Mindsets on Steroids: A Converstation with Becky Sansbury

In my Mindsets on Steroids blog series, influential leaders share their secrets to help you win by finding your inner desire to change, ignite your passion, and instill life patterns. If what you were doing right now would get you there, you would already be there.

Becky Sansbury is the author of After The Shock: Getting You Back On The Road To Resilience When Crisis Hits You Head On. She has spent decades working as a hospice chaplain and has counseled professionals in career crisis. In her personal life, Becky has experienced multiple miscarriages, two divorces and single parenthood. She has taken her experiences with grief, professional training, and her passion for helping others and turned them into a career of helping people find their resiliency. Now working as a professional speaker and consultant, Becky lives in Raleigh, NC.

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Give us the quick rundown of your early life and career and what led up to what you’re doing now.

“I had a very idyllic 1960s growing up in small town in Western Pennsylvania – a very happy home and a very pleasant life. I headed off to college quite sure I was going to be a public school music teacher. I turned out to be a glorious failure at that after one year in the public school classroom.

“I redirected my interest in music and combined it with my lifelong involvement with church work and headed off to seminary at a time when not a whole lot of females were going to seminary. I developed a 15 year career in the area of church music. I became an ordained minister as pat of that process, married, had two children, and then experienced a very dramatic significant mental health change in my husband – non of it his fault – but very much disastrous to our family.

“I found myself as an ordained female, about to be divorced single mother, working in a Baptist denomination, and that wasn’t a real good prospect for finding a job. I went back to seminary and headed into chaplaincy, which has a much more tolerant view of both women and people who’ve been through divorce and found a very satisfying career for about 15 years in a very much traditional chaplaincy in the field of hospice.”

So what do you do now?

“I now call myself a community chaplain – I’m employed by me and my work is not always what people would see traditionally as a chaplain, but within my sense of purpose and direction it is, and the broader sense of the word.

“During the recession I worked with with professionals in career crisis. The same core tenants of resilience I saw within hospice patients and families intrigued me and I saw it again with folks whose careers, and thus their lives, had been completely disrupted by something over which they had no control.

“After about four or five years in that work I stepped back and realized that contract had come to an end because basically the recession was resolved enough so that our services weren’t needed.

“I found myself at the end of twenty year marriage and approaching my sixties with no marriage and no stated job, and it was a pretty unsettling time,” she says with a laugh.

Becky had already been doing some motivational speaking based on her experiences as a hospice professional and chaplain when she decided to hire a career coach to give her some more professional direction.

“My career coach told me ‘If you can find a process and create a product, then you have something that people can use. Otherwise you’re just giving them a lot of fancy words.’”

Becky’s career coach helped her refine a seven part model that she named ‘After The Shock’ and Becky spent the next few years testing it out.

“I realized that I had indeed landed on something that was very down to earth and very practical and usable for people either going through crisis themselves – or sometimes even more so – people walking alongside others either during or post crisis.

“In 2015 an editor who I admired wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with her. We spent 13 months further refining the process, the stories and the visual illustrations. In 2015 published the book, After the Shock: Getting You Back On The Road To Resilience When Crisis Hits You Head On.”

Lasting change starts with inner desire. What internal triggers have set change in motion in your life?

“So often we look at those internal triggers as the negatives. I realized that the parts of life that distress us – grief was an early one for me – whether it was personal or being driven by other people’s grief. I also found that I had built into my DNA a dogged desire for making life better, so I would have to say that my internal triggers are definitely what grief does – not only to me but to others – but also that persistence within us – within me – to make life better.

“Even as a child I was drawn to be with people who were sad. For instance, a girl who had polio in my third grade class who others made fun of – but I enjoyed being her friend.

“When I was in high school, one of our classmates died in an accident and I was the one who sat with his girlfriend. I wasn’t trying to be noble; it was just like that was where I was supposed to be and something went off inside of me to be in that place.”

“When my husband and I lost those three babies pre birth, the grief was profound, but I was also struck by the fact that people were loving and well-intentioned and hadn’t the foggiest idea beyond hugs and casseroles of what to do or say. So that persistence said ‘there’s got to be another way to do this.’

Passion fuels explosive growth. What ignites your passion?

“My passion comes in discerning where hope is hiding and then finding understandable ways to help us move more simply through complex times. That feeds my soul and causes me to look at life for myself and others in new ways. The writing of the book came out of all of that because I felt that I had a sacred contract with the people that had shared their life wisdom with me.”

On her own personal struggles and finding hope:

“There’s a good reason that flowers grow up through the mud. I found it in the messy places in life and within my own self. I found it when I could start playing classical music again and big band jazz – and play them loudly. I found it when I could laugh through tears.

“I found it with friends; part of my passion is people. I’m not a good isolationist. I refuel in private, but then my passion comes through in connection with people. I formed in different times of struggle a circle of wise people around me. When I couldn’t figure things out I allowed them into my soul and then I realized other people would allow me into their souls too.

“When our own flames are dimmed so badly that they’re just about flickered out, that’s where that passion gets reignited for me.”

Consistent life patterns are often the missing component to greatness. How do you find discipline in your life?

“I realized that discipline for me comes when I remain planted in my purpose. When I get off track from that, then you can have to-do lists, you can have schedules, and you can have prompts on your phone or whatever gadgets you use. They will help you, but they don’t motivate you to want to be disciplined. They simply jog your memory. For me, discipline comes from clarity with my role and my mission in life, which for me is to accompany and support other people on a journey.”

What is one result of change, passion, and discipline in your life?

“Writing and publishing After the Shock. It’s the visible culmination of those three things. I do not consider myself to be a writer. I am a speaker. I am a chaplain and a counselor who has had the privilege of putting thoughts together and creating – with the help of a very good editor – a book. It took self-imposed discipline and it also took the external discipline of a very good editor.”

“In order to fulfill my passion, I had to find another significant way to accompany people when I can’t be with everybody. If they can find it on the written page and it’s a help to them, and something that they share with someone else, then it’s another way of me fulfilling the purpose that came about because of these changes in my own life and these changes I’ve experienced in other people’s lives.”

Find out more about Becky and her work at www.beckysansbury.com.

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