Why You Should “Go & Love Yourself” in 2017

It’s taken me until today to realize how long it’s been since I’ve written a blog post. Over the past few months, I’ve let some of the things I enjoy become pushed to the side because of my depression & anxiety (which is so hard for me to admit). This is why I am focusing on my Self-Care this year & shamelessly making this a year to focus on loving myself. This means no more eating things that are terrible for my body (which especially includes things with traces of foods I am allergic to). This means commitment to more walks, more Therapeutic Yoga classes, & more dates with myself. Even though I have an incredible boyfriend, I’ve learned that as an introvert, I still need to make time to do the things I love by myself every once in a while. This also means making time to be more mindful & thankful for the things I have been blessed with, & I challenge you to do the same.

Despite 2016 being insane on so many levels (our world has a tendency to be a scary place), I still find that I was blessed throughout the year in so many ways. I fell in love (which is super cool & something I didn’t expect). I was accepted into grad school. I’m healthy, I have job security, & I have a roof over my head. I have an incredible family that loves & supports me. I’ve travelled to so many random awesome places throughout the year. During moments of depression, I’ve learned that it is most helpful to reflect on these things & to recognize that my life could be far worse.

This year, I challenge everyone to commit to Self-Care & to focus on loving yourself this year. Often times, we look in the mirror & hate ourselves for being too fat/too thin. We forget about doing the things we love because we become too stressed. We get frazzled with our jobs & careers to the point where it destroys us at home. Sometimes all it takes is a moment to sit back & to think about the good that you have in your life & to challenge yourself to overcome those things that are continuing to eat away at you. What do you do if you can’t fix that thing that is eating away at your life? Try to come to terms with it & accept it for what it is. Do you think that I enjoy having depression & anxiety? Of course not. It’s horrible at times, but I need to focus less on how horrible it is & more on what I can do to get out of my current mood.

Although it’s not easy to focus on Self-Love & Self-Care it is SO important. I always tell myself that I cannot truly take care of others unless I am taking care of myself first. Remember that there is nothing selfish about loving yourself. I challenge & encourage you to make “you” a priority this year. Here’s to a fabulous 2017!

Let’s Talk About Anxiety: My thoughts on why we should stop hiding from conversations about mental health in Student Affairs

If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you would know that it’s not fun. Ever. Panic attacks come in different forms for different things. For me personally, my panic attacks range from experiencing what I call a “perpetual brain fog” that numbs all emotion and causes me to forget a lot of things that are said to me in the moment to having a full “meltdown-esque” panic attack where I start hyperventilating and crying. It differs for all of us who live every day with anxiety.

In student affairs, we often find the need to bury personal mental health concerns because there has been the consistent belief that by having anxiety or depression, along with many other mental health conditions, we are weak and cannot help others. The same goes with introversion and extroversion. I wish I had a dollar for the number of times that someone has told me that “[I] don’t act like an introvert.” Just because I recharge by being alone does not mean that I can’t be the energetic, charismatic, and quirky leader my students need. It does not mean that I’m a socially awkward recluse, which essentially has unfortunately been the consistent perception of introverts throughout the years.

Why is it that these perceptions exist? Don’t get me wrong, the negative stigma around mental health has been slowly decreasing throughout the years, but there is still that awkwardness that comes from a conversation about mental health. Why can’t we talk about anxiety and depression like we talk about a diabetes or celiac disease? They are all things that affect our overall health and well-being. They do not define us, but surely they are a part of who we are. It also becomes frustrating when people try to tiptoe around those of us with depression and anxiety. Yes, we need to be supported as coworkers, relatives, partners, and human beings in general, but we don’t need to be coddled. For many of us, we know what our support looks like and we will ask for it when it is needed. Personally, I simply say that I need to get off-campus or leave the room when I am having a panic attack and many people respect that. That doesn’t mean that I need to walk away every single time that a conflict or stressful situation arises.

At this point, you may be asking what I’m getting at with this post. I simply ask you to reflect on how you can be open about anxiety and depression in student affairs or conversations in general. Maybe that means something simple, like having a program or doing a mental health bulletin board. For me, I have personally disclosed my depression and anxiety with a few students who have disclosed it to me. The point of the conversation was not to simply undermine their concern or to talk about myself. It was simply a gesture of solidarity. A moment to let them know that mental health is something we can talk about here and that their condition is not something to be embarrassed of because a lot of us struggle with it. It was an opportunity to give them a safe space.

