Cultivating Hope with a Solutionary Mindset


Cultivating Hope with a Solutionary Mindset

Cultivating Hope with a Solutionary Mindset


Cultivating a solutionary mindset is the key to a positive, life-affirming, meaningful life that helps build a just, healthy, and humane world for everyone. -Zoe Weil

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Ella Magers, MSW:

Loud. Hey Zoe, thanks so much for being here.

Zoe Weil:

It’s great to be here, Ella. How are you?

Ella Magers, MSW:

Well, and I was just actually before we came on, I hopped onto to your Instagram because I feel like I have to start off this conversation with a little bragging about what a badass you are when it comes to being a vegan and just your skills are really awesome, and I know you just put ’em in just every once in a while you’ll post like ring dips and muscle ups, and

Zoe Weil:

I know I don’t have a muscle up yet. Right, but you’re

Ella Magers, MSW:


Zoe Weil:

On it. I’m working on it. Yeah. Well,

Ella Magers, MSW:

I love that you post and you kind of share your progress and the things you’re doing to get these skills. I don’t have a muscle up either, and it’s something that’s one of those kind of obsession things that I’m like, I’ve got to get it. Do you feel the same way?

Zoe Weil:

Well, since I’ve been working on it for three years now, and I am literally no closer, and I’m just getting older. I’m 61 years old and I’m like, I’m just get, I think, am I going to run out of time where I can actually achieve this? But I haven’t given up yet. I have considered whether I might want to switch my goal from a strict ring muscle up to a kipping ring muscle up. But even that, I have not given up on the strict ring muscle up yet.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Well, I love that. And I was wondering if you could share your relationship. This is a show about holistic health. What’s your relationship with exercise been? How you got to be passionate about it and how veganism, I just love that you’re representing the vegans.

Zoe Weil:

Thank you. Well, I was a gymnast as a kid, but I had a back injury when I was 13 and I pretty much had to quit and I was in, was a 12 year old who was in incredible shape and then not so much, and I was a dancer, but not the kind of dancer where you need a ton of strength. And then there were a lot of years where I’ve always been somebody who’s slender, and so I kind of looked fit even though I really wasn’t fit. And then I moved to Maine 27 years ago from Philadelphia and I got into hiking and doing more outdoor activities, and I started practicing Aikido. And so I still considered myself fit ish, athletic ish.

But then seven and a half years ago, I had a bone scan and I was in my early fifties and I was on the verge of osteoporosis. And my mother had just had a spontaneous sacral fracture, meaning she was doing nothing and her sacrum fractured and it ended her life as an independent person. And she was in terrible pain. She was in the hospital for a month after surgery. It was just an awful situation. And I thought, I don’t want that to be me, a tiny person. I mean, on video, you can’t tell quite how small someone is, but I weigh a hundred pounds. I’m five one, I have, my wrists are kind of the size of a five-year-old. So I was a poster child for osteoporosis. And that’s when I realized I had to shift things. I mean, already the doctors wanted to put me on osteoporosis medications and they have a lot of side effects.

I didn’t want to be on them, and I can be a very disciplined, very motivated person. And so I joined a CrossFit gym and I had a bone scan a year later, and I moved from the verge of osteoporosis into the osteopenia range, and then two more years of CrossFit and taking a bone strength supplement. And I’d moved up into the verge of normal. I’d never been on the verge of anything normal in my life. That’s just not, that’s on me. But I became just so committed. And while I joined a CrossFit gym for medicine, I ended up just really loving it. So now I’m one of those people who’s kind of like all about fitness and I wouldn’t have expected that. But now I work out all the time and I have a new thing in the last year plus, which is I do the Supernatural app in a VR headset. So it’s virtual reality workout that might not sound like the most amazing thing in the world, but it is the most fun ever

Ella Magers, MSW:

Really. Okay, so I don’t know about this, and I saw that on on your form, and I was going to ask you what that was and what kind of a workout is it?

