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Respite Between the Lines: Journaling as a Tool for Reflection, Rest, and Reconnection

Inspired by this week’s Moms Making Six Figures Podcast featuring Heidi Bartolotta and Jennifer Becker, who believe in the power of journaling and its practice as a foundation for personal happiness and professional success.   Your journal is like the big sister to your childhood diary—more meditation and less mindless meandering, more gratitude and less angst, more reflection than rebellion.


Many of us willingly turned to the pages of a diary or a journal throughout our childhood or teen years, confiding our triumphs and failures and scrawling the minutia of our daily lives between the lines. But somewhere along the way, we lost touch with our now dust covered collection, our faithful friend now a mere acquaintance.  When our lives became busy and our schedules filled, we confided in our significant other and with friends over happy hour; we turned to social media to vent our frustrations and share our celebrations.  And in the midst of the world’s tumult, and an ever growing sense of disconnect, it may be time to pick up our pens and our journaling practice again.


Reflection | Journaling rewires the brain.

Incorporating gratitude into your journaling practice is proven to improve your mood and rewire your brain to look for, and be more mindful of, the positive.  In fact, Consciously practicing gratitude daily actually strengthens our neural pathways for our “feel good emotions” based on the neurotransmission of dopamine and serotonin according to Emily Fletcher, the founder of Ziva, a well-known meditation training site.

Rest | Journaling heals emotional and physical wounds.

The act of writing allows us to organize and process the events and traumas we are subject to, ultimately allowing us to, “organize an event in our mind, and make sense of trauma.  When we do that, our working memory improves, since our brains are freed from the enormously taxing job of processing that experience, and we sleep better”.  And this, according to Dr. Pennebaker, a social psychologist, boosts both our immune systems and our moods.  When we heal our emotional wounds through actively pursuing progress, our physical health follows suit.

Fewer emotional stressors and mental burdens tumbling over throughout our brain on repeat, frees up our energy and capacity for living. In 2013, researchers found that the effects of journaling actually have the ability to heal physical wounds when the practice is both consistent and genuine, occurring for at least 20 minutes a day, three days a week.

Reconnection | Journaling connects us to our past and opens the door to progress

When we empty our brain on the page, topics and insights will begin to emerge; after we process what Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, refers to as “all that angry, petty, whiny stuff”, our interaction with our current world reveals itself.  This track record then becomes a visual reminder of our growth when we reflect back on the previous day, week, month, year, or years.  And, if you’re participating in the practice of journaling regularly and consistently, you’ll begin to take action toward improving your circumstances as well, “It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to constructive action”.


So where do you begin, in picking up a friendship that has been all too neglected? Is there a right way to re-introduce yourself, to pick up where you left off? The good news is, the experts all agree –authenticity and consistency are the only two keys.  Whether you journal about gratitude, record your child’s latest sayings for posterity, or jot down an inspirational quote from a podcast, the practice itself allows you to rest, reconnect, and reflect while finding respite between the lines.

We suggest starting with a listen to this week’s episode on the various ways Heidi and Jennifer have used journaling both personally and professionally, trying out the ‘Morning Pages’ practice described in Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, or starting with recording three daily gratitude’s. Here are some great ‘conversation starters’ to rekindle that friendship between pen and page.

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Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient is Key to Your Success Equation

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Brenda Lee, Emotional Intelligence Expert, who believes in the power of identifying our perspective and pushing through our conditional gaps to tap into our mind’s subconscious.


Part of the human experience is suffering.  And sadly many of us have experienced that suffering at the hands of another person in our lives, whether it’s the negative comments made by our father-in-law brushed off as ‘just his personality’, a boss who always asks us to stay late making our work-life balance that much harder to attain, or a poorly timed “friendly reminder” from the HOA about the state of our lawn, all of this suffering is imposed by and met with an Emotional Intelligence Quotient (or in the case of suffering’s worst offenders, the lack thereof).  And while we all know the old adage rings uncomfortably true, that we can’t control others, only ourselves, by improving our own EI (Emotional Intelligence) we will change our own perceptions of, and approaches to suffering, and model, for the less emotionally intelligent, the common denominator in the happiness and success equation.