I also ask you to reflect on how you can support your partners, coworkers, and family members who struggle with depression and anxiety. Simply ask them how they want to be supported. Don’t coddle them or assume that you need to text them every 5 minutes to see if they’re okay. For many of us, we have it under control. We may simply need a supportive listener or someone to check in when we walk away from a panic attack. Overall, we need to just work together to reduce the negative stigma that still exists when it comes to mental health. We need to stop judging others for their conditions and accept that we are all human beings who deserve the same respect despite the different battles we are all going through.

 

 

Building Positive Coworker Relationships in #ResLife

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” – Brene Brown

Building coworker relationships is not always easy, especially if you all work and live in the same place. The dynamic gets even more challenging on a 4 person HD staff at an all-female institution. I’ve gone through many years of either witnessing divided Hall Director staffs in my undergrad to experiencing them myself in my professional life. This year’s HD training, however, has been going so exceptionally well that I needed to stop and process what went right. Of course, a huge factor is that we all have similar personality types, interests, and communication styles (so many INFJ’s and blues here). Regardless, us returning staff members were very intentional about how we went about welcoming our new coworkers. Here are a few that I would like to share:

Be authentic.

As a student affairs professional (and human being in general) I embrace that I’m a quirky, energetic person (I’m the notorious quirky cat lady on the HD staff if that puts anything into perspective for you). Don’t be afraid to show who you truly are from the beginning while maintaining that professionalism in your conversations. Your coworkers are eventually going to be around you so much that they see the real you. Why not learn how to embrace that from the beginning? Also, it will allow your coworkers to feel more comfortable about being authentic with you from the beginning.

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Our lovely HD staff.

Be hospitable. 

As a product of Catholic Benedictine higher education, we were taught to strive for living the Benedictine values in our everyday lives. One that has always stuck with me is the value of hospitality. I love to make people feel welcomed, loved, and accepted. Before HD training started we coordinated an HD brunch with the new staff members so that we could chat and enjoy a meal before getting into actual training week. Reflect on how you will make your coworkers feel like a part of a family, rather than just a staff. When you build these healthy and more personal relationships from the beginning, it’s much easier to grow together professionally.

Be intentional. 

Before the new HDs even arrived to campus, my friend (the other returning HD) and myself talked through all the pro-staff issues we had the previous year and vowed that it wouldn’t happen again if we could help it. We worked hard to be more intentional with our initial conversations with the new HDs, and wanted to do more causal HD bonding from the get-go. We also talked about how important it is to discuss “pet peeves” with the other HDs early on so that we can all be more aware of one another in the work place.

Be real about the issues.

As we all know in higher education, we are constantly striving to make improvements in our departments. It’s okay to discuss the issues of previous years and things that would be great to change with your new coworkers (in a professional manner of course). As we have learned, our 2 new HDs have SO MANY incredible ideas for the future of our office, so connecting and discussing our challenges/issues was definitely a positive.

Be supportive.

We have to recognize as SA professionals that we all come from a variety of backgrounds and student affairs experiences. It’s always good to open up conversations about what the new staff members are uncomfortable with in regards to the job, whether that is on-call situations or having difficult conversations. When we start these conversations, we can help to reiterate to them that we have their backs as a staff. We also have the opportunity to brainstorm some ways that we can help make them feel more prepared and supported in these situations (like on-call shadowing or mock conversation practice).

I challenge you all to reflect on how your will support your new coworkers. Yes, we’re not always going to be best friends and we’re going to have our moments, but it’s important to  be a unified front right from the beginning. It also makes overcoming future challenges together a bit easier.

 

Rejection, Reflection & Moving Forward in my #SAGrad Process

“If at first you don’t succeed…you’re normal!” –Kid President

After an unintentional 5-month blog hiatus, I’ve finally decided to write again. I guess it’s taken me this long to process through my year, to decide what I need from the upcoming year, and to finally come to terms with the fact that it’s already July (and I literally have no clue what happened to the summer).

In January of 2016 I attempted to begin my student affairs grad search. Despite my acceptance to the institution I wanted to attend, I did not get the graduate assistantship I hoped for. Essentially, I put all my eggs in one basket and made an “all or nothing” decision with this program. After a lot of processing and reflecting after my assistantship rejection, I decided that the best decision for me would be to continue a third year as a Residence Hall Director here at Saint Mary’s College while picking up my grad school search for the Fall of 2017 semester. Although rejection was difficult, I have come to realization that it was absolutely the best decision for my SA career and for myself on a personal level.

