6 Minute Read

Feeling Joy in Spite of It All

101 Latinx Leaders in Tech

A co-worker and I were chatting the other day during, what we call at BAM, our donut chats. Donut chats = linking up with team members on a bi-monthly basis and talking, just like we would if we were sitting next to one another in an office, standing by the proverbial water cooler or walking to grab a coffee (Red Bull for this girl).

We started lamenting about the state of the world which feels impossible not to do these days. 

We're living in a pseudo-post-but-still-very-much-present-pandemic, and it seems like everywhere you look some part of the world is in imminent crisis. The conversation shifted from the world's problems to some of the personal challenges we were facing in our own lives and my co-worker said to me, "you seem to manage to take really good care of yourself despite it all."

In that moment, despite the current climate in the U.S., the world at large and the personal challenges I was facing, I was able to nod, smile and say, "yeah, I do." But that hasn't always been the case. This conversation got me thinking, what are the things I do that allow me to feel joy in spite of *it all? (*it all = the state of the world)

I identify as a pragmatic idealist. What do I mean by that? I am grounded. I don't subscribe to fairy tales. I pay attention to what is going on around me (in and outside of my community). I love structure. At the same time, I 100% believe in magic. I believe in passion. I believe in joy and play. And, while I do pay attention to the state of the world, I don't allow myself to be consumed by it. 

I can hear some of you now, "Well, that's awfully convenient for you. The world is on fire and you don't get consumed by it. I wish I was that clueless, selfish, ________ (fill-in-the-blank)."

It's not that I'm that selfish, it's that I'm that aware that in order to show up for others, I have to first show up for myself. So yeah, maybe I'm a little selfish, but I like to think of it as having healthy boundaries.

The truth is, it’s not overly complicated to maintain a certain level of well-being, but, as with all things that are *good* for you, it requires a level of consciousness/awareness, commitment, boundaries, and a fervent belief that you must prioritize your well-being, at all costs, especially when the world feels like it is falling down around you. 

Here's what showing up for myself looks like:

Prioritize moving my body (daily) in ways that I actually enjoy. Yes, exercise can be something you like (or even love). 

For the first 3 decades of my life the ONLY form of exercise you'd catch me doing was running outdoors (slowly). I wouldn't be caught dead in a gym, or a workout class or in any environment where I'd feel judged or out of my comfort zone. Then I went through a breakup.

I decided I needed to do more than run so I joined a workout studio that offered 1-hour HIIT classes and the rest is history. Now, you'll find me trying any and every exercise out there. HIIT remains my favorite but I also love boxing, hiking, beach workouts, weight lifting, spin classes and the list goes on. It's no wonder so many people hate exercise, they haven't taken the time to find the movement that actually feels good for their body. Exercise can be something you look forward to doing, not look forward to finishing. Don't get me wrong, there are days where the LAST thing I want to do is exercise but I know the minute I take that first step of the workout, I have made a really good decision.

"If exercise could be packed into a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed, and beneficial, medicine in the nation." 

- Robert N. Butler, MD, Director of National Institute on Aging. 

I consciously find ways to appreciate every aspect of my life. I subscribe to the philosophy that life is happening for me and not to me. 

This seemingly irrelevant swap of these prepositions (for and to) has changed my entire life. It can be pretty easy to appreciate the good things in life from landing a promotion, getting engaged, taking a two-week vacation, or reveling at the beauty of the ocean. And if it isn't easy for you to do that, try a daily list of 3-5 things that you are grateful for to get into the habit of consciously bringing appreciation to your daily life. It can be something as simple as being grateful for the pillows you sleep on, that you didn't hit snooze on your alarm, or that your neighbor's dog isn't barking today. What I find extremely powerful when practicing appreciation is to reflect on the challenges in my life and find the learning. When I didn't get the promotion, or the relationship didn't work out, or the Lyft driver cancelled on me... what is here for me to learn? 

Let's take I didn't get the promotion and find the learning. Learning may look like recognizing that I respect the people I work for and trust the timing of the decision. More time will allow me to hone in on the skills needed to set myself up to be exceptionally prepared for when I am promoted. Or, perhaps it's that it's time for me to move on and explore other opportunities. 

Either way, I get to choose what my perspective is and what my learning is in every situation.

I believe in boundaries. In short, learning to say NO is one of the most powerful ways to set a boundary. Saying NO can look like; "I can't take that on," or "My plate is full right now." Think about what response is right for you and begin to utilize this as a tool to set boundaries.

Brene Brown, author and research professor who studies courage, vulnerability, shame and empathy, says, "boundary setting is having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.". Brene has a mantra when it comes to boundary setting "choose discomfort over resentment." It seems there are endless opportunities in my life to practice setting boundaries and it ain't easy but it is always worth it. 

What I realized when I started setting clear boundaries for myself in the workplace (e.g., I don't respond to late night/weekend Slack messages or emails unless they are urgent) is that I feel a lot less resentment than I used to feel. When you say "Yes!" to everything without thoughtfully thinking through what you're saying yes to, more often than not, when the time comes to do the thing you (hesitantly) said yes to, you feel resentful towards the person who asked. This creates unnecessary and one-sided negative feelings in your relationships and feels like crap.

 I encourage you to learn how to deal with the brief discomfort of boundary setting for long-term payoff and a lot less resentment. Here is an article that provides a 3 step guide to boundary setting.

I believe in the power of breath. I used to get hung up on the idea that meditation had to look a certain way. 

What I've realized is that meditation looks different for everyone. The most simple form of meditation, for me, is being intentional with my breath. The quickest way to calm my nervous system is to place one hand on my heart, one hand on my belly, close my eyes and consciously inhale and exhale. This may sound woo woo or hippy dippy but the shit works. Try it right now. Place one hand on your heart. Place one hand on your belly. Close your eyes and take a deep slow inhale through your nose and a big slow exhale through your mouth. Repeat this 3 times. 

I swear by the free app Insight Timer. There are so many amazing guides on this app. You can also create your own customized timer where you select the pace, cadence, and duration. There are so many different ways to be intentional with our breath, I recommend exploring the techniques that work best for you.

I celebrate living. This may feel similar to appreciating every aspect of my life and, in part, there is some overlap. But this element of well-being is one that I think gets overlooked far too often. 

Celebrating living means I recognize that being in this physical body, breathing, living... is a gift. Every day I wake up is a gift, even the shitty days. I take time (60-90 seconds) to thoughtfully and lovingly squeeze my body and thank it for all that it does for me (especially the squishy and wrinkly bits my mind isn't always very kind to). 

I find ways to incorporate play into my daily life whether that's pausing on a hike to jump up on top of a tree stump and make exercise fun or playing a song I can't resist dancing to, by myself, at home. I live in Los Angeles so when I find myself driving down PCH (pacific coast highway) heading towards Malibu for the day, I make sure to roll down my windows, feel the ocean breeze, and crank up the music. I smile and think to myself,  "You're driving down PCH on your way to Malibu right now! That is something so many people dream about and you're doing it - right now! How lucky am I?". 

I find ways to celebrate the big and small stuff. I pay attention to when my body lights up and I consciously choose to embrace the joy in as many moments as possible. 

Final Thoughts. I want to acknowledge that I'm speaking from a very limited scope of my own life experiences and recognize that there are countless factors out of our control that impact one's well-being. But, for the purposes of this blog, I wanted to share a few of the things that help me feel grounded despite the chaos of the world around me.

One of my favorite quotes by Dr. VIktor Frankl. "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." This quote helps me to remember that no matter what happens in life, I always have a choice and what a powerful tool choice can be.


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