Tag Archives: Values

Flowing with the Universe

The universe works in mysterious ways. If you show up for it, it will show up for you. Give a little, get a little, or least that’s the theory.

In recent weeks, the universe sent me several signs, some positive, some startling. I absorbed each with anticipation and resistance. That was my first mistake. When the universe gives you the preverbal lemons, you must make lemonade. I’m learning to flow with the universe, to receive each sign with excitement (instead of fear or resistance), to be an active participant in my life.

We all know the people who walk around letting life happen to them. I could easily be one of those people AND sometimes really horrible things do happen that we have no control over. Yet, the majority of the time, we do have a choice on how we respond to what the universe sends to us. I call this active participation in our reality, you might refer to it as going with the flow or rolling with the punches. We’re saying the same, my dear reader.

The SecretSo how? What does active participation looks like?  It can be hard to find time to reflect on signs from the universe. Your days, like mine, as likely jammed packed with varying priorities at work, at home or in your community. It’s key to carve out space to just be with the universe. Stillness and silence help me really process things that have happened, people who have been put in my path for no reason at all, the timing of such events and so on. I also use people I trust as sounding boards, to talk through my reactions to these signs. Another perspective can be a plus when you’re trying to make sense of something that appears to be nonsensical.

Why is it so damn hard sometimes? For starters, finding time is hard. I also feel like when I’m not “doing” something, I’m wasting time. This is a wrong assumption; reflection, quiet time and journaling are all necessary to help move through emotions, triggers and situations. It’s also a hell of a lot easier to play the victim card and ask the universe why the situation/relationship/enter your own word is terrible/painful/enter your own negative adjective. This is a normal human reaction that we must start to recognize in ourselves. Only with awareness can we call bullshit and react more positively to what’s happening.

So what does active participation in one’s life look like? Getting off the couch on a Saturday night to watch the game at a bar instead of staying home. It’s aligning what’s important to you, your why, with your actions. If you say your health is important, then you need to actively prioritize it in your own way. What that looks like for you might be different from me and that is exactly how it should be. It’s an iterative process for sure and your why can change, likely it will as you experience new gifts from the universe.

Sobriety: An act of radical self-care

I spent the first half of my summer celebrating: a promotion, new apartment, other good things, why not pop the champagne?! It was at some point in early July when I actually realized how much I was drinking. Multiple bottles of wine a week (or night) had a negative effect on me. So from July 23 through September 14, I didn’t consume a drop of alcohol.

From a physical health perspective, I certainly had more energy after nights out and didn’t eat later at night, something I would do if I drank. From a mental health perspective, being sober helped me to see what triggers my desire to drink. Not surprisingly, long days at work and stressful family situations were the main culprits. As I dug deeper, I found that I was mainly triggered when my values were challenged. Family, loyalty, accountability and communication are my top values so when they were jeopardized, I stressed out. Instead of pouring wine, I looked for alternative methods of self-care to calm me down including journaling, exercising or just putting myself to bed.

Giving up alcohol was an act of radical self-care. The last year taught me to put my physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing first. That’s the only way to be at 100% and of service to others. This detox was an opportunity to prioritize my health and now, it’s much easier to cut the booze off.

This shouldn’t be a big deal, right?! But, it was! Alcohol is literally everywhere and having the willpower to forgo is hard, especially in social situations. It’s so ingrained in our society that people look at you like you’re crazy when you decline a drink. It got me thinking about those who choose not to drink. Regardless of why, I feel like we as a society need to be more accepting of that. For a recovering alcoholic, feeling judged or pressured isn’t going to help. Of course, you don’t necessarily know who these individuals are, which means maybe we walk around offering high fives versus clinking drinks.

Believe me, I still very much enjoy a cocktail and after nine weeks without one, I’ve learned that not all social outings have to revolve around alcohol. I also discovered other coping mechanisms that can be more productive. We all should continue celebrating however we like and perhaps have a little less judgement on how others celebrate too.

The Lost Art of Storytelling

Think back to when you were a child. What was your favorite bedtime story, one you could hear over and over again? Now looking back, what was it about that story that intrigued you? The characters, a particular moral, a happy ending? Either way, it’s clear that stories, whether real or fictional, have the power to influence.

storytellingA few weeks ago, I listened to a presentation by Lani Peterson, an award-winning storyteller, author and public speaker. In her 60 minute talk, she spoke about how powerful personal stories can be if constructed correctly. Her main points are summarized below:

  • Stories need to be personal, emotional and connected to your values. If a story isn’t authentic, it loses its power. Having a powerful story positively contributes to your presence and identity.
  • As you’re telling your story to others, take time to step back and evaluate. Check in with yourself and others within your organization to ensure the story you’re telling is aligned to what others know or hear about you.
  • There is also immense power in listening, especially when you are new to a company and need to better understand their story and the motivations behind it. By listening, you can find common values between you and your colleagues or your company at large.

After listening to Lani, I reflected on what she said and really thought about my own story. I’d venture to say your personal and professional narratives are one in the same. You might need to tailor it to your audience. I asked myself the following questions to strengthen my story:

  • What do I want to be known for?
  • How did I get here/what did the journey look like?
  • If I wasn’t in the room and someone asked about Alex, what would I want that response to look like?

Your story is essentially your personal brand. It’s a tool you should use to build your credibility andbranding establish strong relationships with others. What I find challenging when developing your story is aligning it to your company’s values while also stay true to its meaning. Like Lani said, a story must be authentic to be powerful. But, it’s also important to message it correctly so it resonates with others within your organization.

As I move forward in my career journey, I plan to take Lani’s tips with me. I’ll also continue to evolve my story as I experience new things or challenges. How have you created a career narrative? Has it changed over time?