Initially, I hoped to attend the grad program because I absolutely fell in love with the city that it was in (mistake #1) . I didn’t take the time to process and reflect on the pros and cons of the institution and what it had to offer. Although Residence Life is my key focus area, the institution did not really offer other structured practicum experiences in other departments. I also did not reflect on the difficulties that a cross country move would be for me (financially and personally). Also as a Pittsburgh native, I feel more and more called to return back home each time I visit. How would I feel if I moved thousands of miles away from my family, especially my 87-year-old grandma?

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Pittsburgh will always be home! Thankfully I’ve had the chance to reflect over these past 2 years in order to realize this is where I’m called to be. Plus we have some of the best colleges around…

Although I really enjoyed what the program had to offer and decided to put all my eggs in one basket, I have to admit that the grad assistantship rejection was a blessing for me. Here are a few of the positive things I’ve reflected on and gained from this experience:

  1. I’ve learned that I really need to search for a program that is not quite as far from my family and friends. Yes, I understand that they will always be there to return to when I am finished with my education, but this experience has really helped me to realize where my support system lies. My family and friends are everything to me, and I truly believe that my grad school career would be much more enjoyable with them by my side.
  1. I need to reflect on what I need from both an assistantship and practicum experience. Although I know that I want to advance in Residence Life to a Director-level position, I understand the value in exploring other areas of Student Affairs. A few areas that I would love to gain more experience from are student activities, power-based personal violence prevention work, and multicultural student services.
  1. I need to accept this third year at Saint Mary’s as a finalization of my development here in this position. Through a lot of processing, I have determined some more of the skills that I need to build if I want to be a Director of Residence Life someday. Thankfully, I work at a small, supportive institution where my supervisor and Assistant VP of SA want to work with me on the experiences and skills that I need in order to make my dream job happen someday. I’m looking forward to developing more of these skills and experiences this year, especially co-advising our Residence Hall Association.

In closing, I want to offer some advice to some of my fellow colleagues that are starting their SA Grad search right along with me:

  1. Make a list of what you need from your SA Grad program and what you can do without. Also look at your assistantship and potential practicum opportunities (if the institution offers them) and reflect on which ones will help you to get to that next point in your development.
  1. Don’t be afraid to look at institutions that are close to your support system. I had a long conversation with my Assistant VP of Student Affairs about my desire to look at a program closer to my friends and family at home. I initially thought that I would be judged for wanting to move back home, but she truly commended my decision and said that we need to reflect on what is the best for us personally. If there is a phenomenal student affairs program close to home, don’t run away from it just because it’s near home.
  1. On the opposite end, I strongly encourage you to look at living away from your home in another state for a few years, whether that is during your SA grad career or if you decide to work in higher education before grad school (like I decided to do). I have grown so much as a person by living away from family and friends in another state for the past 2 years and I definitely don’t regret that decision. I have personally gained more independence, have learned to find my niche in the community on my own, and have taken the time to realize that Pittsburgh is where I inevitably want to end up someday in the near future. I have also had the opportunity to affirm my passion for Residence Life and student affairs overall.

I would love to hear back from other SA Pros who are starting their SA grad search or for those who have already gone through their graduate careers! Hopefully I’ve sparked some reflection for those of you starting the search with me (and have reassured you that the SA grad search process isn’t easy for everyone).

 

 

Providing Hope in Chaos: Discovering my Passion for Prevention Work as an #SAPro

“Having hope will give you courage” – Job 18:11

 

Over the past few weeks, I’ve decided to start reading Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis. Girl in the Woods is the nonfiction memoir of Matis’ journey along the Pacific Coast Trail as a way to heal as a rape survivor. Although the book is sometimes graphic and disturbing, I have found so much inspiration in Matis’ account and quite honestly, I think this is a book that every student affairs professional should read.

