No one talks about what happens when the pursuit of happiness doesn’t work out the way you thought it would

It’s been said that the test of a true man’s character is the way he behaves when no one is watching. The last few years of my life have lead me to believe that a better testament of personal character is how we respond to life’s blows, and how we treat others when we lose everything.

This past year my family has lost every single asset that has come to define modern day success.

Whether filling out school, home, or job applications, our entry to security and opportunity are all qualified upon this value of financial success…of winning.

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The world tells us to boldly chase after what sets our soul on fire. To be fearless and to #riseandgrind. We put entrepreneurs and risk-takers on pedestals, and we are led to believe that if we want something bad enough, and are also willing to put in the time and sacrifice that it takes, we can achieve all of our hearts greatest desires (these photos are an example of a dream come true…that was suddenly gone).

Sometimes that happens. My husband was lucky enough to achieve enormous success in business at a very early age. He brought significant impact to companies by doing things he was remarkably talented at, and those impacts made companies a great deal of money. His personal financial gains from those wins made taking more bold leaps possible, and seven years ago when we embarked on building our life together, we set off to do just that.

At that time, I believed that my husband and I were both destined and entitled to even more “success” because we were two of the most intelligent, honest, and hard-working people I know.

We do the right thing, even when that meant we took the biggest hits, because we value integrity above all else. We are not afraid of hard things.

We have collectively sacrificed so much to try and get ahead, and we did it all because success meant we had the opportunity to change other people’s lives.

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But even in the face of all of those realities, we managed to lose the two things that we thought we needed the most - my longing for security - and my husband’s desire for freedom.

Let’s be honest, those two losses were horribly difficult to swallow.

Some of our losses were due to the inevitable missteps that one takes when pioneering and disrupting into new territories, some were the byproducts of personal growth, and many of our losses (and the hardest to recover from) were the consequences of being taken advantage of by people who did not share our core values.

No one talks about what happens when the pursuit of happiness doesn’t work out the way you thought it would.

How do you stomach disappointment? How do you modify your lens of success when you try your best and you don’t succeed?

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And this is what I have learned as I stand here today in the reckoning of letting go of the security that I once believed defined me…

Most leaders believe that the biggest indicator of success is money, because money equals power, power equals freedom, and without freedom we have no control. I have learned however, that the things that give you the most fulfillment in life (for us, there is no greater meaning in life than the kind you experience as a parent) are often the things you lose sight of on the journey towards building your safety net.

While research has proven that money only increases happiness up to the point of about 70K a year, I still held on to this notion that ambition, if altruistic in nature, could bring purpose to your life.

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I surmised that business could act as a vehicle to create impact and to give back - and I have since come to understand that the biggest gifts I have given to others didn’t lie in the money I donated to charitable causes, or within the opportunities I provided, but in the ways I loved just a handful of people with my whole heart.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
— Maya Angelou

For a long time, I held onto this system of belief that my need for safety and freedom had to be met in order for me to be happy.

I have transformed that ideology in recent months to uncover quite the opposite. When you are the most stripped down and sitting in the absence of the things you think you need the most, is when you truly awaken to the magic of the world around you.

When you are forced to stop all the doing, grinding, charging, achieving, driving, hustling, and fighting is when you get still enough to focus on the being of human existence.

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I should admit that I am still in the process of forcing myself to stop the cycle. Accepting disappointment is certainly not my biggest strength.

When you don’t feel secure - you feel afraid - and its human nature to want to charge to fix it, control it, and solve it. When you feel stuck, and you don’t have answers to your problems, it is ever so difficult to let yourself be still and to focus on the sound of your child’s laugh, the wind at your back, the blessings you have in just being alive.

But this is the new measure of success I have set for myself and these are the goals I am striving towards: embracing disappointment and finding joy in the absence of getting what I thought I needed, being fully present to the simple joys of life, and expressing gratitude for what I have instead of mourning all that has been lost. 

The silver lining of my story is that when you lose everything, you get to wipe the slate clean and start over…and as it turns out the security, freedom, and success I have always wanted, was always right here for the taking. It just looks different than I expected. The world is still our oyster, and I wouldn’t bet against us.

