Building Happiness

A hazy blue-grey photo of the alps

We’re in tumultuous times. Such unprecedented times. Times of uncertainly. We’ve all heard the ads and the reporters and gotten the emails and seen it on the telly. Frankly, I wish people would find more creative ways to talk about what’s happening in society and the world and also look at the possibilities that come from how we can each build upon ourselves – to take the tumultuousness and see about creating intentional happiness – in the times we’re in.

Last week The New York Times Magazine featured a series of essays on “What We’ve Learned in Quarantine.” One of the essays talked about the process of caterpillars turning into butterflies, highlighting that we typically talk about the “before” of being a caterpillar and the “after” of emerging as a butterfly, but spend little time looking at the messy and crowded process of being cocooned inside the chrysalis itself. Sam Anderson writes:

“It turns out that the inside of a cocoon is – at least by outside-of-a-cocoon standards – pretty bleak. Terrible things happen in there: a campaign of grisly desolation that would put most horror movies to shame. What a caterpillar is doing, in its self-imposed quarantine, is basically digesting itself. It is using enzymes to reduce its body to goo, turning itself into a soup of ex-caterpillar – a nearly formless sludge oozing around a couple of leftover essential organs (tracheal tubes, gut).

Only after this near-total self-annihilation can the new growth begin…. These parts gorge themselves on the protein of the deconstructed caterpillar, growing exponentially, taking form, becoming real. That’s how you get a butterfly: out of the horrid meltdown of a modest caterpillar.”

An illustration from “What We’ve Learned In Quarantine.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but over the last 10-12 weeks, I’ve found myself in various stages of this caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation. I’ve put opportunities in my path to force thinking, conversation, and growth. One of these is a course on well-being.

Through this course, I was introduced to an awesome tool to determine my Signature Strengths, which are basically the top characteristics of my emotional quotient (or EQ). (If you have the cash to spare, I highly recommend getting the expanded results at the end to learn more about your strengths at all levels.) If you know me even a little, you won’t be surprised to know that Kindness was my number one strength and that Leadership and Love of Learning also made the top five.

I could have easily read the report and put it to the side, but as part of the course I was taking, I was encouraged to stretch my strengths. For the last four weeks, I have been flexing my Signature Strengths, focusing on one each day and finding ways to deepen my understanding of each trait and to use that day’s strength in creative ways.

As I stretch myself in the daily actions of exhibiting kindness, learning more, recommitting to the principles of servant leadership, finding beauty around me, and deepening my social intelligence, I find myself making sense of the growth goo into which I have been submerged and intentionally solidifying into the person I am becoming. The person I want to be.

This is, by no means, and easy process. Growth sucks sometimes. We are brought face-to-face with ingrained aspects of ourselves and the lives we live and have to make decisions on if we are going to continue down the path we are on or if we are going to pivot. In creating intentional happiness for us and the world around us, it is ultimately up to each of us to ask ourselves the questions:

Am I happy?
Am I making others happy?
Are my actions hurting or helping?
Am I a force for good in the world?
What can I change today to make myself a better person and the world a better place?

It?s OK to not be OK: How to work through tough times

tough times

I?ve never been a fan of the ?How are you doing?? conversation. Don?t get me wrong, I know that people mean well when they ask this question! But, it?s usually a pleasant way to start speaking to someone, when they are in a good place. This conversation doesn?t really set people up for dealing with ?you know what? I?m not so great at the moment?. 

Most people have juggled the idea of saying ?I?m fine? to just get the conversation over and done with OR telling the truth and admitting that they aren?t in a great place. A lot of the time there?s an internal conflict because we struggle to ask for help, or want to keep up appearances. But ultimately, that?s not sustainable. We all need to rely on our friends and loved ones when things are tough, that?s what they?re there for after all. The one constant in life is that there will be highs and lows that we all have to go through. However, you do not have to do that alone.

So, if you?re fighting your own battles, here are some tips about dealing with tough times and, hopefully, they will help you to accept that it?s OK to not be OK. 

Don?t feel guilty about sharing

Guilt is a strong emotion and when you?re going through a tough time, you become more aware that others are also experiencing difficulties that you know nothing about. This can be one of many reasons that stops us from opening up and sharing with the people who truly care. You have no reason to feel guilty about sharing your thoughts and feelings. There are people in your life who care and want to know when you aren?t at your best so they can step in and be there for you. Remember, you deserve to be looked after too. 

