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When you meet with someone whose professional title is “Chief Energy Officer,” you know you’re dealing with a person who’s tough to keep down. Eileen McDargh has made a career out of helping people not just bounce back but bounce upward and onward. In the #LeadersRead featured book for April, Your Resiliency GPS: A Guide for Growing through Life and Work, Eileen says that bouncing back “works for tennis balls” but not for humans. Instead, she talks about the need for “true resilience … the ability to grow forward through challenge or opportunity, becoming wiser, smarter, stronger, and better able to create a sustainable future.”
Eileen has been helping people dig down deep and making improvements in their personal and professional lives through her books, classes and keynotes, and in her CloseUp, she discusses how she draws upon energy for resilience in her own life through a very active approach. As she says, “Action is the antidote for anxiety. Agility is about mental, emotional, and physical hardiness.”
Now, it’s time for Eileen’s CloseUp.
1. Why do you think people call you a “hope merchant”?
Tagore wrote, “Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark.” I could also substitute the word “hope” for “faith.” Organizations bring me in to help teams find their way in what might seem like a confused or shadowy place. What I “sell” as a merchant is light: light to find other ways of viewing each other, a situation, or the future—a future of not what WILL be but what CAN be. Notice that I use the word “light.” I do not have THE answers, but with light, people can see what might have been hidden. The wisdom and action, however, rest with each individual.
2. Your title at The Resiliency Group is CEO- Chief Energy Officer. What’s your secret source of energy?
I laugh with this question. In one interview, I responded, “DRUGS! … and the greatest drug of all is life.” Resiliency requires energy, the capacity to keep on keeping on. How we care for this body that carries us around determines energy: sleep, nutrition, exercise. These are critical to me. Our mind also influences our energy. Mindfulness and meditation plus working on intelligent optimism all support energy. Good supportive relationships afford energy of connection and, of course, a great laugh boosts up our endorphins.
3. Do you have a role model for resiliency in your life?
Lovely question. I cared for my mother during the last six years of her life until her death at age 96. Surely watching this vital, smart, playful woman respond to all the degradations of age, mental failing, and a stroke that took out her entire left side was instructive for BOTH of us. She always rose to a challenge: whether being one of three women in med school in the ‘30s to flying planes for the military in WWII (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots—WASP) to dealing with disappointment, divorce, loss of home—you name it. She always managed.
4. How about a favorite fictional exemplar of resiliency?
Yikes. Now that really stretches me. What I am called to remember is not a character but rather a philosophy that is found in Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If.” I memorized it in 9th grade for a speech competition. Although the last line says “you’ll be a man, my son,” I always knew every one of the sentiments was meant for me. In fact, in my personal philosophy I have borrowed one of the lines: “to fill the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds’ worth of distance run …”
5. Your book talks about the importance of humor and play. What do you do for fun?
Martin Buber defined play as “the exultation of the possible.” I have fun challenging myself: whether it’s an adventure trip, making a new recipe, or trying to hold a plank for three minutes. I don’t have to go anywhere to find humor. I am always seeing people, signs, bumper stickers, you name it, that strike me as funny. Recently, a friend sent me a photo of a sign that said “Psychic Fair cancelled due to unforeseen incident.” Now that strikes me as funny! The next door neighbor’s child, age three, came over to a block party this April. She carefully carried a rubber gecko in a shoe box. She had tied a glittery star around its neck and also wore a similar star on hers. How fun AND funny. I asked if she called her lizard “Geico.” Sometimes, the humor is just for me.
Author, Speaker, Chief Energy Officer
Southern California, USA