Zoe Weil:

So if you were to watch me doing it, I would have an Oculus headset and I would be sort of doing this with my arms and squatting and lunging and like boom, boom. But it’s all body weight. I have no weights. It’s just me. But I am dripping. I am drenched in sweat, and I’m not somebody who sweats much. I often am not sweating after a CrossFit workout. I am drenched after this it. And so there you are, you have your Oculus on. You are in one beautiful setting after another, somewhere in the world and sometimes off the world. So there are times when you’re on the moon or you’re on Mars and there’s great music and there’s coaches and these targets are coming at you and you have lightsabers and you’re basically smashing them and then you’re ducking under triangles. And I know that doesn’t sound like the most fun thing ever, but you just have to trust me and I’m not getting paid by supernatural or too,

Ella Magers, MSW:

They’re not sponsoring you. Okay, good to know. No, this is what I’m, I’m always talking to clients about finding what brings you joy, and it sounds like all of these things bring you so much joy.

Zoe Weil:

They do. And the thing is that fitness is its own reward. So you just plain feel better. It’s great to be strong and flexible and have endurance, and it means you can climb a bigger mountain outdoors, which is thrilling, and you’re generally healthier. So it’s just a win-win win.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. How do you define holistic health and holistic wellness? Just personally?

Zoe Weil:

So I don’t use those terms for very often, but I would say off the cuff, everything. So it’s balance in your life. It’s mindfulness, it’s making sure you’re out in nature. It’s being a kind person and doing the most good and the least harm in your life. It’s having good relationships with people. It’s doing work that’s meaningful, it’s being of service in ways that matter to you. It’s being charitable and generous and giving of yourself, not giving yourself away, but giving of yourself and all of those pieces coming together. And obviously for me, my diet is a big part of it that I don’t think about that much unless somebody asks me. I, I’ve been a primarily Whole Foods vegan for 30, almost 34 years now. And it just, it’s my life. It’s part of everything I just said, and it’s making sure that my food choices reflect my values. It’s not like I never cheat and eat something that isn’t as healthy as it could be. I don’t cheat when it comes to being vegan, but I’ll have that vegan ice cream cone occasionally. Right.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Yeah. And the reason I was so excited to speak with you, I mean, as much as I love talking about athletics, but the whole connection and purpose and impact piece of holistic health is really why you’re here with me today. And it is such an important component of our wellbeing and the wellbeing of the planet. And it’s interesting because I feel like my life journey has really been rooted in finding my how. So I was seven years old when I knew my mission in life. It was to help people understand that we don’t need data animals and understand suffering and spreading awareness. But it was like, okay, but how do I go about using my voice, my talents, my skills? What’s my contribution here? Can you share your backstory about how you became connected with your purpose for the audience, your why, and then how piece, because I think this is so interesting.

Zoe Weil:

Oh, thank you for that question. It’s a circuitous journey for me, and I’m writing this new book called The Solutionary Way, and in the book I actually talk about this journey because I think everybody needs to find it for themselves. And so since I’m inviting people to go on the solutionary way, which is really how can your life contribute to solving challenges in the world? I was asking myself that question recently. So I did not grow up in a household where I was taught that it was my responsibility to contribute to a better world. I was brought up to have a career.

So I never really perceived myself as somebody who was going to be an activist or an advocate or a changemaker, anything like that. I mean, to the degree that a career could actually contribute, sure, that would be great. But there were all these things that I loved and that I cared about. So I loved animals. When I learned about racism, I was horrified that, I mean, I grew up, I was born in 1961 before the Civil Rights Act even passed. And when I was in high school and I was reading Malcolm X and I was, I was shocked by the level of structural racism that still pervaded our society. And that was then, it still exists now. So that issue really impacted me. And then I went to college and I became really passionate about women’s rights issues and environmental issues. And then I read Peter Singer’s book, animal Liberation, and I became horrified that my life was contributing to this level of suffering.

