Exclusive Interview: Anthony Bennett – One of the UK’s Happiest People
Anthony Bennett has been titled one of the happiest people in the UK, and it is not hard to see why. The motivational speaker exudes positivity, an attitude that resonates with audiences of all ages and professions. Having faced death and survived, Anthony’s speeches discuss the true value of living, and why we should all find our own joy.
We recently sat down with Anthony to learn more about his journey to motivational speaking stardom.
Could you tell me a bit about your story?
“In 2006, I went on the school trip to Paris where the whole class became ill, including myself. Everyone recovered, but I just began to deteriorate, and it got to a point where I couldn't make sense of what I was saying or what people were saying around me.
“I was very disorientated. My mum noticed I was finding it quite hard to breathe, so I was rushed to the hospital. They took a scan of my chest and they came back with the news that my lungs were completely infected, and my only chance of survival was if they could find a special life support machine.
“I spent seven weeks in hospital. During this time, I was given a 10% chance of survival. I was diagnosed with pneumonia, influenza, staphylococcus and sepsis all at the same time, and I had a seizure whilst in a coma. My white blood cells reduced to zero and I had to be resuscitated and brought back to life 12 times.
“Then on top of all of that, I had to relearn how to do the very basics again, how to make a fist, touch my finger to my nose, how to stand, breathe again.
“I realised that I was addicted to progress and that the more I pushed myself, the more machines and tubes would be removed - I felt like I was becoming myself again.
“That mentality stayed with me, some people call it post-traumatic growth.
“I then received a phone call about a year later from a great charity asking me if I'd like to share my story with Morgan Stanley. Well, I thought 'Morgan Stanley' was two people, Morgan and Stanley, not knowing it’s a big corporation.
“So I said 'yes' to the opportunity, and fell in love with the art of storytelling, sharing my story and making audiences feel happy, sad and inspired - I love doing that with people now.”
How can people build mental resilience and maintain a healthy mindset?
“Something that worked for me, and it sounds crazy, but I interviewed myself.
“When I went through quite a depressive state in my life, I noticed that I was feeling really bad. I was eating a lot more junk food, I didn't really want to leave the house. I wanted to be asleep more than I did awake. So I caught myself and I said, ‘I'm pulling the emergency meeting and I'm inviting three people to this meeting; me, myself and I’.
“And when no one was home, I went upstairs to my bedroom and I had this big mirror and I interviewed myself. The first thing I said to myself was, ‘I’m not going to lie, because if I lie, I'm lying to myself, and I know when I'm lying’.
“I asked, ‘how are you feeling?’, and explained to myself how my thoughts keep going round in circles and when I'm with my friends I'm not present.
"I then started to slowly build steps towards my happiness again.
“I understood that if I tried to do a big task and I failed, I would feel even worse. So I told myself, ‘I've got to start small’. I started with small bite-sized things that were manageable for me. So the first thing I said was, ‘I'm going to make my bed every day, make it as neat as I can, no creases’.
“I would then use my imagination, so I'd have a little joke with myself and say, ‘ooh, no creases in the bed, Mr Bennett, did you do that?’. And no joke, your happiness will come out for a split second, then disappear. That was my reminder, that side of me was still there. I need to keep working with that side of Anthony.
“I then wanted to get back into work because I neglected to reach out to people, so I emailed 50, 60, 70, 80, 100 people every single day. And I create this whole pattern, the cycle that went on for about three weeks. Then I received an email that said, ‘Anthony, been on your website, love what you do. We want to fly you out’.
“So I went on to their website and it was actually Sydney, Australia. My biggest ever speaking engagement came from me being in the lowest of my lows. I now understand that when I'm in my lows, it is temporary. I’ve just got to keep working with myself.”
What advice would you give to others looking to channel your positive mindset?
“I think as we go through our day, our thoughts gravitate towards the same thing. So, if we think negative thoughts, more negative thoughts will come, and we will be looking for more negativity to add to our collection.
“When you start to believe in yourself a little bit more, those negative thoughts get smaller. So if you start to do this in a repetitive way, you believe in yourself a lot more and you start to gravitate towards positive thoughts.
“So, start to work with the voices in your head, trying to catch them when they're speaking negatively. Listen to yourself. Write down ideas, whatever they may be. Because the more you achieve, it builds this momentum, and you go on this path of positivity.
“You have to slowly start growing that internal voice bit by bit. Don't try to rush the process, you can't do it overnight.
“But that's okay, just keep chipping away, chipping away, and it'll start growing bigger and bigger and bigger. So that would be my advice, try and pay attention to the internal voices and listen to the voice that wants the best for you.”