Theo Koffler, Founder & Executive Director, launched Mindfulness Without Borders, a non-profit organization to focus on advancing mindfulness-based social and emotional learning (SEL) in educational, healthcare and corporate settings, in 2007. MWB’s evidence-based youth curriculum and professional development workshops have crossed seven borders to reach over 1500 professionals and 4000 youth in 60 schools around the globe. After 20 years of corporate experience, Theo’s second career is dedicated to social change. She is a speaker, writer and passionately advocates for integrating mindfulness in all sectors of society. Theo earned her BSc. at University of Windsor and is also an active community leader. She is co-founder of Discover Mindfulness and has served as an advisor to InnerKids, Garrison Institute’s Contemplation and Education Initiative, and former board member of The Hawn Foundation.
My Definition Of Success | In my business life, I used to believe that success was measured in quantitative amounts and material goods. The number of drugstores opened, effective marketing campaigns, gross profit margins, customer satisfaction ratings; all these things strung together would somehow make me feel on top of my ‘game’. My worldview has subsequently changed. While I used to believe the pathway to success was through achievement and financial gain, I recognize now that success isn’t about numbers and quantity. In fact, it is not quantifiable at all. It’s a day-to day journey. Success is when I feel happy, engaged in the pursuit of my passions, able to manage obstacles, and grateful for the people and experiences that surround me.
I Am Driven By | I’m driven by integrity; my spiritual endeavors; a sense of consciousness for the collective good; humility and compassion.
A Key Talent | Resilience has been critical to my success. In my mid-thirties, I faced a very severe illness that changed my life in a way I would have never imagined. I realized from this experience that it is not accomplishments that define a person but rather the way in which one deals with challenges. By looking at my obstacles as an opportunity for personal growth, I have been able to push through times of adversity and come out the other end a stronger version of myself. Rather than wish things were different, I’ve learned to accept every hurdle as part of my humanness. This taught me about resilience and gave me courage and tenacity to create alternatives.
Principles I Live By | Integrity, Respect for Diversity, and Compassion
Lessons I Have Learnt | When I was a child my father would wake me for school by saying, “Wake up, wake up, today is the first day of the rest of your life.” At the time I didn’t think much about its relevance in my young life but now I see that this was a critical piece of wisdom. With the mindset that every day is a new beginning, I came to appreciate being grateful for each new day.
Performing At My Peak | What an overwhelming thought! I don’t believe one should ever be at their peak because that means there is nowhere to go but down. I try my best to listen to my inner wisdom and accept my failures as opportunities to learn and grow.
Resources I Use To Stay Inspired | I’ve learned so much from other people’s triumphs and struggles. My two sons, my parents and people like Thich Nhat Hanh and Nelson Mandela are my role models. I read Huffington Post to keep me informed. John O’Donahue’s To Bless the Space Between Us and selected writings of Peter Senge, and David White have inspired my work and life. My Tai Chi, meditation and mindfulness practice keep me growing while daily exercise and walks in nature keep me healthy!
The Best Advice I’ve Received | A lifelong friend of mine once told me that the snow goose need not bathe to make itself white. Neither need you do anything but be yourself.
On Inspiring Others | My hiring strategy is to work with people who seek out my organization, Mindfulness Without Borders, rather than actively searching for people! I believe that you need to get different people, from different points of view, who are seeing different parts of the organization to come together and collectively start to see something that individually none of us would see. Although good character is extremely important, I try to motivate others by believing in their unique talents and gifts. To the best of my ability, I always encourage them to be independent thinkers. Differences are strengths! By empowering others to exercise their creativity and wisdom, they feel valued and in turn, are part of a collaborative effort. Through teamwork I am more likely to build a working environment in which synergy and sustainability can flourish.