But meanwhile, I was sort of on my career path. I went to college, I put that aside. I got my master’s in English. I thought I’d be an English professor. I went to law school. I dropped out. I went to divinity school to study comparative world religions, thinking I’d be a religious studies professor. I was just all over the place and I didn’t have an idea yet about how I could bring together these issues I was passionate about with a career. And then when I was in divinity school, I was looking for a summer job, and I heard about a program at the University of Pennsylvania that offered weeklong summer courses to middle school students. And I thought, well, I could do some of those. I mean, given how much of a Dante I’d been, I knew a little bit about a lot of stuff.

I could teach a lot of things in a week, and I really cared about these issues that I just mentioned. So I pitched several courses. One was on animal issues, one was on environmental issues, one was on media literacy. And I ended up offering three courses that summer. And the animal issues course was the second most popular of the 60 courses offered that summer and had nothing to do with me. Obviously they didn’t know me. It was the topic. And I taught these kids what was happening to animals. We went on field trips, we went to the grocery store and we went to the drug store and we went to Farm Sanctuary, which at that point was rented space in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. And we went to an S P C A, and we then learned about these issues and I was trying to inspire them to try to make a difference for animals.

So one boy went home that night and he made his own homemade leaflets after learning about product testing on animals where anything from oven cleaner to personal care products are dripped into the eyes of conscious rabbits and force fed to them in quantities that kill and smeared on to the abraded skin of animals. And he wrote his home homemade leaflets, and I mean rote because this was in 1987. He did not have a personal computer. He came back into class the next day with a stack of leaflets that he’d written, and he wanted to hand them out on the street during lunch. He’d become an activist overnight.

So that was the summer I realized I could pull everything I cared about together by teaching about these important ethical issues and inspiring people to create change. So I became a humane educator. And because I cared about all of these issues, I wanted to bring them all to students. I was hired by an animal protection organization, and they were very welcoming of my teaching about all animal issues and all environmental issues. I would bring human rights issues in here and there. But it wasn’t until 1996 when I co-founded the Institute for Humane Education, which is the organization that I’m still the president of, that I could bring it all together, that I could educate about the intersections between human rights and animal protection and environmental sustainability. And we created the first graduate programs in humane education in the country, and we currently offer them online through Antioch University.

We have a doctoral program, two different master’s degrees, a graduate certificate in order to help other people not have to do that circuitous journey I did. But just go straight there and become a humane educator. And we have people who are classroom teachers who do that. And then we have people who are educating in so many different realms like podcasting or writing or work, creating a social business, doing all different things. And we are working with schools around the world bringing this solutionary framework to students so that they can address and solve problems in ways that do the most good and the least harm for everyone. And by everyone, I mean people, animals, and the environment. So it’s a long way of saying I really lucked out in finding the place where what I cared about, what I was good at and where what I love to do all met. And so I’ve been a humane educator for a lot of decades now, and I feel really, really grateful that I found this path, even if it did take me a few years.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Well, I literally get chills hearing you talk about that journey and the boy who became an activist overnight and how powerful and empowering this work is for you and for everybody. And I want to dive in really about this word solutionary in the intersection here, but hear me out on this question first. And I speak with a lot of people who are struggling with feelings of despair and even hopelessness when it comes to the problems and the injustices in the world. I mean, it’s really not hard to spiral down that path and feel overwhelmed with what seems to be just on looking at things, a growing divide. I mean, that’s how, I don’t know if it’s the media, and maybe you can shed some light here, but this divide between people who are going this route of love and inclusion and expanding their consciousness and approaching the world with curiosity and openness, and then those who are obviously were what seem obviously acting from a place of fear, of separateness, even hatred. And yet you’ve dedicated your life to showing people that there is a way to solve these problems. So can you speak to that?

Zoe Weil:

Absolutely. So I have a lot to say about this. I totally understand the despair. And we are very polarized, perhaps more polarized than ever, and so much has changed for the better in my lifetime. And it’s really important to remember that. So as I mentioned, I was born before the Civil Rights Act passed. It was still illegal in many states for black and white people to get married. The thought of gay marriage was on nobody’s radar. Trans rights, yes, we have taken steps back, but that’s after many steps forward. And we have to remember that arc of change that has happened. And so that’s around social and racial justice. When I was born, there were rivers and lakes on fire. We had no clean water act. We had it. It was legal to dump chemicals in into waterways, and the waterways were more polluted than they are now. Same with a lot of air pollution, with the exception of the wildfires. When I was born, half of all people on earth lived in extreme poverty. That percentage is about 10% now, still way too high, but it’s not 50%.