The theory of EI was brought to the forefront of American psychology by Daniel Goleman in the 1990s.  While the concept was widely accepted in the field of psychology, employers were reluctant to embrace EI in the workplace.  Now, however, research has found that emotional intelligence is not only foundational to achieving personal happiness and success, but that it is also the strongest predictor of workplace effectiveness.

Here are the five key components of Emotional Intelligence, how to improve your skill set in each, and how each component, when put into practice, can benefit your personal and professional life.

Self-awareness

Individuals who are self-aware can identify their emotions and the impact of those emotions on their thoughts and behavior; they know their strengths and weaknesses and have self-confidence.

  • Keep a journal— Journals help to improve your self-awareness. Spending just a few minutes each day recording your thoughts can begin to move you toward greater self-awareness.
  • + The pay-off: Your mental health. Uncontrolled and unaddressed emotions and stress can take a toll on your mental health.  Learning to understand, identify and get comfortable with your emotions in order to manage them will help you to improve both your relationship with yourself and others, thereby leaving you feeling less lonely and isolated.

Self-regulation

Individuals who are able to self-regulate can manage their emotions in healthy ways, take initiative, follow through on commitments and adapt to changing circumstances; they can control impulsive feelings and behaviors.

  • Hold yourself accountable— Easier said than done, but if you have a tendency to blame shift, it’s time to take some ownership. Make a commitment to, and a habit of, admitting your mistakes, and accepting the consequences.  You will have more respect for yourself, and quickly earn the respect of those around you.
  • + The pay-off: When you understand your emotions and you are capable of controlling them, you’re better able to express how you feel and to understand how others are feeling. This improves your communication and will allow you to establish stronger relationships both at work and at home.

Motivation

Individuals who are self-motivated work consistently toward their goals and have extremely high standards for the quality of their work.

Empathy

Individuals who have a strong capacity for empathy understand the emotions, needs, and concerns of others; they pick up on emotional cues.

  • Pay attention to your body language— An often underrated, but hugely important facet of how others perceive us, perceiving them, is our body language. Learn to control your own body language to prove you are someone who is truly empathetic and open, and learn to read others’ body language to get an accurate read of how someone truly feels.
  • + The pay-off: By investing time and effort to really pay attention to others, you’ll actually gain insight into your own emotional state as well as your values and beliefs. When we pay attention to others, their needs, and their overall well-being, we foster safety and establish trust in our relationship.

Social Skills

Individuals who possess strong social skills can maintain good relationships, communicate clearly, inspire and influence others, work well in a team and manage conflict; they recognize the power dynamics in a group or organization.

  • Learn conflict resolution— No one likes conflict, but it is inevitable. Knowing how to manage conflict and to successfully resolve it is essential to honing your social skills and finding success in both your personal and professional endeavors.
  • + The pay-off: When you are in tune with your emotions you are better able to connect to other people and the world around you. Your emotional intelligence directly correlates to your social intelligence; the greater your social intelligence the more your stress will be reduced and the more balanced your nervous system will be through social communication leaving you feeling loved and happy.

While suffering is a part of the human experience, it doesn’t have to define it.  When we take the time to invest in our own emotional intelligence, we benefit not only our own happiness and success, but we also become a multiplier in the lives of those around us.  By taking ownership over our own progress at home and in the workplace, we can reduce our own suffering and the suffering experienced and imposed by others.  The work is worth putting in for the reward, as psychologist Travis Bradberry notes, when M.B.A. students received emotional intelligence training (not a usual part of the M.B.A. program), “even after graduating from the program [they] had raised their [emotional intelligence] scores 40 percent.  They had trained their brains.  Practice doesn’t make perfect, but practice make things habitual.”

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The Benefits of Believing in Something Bigger

Inspired by this week’s episode of the Moms Making Six Figures Podcast with Dr. Barbara Ryan who attributes her success, service of others, and belief in herself to her faith.