 

Matis’ story begins with her first night of freshmen year at a university in Colorado. Matis recounts a disturbing scene where she meets new friends, gets high, and then finds herself victimized and raped by one of the students who came to her room. She proceeds to describe her fight with the institution, which inevitably ended in her being removed from her residence hall while her rapist proceeded to go through classes as if nothing happened. As a student affairs professional and residence life staff member, I ask myself why this was allowed to happen. More importantly, I ask myself why this happens as a result of a lot of campus sexual assaults. Although many institutions are taking measures to meet the needs of survivors while appropriately penalizing persecutors, we still find ourselves in an era where sexual assault survivors are not receiving justice for the wrongs committed against them. We are also still struggling to overcome the normalization of rape culture on our college campuses. As student affairs professionals, it is our time to do something about this violent crime that plagues our campuses. It is also important to recognize that we can also help to train our students to potentially prevent some of these situations from happening with the right tools.

 
As a Residence Hall Director, I will tell you that Matis’ story has reaffirmed my choice to get involved with prevention work here on our campus. Last May I was offered the opportunity to be certified as a Green Dot bystander intervention instructor. Green Dot (a program created by Green Dot, et cetera, Inc.) is a program that teaches students how to intervene in a situation known as a “red dot,” or an instance where a potentially negative situation could occur. Think of a “red dot” as that moment when your gut is telling you that something is off; for example, an intoxicated student may be leaving a party with another student with seemingly no indications of what is happening. In Green Dot, we teach our students how to intervene in these situations with a simple gesture, such as a direct comment or calling campus security to assist. As an advocate for the Green Dot program, I strongly believe that we can utilize this simple-to-implement program to change our campus cultures and to make it clear that sexual assault will not be tolerated on our campuses. As student affairs professionals, we need to rally behind our students with programs like this so that they are informed, prepared, and able to support their fellow students.

 

I challenge you to consider what you can personally do to help support our campus communities. Does your institution have a prevention program in place? If not, what would it take to implement something like Green Dot? As we often say in the Green Dot program, you only have one choice: to do something or to do nothing. There is no in between. There is no neutral ground. There is only one way to move forward.

 

For more info on the Green Dot program, please visit https://www.livethegreendot.com/

Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis is also available through the following:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/girl-in-the-woods-aspen-matis/1117137870

 

Challenging Senioritis as an #SAPro

“You’re not meant to do what is easy. You’re meant to challenge yourself.”

~Justin Timberlake

Sometimes being a #SAPro is difficult when your staff hits a “wall.” When I talk about a “wall,” I’m talking about crippling senioritis, doing the bare minimum, and struggling to push themselves harder. When I chose a staff of primarily seniors (which was unintentional FYI), I knew that Senioritis would be a consistent challenge. Yes, I have a staff of strong, empowered, confident, creative young women who love what they do, but let’s be serious, we’ve all been at that point during our senior year of Undergrad when we wanted to live it up, do the minimum, and just make it to graduation. Because of this, I have been consistently working to challenge my staff in new ways while coming up with a range of new activities that we can conquer together.
Here are a few that I came up with:

  1. During 1:1’s last week, I challenged my staff to think of the following 2 prompts. Prompt A: what is one way that you can build community (in your section, staff, or building) that you do not normally do? Think of a simple task or gesture. Many of my RAs talked about placing post-it’s with positive messages on the bathroom mirrors or inviting a student to a meeting on-campus that she would not typically attend. Prompt B is a bit more challenging: think of one way that you can be a leader this week (staff, section, community). Think of something concrete. A few RAs mentioned taking initiative to plan a staff event or writing letters to each staff member and posting them during on-call rounds.
  1. During my first staff meeting this year, we had a conversation about the significance of staff collaboration regarding programs and bulletin boards. A few of the boards and programs last semester were becoming a bit lazy, so my leadership team of Senior RAs and I challenged the RAs to take their programs and boards a step further. Needless to say, their bulletin boards for February are gorgeous! I can’t wait to see what programs they come up with in the future.
  1. I asked my RAs what “real world skills” they hoped to gain before graduating. As a Hall Director, I feel like it is my role to help prepare my ladies for the real world in whatever way I can. My staff came up with a great list of things, including Taxes/Financial Planning and cooking. I’m looking forward to planning a few of these “workshops” together. I also think this would make great staff bonding time.

 

I now challenge you #SAPros to consider the same. Are your staff members struggling to reach their potential? Are they finding themselves in the “bare minimum” mindset? I would love to hear what many of you have done to help reengage and challenge your staff to grow (I also need some more ideas as the year goes on).