When I was born, really nobody considered the rights of animals. And according to a Gallup poll, most people think animals should have rights. Now, yes, we are consuming more animals than ever because of population growth. So these things can exist simultaneously. The way I like to describe it as things can be bad and better at the same time, the fact that things are better reminds us that they can get better still. And it is really important that we focus on the things that are getting better. I mean, I really believe that we are on our way to clean energy and to electrifying virtually everything with clean energy. I was feeling an incredible amount of despair just five years, three years ago about climate change. I feel it’s possible that we are going to address these problems because I am seeing real change now. So there are three quotes that I like to remind myself of, and they might be helpful to listeners.

The first comes from the singer songwriter Joan Baez, who said, action is the antidote to despair. These quotes are all very similar. The second one is from Greta Thunberg who said, once we start to act, hope is everywhere. And the third one, which is my favorite, is from Professor David Orr, who’s a professor at Oberlin College. And he said, hope is a verb with its sleeves rolled up. So to the degree that we are feeling despairing, just get to work. Because when you get to work and when you become a solutionary, which hopefully we can talk a little bit yes, more about what that means. You build this community of people who are dedicated to building bridges across the divides that we are facing. And doing that work is the antidote to polarization, and it’s the antidote to despair. So I’ll pause for a minute, let you ask me a follow-up question. Yeah, I’ll tie back into solutionary.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Well, yes, and that’s where I want to go next, because I remember not too long ago, I didn’t know a year or two years ago when I first came across your work and heard this learn this term solutionary. And I had been trying to think of what am I, and is it revolutionary, evolutionary? I just couldn’t quite think of the right word that made me feel really empowered, that made sense. And when I heard that word, something just clicked and I was like, that’s a badass word. I want to be that one. So yes, can you share? And just the way you’re talking about it is just feels empowering. And those quotes make so much sense. They resonate so much. Can you share more about this word solutionary, what that actually means?

Zoe Weil:

Yes, thank you. And I feel the same way about the word. I did not create the word. So it’s been created in a few different places by a few different people, simul, not necessarily at the exact same time, but independently. And I love the word too. Not everybody loves it. So if you hearing this and you don’t love it, that’s okay. You can still be one. You don’t have to embrace the word. So a solutionary is somebody who identifies unsustainable, unjust, and inhumane systems and then transforms those systems so that they do the most good and the least harm for people, animals, and the environment. That’s the definition that we use. It’s also a person who strives to make choices that do the most good and the least harm and support those systems that do that as well. So the solutionary process is, it’s a vigorous process, really exciting vigorous process, but it’s a process of really understanding the systems that are creating problems and really cultivating solutionary thinking skills, which include critical thinking, systems thinking, strategic thinking, and creative thinking.

And even though those aren’t sequential, they do build on one another. So we cultivate critical thinking, so we really know what we’re talking about. We really have the facts. And we do that not only through our own research, but also by reaching out to stakeholders who are both harmed by the problems we’re seeing, but also who are benefiting from not only the problem, but the systems that support it. Because if we want to change those systems, we are going to have to work with people who may resist changes to the system because they could lose money or power or status. And so we have to work with people. And I actually, I’m going to loop this right back to CrossFit, and you’ll see the connection. I live in rural Maine, and I belong to a CrossFit gym that has an incredible diversity, not of ethnicity and not of color. Cause I live in rural Maine, which is a very white place, but diversity of politics and belief systems.

And I joined the CrossFit gym in 2016 during the primary season for the election. And I met a lot of people who were supporting Donald Trump, and I was not supporting Donald Trump. And there was one person who actually left the gym because there were Trump supporters there. And I remember feeling really disappointed, and I said, we have this incredible opportunity to talk to people who have different beliefs than we do, and to see what we can learn. And she was just out of there. Now, had she been somebody who was subject to bigotry and prejudice, personally, I could totally understand, but we were not going to face retribution for being more liberal. At any rate, I found this an incredible opportunity to do solutionary thinking and to be the humane educator I claim to be and to see how could we build bridges, how could we have these conversations?

