069. Honor Your Emotions to Choose The Path Forward with Karen Millsap

The Do a Day Podcast from Bryan Falchuk

Karen Millsap is a Resilience & Mindset Coach who is passionate about teaching individuals the tools + resources to feel better, live better, and achieve their goals with a healthy mindset.

She began her career in human resources and talent acquisition where she led countless training, new process, and change initiatives. However, at a young age, she suddenly became a widow when her husband was tragically murdered. On the quest to rebuild her life, she discovered healthy habits and lifestyle changes that helped her find her way back to a whole heart. Now, she shares practical advice and life strategies that provide tangible results and skills to help people push through the everyday challenges we all face in life and work.

Karen is the Founder of The Groflo a community that shares mental + emotional health tips and positive lifestyle inspiration. She’s also the CEO (Chief Empathy Officer) of Egency, a consulting firm that provides leadership training to help organizations create a human-centric culture with compassion and empathy.

Karen’s client list includes NBC’s Golf Channel, Hubspot, Universal Orlando Parks & Resorts, Sprint and many more! Her work has been featured in Forbes, SHRM Magazine, on Good Morning America, MSNBC, and many others! She’s also a regular contributor to Arianna Huffington’s THRIVE Global community.

Karen received her undergraduate degree in Communication from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. She is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist through the Grief Recovery Institute in Los Angeles, California.

Key Points from the Episode with Karen Millsap:

  • Karen is a resilience and mindset coach, and everything she teaches came from the things she used in her own journey.
  • Everything boils down to the power of choice for her, and how we all have this great power. We can either be a monster and do great evil, or make the choice to use our power for good.
  • She clarified the difference between choice and control – we cannot control everything, but our choice is about how we respond to what we face.
  • She learned this lesson the hard when when she lost her husband when she was 29.
  • “Lost” isn’t quite the right word for it, though.
  • Her husband had just opened a cross-fit gym, and was at work one afternoon while Karen had their son while she worked from home.
  • While on a call for work, she kept getting a call from a member of their gym. She finally took the call, and was not expecting what she heard.
  • On the other end of the call was screaming and chaos, and one word Karen could make out, “Shot.”
  • On her way to the gym, Karen had a thought of why she wasn’t meeting her husband at the hospital. Wouldn’t he be rushed there if he had been shot?
  • She soon found out why – her husband’s life couldn’t be saved and he had already died.
  • The first year was so difficult, it was hard enough just to get out of bed each day, let alone care for their son or work.
  • On that day her husband had been shot, the police informed her that she would have to call someone to clean up the scene, which is mind-blowing.
  • Her pastor immediately said she shouldn’t worry about it and he would take care of it. That act of support was so crucial in helping her see that there is still good.
  • It also showed Karen the difference between empathy and compassion. Empathy is understanding or comprehension, while compassion is about stepping in and trying to do something for the person to help take some of their pain.
  • As she started to go back to work, she saw how the ability to have the conversation about how we put our arms around each other and have the permission to be human, we’ll all be more productive, loyal and healthier humans.
  • We talked about Google’s Project Aristotle, which looked at the difference between high and low performing teams, and found that the driver is empathy.
  • The way we get better at taking care of others is We taking care of ourselves better.
  • Resilience and mindset translates to so many situations where we have to serve others because, as Karen says, “When we are all our best selves, we are all winning.”
  • We touched on helping a child through grief, something Karen had to deal with in supporting her son after he lost his father.
  • She found that she could only help him by working through her own grief. The tools she used, the way she handled it – all of that translated to her ability and toolkit to help him.
  • We talked about whether you can cry in front of your children in a situation like this, and she learned that he needed to learn that it’s ok to show your emotions.
  • Honor your emotions to choose how to move forward.
  • We talked a lot about Karen’s feeling of shame of her grief or her fear of being a burden to her family, who had their own grief to deal with.
  • The more we suppress how we’re feeling, the more likely our pain is going to manifest in unhealthy ways.
  • By default, in so many situations, we tend to go to a negative space, including negative self-talk.
  • Part of this is driven by how asking for help is seen as a sign of weakness.
  • If we show empathy, people will see it as safer to ask for help.
  • Asking for also increases trust, so the impact to an organization (or group or family) of empathy, honesty about the need for help and less negative (or more positive) self-talk is more trust.
  • We talked about forgive and what it really is, and whether you truly need to forgive.
  • Karen sees forgiveness as a choice rather than a feeling, and she found herself not interested in feeling forgiveness for this man who took her husband’s life.
  • As she struggled with the idea of forgiveness, she saw the movie, The Shack, which is based on a book people told her to read that she never did.
  • It helped her understand the state people are in when they do heinous things, which opened up a kind of compassion in her she hadn’t been able to feel. And even though she didn’t want to feel it, she couldn’t help it.
  • It showed her about acceptance, which is more about recognizing the starting point you are at now rather than dwelling on where you were.
  • For Karen, while forgiveness is an act of compassion for the other person, it is also an act of compassion for you. You may struggle with the balance of those two things, which can make it hard to feel true forgiveness.
  • Karen created the methodology she calls “Stop & Shift”
    • STOP: Silence Thoughts On Purpose – you can disconnect yourself from the thoughts swarming in your mind so you can bring yourself to present
    • SHIFT: See Hope, Intentions, Facts & new Thoughts – at any point in any situation, you can look at one of these three things to find new thoughts.


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