Find someone you trust and start talking

When you?ve managed to get past the feeling of guilt, think about the people who you really trust and lighten the load by talking to them about what you?re going through. The closer you are to that person, and the more you feel you can trust them, the more comfortable you?re likely to feel. 

 Learn to say no

Having time to yourself is equally important as helping others. A bit of time out can do you a world of good, so again, don?t feel guilty about saying no. Taking time out to clear your mind and channel your energy into the things that you care about gives you the opportunity to focus on the things that make you happy. 

 Pay attention to your self talk

During periods of high stress, you need to be kind to yourself. That means positive self-talk and accepting that you need time to bounce back. Challenge any negative self-talk that you catch yourself saying and offer more supportive ones. 

There are many more things you can do to take care of yourself during tough times, but starting with these can put you in the right direction. Stay strong!

Celebrating Each Other’s Success

We have got to get out of the ?win-lose? mindset and start celebrating each other’s success. Some of us are there, but I still see it as being so incredibly prevalent, particularly in the workplace. If someone you work with succeeds, that?s (not necessarily) a direct correlation to you losing (your job, a promotion, etc.). I?m not saying it doesn?t happen, but I?m saying the chances of it happening must be smaller if we work together instead of competing against each other all the time.

I know, ?collaboration? has become such a (barf!) buzzword. What I?m really talking about is about making space for others to come up around you. We have got to stop stepping on each other and being afraid of others? success. Getting even more specific, I?m talking about white women not being afraid of the success of anyone who doesn’t look like them ? and speaking of women of color and minority backgrounds, in particular. Seriously. If you?re guilty of this, it needs to stop. As a white woman, I am telling you ? other white women ? that you will be amazing if you allow women who are not like you and don’t look like you to enter your spaces, take your place on panels, speak at conferences, and be part of your mastermind groups.

Next time someone is looking for a speaker, recommend a woman of color (and not only to speak on diversity topics!). Are you not sure where to start?

I?ve got some suggestions for you.

(Click through to find each woman on Twitter!)

Amber Lee ? Lifestyle, Blogging, Millennial women, Health & wellness, Entrepreneurship

Angela Hemans ? Twitter marketing, Marketing, Building your brand online

Antoinette Minor ? Podcasting, Entrepreneurship

Contrecia Tharpe ? Branding, Communications, Marketing, PR

Eulanda Shead Osagiede ? Travel, Entrepreneurship, Living your best life

Faiza Yousuf ? Building communities for women, Technology, Coding

Gennette Cordova ? Philanthropy, Activism, Nonprofits, Empowerment

Jade Phillips ? Entrepreneurship, Branding

Jasmine Powers ? Digital Strategy, Marketing

Joy Donnell ? Writing, Branding, Public Speaking

Kali Wilder, Sirita Wright, and Safon Floyd of EstroHaze ? The cannabis industry, Entrepreneurship

Kavita Chintapalli ? Social media strategy, Ending violence against women

Lisa Fitzpatrick, MD ? Healthcare, Public health, Health literacy, Health tech

Melissa Kimble ? Relationship building, The creative movement, Branding, Writing

Nora Rahimian ? The music biz (production, best practices, etc.), Women?s rights, Activism, Art as a vehicle for social change

Sabrina Medora ? The culinary world, Entrepreneurship, Branding, Marketing

Sherese Maynard ? Healthcare, Healthcare IT, #WomenInHIT

This list barely scratches the surface of the incredible, talented, powerful women of color doing amazing work in the world. Let’s keep it growing! Tweet me at @AnOrchidInBloom and let me know who you’d like to add.

Go Out & Meet New People

Family & Friends

Do me a favor!

Pull out your mobile device, go to your favorite social media application and access your friends list or followers. How many people is it? ?Divide these people into three groups:

1. Who is in your close circle?
2. Who do you know by name but not much else?
3. Who do you not really know at all?

If you have about 1200 friends/followers your breakdown may look something like this. 1200 friends in list 10-20 (close circle), 100-300 (know them but very little about), 880-1090 ((don?t really know).

It is commonplace for almost everyone to have some type of social media account. Society integrates social media with every facet of our lives from food, shelter, religion, and communication. Forbes said that social media is like ?attending a party?. You put your best you forward to gain popularity from the content you?re posting, getting new connections and friends from across the globe. Social Media?s intent was to connect people around the world to one another inexpensively, and quickly. As we find ourselves making connections, are we making more genuine connections or are they just a name and a face we call friend?

