Interview by Medium.com and Authority Magazine February 2022 – Dr. Angela L. Swain is the epitome of multifaceted and purpose driven. Dr. Swain is the Trifecta Business Coach who earned her coaching certification from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) and is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) from the International Coaching Federation. Her coaching acumen supported countless leaders, professionals, and entrepreneurs in healing through trauma, health, and wellbeing through times of transitions while supporting their teams to do the same. But her prowess doesn’t end here. Dr. Swain is a highly sought-after business psychologist, researcher, author, and speaker. She served as a researcher and moderator for The Emotional Intelligence Leadership Institute in Chicago.
Dr. Swain is the author of COVID-19 and Beyond: Supporting Your Staff in Times of Stress and Transition, Navigating Change: Breaking Barriers to Unleash Full Potential, and her book, Kitchen Table Talks with Dad: 5 Simple Tools to Become a Transformative Leader became an Amazon International Best Seller in Organizational Change Management and Conflict Resolution on launch day. An accomplished retreat speaker for pastoral and business leaders, she is also a recurring guest lecturer at Loyola University Chicago and North Park University. Currently, she is pursuing her MCC and BCC to become both a Master Certified Coach and Board-Certified Coach.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
My life from birth has always been defined by pain due to multiple painful diseases. I entered this world with a folded stomach and twisted chin bones. From a tender age, I have understood the struggle to thrive when your body is plagued with limitations, first with MS and then Rheumatoid Arthritis.
I have lived with Multiple Sclerosis for almost 25 years now. MS has a host of symptoms, with the most dominant being numbness, tingling, fatigue, memory loss, and loss of balance. But before MS, a three-year-old me was unknowingly suffering from a Hiatal Hernia and learning to live with excruciating pain.
I vividly remember attending a routine doctor visit, and as the doctor examined my stomach, I shrieked in pain. My constantly aware mother was shocked and enquired why I never once related to suffering like this. I casually told her I was always in pain and didn’t know I shouldn’t be.
This was just the beginning. By the time I was 12, I had started suffering from Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. I guess you can say I had to learn early to be steadfast, as I refused to live in a world where diseases and pain dictated my life.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
It was when I realized that people would pay for what I brought to the table. When I became aware of my value and that what I had to say needed to be heard and I had a waiting captive audience, it was the catalyst I needed. When someone blatantly expressed they would have had no problem paying me more than my fee, I knew it was time to reevaluate my sense of self and self-worth.
When I think of it now, I am reminded of King David. I hold tight the scriptures that speak about what happened when David perceived he was king. The ironic part is, it’s not that he didn’t know he was the king. Instead, it was the oozing of confidence and the overwhelming boldness he exuded when he perceived he was king. At the core of my coaching and speaking, I always aim to convey the importance of people harnessing the power of their desires, grasping them, and perceiving the ideal timing to go for it.
Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My biggest mistake, which I have realized is a constant recurring plague for many, is self-comparison. It’s a vicious cycle giving in to your inner saboteur, forcing you to compare yourself to others. In return, you feel even worse when you think you have fallen short.
I constantly compare myself to others and measure myself to the standards of others. I spent much time annexing myself with many “should haves,” including the type of client I took on. And I did it not because it was satisfying or worthwhile, but merely because, to me, it shouted from the rooftops, “Hey, look I am successful, just like you!”
But it isn’t real. It’s hollow, and most importantly, it isn’t sustainable because I wasn’t being my authentic self. Frankly, it’s exhausting. I couldn’t continue like that, so I turned to my solace, the Psalms.
Those feelings of inadequacy can quickly take root and bury you in a rut. But when I lean on the words that feed my whole being, I know I am enough because God is my safe space, and he made me, so of course, I am enough. Guided by this dogma, I blossomed in my strengths and was confident that there was no need to use anyone else as a measuring stick with Him in my corner.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
In my many hats, I aim to be purposeful. Whether it is lecturing to burgeoning minds at the university levels or pastors, I am dedicated in my pursuit of showcasing the benefits of being healthy and holistic. Wellness is a whole-life approach that isn’t limited to how you look. It’s as internal as external, and I am a proud purveyor of this. I am constantly open about my ailments and the fact that every day won’t be a great day. While this is the case, I also know that each day is still a chance to take up space and be the best version of yourself.
