.’ So I did. I dialed her up, and she was kind of surprised, she goes ‘Elia, why are you calling me? It’s almost midnight here?’ And I said ‘Honestly, I don’t really know, I just want to check in with you. Are you doing okay?’ Mind you, this was in April, so the beginning of the initial lock down. I said ‘How are you doing?’ She goes, ‘Well it’s kind of funny that you called because the last 10 days, I’ve been isolating myself in a little apartment in Athens, away from my kids, away from everyone, all by myself. I have really bad asthma and I’m going to be alone here for the next 30, 45 days until we figure things out.’ And she said to me, ‘You know, Elia, have you ever been alone by yourself for 10 days? You didn’t talk to anybody, you didn’t see anybody, you didn’t hug anybody? ‘ And I had to think really deep and long about that and I said ‘Helen, I don’t think I have. I don’t know what that feels like.’ Anyways, long story short, we talked a little bit and she said ‘Yeah, I’m really lonely and I’m so grateful that you called me, this made me feel better.’ I’m like ‘No problem.’ And then I said ‘I’m going to check in on you every week, if you’re okay with that?’ And she thanked me, and we got off the phone, and then I thought, what was this beautiful experience? So that, what I just described to you, is an act of service of being kind to somebody else. It didn’t take much time, it didn’t take any money, I didn’t have to leave this chair that I’m sitting in talking to you over Zoom right now. So, again, if you get a prompting, if you think about somebody, don’t ignore that. What’s the worst thing that could have happened? Helen goes ‘Elia, why are you calling me, you woke me up?’ And I’m like ‘Okay, I’m sorry that I called you.’ That’s the worst that could happen and more often than not, in my experience, people will say ‘Thank you for calling, thanks for thinking of me because it’s been kind of hard, it’s been kind of rough, you know?’ That’s your act of service. And, again, people who perform those on a daily basis, tend to be happier and more content and more at peace in their own lives. And the last question on the personal health assessment is, of course, ‘Do you know and do you live your purpose in life?’ Why is that important? People that live, on a daily basis, in their purpose in life, tend to be passionate about what they do. I feel really fortunate in my life because I feel like I learnt that lesson when I was really young and I had a grandfather who, when I was five years old, this is how far back it was. He died when I was six, so I carry him on with my honor, this is my faint memory. I remember sitting with him, and he turned to me one day and said ‘If you want to live a rich life’ And I’m translating now from Greek to English, ‘If you want live a rich life, all you need to do is to do something good for someone every day and you’ll be good for the rest of your life.’ Now, for some reason, my little five-year-old brain thought that actually resonated. And was like ‘Okay, so do something good for somebody else every single day and you’ll live a rich life.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing for the most part – obviously I’m not perfect, but that’s it for the personal health section. Add your score for the spiritual stuff and then add all four of those and then see what your cumulative score is. Now how do we interpret this? Remember, we can do it by question. If you got a four of five, that means you’re hitting a home run, that’s great. If you score yourself a three, threes aren’t bad, at least you’re doing something. But if you have a one or a two, at least in this personal health assessment, mark it with a red pen and let’s focus on that. I mean make that a priority to put some energy into, some thought into, so you can improve your scores. So that’s one way to interpret it. The other way to interpret it is the cumulative score. If you’re over 81, you are generally happy with your life, 65 to 80 okay, but you have room for improvement and can make your life healthier and happier. And you can see the rest of it, 50 to 65, my life is not going the direction I’d like it to go, so I need to invest in it and not that many people score under 50, by the way, if there’s somebody who did that, I know you’re like ‘Man, that’s just depressing. I can’t believe I got a score like that.’ Listen, the lower the score, the greater the degree that you can make an improvement. So, think of it that way. This is not a test. This is something for you to take. I take this every once a quarter, meaning like three times a year, I’ll go back. If it wasn’t me talking, you could do it by yourself. It would take like two minutes to do it. So, anyways, that’s the self-care aspect. Somebody’s asking where can I get a copy of this assessment? Well, you know what, ys I can send it to you. Let me see if I can copy and paste this. Connect with me either through the organization or LinkedIn and I an send you the assessment. You know, interestingly enough, there’s this big global organization, Doctors Without Boarders, and this morning they asked me to speak to them in March, March 2nd. In about a month. And the talk is self-care for health-care, which I’m going to use what I share with you guys now, I’m going to use that with them. Why? Because doctors and nurses and just health care practitioners in general who are on the front lines fighting the pandemic. These are the true heroes. And some of them are just so stressed out that, and I’m not saying this, they’re saying this, some have PTSD. So I created this program called “Self-care for Health-care” and I speak to nursing conferences, health care practitioner conferences, and so on. This is a big part of it. To help those doctors, and the nurses, and the physicians assistants, and anybody else on the front lines, to really learn how to take care of themselves, while they take care of the rest of us. Just wonderful people. That was a side note. Any questions? How much time do we have left? I think we have some time left. Okay, I’ll share the recording after this.