And it has helped me to become less judgmental because they’re really, really wonderful, generous people who I’ve met who have very different politics and beliefs than I do. And because they are human beings who I love, and not just stereotypes and caricatures from social media or alter whatever media I feel, I don’t feel that hate. I, it’s easy to feel hate. I’m not saying I never feel hate. I’m not saying that when I don’t encounter racism and animal cruelty and people who don’t care at all about the environment, that I don’t feel all those things. I absolutely do. But this solutionary work tempers that by building relationships, me meeting with people to learn from them, and then trying to agree upon the underlying problems. Often we just choose a side or we don’t are on a side, we’re on a side either because it’s how we grew up or it’s the identity we have now, or it’s the media we consume.

But we’re on a side and we argue up here, and we don’t even debating up here. We’re not even looking at the underlying problem. What is that underlying problem? Can we agree about that underlying problem? And so much of the time, we can find common ground that there exists this underlying problem. Nobody wants a despoiled world. Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, how can I make this world full of more suffering and cruelty? Many people do create more suffering and cruelty, but that’s not the intention. So what is the underlying problem? Now, I’m not saying we can ever find full agreement, but there are a lot more people that we could build bridges with to actually solve those underlying problems. And the solutionary process leads to that. So for those of you who are thinking, well, this sounds all theoretical, how do I actually do that? Just visit our website, humane education.org. We have a free guidebook called How to Be a Solutionary. I just did a one hour solutionary, I’m sorry, one hour webinar called How to Be a Solutionary. It’s on YouTube. So if you go to YouTube, how to Be a Solutionary, Zoey, it’ll pop up. And that’s just a way to learn this process and wait a year. And my new book, the Solutionary Way, will come out and you’ll have a roadmap for this work.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Oh, I can’t wait for this book. I didn’t even know about this book until we got on this for this interview today. And yes, we need this book. Get it out there. So get it out there. It’ll be next spring. So you didn’t quite finish. I feel a little undone with this CrossFit community and oh yeah, did you talk to them? How did anything, what happened or nothing?

Zoe Weil:

Yeah, no, things happen all the time. So one person who voted for Trump in 2016 did not vote for Trump in 2020. I was proud of that,

But I find that by having these conversations. So okay, I’ll give you one example. So in 2016, during the primaries or right before the election, one Trump supporter said to me, look, if Mexico can build a wall on its southern border, why shouldn’t we be able to build a wall on our southern border? And I said, Mexico has a wall with Guatemala. I didn’t know about that. And he said, yep. So I went home and went online and found a bunch of photos and with words on them that pretty much said what? He said, Hey, if Mexico can build a wall on its southern border and they’re not racist, why can’t we build a wall? Well, these were all fake. So the wall in one of the memes that I found was actually the part of the wall on our border with Mexico, and one was on the wall between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

And so these walls, there was no wall on the border between Mexico and Guatemala. It’s a jungle. These were also pictures of desert walls. And so I went back and I said, Hey, this, there is no wall. And even though it has not changed his politics, it has asked of him to be more careful about what he believes and more willing to fact check and not just believe what he reads in his own siloed media. Now, this is true for progressives as well. There’s so much out there that needs to be fact checked, and we all need to learn those skills. So I have found that having these conversations builds those skills among everybody. So I did make it a little bit of my goal to influence a few people in terms of how they would vote in 2020, and I had some success.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Those are big celebrations to be had. One thing I want to also address here, most people most want to make a positive impact. And I feel like for the animals suffering, right, it’s relatively easy. I know some people think it’s difficult, but it’s relatively easy to make choices that are plants versus animals. So we’re at least not know that we’re not directly contributing to the suffering and death of farm animals. But something that I really didn’t think about much for a long time was the clothes I choose to buy or my computer or my phone or other choices. And I’m just like, well, I’m vegan, so I’m making great choices. So what are some things we can think about without getting, going down a rabbit hole of saying, having to research every single little purchase that we make. And I don’t even know if it’s possible to get a computer these days that doesn’t come from somewhere where there’s child labor or even forced labor. What can we do as consumers to do? And this is the name of one of your books, one of your many books, most Good Least Harm to make these choices. And in buying that book I know would help everybody as well. But to give us a little direction here.

