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Valorie Burton speaks during the 2023 AAP National Conference and Exhibition.

Inspirational keynoter offers positive survival toolkit to maintain resilience

October 21, 2023

Editor’s note: The 2023 AAP National Conference & Exhibition is taking place from Oct. 20-24 in Washington, D.C. For coverage, visit and follow @AAPNews on Facebook and at 

Cultivate positive emotion to thrive through challenges and change, keynote speaker Valorie Burton told an inspired plenary audience Saturday.

Burton, a life strategist and motivational speaker, offered a vision on how to succeed under pressure, navigate setbacks and maintain a self-directed positive perspective while still facing up to reality. To move forward, you have to leave your comfort zone and ask yourself difficult questions, she said.

“Think about how you can be better (despite) the obstacles, the stressors — so you can coach yourself. That’s a resilience skill,” she said in her keynote address “Resilient and Ready: How to Thrive Through Challenges and Change.”

Burton is CEO of the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute, which serves clients in all 50 states and in 20 countries. She has master’s degrees in applied cognitive psychology and journalism, and is the author of 13 books, including the latest title “Let Go of the Guilt: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Take Back Your Joy.”

She speaks at a variety of organizations, government agencies, churches and nonprofits and also trains coaches using her positive psychology approach.

Burton had to apply her own principles in 2009 when she found herself facing her biggest fear: divorce. Her emotions wound out of control, but she vowed to come out “better, but not bitter.”

She succeeded.

Burton learned she could thrive and encouraged pediatricians facing challenges to do the same. She inspired them to coach themselves using their own positive psychology.

Positive emotion is a success strategy, she said, and it predicts your ability to handle adversity, communicate better and make better decisions. It helps people to be more creative and boosts the immune system, she said.

Conversely, negative emotion narrows one’s thinking. Optimism is essential for meeting your goals, she said.

Pediatricians, who make decisions all day and practice compassion relentlessly, must take the time for rejuvenation.

“You put so much out there taking care of other people, but you have got to take care of yourself,” Burton said. “Boost your self-care.”

She urged the audience to place each challenge in perspective and consider it an opportunity.

“It’s not what happens to you,” she said. “It’s how you process what happens. And when you change your thoughts, you change your reactions.”

That includes striving to think differently while facing your biggest fears.

Happiness is a choice, she said, adding that pediatricians should practice gratitude.

Burton expressed her gratitude for her children’s pediatrician: AAP Past President Sara “Sally” H. Goza, M.D., FAAP, who was in the audience.

She told the audience they “are here for a purpose. Embrace the journey! You didn’t land your position as a pediatrician by accident — it was a process. Something in you is so special: a heart for serving others. Children are better when they cross your path.”

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