Whether you’re a leader or a mom being pulled in a million directions, I never fail to stress the importance of meaningful rest, meditation, and unabashedly committing acts of self-love. I think these are the core facets that make us successful in all aspects of our lives, which is the impact I continue to generate. Every book, every engagement, every executive coaching session is a lesson in love, light, health, and success.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
- Stillness – We live in a constantly moving world. We aren’t presented with enough opportunities to embrace a lack of motion combined with perfect silence. So, to truly grasp the power of stillness, we must take it. Our lives foster anxiety and downplay the importance of stillness, despite it being the force that combats stress. Stillness requires relinquishing the power to God, knowing that his strength is more significant than another. It means being aware that while things may not go as planned, you can’t see the big picture, and you need to trust God and be assured of your stillness. This lesson was not the easiest for me. Suffering from an autoimmune disease makes it almost impossible to calm the wheels constantly turning in my head. My autoimmune disease made me constantly unstill. How would I be able to connect with my clients and give them the attention they require of me? Will I become bedridden? But I understand that I must accept the things I cannot change, I must trust God’s process, and all I needed to do was to embrace stillness, taking much needed time for myself actively.
- Being dynamic – We are not one thing. We are many parts of a beautiful puzzle amalgamated to be a whole. It is time we normalize embracing all of our parts and do away with compartmentalizing. Every bit of who you are matters. I acknowledge that I am a beautiful cornucopia of dyslexia, MS, Rheumatoid Arthritis. They affect me, but they don’t define me. I live with them while being a mom, wife, trailblazing professional, and anywhere else, my faith will lead me.
- Imagine – I often use the exercise of imagining no ceiling above and no floor beneath. What do you feel? Most clients say exhilaration, and others say fear. Both are normal, but what truly matters is that at that moment, you get to decide which serves you in that particular moment. And that perspective is a simple yet life-changing concept that can be applied in many ways.
- Self-awareness – Ask yourself what do you REALLY want? What are you building and what does it take to get there? Don’t just go with a surface or default response. Dig deep and go to the inner places you often shy away from.
- Name your outcomes – Never underestimate the power of envisioning yourself doing and being what you want. Then seek help in designing a strategic plan to get there.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Hands down, I would assist children battling food insecurity. I’d purchase land and have sensitization courses on sustainably producing from farm to table to feed themselves, their community, and how to make a profit. I know this model has been explored before; however, it’s so powerful and very much needed.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Entrepreneurship feels like riding a wave – The highs are high, the lows are low, and you must master balance to leverage the power of the tide.
- You are both your greatest cheerleader and worst critic – You have to learn to cheer for yourself when no one else will, and you have to believe in yourself. Being your hardest critic makes you accountable, but it leaves the door open for you to fixate on your flaws with little room to be forgiving to yourself.
- Achieving your goals is not a linear process – Despite our best-laid plans and preconceived milestones, life can and will happen. Your goals most likely will not be achieved consecutively, and that’s perfectly fine.
- The marketplace determines the value of your service or product – You may love your product, but that won’t define its success. Learning quickly to keep your thumb on the pulse of the market is a crucial step in guaranteeing the success of your service or product.
- Practice excitement – Entrepreneurship allows numerous opportunities for you to question yourself, including the value of your ideas and motivation. Here’s an invitation to trust the process and be excited about what is to come.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
The cause that’s dearest to me is mental health, primarily because it’s not easily recognized to the naked eye, just like some of the ailments I suffer. I possess the intimate knowledge of having people completely ignore or downplay your disease because it isn’t staring them in the face. I think we must make strides to accept that merely looking is not an accurate summation of what someone is going through.