As parents, one of the first existential conversations we are asked to navigate by our children is the inevitable, “Where do babies come from?” shortly followed, or preceded by, “What (or who) is God?” ultimately leading to the teenage quandary, “What’s the point?” And, if we’re being honest, that last question drives many of our decisions as adults, the answer to why that guides our how. Without a why, a sense of purpose, or a belief in something bigger than ourselves, life can be practically unbearable.  Dr. Viktor Frankl, a famous psychiatrist, author and holocaust survivor describes the magnitude of belief as essential to enduring life’s hardships and traumas, “He who has a why can bear any how.”


Risk Tolerance

According to a scientific study conducted in the Netherlands, a belief in God, or a higher power,  “gives entrepreneurs a greater tolerance for positive risks.”  When we have faith in God, in the universe, or in humanity as a whole, we believe someone or something has our back when we struggle to believe in ourselves.

Passion and Vision

Belief in a higher power gives you confidence through the assurance of your own worth.  Being grounded in your identity and your ability to benefit others positively enables you to more clearly and passionately communicate and sell your vision to those around you.  Faith emboldens us to persevere.

The Happiness Quotient + Secret Sauce to Success

According to Mark Zuckerburg, Facebook founder and venture capitalist, in his commencement address to Harvard graduates, “purpose is what creates true happiness.” “Purpose is the sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for.” Research supports his assertions; people who are purpose driven:

Purpose is an Assurance

When we believe in something greater than ourselves, and that we are needed, our life, our work, our daily decisions become meaningful.  Humans, by design, are meant to fulfill their basic needs, but once those needs are met, purpose is necessary to avoid debilitating depression, a perceived sense of burdensomeness, and ever more prevalent loneliness.  Frontline humanitarian, Linda Cruse, says we always have a choice to serve others and recounts her why that has served her throughout her efforts, “When I was 18, in nurse training, my Matron said to me: ‘It’s not about you. It’s about what you’re here to do…to be of service and [to] help others.’”


Our children are filled with wonder and an uncanny ability to ‘call it as they see it’.  It may be time for us to tune-out the world’s noise and tune-in to our own childlike wondering.  Without belief in something greater than ourselves, faith in God, the universe, or humanity, without purpose, we run the risk of living in a state of apathy, simply going through the motions.  What is your purpose, what is your why, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

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Kindness Deserves a Seat at the Table, Whether in the Kitchen or the Boardroom

One of the unspoken challenges of working from home, working remotely, or working largely in isolation is the lack of authentic opportunities for social interactions with colleagues, management, and our professional tribe.  Many of us are seeing the lines of our home life and work life blur for the first time due to the pandemic, juggling the demands of childcare and Zoom meetings, and our working hours stretching late into the evening.  Our carefully established boundaries, routines and life as normal have been uprooted and our aptitude for kindness is essentially non-existent, all while our appetite for human connection becomes nearly insatiable.  We turn to social media to replace our face-to-face connections, which only furthers our inner turmoil and loneliness in a culture that seems to value division over unity with Keyboard Karen’s lurking in the shadows ready to add their vindictive two-cents to any, and every, post.  Is it any wonder that we have lost touch with one of the greatest attributes we can embody and the windfall of benefits therein?  It’s time to adapt to our new normal and to begin sprinkling kindness like confetti once again.


The Windfall of Benefits

With opportunities for ‘praise in passing’ limited by the pandemic, it is important to recognize the tangible benefits of kindness in the workplace.  A yearlong compilation of surveys conducted by Gallup found that recognition at work could help to, “reduce employee burnout and absenteeism, and improves employee well-being.”  Decades of research show that seemingly simplistic gestures like offering a compliment, words of recognition, and praise can help individuals to feel, “more fulfilled, boost their self-esteem, improve their self-evaluations, and trigger positive emotions.”  The affirmation offered by praise confirms our self-worth and contributes to our positive view of ourselves.

