Margie Warrell: On Facing Hardships in Uncertain Times

March 25, 2020 Updated: March 25, 2020
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Margie Warrell (that’s “Mar-ghee” with a hard g) grew up as one of seven kids on a dairy farm in Australia. It’s a long way from where she is now, in an international business and psychology career, coaching clients such as NASA, Google, and Marriott.

A theme that’s woven through her work, including her latest book, “You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself,” is “living from a place of choice and from a place of ‘You decide how you want to show up’ in the midst of your challenges.”

When life throws you a curveball, here are some things that can help you deal with it, according to Warrell.

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“You’ve Got This! The Life-Changing Power of Trusting Yourself” by Margie Warrell. (Wiley)

Choose How You Respond

When Warrell was 28, she was living in Papua New Guinea. She was nearly 5 months pregnant with her first child. She was in her boss’s office when three men stormed in with sawed-off shotguns and told her to open the safe—which she didn’t know how to do. After repeatedly putting a gun to her head, one of the men told her to lie down and groped her. She was terrified of being gang-raped, which was a common occurrence, she said, as Papua New Guinea was “a pretty lawless country.”

She wasn’t—but she found out 10 days later that her baby had died. She said she doesn’t know if it was a coincidence or not.

After this experience, “people were feeling very sorry for me, a lot of compassion came my way,” she said.

“I just remember very clearly thinking, ‘I do not want to be defined by this experience. I don’t want to be a victim in anyone’s eyes, and I don’t want to live in a place of self-pity.’ And that was actually very empowering … this moment of going, ‘I do not want to be defined by something awful that’s happened to me. I want to define myself,’” she said.

“Life doesn’t always go our way, but we can choose what we make of it, and there’s always an opportunity for us to learn something and to grow in some way.”

You can’t always control your life circumstances, but you can control how you respond, whether it’s how you spend your time, who you choose to spend it with, or how you take care of yourself.

“There’s massive power in that, and looking at: What is one thing I could do? Well, where I’m at, I could just do a random act of kindness for a stranger. Maybe I could sit down with someone who I think might just need someone to listen to them. Maybe I can pick up the phone and call someone I haven’t spoken to for a while, or write a card to someone. There’s always something that we can do, that actually changes our lives but also improves the lives of others.”

Trust that you can handle whatever comes your way, too, Warrell said, “even the negative experiences and the things you would never want—the losses, the derailed plans, the disruptions.”

“When you can trust that whatever happens, you can handle it, it is massively empowering because you go, ‘Well then, what do I want to do with my life? If I’m not scared of failing or falling short, if I’m not scared of what people might say, then how does that actually free me to do a whole lot more interesting things?”

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Author, coach, and speaker Margie Warrell. (Courtesy of Margie Warrell)

Focus on What Strengthens You

When life feels shaky, Warrell recommends to “double down on what strengthens us.”

For her, it means exercising every day, and doing a guided meditation on a phone app.

It’s also staying connected to the people around her that she loves, avoiding those who are negative, and “being really conscious of not getting caught in conversations with people who aren’t serving us.”

It also means keeping fear in check.

“All emotions are contagious. Fear is, I think, probably the most contagious of all. And fear spreads faster than any virus,” she said. “If we don’t keep it in check, it can totally set up residence in our heads and filter everything about our experience.”

Warrell suggests surrounding yourself with brave people—that will help you be braver.

Have Faith

In her book, “You’ve Got This!” Warrell wrote, “My own faith has not only buoyed me through my darker hours; it has expanded my bandwidth to see the goodness in others and to respond with compassion rather than judgment, hope rather than pessimism, and courage rather than fear.”

The reassurance and resilience from faith in a higher power is a balm for hard and uncertain times.

“Living from fear does just the opposite. It leaves my nails shorter, my world smaller, my stomach knotted, and my heart constricted. Little wonder those who fall into anxiety end up sick.

“Choosing to live from faith helps me feel stronger, stand taller, and speak new possibilities into life.”