Dear Diary is honored to share our platform with Rachel Elliott, a speaker, resiliency coach, an advocate, and a three-time cancer survivor. Learn more about resiliency coaching, her journey, and her definition of resilience in this interview.
I have been interviewing friends and strangers alike for Dear Diary since the Fall of 2020, and I wholeheartedly can say that I have enjoyed each guest that I have had the pleasure of interviewing. That is a luxury that every writer hopes to have when creating a new platform, but I can also wholeheartedly say that my interview with @rach_elliott has changed my perspective on life the most. Before interviewing Rachel, I watched her talk at TEDxVCU (I highly recommend watching her speak in addition to reading this column). She is incredible. As someone who has experienced more hardships at a young age than most experience in their entire life, she is now committing herself to help others.
DD: Introduce yourself to our Dear Diary readers.
RE: “Hi Dear Diary fam, my name is Rachel Elliott. I'm a speaker, advocate, and resiliency coach with a mission of encouraging others to overcome life’s most difficult circumstances through positive thinking, gratitude practices, and compassion. I graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business in 2019 - Go Rams!”
DD: What has shaped you into the incredible speaker, advocate, and resiliency coach that you are today?
RE: “Many things - most prominently my medical journey and health challenges of three cancer diagnoses, multiple 100+ day stays in intensive care units, and life-threatening diseases. I’m constantly reminded of an Eckhart Tolle quote that my mom hung in my hospital room at age 11 that reads, “Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.” These words have played an important role in my life. They gave me the ability to see past the obstacles being presented and believe I could overcome them and become stronger. With each challenge, I gained more and more trust in myself and I became more resilient. And that’s the beauty in my story I want to share.”
DD: As a resiliency coach, how do you define resilience?
RE: “The way I would describe resilience is one's ability to comprehend, adapt, and then overcome challenges and uncertainties in life. It’s the ongoing practice of understanding one’s circumstances and choosing to persevere. Building resilience is a mindset and state of being and is always evolving.”
DD: What is the best advice that you have for someone going through a challenging situation in their life?
RE: “At first it’s important to accept the challenge and feel the pain - that’s key. Next, shift your focus on what you can control - including your response, attitude, and outlook. Choose to be positive as much as you can. Here are some ways - visualize the best outcome, write down something you are grateful for daily, do something you love, and choose to be joyful! At the end of the day, the situation may not change but the way you feel will!”
DD: What is the best advice you have been given in your 20s?
RE: “'Appreciate the contrast.' There will always be challenges and uncertainties in life but the more we choose to appreciate the valleys and learn from those seasons... the peaks become even brighter!”
DD: How can our Dear Diary readers become more resilient in their own lives?
RE: “Remember growth comes from hard experiences. I find these components have been helpful in my resilience journey. First, acceptance leading to gratitude. Next, choosing positivity. And lastly, compassion. I’ve mentioned gratitude and positivity, the compassion piece is about putting things in perspective and realizing we are all suffering in different ways. Use your challenge to soften your heart towards others and gain understanding.”
DD: What are some personal and professional goals that you have for yourself in the next five years?
RE: “My main goal is to continue to share my story of adversity and what I have learned from my lived experience with the desire to inspire others.”
DD: Now for our final question of each interview, what now?
RE: “I love that you say what 'now' because that is all we have… the present moment. We can choose to use the resiliency components and be mindful in the everyday 'now'.”