My 2015 #SAPro Reading List

“I declare there is no enjoyment like reading!” – Jane Austen

Jane Austen knows what’s up. As we start to end another year, I thought it would be great to reflect on some of the awesome books I have read this year. All of these relate somehow to Student Affairs, and would make a great addition to a 2016 SA reading list!

  1. Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing your Messy, Beautiful Life, by Glennon Doyle Melton

This hilarious and well-written non-fiction book provides great insight into why it’s important to embrace vulnerability and your past mistakes. Once we understand that no one is perfect, we come together as human beings. This was by far one of the best books I’ve ever read.

  1. Thrive, by Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington is the queen of self-care. She blends a lot of excellent self-care statistics with inspiring stories and tidbits of advice. One of the greatest things I gained from this book is her insight into the importance of getting an adequate amount of sleep every night. Every SA Pro definitely needs to read this.

  1. Lean In, by Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg’s non-fiction call to female equality in the workplace has gained plenty of attention this year. She provides a number of inspiring stories from highly successful businesswomen, and proves to us all that women can be highly successful while balancing our personal lives.

  1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

Although I typically read non-fiction, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has always been a favorite fiction novel of mine. I reread it for the first time since high school this year and fell in love with it again. This novel delves into suicidality, mental health, gender and sexuality discrimination, the “drinking culture,” and a number of other topics that we often witness as Student Affairs professionals. Also, you will probably cry at the end.

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Moe enjoys reading with his mom. Quality family bonding and #SelfCare right here.
  1. The FRED Factor, by Mark Sanborn

Sanborn’s non-fiction book tells the story of Fred, a local postal worker who goes over-and-above to bring exceptional customer service to the people of his neighborhood. This book, which was a required read for our HD staff this year, has definitely opened my eyes to the significance of going over-and-above to make someone’s day. I also have used excerpts in my staff meetings and my RAs absolutely love it! I challenged them all to be a “Fred” in someone’s life by doing random acts of kindness. They all had a positive learning experience and I plan to continue my “Fred Challenge” in the coming semester.

  1. The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin

In The Happiness Project, author Gretchen Rubin spends a year going through a number of the tips and tricks that authors, researchers, philosophers, and other individuals have claimed promote happiness. Each chapter is dedicated to a different topic, such as “building friendships” or “being a good parent.” What I love about this book is that Rubin was completely happy with her life, she just chose to try to make things better. I love the tips she provides, and can’t wait to try them in the New Year.

  1. Letter to my Daughter, by Maya Angelou

This captivating novel provides stories, quotes, and words of wisdom that Maya Angelou would have given her daughter. This is an absolutely beautiful book, and I would say that it is one of the best books I have ever read. My favorite quote from the book is, “We may act sophisticated and worldly but I believe we feel safest when we go inside ourselves and find home, a place where we belong and maybe the only place we really do.” Amen to that.

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How I spend my weekends most of the time.

Learning from Our Mistakes in #StudentAffairs

“We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions; that we’ll screw up royally sometimes. Understanding that failure is not the opposite of success. It’s part of success.” Arianna Huffington

One of the most challenging parts of being human is accepting that we aren’t perfect. In a world that stresses the importance of self-confidence, it’s easy to find ourselves slipping into defensiveness, rather than simply accepting that we screw up at times. As human beings, it’s important for us to accept our failure in order to grow. Without accepting that we screw up we will never change for the better.

I recently understood the significance of accepting my mistakes when I was challenged with a work-related incident. Without going into details, I will admit that I made a mistake and was extremely frustrated and initially, defensive about the situation. After we determined that the situation was going to work out, my supervisor told me that we need to just accept the mistake for what it is, appreciate that it is fixable, apologize for the mistake, and then move on. I understand that if I wish to succeed, I need to take these words to heart and to learn from my errors. Self-reflection is also key and believe me, I’ve done quite a bit. I am so thankful that my situation turned out well, that everyone was satisfied with the outcome, and that I have the ability to learn from my mistake.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I am extremely grateful for what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s okay to make mistakes. We are all human.
  2. I have the ability to challenge myself in order to grow from the situation
  3. The situation worked out
  4. I have the opportunity and ability to apologize, accept the mistake for what it is, and move forward

Yes, we all need to be confident in our abilities and strengths. We need to be proud of who we are. However, we also need to accept that humility is the key to being a successful, happy, likeable human being. By accepting our imperfections, we become more relatable to those around us.