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That’s all about doing, not being – and while doing will bring you moments of joy, it won’t necessarily reward you with lasting happiness. Stop and breathe. Be healthy.

Be around your friends and family. Be there for someone, and let someone be there for you. Be bold. Just be for a minute.

If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow.  Because allowing yourself just to be, puts things into perspective.

There’s a reason we’re called human beings and not human doings. As human beings we have the ability to think, move and communicate in a heightened way.

We can cooperate, understand, reconcile and love, that’s what sets us apart from most other species. Don’t waste your human talents by stressing about nominal things, or that which you cannot change. If you take the time simply to be and appreciate the fruits of life, your stresses will begin to dissolve, and you will be happier.
— Richard Branson

READ MORE ABOUT  CHRISTINA  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GAL  GUIDES SECTION.

READ MORE ABOUT CHRISTINA (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GAL GUIDES SECTION.

WRITTEN BY CHRISTINA CERANNA: ENTREPRENEUR, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, PHOTOGRAPHER, SOCIAL MEDIA & CONTENT STRATEGIST

Beating The Working At Home Guilt

I leave for work most days the same time as my kids leave for school. They are old enough now to fix their own breakfasts and pack lunches, so our mornings flow fairly well. Okay-most days they flow. Then there are the days my 10-year-old decides to take a 45 minute shower, but I digress.

Depending on the day, I pick them up after practices and we head home for dinner, which we always do together. It is literally the only thing in parenting that I am consistent with. No matter if it is bowls of cereal or the nights where we clean out the fridge, for at least fifteen to twenty minutes every day, we speak to one another. One of the only mom hacks I have is Clean Out the Fridge Night. At least one night a week we pull out all of the leftovers, heat up the containers and I pass out forks. We stand around our kitchen island and fork fight over the last bit of spaghetti or the remaining meatloaf. It’s fun, it reduces our food waste and it cleans out our fridge.

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There you go, you now have the secret sauce to the only beneficial tip I know about raising kids.

On the other nights of the week, the rules are different.

There are no cell phones allowed at the table, usually the TV is turned off unless it is something we all are pressed to watch together and we get to discuss our individual days.

And then we disband.

The kids head off to shower, lay out their clothes and projects for the next day and finalize homework. And  I open my laptop. Monday through Friday, this our routine.

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Now some days are different and at least once a week we go out to eat because I have forgotten to meal plan appropriately. Those are the dinners we actually have more interactions across the table from one another, mainly because I have trapped them into a booth to talk.

Then there are other days where practice is cancelled or my work load is not pressing and we play games or watch movies.

But at this stage of parenting a teen and pre-teen, our weekends are for fun and our weeks are for getting through.

I would like to tell you that only have a brief moment with my children each day depresses me. However, it is all we can do with the lives we are leading and the time we spend is good. They are active and have homework and I almost always have a daily project to finish or a court date to prepare for the following day.

I have a no work on Saturday rule. Not for any other reason than soccer for both kids is almost entirely year round and Saturdays are game days. We are bustling from field to field, cities to varying States and I couldn’t work even if I had to. It also is an entire day that my kids know is devoted to them. You have to find a pattern that works for you, your business and your family.

The worst advice I’ve ever been given in business is that you have to have a work life balance.

There is no such thing.

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Sometimes, your business requires your family to make sacrifices. And then at other times, the laptops are closed and business can wait. The ebb and flow of that will change depending on your schedule, your family’s obligations and the needs of your business.

You cannot beat yourself up for the nights that you miss family game night doing expense reports. Because there will be days that you can move everything around to make it to your 3rd grader’s science project presentation. Giving yourself the freedom to know that a balancing act is not feasible, will free up space in your head and heat to think of something other than guilt.

You love your job…or maybe you need the income from it. And you most certainly love your kids. And that’s ok. In fact, that’s GREAT! The most important thing to remember though is wherever you are, be all there. When you’re home, make sure you’re looking into you family’s eyeballs. Ask the questions, be the encouragement.

And when you’re at work, remind yourself not only how grateful you are to have one, but also what an incredible blessing it is that your children are taken care of while you’re hustling. Whether they’re at school, with a nanny, or daycare…they’re learning so much about playing with others, independence, seeing mom work hard, and thrive in a multitude of ways… all because you have given them the opportunity to.