Zoe Weil:

So it’s a great question. We cannot fully extricate ourselves from the harms that we’re complicit in because of the systems that we cannot escape in our culture and pretty much around the world this point. So I would say that we can do two things to the degree that we can make choices that do the most good and the least harm we can and we should. And we also know that not everybody does, me included. So yeah, I know that feeling of like, well, I’m vegan. Isn’t that enough? But I live 20, 25 miles from Acadian National Park and I go there regularly to go hiking. And lots of people would say, well, what’s wrong with that? Well, I am driving my car there and I have a hybrid car. I don’t have an electric car that I am only plugging in using solar energy. So that has an impact.

And some people would say, well, like, oh, well, don’t beat yourself up about that. And I think we all need to find this sweet spot where we don’t beat ourselves up, and we still strive to hold ourselves more and more accountable for making choices that are mgo mgo being short for most good. With that said, this is why the Solutionary framework is so important because I’ve been teaching about the impacts on animals and on the environment from factory farming and animal agriculture for 35 plus years. And most people do not change their diet even when they know. And that can be really frustrating. And I have come to realize that what is going to really change things for animals is a combination of those of us who are willing to change, and then Dr. Drive the creation of new products and new systems. So all of us who are vegan have driven the plant-based meats that are out there, and it’s driving the environmentalists and the animal activists are driving the development of cultivated meat. So real meat with real animal cells, but without the cruelty and slaughter of animals that’s on the horizon. Microbial meat, meat that is derived from fungi and derived from algae, which sounds kind of gross, but we eat mushrooms and we eat plenty of fermented foods that we love. So these kinds of things are on the horizon, and they will completely overhaul the system. And so those people who for whatever reason feel like I do about going to Acadia National Park, I’m not willing to sacrifice going there for a hike once a week.

Those people who say, I can’t give up my chicken or whatever it is, once they are part of a system where they’re eating cultivated chicken and they don’t have to give up a thing, the likelihood is that we will create this future that has eliminated factory farming and animal agriculture, certainly on any kind of scale. And so I would invite people to think about what choices can you make holding yourself to the highest level you can without beating yourself up? And then what role are you going to play in changing the systems and being a solutionary practically to change those systems? Because you put those two together. I mean, we are all going to look back one day and the way we looked back on the African slave trade or foot binding in China, and we’re going to say, what were we thinking about animal agriculture and factory farming? Nobody’s going to think it was okay. We’re going to be horrified as a whole culture. So that’s what I’d say.

Ella Magers, MSW:

I agree a thousand percent. And it seems to me what we’re talking about here also is a shift in consciousness. This is so much bigger than it. It’s about discovering blind spots and then shifting what we can do and what’s possible. And the way you have that framework laid out is so powerful and empowering. So thank you for the work you do. So it’s world changing and human changing and just amazing. Thank you.

Zoe Weil:

Thank you, Ella. Well, I feel the same way about you and your work.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Thank you. So if somebody’s listening and they’re like, this is, I’m inspired, I’m motivated. Do they start with your website? Which books tell us where, what kind of the steps are somebody can take to get involved and learn this material and do something?

Zoe Weil:

We’ll definitely go to our website, humane education.org. I mean, there’s so much there. If you are an educator, there’s a whole section for you about how to bring this to your students. If you want to create, change Yourself, head to the Become a solutionary section, you can download that guidebook I mentioned. I have written a lot of books. The most recent books is actually coming out next month, and it’s for tweens. It’s called Claude Madea, and it’s about these 12 year olds who become clandestine activists, right wrongs in Manhattan. They go on a mystery. So if you do, you have a tween in your life.

