Challenge yourself and do what makes you feel uncomfortable — over and over again. They say growth happens outside of your comfort zone and I think that’s. If you choose to put yourself in situations that are somehow scary, you won’t have a choice but to become more resilient.
In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Monika Kozlowska.
Monika Kozlowska is an International Fulfilment and Business coach, helping women who are sick and tired of ticking the boxes to find the courage to create a life and business they love. Four years ago, Monika was living life by the book, working in marketing and following society’s expectations of a woman her age. She had everything on paper, but she was unhappy and unfulfilled and decided to discover why her life at the time wasn’t making her happy. That’s what led her to pursue a coaching qualification. Now, as an ICF accredited transformational coach and NLP practitioner, Monika uses her tools and experience to empower unfulfilled women to get clear on who they are and what they truly want, believe they deserve better and take action towards building the life and business they desire.
Thank you so much for joining us Monika! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Of course, I am excited to be here! I always knew I wanted to create a happy life for myself — I just didn’t know exactly what it would involve or how to make it work. I was born in Poland and ever since I came across Sex and the City show on TV, I knew I wanted to leave the country and create my future abroad. Then my high school English teacher told me that “English just isn’t my thing”and it took a lot for me to not believe her. I moved to London regardless and went through a lot of different roles. I was a waitress turned receptionist turned personal assistant turned executive assistant turned chief of staff. By my mid-twenties, I had achieved the perfect life on paper — handsome boyfriend, fancy holidays, great job and prosecco brunches. A lot of people assumed I was happy, but I was falling apart emotionally.I remember feeling very defeated. Eventually, I had a breakdown and decided to start over. I broke up with my boyfriend, left my job and started searching for answers (well before that happened I probably had a month of sitting on the floor of my apartment eating nutella with a spoon!) That’s what got me into personal development. That’s how I realised the life I was living could have been perfect for somebody else — it just wasn’t perfect for me, because it wasn’t aligned with my values, needs and who I really was — the authentic me, not the one the society expected me to be. This is how I discovered there is no one size fits all formula to fulfilment and realised how all my jobs in the past had one thing in common that I enjoyed the most — serving others. If I could serve others by helping them create more fulfilled lives…I would be so much happier. That’s how I became a coach and I never looked back.
It wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns though — I had to really work on myself to make it a success.
I had people tell me I looked too young and had a strange accent. I had to overcome my fear of public speaking, juggle a lot to pay the bills and put a lot of my personal life on hold. And at the point when things were finally starting to go well earlier this year,I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. The diagnosis made me realize I focused so much on helping others find fulfilment, I forgot about myself — all I did at the time was work. I loved it, but it was mostly just that. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I felt very alone. I made a decision to focus on my own fulfilment after the surgery — that’s how I met my now boyfriend and I am the happiest I have ever been — still helping women around the world create fulfilled life, but also expecting my first child with the man of my dreams in real life (not on paper!)!
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
My cancer diagnosis earlier this year changed my priorities for the better. Here’s what I learned:
1) It is good to remember we don’t have forever.
Cancer made me realise the time to do things and create a fulfilling life is NOW — not later. “One day” may never come.
2) Instead of thinking ‘why is this happening to me’ I chose to think ‘what is the universe trying to do FOR me?’ Looking back I seriously think it was about me finally taking a step back and realizing I have my own life and happiness to take care of as well — not just my clients’.
3) Choosing yourself doesn’t mean not choosing your business
I spent years thinking I can’t have both. I am now in the best relationship of my life and the happiest I have ever been — and my business is doing better than ever.
4) No matter how bad things seem,you can always choose to use your own story to empower others.
There is not a week when I don’t receive a message on social media from somebody who’s just been diagnosed with cancer. It means the world to me that I can use my own example to help others on their journeys.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
As a coach,I am my clients’ personal cheerleader until they become their own champions.
I mark their big days in my calendar — the days when they are supposed to take action to change their life — so I am always there to support and follow up. It is my own personal choice, I am fully aware it is unlikely anyone would ever ask me to do that, but those people are taking massive, scary steps and I want to be there for them and celebrate their progress!
One of my clients in the United States realized in our initial session that she was really missing connection in her life. I was there for her when she wanted to call a man she’s been thinking about for years and tell him she wants to give it a go.I was also the first one she called right after she made the phone call (and mind you, I am based in the UK; she is in the US!)
Fast forward seven months, she visited the UK (and yes, she came to spend time with THE man). We met for the first time in person and she said she wouldn’t have taken the trip if it wasn’t for me. The best thing is, she is so happy and now has the courage to do pretty much anything. I am so proud of her and so grateful I got to be part of her journey!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
My mum is the best person in the world. She’s always believed in me even on days when I didn’t believe in myself. I still speak to her everyday and I hope that never stops. My father was never particularly interested in being a dad and she managed to raise both me and my older brother just by herself. Somehow, she managed to keep this amazing enthusiasm and child-like curiosity that I love about her so much. She chose us every time. Everything she did was always for me and my brother. She also supported me even when everyone else was against what I wanted to do. Every time I locked myself in a disabled toilet because I had an anxiety attack or couldn’t understand what someone just asked me to do (language barrier!),she was there for me and always happy to listen and tell me things were going to be ok. When I found coaching and told her how much I wanted it despite 90% of my family thinking “coaching equals bullshitting people for money,” she supported me and encouraged me to go after what I wanted. She was the first person I called when I signed my first client and after I had my first date with my current partner. She will always be the person that inspires me everyday and I hope that when I am a mum, I will take after her and build a relationship with my child like the one she’s built with me.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
Resilience is the ability to adapt to disruption and bounce back stronger when things take a turn for the worse. Resilient people choose not to give up. We all fail, make mistakes, go through struggles and heart breaks. Some people may choose to believe it is life telling them they can’t have something, whilst resilient people choose to use those curveballs as fuel to keep going.