Don’t Talk About It, Be About It

Earlier this month, I was given the opportunity to attend an event called P3: People, Purpose and Possibilities. When I signed up, I wasn’t entirely sure what the day would bring. Let’s just say I haven’t felt this inspired in a while.

Throughout the day, we heard from numerous speakers who had a variety of experiences. Robert

Dear World Meaning

The guidelines for all Dear World pictures

Fogary, spoke to us about his Dear World project and humans’ desire to be heard. Aaron Hurst from Taproot, talked about aligning purpose with career, how all work should feel like pro bono work and that purpose is a choice we make daily. Kai Kight, a violinist, wowed us with his amazing rendition of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. He talked about ignoring the standard and creating your own path, writing the songs of the future versus playing someone else’s songs of the past. Nadine Burke-Harris, founder of Center for Youth Wellness, spoke about adverse situations impact children’s’ health, that being in chronic fight or flight leads to major health problems. As you can see, we heard from a variety of people, too many to name, who each defined purpose differently.

I’ll admit, I left feeling inspired but not sure what to do with the wealth of information I just received. It took me time to process everything I heard and create an action plan or purpose statement. We will get to that but below are my biggest takeaways from the event.

  • One of the PwC directors reminded us that finding your purpose is a journey. It is okay to not be 100% certain about your purpose statement, especially if you are younger in your career. I’m glad she mentioned that because I’m not entirely sure but plan to be more self-conscious about my purpose across all aspects of my life.
  • I know my company invests in their employees but this event was the reminder I needed. Not many companies let you spend a day in reflection around what your purpose is and how it aligns to the company’s purpose.
  • Another PwC director put purpose in the context of “what do you want to be remembered for?” That’s a big question that could cause some to be overwhelmed. If you think of that question each morning and keep it in the back of your mind during the day, you’ll create a life driven by what you believe in versus just going through the motions.
  • Aaron Hurst gave us a few examples of where purpose could come from including relationships, something greater than yourself and personal growth/challenges. Again, I drilled this down to the daily interactions I have that align with what I believe my purpose to be. It’s also about stretching yourself to try new things that could inspire others. Andrew Yang from Venture for America also said there’s no courage or challenge without risk. For me, risk makes me a bit anxious so what he said really resonated. Without any risk or new experiences, you become complacent.
  • Another PwC director reminded us that our purpose, whatever it is, should be evident across all of life’s domains. So you should bring your purpose to work, to your community and to your personal relationships. If you feel like your work isn’t meaningful, talk to someone about how to change that.

After some reflection, here is my current purpose statement: I want to positively impact people and live an authentic life. I know this will evolve over time and plan to review it often. I’ve been trying to keep this in mind at the start of each day. Some days are easier than others. When I think about my job and how this is applicable, I think about each interaction I have: something as small as a thank you email or happily answering a question. Those small things matter and are a part of the bigger picture.

Dear World PicAs for the authentic piece, take a look at the picture to the left. That is my Dear World picture, which is intended to convey my story to the world. For me, I don’t want to just say I believe in something, I want my actions to speak volumes. Saying you believe in something is much different from actually going out there and living out your values. I want to show up as my authentic self, every day in every aspect of my life. Part of this is being more intentional with my time. If I say blogging or exercising is a priority, then I must intentionally dedicate my time to those activities. If at work, I say having an eye for detail is important, then I need to spend time reviewing each aspect of my projects.

Knowing your purpose and applying it to daily life isn’t easy. You won’t always get it right. But I challenge you to think more about it and your values. Please share your purpose statements in the comments section!

Motivation Mondays: Stop Trying to Control Everyone!

This past week, I celebrated by 24th birthday. I am blessed to have so many amazing people in my life. The amount of birthday wishes I received along with cards and phone calls was overwhelming. I also got to spend time with some of my favorite people. Overall, ringing in 24 was a huge success.

Every year around my birthday, I think about how I want this next year to be different from the last. What areas of personal growth do I want to focus on? How can I step up my game at work? I usually get overambitious and write a list of goals for myself. But this year there’s one thing I need to focus on: assuming everyone thinks like I do.

I’ve talked about the comparison trap, managing exceptions and professional F.O.M.O. before. But as I was planning out each piece of my week-long birthday celebration, this idea occurred to me. Not everyone operates like I do. No two people think the exact same thing about a situation. I’ve assumed the people close to me think along the same lines as me. But just because we’re close doesn’t mean we have the same opinion on birthday celebrations, politics or anything else. Diverse perspectives are what makes the world go around!

ThinkingMy consistent issue is that I assume people (mostly in my personal life) have the same values/intentions/beliefs that I do. I expect my family and friends to fall in line with my thinking. News flash Alex, the world doesn’t revolve around you. Sometimes it’s really hard when people don’t prioritize the way you do. It can be frustrating, overwhelming, upsetting and downright disappointing. But you live, you learn and begin to understand why that person might feel that way. Easier said then done most of the time.

Yesterday, I attended a brunch held by Temple Women’s Network, where their keynote speaker Yasmine Mustafa, a Temple alum, told a story about biking Death Road in Bolivia. Named appropriately, this path is along a steep mountain with a variety of twists and turns that would cause the most adventurous individual to become skeptical. Yasmine said once she “let go” and stopped trying to control the bike, she was in less pain. She moved along the mountain with more ease and less fear. She made a perfect analogy for life: once you stop trying to control everything and everyone, life become a lot less painful. JUST. THE. MESSAGE. I. NEEDED. TO. HEAR!

So my goal for year 24 is to stop controlling how everyone in my inner circle thinks. I can’t make everyone see things my way nor do I really, truly want to. Am I still going to do things I want to do? Absolutely! But I’m not going to expect others to follow suit or to prioritize the way I do. Do you struggle with expectations and wanting others to think like you do? Share your thoughts below!

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