We need people in our everyday lives. People are vital to our existence. I believe that God made us dependent and dependable at the same time for others. We meet new people all the time, and we leave it at just the meeting. Social media puts meeting new people at our fingertips. I am challenging you today to take a huge leap and make them family. To many this will seem like a huge stretch, to others, this will be a piece of cake. Trust me on this. In order for us to make the world a better place for generations to come, we have to take steps together in the right direction.

Here are some ways to make the new people you meet family (once you get past the nerves):

Strike up a conversation with a random person ? Establishing a common ground can only happen with the first conversation. People have so much going on in their lives. Allowing people an opportunity to unload about life can be a door to building a relationship.

Be truthful and genuine in every approach ? Everything you say and do should come from the heart with the intent to learn something and share what you are willing to share. People can tell when you are being genuine. (Some may question this and I will explain why later.)\

Meet people where they are ? Everyone is different. We come from different backgrounds, different experiences that shape our opinions, and different rearing. We have to approach people with a sense of empathy and flexibility. Listen to what makes them unique.

Hugs and smiles are free ? There is nothing easier than sharing a smile. Smiles can change a person?s mood and even the atmosphere. Hugs require stepping out of your comfort zone when interacting with new people. Hugs can relax people and bring down the walls that we put up to keep people at a distance. Hugs and smiles cost nothing to give but can be the world to the receiver. Think about the many Free Hug campaigns we have seen in the last few years. A Christian clothing company did one in DC and garnered positive results. People stop to say thanks, and several even returned for another hug.

Break bread? Sit down with people and eat family style. Growing up you may remember Sunday dinners after church when the family would get together and eat great food. Stories of life happenings and nuggets of wisdom were shared from old to young and young to old. Sitting down to eat with people gives them that same opportunity to connect in a more relaxed environment. Great food and great conversation can make a person?s day.

Join or form groups/meetups ? These of groups are usually centered on a specific passion or topic. People that join the group have that same passion. It gives all participants an automatic foundation to stand up with each one, and build from there. Social media is a great tool for being effective in forming and finding groups with your interest and hobbies.

We all want to have successful businesses, relationships, jobs, and lives. It was never promised that life was going to be easy. Growing up, we were always told that it takes a village to raise a child, but we have forgotten that the village was not supposed to quit raising that child once he or she grew up. Social media has made it easy to connect with people at all stages. I challenge you to take a leap of faith and find a way to make them family. We have allowed social media to create bad habits and our in-person interactions are severely lacking.

We can change just as easy as you are reading this. Be more intentional about really connecting with people.

You only get one chance to live a life worth living and share a legacy that benefits the world. How can you facilitate change in the world if the only people you spend time and get close to are only in your backyard? We have so much to offer one another, and Love is the ultimate key to meeting new people and making them family. The Bible tells us a few times to “Love our neighbor as ourselves”. I know that if we did that one thing we would easily connect with more people. Their successes and failures would be ours. We would grow together and share alike.

I had the opportunity to make a good friend, Mike Jones of Creative South. Three things I will always remember from my conversation with him: ?Hug people?s necks!?, ?Take time to Break Bread?, and at the end of the day, ?Make them Family? I will never forget this as long as I live. This has been my personal goal as well. I love people and I love connecting and hearing the stories that make us. Every day that I live, I try to meet new people by every means necessary, share Christ because He is the reason I am, listen to stories, and get to know people so well, they become my family.

We’re Setting the Bar

Achieve

Community. This is our heart.

Through our commitment to strengthening women in all aspects of our lives to be better bosses, colleagues, moms, and friends, BizGalz is dedicated to helping women build each other up as we flourish, not tear each other down as we climb to the top.

It is the relationships we’ve built with each of you through this community – and the ones we will continue to develop and nurture – that make us resilient, even when we find ourselves in times of struggle. At some point we’ve all been told “you can’t.” We’ve been told we’re not good enough. Not strong enough. Not cute enough. Not smart enough.

But we tell you, women are strong. We CAN.?Whatever it is, we can. We can be engineers, athletes, mothers, doctors, teachers, lawyers. The list is endless.

And so, we challenge you:

How can you do better? Be better?
How can you lift up those around you?
How can you deliberate? initiate? advocate?
What will you do today to turn your dreams into goals and goals into reality?

We’re setting the bar. Rise to it.

~Alissa & Jade