A full interview with Jessie Diggins and a review of her book “Brave Enough” is available open access at the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Introducing our HERO Forum20 Ambassador: Olympic Champion Jessie Diggins (Interview part one)

HEROForum20 is going remote in September 2020, and we have learning sessions scheduled throughout the month (see dates below). Our opening session is:

Jessie Diggins

Tuesday, September 8, 2020, noon CST
Opening Keynote: Forum20 Ambassador, Jessie Diggins, Olympic Gold Medalist

As you will see in this interview series, Diggins is the perfect spokesperson for HERO’s theme this year which is A 20/20 Vision for Collective Well-being: How Group Dynamics and Social Connectedness Shape Individual Choices…and What Viral and Racial Pandemics Teach Us about Being in it Together.

Our Forum theme is inspired by an award-winning article about “Collective Well-being” and these researchers will also be presenting in our opening remote Forum general session on September 23rd. As you will learn in Jessie Diggins’ new book, “Brave Enough,” her success in a largely individual sport is grounded in a profound appreciation for the power of a team. And, with respect to our Forum’s theme, Diggins’ success in overcoming addiction has been firmly rooted in the collective support she accepted from her parents, coaches, fellow patients and health professionals.

When Diggins isn’t otherwise consumed by the demanding training and competitions of a professional athlete she serves as an Ambassador to the “Emily Program,” one of our nation’s renowned eating disorders clinics. Her goals are as simple as they are ambitious: to reduce the stigma that comes with living with an eating disorder and to challenge our cultural norms related to body image. During our interview, Diggins occasionally noted that she doesn’t consider herself an expert in eating disorders, nonetheless, her hard won insights about addiction showed her to be an itinerate peer educator.

HERO: Thank you Jessie for serving as HERO’s ambassador for our 2020 Forum about the power of “collective well-being.” And congratulations on your book, “Brave Enough” — we’ll be recommending it to our HERO members. There are many examples in your writing of the power of groups to support and inspire. One that stood out for us was your tribute to your teammate Sadie Bjornsen. She didn’t get selected to team with you on your historic Olympic race but you describe how she was there with you all the way nevertheless.

Jessie Diggins: “I think the really incredible thing about Sadie is that she was able to say, ‘This win does reflect well on me! I’m part of that because I helped them get there!’ Sadie and I entered the US ski team in the same year, so we’ve been teammates the last ten years now and have been training really closely together. We’ve been working super hard together and so anytime any of us does well, it’s a win for the other person too. We really embrace that attitude. So that’s the first and most important factor. I think the second factor is realizing that once you start letting your own ego build bigger and bigger you also come to recognize that the group will cease to function. If everyone is out for themselves, it just doesn’t work. If individual egos prevail, why would anyone cooperate with anyone else? So basically, we’re trying to look beyond the ‘how do I win right now?’ Instead our attitude needs to be ‘how do we win? And how does everyone on this team find a way to win down the road?’”

HERO: Is this ‘we’re in it together’ attitude an individual mindset or a group dynamic or both?

Jessie Diggins: “It means our team is buying into the idea that it’s not always going to be about me, but I will have my day in the sun and I can help other people as well. We talk about this as a team. We talk about how there are going to be days you have an awful race—you broke your pole or you crashed—and someone else had a great day. And we discuss how you’re going to have to sort of swallow that and say, ‘Hey, I’m really psyched for you!’ And vice versa, when you’re the one who has a great day it’s not about ‘Hey, look at me!’ We’re tempering it, being sensitive to the needs of the group and being aware of other people’s feelings. We’re really putting ourselves in the other’s shoes. It sounds so simple but it is super hard to do, especially when emotions come into it, and when egos or long-term goals come into it. It is something we address often as a group. I think just talking about it and having it out in the open is super important. It’s easy to assume that everyone carries with them that reminder of ‘alright we’re trying to do something as a group, whether that’s win ski races, or help people be healthier and have better lives.’ We are all trying to get to the same end goal, so I think making sure you talk with your coworkers is super helpful. Then you have this little reminder of “Hey, we’re on the same team.’”