There is a question in the Q&A section, if you can refer to that?
Ah there is the Q&A. Thank you. Is there any way we can share this recording, I feel like many people can benefit from this amazing webinar.
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So the one thing I would tell you, is that organizations and companies bring me in to do exactly what I did today with you guys – like Bank of America, like I said, a thousand of their employees liked it so much they gave me a testimonial, which is up on my website, dreliagourgouris.com, a video that said this is going to go out to all 200,000 employees of Bank of America. And I’m not saying this, it’s not even a bragging way, I wanted to make a point. The same presentation that I did for Bank of America, a month later I had an organization, a smaller organization with only like 350 employees, non-profit, basically they worked with emotionally, disabled developmentally adults. And their staff was all stressed out, so they asked me, and I said ‘You guys, the exact same presentation, so you have a 200,000 employees company and a little non-profit company with 350 employees, and the issues were exactly the same, exactly the same issues. The biggest issue is facing industries across the board, regardless of size, regardless of industry, regardless of whether they are profit or non-profit, and I might be able to share this, let me see if I can share this on the screen. Give me just one second, if I can find this. Give me one second. It’s worth it once I bring it up but I’m trying to find it. Give me one minute. Well, let’s see. Sorry it’s taking so long. I’m not the most – there it is. Can you see that? Are you able to see that? Yes? No?
We are not able to see your screen at the moment, if you would like us to, click “share screen” again.
Yes. How about now?
Yes, now we can see it.
Okay, so now, this is from 17,000 HR professionals, the study that happened, this was kind of in the middle of the pandemic – I wanna say mid-2020. This is what my partner Coach Khan and I were talking about. This is what we would say when we’d go and work with companies. Look at the first one, ‘Ensuring the Mental and Physical Well-Being of our Employees.’ That’s number one. You guys, this wouldn’t even make the top 10 before the pandemic. So, this is where we can help organizations take care of their employees mentally and physically, but certaintly mentally and emotionally. But, look at number two: ‘Maintaining Employee Engagement, Productivity, and Effectiveness.’ Okay, well that makes sense, but you can’t get number two until you get number one right. And so, creating an eco-system from working from home, obviously that can be challenging, but also there are some advantages. There will be a hybrid. There are a lot of companies that will be remote every other day. I just think we are going to see a sizeable shift in the way that companies and organizations move forward. Post-pandemic, or what I like to call, not the new-normal, but the next-normal because things are not going to go back to the way things were. Again, and you see, number four, ‘Adapting to the New Normal: Facilitating Change and Shaping Culture.’ So, anyways, I personally address this when I work with organizations and companies, but the main focus, right now, are the top two. And, alright let me close this for a minute, let’s go back to – there we go. Any other questions you might have? And is you want me to come speak to your company, feel free to reach out to me at dreliagourgouris.com or LinkedIn. LinkedIn is probably the best way to connect. Any other thoughts that you have? Or questions? Do we have any questions? Yes, I see questions. What was your biggest driving factor where you became so self-aware [inaudible]. Can I speak to that right now and then I’ll come back? I just feel like, you know, my whole purpose in life is to leave this world better than I found it. I’ve had that purpose ever since I was a little kid and I used to do it back when I was doing psychology with my patients one by one. But I love doing it on a bigger scale, certainly on organizations and corporations when they come in and I get to help them really transform their cultures. I work a lot with senior management, senior suits, uh you know senior directors and so on to put in place ways for their employees. Really to simplify it, happy employees. I know this sounds weird, but when an employee is happy, there are multiple, multiple benefits to an organization. And I started preaching that in 2005 when I switched over. This is before all the hardware stuff and the poles. You know, CEO’s used to say ‘Dr. Elia, you’re a nice person, but you don’t know what the Hell you’re talking about. I pay these people lots of money to work, now go to work.’ Well, fortunately for me, all the Harvard studies and all the studies have validated for me the importance of having a happily engaged workforce. Why? First of all, happier employees are physically healthier. Think about that. The cost saved to a company when people show up because they are not sick, but never mind that. Happily engaged employees are more productive, more creative, more innovative, highly more effective, they give greater customer service. There is greater retention and less turnover. All of those things contribute to the companies bottom line by far. For me, it’s great to come into a organization that is somewhat dysfunctional, or majorly dysfunctional, and help turn them around and create long term relationships with the companies I work for. Maybe the first few months I’m there a lot, but as I begin to implement the tools that I give them, I get to pull back, and they take it on on their own. In the end, I don’t want them to be dependent on me. It messes up certain accountability. Like I get to know you and your organization, really well, then I leave you the tools, but I hold you accountable. You got to do the work, I don’t do the work for you, I just hold you accountable for that. And power you, and support you, and love you, and help you to, you know, create a powerful organization where people are dying to sign up for. Remember the number one challenge, right, mental and physical well being if number one right now. It’s something I’m very passionate about and something I want to share. My happiness brand is making its way into India and into Europe. I’ve, it’s kind of funny, even though all my speaking got canceled, that’s how weird life is. I figured out, I probably spoke to 40-50,000 people last year – cumulative. Out of all the podcasts webinars, and all the stuff I did. Again, it’s a blessing in disguise. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling and speaking in person and being face to face, shaking hands, but that wasn’t an option and it hasn’t been an option for the last 12 months, so I have the next best thing, which is this, what I’m doing with you guys today. Alright let me, thank you for your kind words Jose, I appreciate it. Next question, ‘Is there a way to challenge a life-long friend who seems to be toxic and arrogant with me as a friend, but he’s got a lot of positive traits as a friend, but sometimes he’s rough around the edges when he’s dealing with me.’ David, I think that’s a great question. Absolutely. One of my biggest insights. Well, there’s a couple of things I want to share with you. Number one, don’t wait for when to get a raise, when I get to leave the home, when I get married, when this happens, when, when, when. Forget the ‘when’s.’ There are no guarantees that any of us will be around a year from now, or even a month. So live your best life now and your happiest life now. Now, going back to your question about toxic relationships and this relationship with this friend of yours. Remember what I said, don’t be afraid to have this discussion with him and have an honest conversation. You are doing him a favor, believe me. More importantly, you’re doing yourself a favor. Sit down and have a heart to heart discussion with him. Now the main thing is, of course, how do you treat him? Are you loving? Remember, love, kind, and respectful towards him. Because you can’t have a conversation unless you treat him that way. But, let’s assume you are on the up and up and you treat him that way. And ask him, ask this friend, ‘Do I treat you with love, kindness and respect for the most part?’ And he will most likely say ‘Yeah David, why? Why do you ask that?’ ‘Because I don’t think you always do that to me in return.’ And he might be shocked by your honesty, but in the end he’ll appreciate it. You can say ‘I really value our friendship, but when you get toxic, I really don’t want to be around you and be around from now on.’ And he might be like ‘Oh, come on, we’ve been friends for a long time.’ You’ve got to stick to your healthy boundaries. The first time he gets toxic with you, say ‘Remember the conversation we had last week? Well, you are doing it right now. So, either you stop or I’m walking away.’ And you need to have the strength and the courage to get up and walk away. I’ve done that with members of my extended family. Do you know how hard that is? Because I’m a peace maker and I want everyone to love each other, but if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be taking care of myself. So, for you David to allow that toxic relationship to continue to exist, you’re paying a price for it. And you shouldn’t pay a price for that any more after my conversation with you. Give yourself that gift. I know it takes courage, but try to do it without anger, or resentment, or venom or anything like that. If you can come with a heartful of love towards your friend, know he’s valuable, but not perfect, set those boundaries and have that communication, you will transform your relationship because two things will happen. And I guarantee it. Once you have this conversation with him, you can’t go back to not having it. But, he will step up and be a really good friend to him, like you are to him, or he’s going to lose your friendship. But, you are not going to go back to the status quo. Are there any other questions? Any other thoughts? Thank you for your kind words, I appreciate it. Again, reach out to me on LinkedIn, Elia Gourgouris PhD, the happiness doctor. How long do we have left in our conversation? A little more time for any more questions or are we close to being done?