It’s a fun book. And then I have a book for educators called The World Becomes What We Teach and Most Good Least Harm, which you mentioned. And so get on our mailing list. If you sign up for Oh, thank you. Sign up to be on our mailing list and we’ll be able to stay in touch with you. You can follow us on Facebook and Instagram and LinkedIn and Twitter and all of those things. I have a lot of videos. I’ve been done some different TEDx talks, so you can watch those. I feel like I’m missing something. Oh, we have a Solutionary micro-credential program for educators. So if you’re an educator, it’s perfect for you. But if you’re somebody who works in any field at all and you’re thinking, I want more of this for me, we are developing a solutionary micro-credential program for people outside of education to help them become Solutionaries, a short program online. But again, you’ll have to sign up on our website because it’s not developed yet, so we’ll probably be piloting it in the fall. And so we’d love to be able to support people in that way.

Ella Magers, MSW:

Oh, so many opportunities. We will put those links in the show notes. Zoe, thank you again. I appreciate you so very much. Thanks for taking the

Zoe Weil:

Time. Likewise, Ella. You take good care. Thank

Ella Magers, MSW:



Cultivating a solutionary mindset is the key to a positive, life-affirming, meaningful life that helps build a just, healthy, and humane world for everyone.   -Zoe Weil

Making a positive impact in this complex world is a quality most Rise & Thrive listeners share, which is why I have no doubt you’re going to get SO much out of this eye-opening and empowering episode.

Today’s guest is award-winning educator, best-selling author, and 6-time TEDx speaker, Zoe Weil, who also happens to be a bad ass vegan crossfitter (which is where our conversation begins).

In addition to diet and exercise, Zoe shares how important it is to include our sense of purpose and connection (with nature, other people, animals, and the planet) in our definition of holistic health and wellness.

In this episode we dive into…

  • Zoe’s backstory: How she became connected with her purpose and discerned how she would use her passion to create true impact. 
  • How easy it can be to feel hopeless about the state of the world, and how Zoe helps people shift their mindset to a more empowering perspective that leads to solutions.
  • The meaning and application of the term, ‘solutionary.’
  • Actionable ways we can use move through the world with more consciousness and compassion. 

According to Zoe…

“There are so many problems in our communities and world but there is a way to solve them – by learning to become solutionaries who address the root and systemic causes of problems and solve them in ways that do the most good and least harm for people, animals, and the environment. Being a solutionary is the antidote to polarization, either/or thinking, and endless debates. Cultivating a solutionary mindset is the key to a positive, life-affirming, meaningful life that helps build a just, healthy, and humane world for everyone.”

Official Bio:

Zoe Weil is the co-founder and president of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE), where she created the first graduate programs (M.Ed., M.A., Ed.D., Graduate Certificate) in comprehensive Humane Education linking human rights, environmental preservation, and animal protection, offered online through an affiliation with Antioch University. 

IHE also offers a Solutionary Micro-credential Program for teachers, a free “Solutionary Guidebook” for educators, “How To Be A Solutionary” guidebook for changemakers, Solutionary Workshops, and award-winning teacher resources to help educators and changemakers bring solutionary practices to students and communities so that together we can effectively solve local and global challenges. 

Zoe is a frequent keynote speaker at education and other conferences and has given six TEDx talks including her acclaimed TEDx, “The World Becomes What You Teach.” She is the author of seven books including #1 Amazon best seller “The World Becomes What We Teach: Educating a Generation of Solutionaries;” Nautilus silver medal winner “Most Good, Least Harm;” Moonbeam gold medal winner “Claude and Medea;” and “Above All, Be Kind: Raising a Humane Child in Challenging Times.” 

Zoe was named one of Maine Magazine’s 50 independent leaders transforming their communities and the state and is the recipient of the Unity College Women in Environmental Leadership award. She was also a subject of the Americans Who Tell the Truth portrait series and received the Distinguished Alumnae Achievement Award from the Nightingale-Bamford School. 

Zoe holds master’s degrees from Harvard Divinity School and the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Valparaiso University.



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