Something to be Thankful For

“Give thanks in all circumstances.” 1 Thessalonians 5: 18

As I move into another Thanksgiving week, I am taking time to look back on what I am most thankful for this year within my job. Although many people to not respect or even understand the nature of Student Affairs in Higher Education, I can honestly say that working in my field is truly a gift.

Here are some of the things I am most thankful for as a #SAPro:

 1. The ability to learn from my students

The past year-and-a-half as a Hall Director has completely changed me as a person. I know that I constantly say that I have grown personally, professionally, and spiritually from my students every day, but I sincerely mean it. I have the incredible opportunity to work with two residence halls of outstanding young women at an all-female liberal arts institution. I have had the privilege of sharing empowering conversations about feminism, faith, the future, and a number of other topics. When I first came to Saint Mary’s, I was intimidated by the fact that I was the leader and that my students looked up to me. Today I can honestly say that I am confident in my abilities as a Residence Life professional and a young woman.

 2. The ability to promote self-care

Although it is typical for Student Affairs professionals to experience burnout from extensive on-call hours, challenging student conversations, and other time-consuming tasks, I am thankful to work at an institution that values self-care. In today’s society, we are often commended on the number of all-nighters we pull or how many hours we work a week. I am glad that I have learned early that these things are irrelevant when we take care of ourselves and still manage to succeed in supporting our students.

3. Knowing that I have influenced a student’s life

Often we find ourselves struggling for some affirmation that we have positively impacted our students. Yes, assessment can statistically show us the impact of our actions as SA professionals, but sometimes having a concrete conversation or a thank you note from a student means so much more. At the beginning of the semester, I was in a position where I had to have a challenging conversation with a student about her overconsumption of alcohol. I was thrilled when I started to see her showing up to all of our programs. It means a lot when a student understands that she wants to be a part of the residence hall community; it also shows me that I have somehow made a positive impact on her life.

4. It’s not weird to hand out free candy or have coloring books in my office

I don’t think this needs an explanation. My job is awesome.

5. My RA staff

I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have an incredible group of RAs. Residence Life staff members are meant to support each other throughout struggles and triumphs. I know that my staff will always have my back when I need it the most and I will always have theirs.

6. The ability to be myself

Often times professionals struggle to incorporate their creativity and personality into their work. I love that I work in a field that promotes vulnerability in daily life. I can decorate my office with my crazy student drawings and collection of door tags. I can have life chats with my students about my personal college experiences. Student Affairs is such a real profession, and I am thankful for that every day.

7. The environment and opportunity to grow

I am thankful to work in a field that promotes self-growth and reflection. I have so many opportunities provided to me, and often find myself being challenged by my supervisor and coworkers to take that extra step or to learn from that additional project. In order to grow, it is important to accept those areas that may not be the strongest. At the beginning of the year, I disclosed to my coworker and friend that I was still nervous about handling certain mental health situations. Either before or after every situation that I handled, she would sit down and walk through the process with me (without using student names). At this point, I am confident in my abilities to handle mental health situations thanks to her. A good coworker will help you to overcome your challenges and will help you to get to that next step.

 

I have so much to be thankful for this year. I know that I will continue to grow throughout my #SAPro journey thanks to the wonderful opportunities that I have been provided. I challenge all of you to reflect on why you love your profession as well.

 

Committing to Happiness

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived”- Eleanor Roosevelt

I like to think that I’m living a happy life at this point. I am content with where I am, who I am, and what I am doing with my life. Despite my current state of contentment, I decided to pick up the New York Time bestseller The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin. The book delves into Rubin’s decision to fulfill a year of finding happiness by experimenting with the practices recommended by scientists, philosophers, popular culture, and others. What I love about this book is that Rubin was already content with her life; she just wanted to maximize her experiences to make sure she was “living life to the fullest.” In the first section, Rubin takes advice from the great Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, who established a list of virtues that would help to guide him toward his fulfillment of happiness on a daily basis. Rubin decided to create a list of “Twelve Commandments” that she would adhere to daily, and so I have decided to do the same.

The Twelve Commandments of Angela

  1. Be Angela

Okay, so I definitely stole this one from Rubin. I think that it’s essential to refocus and to remember to be myself in all that I do. I need to embrace my flaws, my strengths, my quirks. I need to run with my passions and embrace my creativity. I think this is something everyone needs to keep in mind in a world that makes it easy to doubt yourself and to struggle with self-confidence. Being you is a good thing so embrace it.