Yes, I believe we are close to being done and if there are no other questions, we would like to conclude here. That being said, thank you so much Dr. Elia. This was an excellent presentation and really showcased your expertise in the field and, with that being said, after this webinar has ended, you may notice a short survey that will appear on your screen. If you could kindly fill that out, we’d really appreciate it. And if you don’t have any more comments, thank you again for taking the time to come and this concludes our webinar for the day. We hope you have an amazing rest of the day.
Thank you for having me and it’s been a pleasure and, again, I just want to stress not to procrastinate. Life is short and it’s too short for toxic people in our lives. Be kind to people, love people, people are struggling and we need to show up – even as leaders. Can I add one more thing?
Yes, of course.
When I work with senior HR leaders, especially with the remote work force, I’m like who’s the leader? If you have one person that directly reports of 1,000, you are a leader. So reach out to your folks, regardless of where you are on the ladder, even if it’s over Zoom. Do me a favor, don’t ask them how they are doing kind of coldly? ‘So, how are you doing?’ They aren’t going to open up like that. Here’s what I want you to train your folks to do. Close the door, lean into the camera, and say ‘How are you really doing? How’s your family? How are your kids? What can I do, or what can the company do to make your life a little easier?’ I want you to use those exact words. Now, the extra credit homework is this, and this is when I work with C-Suite leaders. I’m like ‘Here’s the extra credit homework, don’t just ask them questions, although it’s empathetic and good, but be open, be vulnerable, be honest. For example, ‘You know what, between you and I, my family’s struggling too. The kids have been at home for 9 months. It’s very stressful for my spouse. It’s really hard for us. It’s been really hard. I’ve been kind of depressed sometimes. No being able to see my employees, not being able to see my team. That’s the kind of vulnerability I want for extra credit homework. What does this do? This fosters trust. We might not all be on the same boat, but we are all in the same storm. Maybe not everybody’s circumstances are the same, but we’ve all been impacted by the pandemic and it’s after affects. So, we are all in the same storm and we are coming out of it that way. So that’s the extra homework. When you talk to your folks, when you talk to colleagues, when you talk to your extended family. I call it HOT – Honest, Open, and Transparent. HOT communication. Be honest, open, and transparent with your folks, family, friends. You’ll have more meaningful relationships that way. If people are saying they are okay, they are full of it. It’s just a façade, believe me, everybody’s struggling. So, let’s be kind to one another, love one another, and one last thing, in the end, it doesn’t matter what you know, what matters is what do you do with what you know? Which means, you have to take action. For us to get a prompting and not do anything with it, that doesn’t help anybody. If you get a prompting in your heart or mind, tae action and help someone. That’s very fulfilling. Those are my thoughts. I look forward to hearing from you if you want to connect and thank you.
That you so much Dr. Elia for your amazing thoughts and wise words, I hope you have a good day. Thank you again. Take care. Bye.