Resilient people also love to prove people wrong. They care more about what they think they are capable of than what others think is possible for them — and it feels good when they achieve their goal despite so many people doubting them at the start.
Lastly, resilient people believe everything happens for a reason and happens for them — to help them grow, become stronger, or inspire others. They may not see it straight away, but they know and trust there will be benefits that will come from the hard times that will simply make them a better, stronger version of themselves.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
Author, poet and broadcaster, Lemn Sissay is incredibly resilient. He was adopted by a British family as a baby after his Ethiopian mother was forced to put him into care. He was renamed Norman, yet at the age of 12, he was taken to the children’s home and told by his parents they will never see, write or visit him again. He was left on his own without any understanding of what he’s done wrong and why they have done this to him. They had been telling him for 12 years that they will be his mum and dad forever and that his birth mother didn’t want him. And then, just like that they left him and said they will never see him again, without any explanation. Lemn immediately comes to mind when I think of resilience because I know our limiting beliefs that hold us back later in life are actually created when we are very young — then we go through life believing they are true. Experience like Lemn’s shows how easy it is to start thinking — and then believing — things like:
- I am not lovable (if I were, my birth mum and my adopted parents wouldn’t have left me)
- There is something wrong with me (surely, otherwise my mum and dad wouldn’t have disappeared)
- I don’t deserve love / family / happiness
I have no doubt life was not easy for Lemn, but I love how he managed to turn his pain into power and now he shares his story to empower others through his work. He experienced and worked through a lot of really hard stuff — then bounced back stronger than ever, ready to help the world around him. I think he is an excellent example of resilience.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
Of course — I’ve had plenty of those moments! I remember a lot of people telling me I would not be able to make my coaching business an international one as English is not my first language. Plus, there is no way someone older than me would ever want to work with me because I looked so young. That was hard to take because deep down, I believed those things were true. I did have a funny accent with an American twang and I looked younger than a lot of successful coaches I knew, but I didn’t let it stop me. I really wanted to prove them (and myself!) wrong. Fast forward to today, most of my clients are older than me and I am proud to say I have worked with clients from 12 different countries already — sounds pretty international to me!
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
My greatest setback was probably when one of my most serious, longest relationships came to an end. In my head, we were going to be together forever and all of a sudden, I had to admit that I was wrong. I felt so lost. He was my best friend. I genuinely did not know what to do with myself and I did not know who I was without him either. He was everything to me at the time and frankly, I didn’t really like who I was and I was too scared to find out. Looking back,I am so grateful for this experience. It gave me the courage to find out who I was, what I wanted and what was important to me. This experience led me to personal development, which led to my coaching qualification, which allowed me to start my business. I would not be here helping women create more fulfilled lives if we hadn’t ended our relationship. More importantly, I wouldn’t love myself the way I love myself now if I didn’t go through this breakup.
Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
My English teacher at school in Poland inadvertently contributed to my resilience by telling me that “English just wasn’t my thing.”. I was born and raised in Warsaw and I knew I was not the best student in my class, but discouraging me like that was a punch in the gut., Can you imagine how different my life could have been if I chose to believe her?
It was not easy to take, but it gave me fuel and determination to study more. I remember spending all my money on additional English classes and here I am, living in London, talking to my partner in English, coaching women in English to the point I sometimes talk to my mum in English because I struggle finding a Polish equivalent. Teachers play important roles in their students’ lives (and aren’t we told at school that they know better, too?) and saying one disempowering sentence can have a massive effect on a child’s future.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
1) Believe in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself and your abilities, why would anyone else? Whatever it is that’s making you doubt yourself, make time to work through it. Get whatever help you may need and don’t stop until you get yourself to a stage where you believe you CAN and that you DESERVE IT, too.
2) Celebrate your resilience. Write down all the situations in your life that have already made you more resilient. What happened and how did you grow from that experience that then made you stronger?. You may think you know it in your head, but trust me, once you put it down on paper in front of you, you will see it in a bright new light.
3) Learn the art of reframing. Remember the list of events that made you more resilient? You chose to look at those events this way. If you CHOOSE TO assume every hardship will make you grow and you will eventually bounce back stronger, you will be able to almost see the benefits of every curveball life throws at you…and you will become more resilient quicker.
4) Take mental breaks. Get clear on what actually relaxes your mind and make sure you practice it. Whether it is meditation, yoga or a long walk, it is important to give yourself self-care, love, understanding and peace when life gets tough, so make sure you know what works for you.
5) Challenge yourself and do what makes you feel uncomfortable — over and over again. They say growth happens outside of your comfort zone and I think that’s. If you choose to put yourself in situations that are somehow scary, you won’t have a choice but to become more resilient.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Having fulfilment and courage ‘lunch and learn’ sessions in companies that would allow people to discover what fulfilment means to them — what their values are, what they want, what’s important to them, what their energizing and draining strengths are, and then help them find the courage to go after what they want. We are not the same and different things will make different people happy and fulfilled — the issue is, we don’t take time to figure out who we are and what we want and I would really like to change that so that we can all live life intentionally.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂
Definitely Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand’s Prime Minister!
There is SO much about her I love, but I remember her saying, “One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.”
And I couldn’t agree more with that!
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
Pleasure is all mine, thank you for having me!
Monika Kozlowska: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.