Terri, you are a teacher, author, speaker, and coach. How did these roles evolve over time?
Life tends to evolve in chapters, and so has mine. My number one priority was and always will be my family, and so my roles as wife and parent are always prioritized first.
But when the time was right for me to step into my career—the next chapter of my life—I embraced my first love: teaching. That very soon expanded into writing, coaching, and speaking as different platforms for teaching. As much as I enjoy all of these roles, speaking ignites me the most. I seem to come alive at the podium, especially when I’m addressing one of my favorite topics: How to manage your self-talk by becoming a Mind Scholar.
Why the self-talk? Why did you choose this to be your niche?
I believe wholeheartedly that as coaches and therapists, we are here to teach that which we ourselves most need to learn. My overthinking was my greatest struggle. I found myself tormented by an anxious, bullying mind—all-consumed by unhealthy stories that my inner narrator never stopped repeating.
So, no, I did not choose my niche. Clearly, it chose me, and I’m so happy it did! Because shortly after I learned that nothing can harm you more than your untrained mind, I also learned that nothing can help you more than your trained mind. It’s amazing how you can be taught to move from powerless to empowered—from unconscious victim to deliberate co-creator. It’s a truly beautiful transformation!
What exactly do you mean by a “trained mind?”
Think about the following scenario: You are asked to do a presentation at work, and it goes quite well. At the end of the presentation, ten people offer their feedback. Nine comments are positive and complimentary, and one is negative. What is it that you will playback on repeat for the rest of the day and night? No doubt it will be that one negative comment! This is because negativity is the current default—our automatic go-to—in today’s anxious, stressed-out society. This is a perfect example of the untrained mind in action.
For change to take place, we have to train the mind on how to create new habits in order to create a new and healthier default setting. Shifting from being anxious and stressed to calm and balanced requires daily inner work. A trained mind will serve us better by choosing healthier thoughts, beliefs, feelings, stories, and actions. These regular training sessions will then reinforce the new default and help us to consciously choose improved lifestyle habits.
Can you tell us more about your specific mind training program?
Mind Scholar is a science-based, action-oriented curriculum that I have personally developed. It is a compilation of the most effective tools, practices, and training from science, psychology, Buddhism, Kabbalah, and other wisdom teachings, and of course, from my own life experience.
The training helps us to examine our unhealthy thoughts and stories, to challenge our limiting beliefs and mind traps, and to expand our awareness and emotional intelligence. They help us to rewrite our self-talk, choose our words more carefully, feel all of our feelings, and assess our behavior in a way that is more conscious and mindful.
Is this a program for everyone, or is it specifically for people who are struggling with mental health issues?
That really depends on your definition of mental health issues. I see mental health lying along a spectrum from the most negative, harmful states at one end, to the most blissful, positive ones at the other. It is the space in between these two extremes that I call “The Neglected Middle Ground.” My curriculum specifically speaks to those amongst us who are living in this vulnerable space, filled with very real, yet downplayed everyday mental health issues like unworthiness, sadness, stress, anxiety, self-doubt, loneliness, and so many more.
Let’s be perfectly honest, no one has a free pass on suffering. Just look around and listen. People today are feeling more stressed, more anxious, and more overwhelmed than ever before. So yes, because likely everyone suffers to some degree at least some of the time and finds themselves struggling in this neglected middle ground, I believe that every single person could benefit from learning how to train their mind and improve their emotional life.
What are your favorite moments as a teacher and coach?
No doubt, every teacher loves a “light bulb moment” when they can see a visible shift within their students who can suddenly see something old with “fresh eyes.” But what means even more to me is when a student shares a story about how they are integrating the curriculum and the positive ripple effect it is having on others around them.
A student of mine recently told me how her young children are excited to meditate with her and how they are now even helping to tame her reactivity. As she learns the curriculum, she shares it with her children, and they are all integrating the training and experiencing their real-life, positive effects together. These are by far my favorite moments as my bigger vision is to help “restore the sacred family unit.”
Why do you feel the family unit needs restoring?
Over the years, I have observed the family dynamic shifting and not in a positive way. Relationships feel more strained than ever these days. Spouses are not communicating as well as they could be with one another, and there appears to be a widening gap between parents and their children. This disconnect between family members seems to be growing as a result of increasing levels of stress and anxiety within our society.
I truly believe that the family unit is a sacred gift that is bestowed upon us. I also sense that the family unit is urgently begging for some much needed support at this time.
What do you think is the greatest existing barrier to mental wellness?
By far, the greatest barrier to mental wellness is getting people to realize that mental health training needs to be integrated into every part of society, and that systems need to be evaluated and changed on a regular basis. Expanding people’s awareness is never enough—it’s always only the first step.
And although we have never had greater access to information and resources than we do now, according to the statistics, emotionally, we have never been worse off. Adults and children today are all-consumed by the ill-effects of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, likely exacerbated by our all-consuming dependency—if not addiction—to technology, especially social media which is always at our fingertips.
So, where do we begin to make a difference and in what area(s) of mental health?
I strongly believe that we have to begin by prioritizing both social and emotional intelligence, and we have to do so first by making very real and significant changes within our educational system. After all, school is clearly where our children spend most of their time away from home. But if we want this mind training to be taught in our schools, we have to make sure that we are teaching a language that is shared amongst teachers, students, parents, and facilitators alike.
What are the aspects of your curriculum that you are currently most passionate about teaching and to whom?
I am most passionate about teaching mental wellness. But more specifically, I am most passionate about teaching conscious communication and mindful parenting to parents and soon-to-be parents. Without these kinds of training, we cannot possibly feel equipped to help ourselves, let alone our children, navigate through the daily challenges of life.
To feel properly equipped, we have to get back to the basics and lay the proper foundation. We need fundamental training around communication, parenting, and relationships. We need to be taught how to think and feel and how to communicate with compassion. We need to learn how to listen rather than just how to talk, how to express rather than repress, and how to get curious rather than be judgmental. We have to develop these skills first as individuals and then as a family.
The earlier we become a Mind Scholar the better off we all will be!