HERO: Achieving collective well-being takes leadership. In “Brave Enough” you often make the point that leaders can have different styles.

Jessie Diggins: “Yeah, I am a loud type of leader. I’m always the team’s cheerleader. But it’s really important to recognize that’s not the only thing that matters and that’s not the only way the group goes forward. I never downplay those really important, quieter contributions that really move the group along and keep the wheels greased. It’s often not only the loud forms of leadership that make things work. In interviews when someone says to me, ‘thanks to your leadership we got this result!’ I’ll say, ‘Nope, that’s not right, I don’t accept that.’ You can’t put such credit on one person because that’s not how it is in real life. The credit really does go to every single person buying in to our goals and contributing their own kind of leadership.”

For more about Jessie Diggins, visit: https://jessiediggins.com/


In the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Diggins and her teammate Kikkan Randal became the first American cross-country skiers to win a gold medal. Before her history-making performance in the 2018 Winter Olympics, Diggins was the first American to win four World Championships medals in cross-country skiing. She placed eighth in the overall and sprint rankings in the 2016 World Cup. In the 2017 Nordic World Ski Championships, she won a silver medal in the freestyle sprint and bronze in the classic team sprint.

It is mesmerizing to watch the insane-looking burst by Diggins which is captured fittingly by the CBS announcer who also seems to be losing his mind as he screams, “HERE COMES DIGGINS! HERE COMES DIGGINS!!” It’s a MUST watch celebration of cross-country skiing and Olympic history:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=488456135020244

More on HERO’s Remote Forum20 in September

 A 20/20 Vision for Collective Well-being: How Group Dynamics and Social Connectedness Shape Individual Choices.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020
Opening Keynote: Forum20 Ambassador, Jessie Diggins, Olympic Gold Medalist

Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Deep Dive Session with HealthPartners, CDC/NIOSH, University of Michigan and Kumanu

Thursday, September 17, 2020
Deep Dive Session with McCalister and Associates, Texas Department of Transportation and National Instruments

Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Keynote followed by choice of breakout session. Break and then convene for keynote followed by choice of breakout session.

Thursday, September 24, 2020
Keynote followed by choice of breakout session. Break and then convene for keynote followed by choice of breakout session.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Koop Award winners; Research update with Ron Goetzel; Ask the Experts with Jack Groppel. 

A 20/20 Vision for Collective Well-being: How Group Dynamics and Social Connectedness Shape Individual Choices…and What Viral and Racial Pandemics Teach Us about Being in it Together

At Forum20 we will examine “collective well-being” and ask how groups, organizations and our social spheres shape our destiny, fulfillment and life satisfaction. Forum20 carries forward our learnings from Forum19 where we asked how employers can better achieve well-being through collaboration, and we examined tenets of “collective action” and how individuals influence the direction of groups. To be sure, individual and group influences are bi-directional. Still, the worksite wellness movement has been steeped in behavioral psychology and has deployed education programs primarily focused on individual behavior change. This year we examine how well we are employing principles of social psychology to advance well-being and how we are shaping group dynamics to bolster our aims to become the best places to work. Plus, we’ve asked our faculty to reflect on COVID-19 and global protests related to racism as historic teachable moments. Will the pandemic and discord about social injustice fundamentally alter our investments in disease prevention and employee and community health?

Is well-being as much a function of a group as it is predicated on individual resiliency or personal circumstance? This year’s Forum20’ draws on award winning research on collective well-being conducted by Drs. Roy, Riley, Sears and Rula. Their study systematically examined how researchers have captured precepts of the socio-ecological framework and how often peer-reviewed papers have included multiple dimensions of well-being. Their review of the literature led them to posit that five domains are needed to advance a more actionable framework to achieve collective well-being. Their collective well-being domains are “vitality, opportunity, connectedness, contribution and inspiration.” We will examine these domains in our keynote sessions at Forum20’ and we will invite practitioners and researchers to submit breakout presentations that draw inspiration from these collective well-being domains alongside the component parts of the socio-ecological framework: individual, interpersonal, organizational and environmental.

©2024 Health Enhancement Research Organization ‘HERO’


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