  1. Find beauty in the simple things

Recently I’ve made a personal commitment to walking at least once a day outside, rather than just working out in the gym. I’ve been embracing more early morning walks and appreciating the nature around me. The late October leaves have been incredible, especially as the sun starts to rise every day. I find so much peace when I observe and appreciate the simple beauty of our world: a heart-shaped leaf on the ground, breathing in a fresh cup of coffee, finding a moment of silence in the midst of a hectic day. Appreciating these things completely changes my attitude.

A picture from one of my morning walks.
A picture from one of my morning walks.
  1. Let go, Let God

Sometimes it’s easy to think that I can control everything in life. As a type-A perfectionist, I have a tendency to overanalyze everything that crosses my path. I’ve learned that some things are out of my control and completely in God’s hands. I need to understand the value of living in the moment, being the best that I can be, and understanding patience.

  1. Appreciate

I find myself saying “thank you” on a daily basis (thanks to the awesome manners I learned from my mom). Sometimes I don’t think about it as I’m saying it, which is a problem. Do I really appreciate what that person has done for me? Am I being genuine enough? And am I appreciating more of ordinary gifts that have been provided in my life? When I take time to actually think about what I am thankful for rather than just saying it (#mindfulness), I find that I am more genuinely appreciative.

  1. Find time for reflection

I find that I am most at peace with myself and my world when I self-reflect. I have learned to evaluate my past experiences (and current ones) through reflection. These are the times when I grow the most and understand the best decisions to make. Self-awareness is something that we can all benefit from (although it doesn’t come easily) so that we can embrace our flaws, strengths, and passions.

  1. Find time for self-care

No this is not a joke. Yes, I do know I am a Hall Director. Self-care time is essential to being a successful, healthy, happy human being. In today’s world, it’s easy to get caught up with emails until midnight, to take on more projects than we can handle, and inevitably, to easily burn out. Taking time each day to read, walk, bake, or do something else for myself helps me to lower my stress, gather enough introvert time to “be social,” and to find balance. I also value getting 6-to-9 hours of sleep every night, which is sometimes impossible in the Student Affairs world. Despite this challenge, I strive for it daily. My super cool Fitbit also yells at me when I don’t sleep enough, which is really helpful.

  1. Be genuine

I need to be genuine in everything I do and in everything I say. We build relationships from being genuine to others. People connect to others who legitimately care about them, share common interests, and legitimately want to talk to them. If you’re genuine in your daily life, you’re going to connect to others in a deeper way.

  1. “Do small things with great love”

This absolutely fabulous quote from Mother Teresa is one of my favorites and I strive to live by it daily. Doing small acts of kindness can change our world. Every week I send achievement notes to residents who have been recognized by their RAs. I have had so many residents come to my office to thank me for the notes. It’s such a blessing to know that I am helping to bring a bit of joy to someone’s day.

  1. Remember to breathe

I find it necessary to remind myself to breathe before entering a challenging situation, a difficult meeting, or answering emails at my desk. Taking a few extra seconds to collect my thoughts goes a long way.

  1. Live with an open mind & an open heart

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I try to go into every situation with an open mind and heart so that I can fully understand where someone is coming from. Often times we will never know exactly what someone else is dealing with in life, so it’s important to embrace them and to support them no matter what the circumstances are.

  1. Find your peace

When I was younger, my mum always taught me never to go to bed angry. I remember sitting up and talking through family arguments with her and my sister (until after midnight sometimes) so that we would be able to find our peace before falling asleep. It’s important to find peace with those you love, as well as those challenging situations with others that may be nagging you. Or if a challenging situation isn’t possible to resolve, find peace within your heart and hope that the other person finds peace within his/her heart as well.

  1. Talk to your mom every day

I talk to my mum every day, often times 2-3 times a day. It doesn’t matter if you’re 23 or 43, talking to your mom makes everything better. If you’re not close to your mom, find your go-to confidante. It’s important to know that someone has your back at all times.

This is my mum. She's the best!
This is my mum. She’s the best!

It is important to continue to better ourselves every day through personal reflection and growth. I am going to personally commit to my “Twelve Commandments of Angela” when I face a challenge or simply need to get through the day. Although it’s much easier to fall into the mundane, I find that I appreciate life so much more when I go out of my way to make the normal days extraordinary. I think this is something we can all strive for.

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