Mom Guilt? Push it away and pass out those forks.

READ MORE ABOUT  LINDSEY  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  SECTION.

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WRITTEN BY LINDSEY W. ANDREWS: LAWYER, ENTREPRENEUR, AUTHOR, AND SPEAKER

You can connect with Lindsey on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or www.lindseyandrewswriter.com

How to Actualize (Not Just Visualize) Success

One of our kids is always talking about how they visualize getting to where they want to go in life…and therefore it will happen. Gosh, if only that were the way success and dreams worked, right? If that were reality, every morning I’d be looking at myself in the mirror and telling my reflection that Joanna Gaines and I were best friends and she wanted to gift me with a home remodel (I have a feeling you’d be doing the same thing).

Success in work, motherhood, and life is absolutely achievable…but how do we actually get there?

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, social psychologist who researches, writes, and speaks about the science of motivation (she is also the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia Business School) says,

Don’t visualize success. Instead, visualize the steps you will take in order to succeed. Just picturing yourself crossing the finish line doesn’t actually help you get there— but visualizing how you run the race (the strategies you will use, the choices you will make, the obstacles you will face) not only will give you greater confidence, but also leave you better prepared for the task ahead. And that is definitely realistic optimism.

Ok so let’s break that apart a little bit.

Instead of looking solely at your end-game or goal, take the time to answer questions on the steps needed to achieve it. Instead of “visualizing success” like my hopeful child, visualize the process of achieving the goal. Prepare and plan for your success. What do you need to do to achieve it?

Instead of dreaming of buying a cabin in the mountains, losing 30 pounds, building a social media empire, having kind and respectful children, getting out of debt, or whatever it may be…take the time to contemplate the HOW behind your “thing”.

Write it out. Seriously. We all know the importance of writing things down because we do, the likelihood of them coming to fruition rises exponentially, right? So go grab a notebook and take the time to pen down what actually needs to be done to get there.

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What is your Big Goal? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What baby-steps do you need to do every day to bring you closer to that goal?

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What can you do today and get started toward achieving it?

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Instead of simply deciding to have a six-pack before summer begins or have one-million downloads on your podcast, you need a plan of action.

Here are some things to remember though:

Practice does not equal perfect. It equals better.

Instead of focusing on being perfect or successful at something, focus on the growth behind it. Don’t allow setbacks or failure to shove you into a slump that tempts you to give up. Setbacks do NOT reflect your self-worth, nor do they reflect whether or not you’ll ultimately succeed. Instead of allowing failing or missteps to whisper shame and inadequacy over you, remind yourself that because you’re working step-by-step to achieve your “thing”, you’re closer today than you were in the beginning. You may even learn something from that supposed failure. That sounds rather elementary, I realize. But sometimes we need those simple reminders.

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Success doesn’t happen overnight but progress does.

I know without a doubt that you’re the type of woman who desires to teach her children about perseverance, grit, and great work-ethic. You’re living it every day. They’re watching you rise to the occasion, put in the sweat and hard work, and they’re most certainly cheering you on every time you dust yourself off and try again.

Share your dreams and goals with them. Tell your family when you fall down and how you’re getting back up. Express what you’re learning from it all. Share the victories and the steps you’ve accomplished. Let them see the gold within the struggle.

Allow them (and yourself) to realize that success and struggle go hand-in-hand. Success rarely comes easy…and that makes it even more worthwhile.

Study after study shows that people who think not only about their dreams, but about the obstacles that lie in the way of realizing their dreams—believing they can overcome those obstacles and planning how they’ll make it happen—vastly outperform those who sit back and wait for the universe to reward them for all their positive thinking.
— Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson

READ MORE ABOUT  TERESA  (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO  THE & GALS  SECTION.

READ MORE ABOUT TERESA (AND ALL OUR AMAZING CONTRIBUTORS) BY HEADING TO THE & GALS SECTION.

WRITTEN BY TERESA SWANSTROM ANDERSON: FOUNDER OF THE & SOCIETY, AUTHOR, SPEAKER, DREAMER.