Next, the act of being kind contributes to our perceived sense of life’s meaningfulness.  When we are kind to others, it confirms our belief that there is more to life than ourselves.  These acts of kindness also change the way we see ourselves, as our reputation and esteem in the mind of others is improved.  We assess ourselves based on our behavior, so when we are kind to others we view ourselves as kind people, and therefore a good person.

Finally, giving to others makes us even happier than receiving from others.  In various studies, participants who complimented one another found that giving the compliment made them even happier than receiving one.  Compliments may seem trite, but the psychological steps taken to construe and offer a compliment are much deeper.  When we give a genuine compliment it requires us to,  “think about someone else—their mental state, behavior, personality, thoughts, and feelings.”  Thinking about others is a necessary step in feeling connected to them.  And this human connection, that we’ve all been desperately seeking throughout the pandemic, can lead to enhanced positivity in relationships ultimately driving our own happiness forward.

Bringing Kindness Back to the Workplace (Even If It’s Remote)

In order to create a culture of generosity and kindness within an organization, it is imperative that leadership leads by example. “By giving compliments and praising their employees, leaders are likely to motivate team members to copy their behavior and create norms of kindness in teams.”

Next, leaders can establish a time during Zoom meetings for a “kindness round”, close a call with an opportunity for employees to acknowledge each other’s work, or encourage a weekly “bright spot” submission in the weekly meeting notes.  Just a few moments taken out of the norm can have significant impacts on moral and social connection.  The key is consistency and an opportunity for peers to recognize one another publicly.

Finally, small spot bonuses, or tokens of appreciation, even if it’s ‘just’ a gift card for coffee or a thoughtful e-mail, can trigger the same psychological benefits of large acts of kindness without significant expense.


While we are busy switching loads of laundry, and prepping dinner between e-mails and Zoom calls, it can be easy to dismiss acts of kindness as frivolous.  But, if we can pencil in one small gesture of kindness a week, or a day for our colleagues, management and professional tribe, the overwhelming minutia of survival mode can begin to look a bit more like thriving for ourselves and others.  Our children are our best examples of unencumbered kindness, offering a hand picked dandelion, a smile to a stranger, or the last bite of their prized dessert.  Let’s become a bit more childlike and a lot less jaded; the world needs more kindness than Karen’s.

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The simple act of edification.

Have you ever heard someone speak so highly of someone else and thought “oh my gosh, I would love to meet that person!” Well, that simple act is called edification. The concept really is all about building others up in a thoughtful way. By implementing edification in your business, you are helping build the credibility of those around you. Edification helps creates excitement about what can be learned from the person you are speaking so highly of.

The biggest piece of edification is being sincere. Others will be able to see right through a disingenuous attempt of edification. Take the time to get to know others in your business, learn about what strengths they bring to the table and be excited to magnify their strengths to those around you. By implementing this tool, you will not only see growth in your business, but those you speak of will only become stronger, more confident and be overall more amazing at their work.

We hope this little piece of advice will help you in not only your business endeavors but your personal ones, too!

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What about you?

Do you ever find yourself feeling stucK? STUCK in a job you no longer love. STUCK trying to figure out how to pay for the looming College expenses or Holiday expenses that are crashing in on you? Stuck trying to figure out what to do with yourself now that the kids are driving and no longer need you to be their personal UBER driver?

I have found myself in a new season of parenting. I am a mom of two teenage boys, very active in sports, preparing for college. The moms in my life who are in similar stages, or even in the beginning stages of empty nesting, our conversations now are different. We all have some time on our hands that we have not had for the last 16 years or so. This is not to imply that our kids don’t need us, but what they need from us has changed.

How about focusing on you time? Improving ourselves. Achieving our goals. Feeling like we are headed in the right direction. Each is essential to our personal well-being and happiness. The more time we can spend on what’s most fulfilling to you the happier and more at peace you are. Think for a moment, what would bring you the most satisfaction and fulfillment in life? Take some time to dream a little, to look beyond the daily grind at what you’d like to become. It’s not too late to start something new. The problem is it’s natural to have fear of failing at something new! How about daring to see a better version of yourself. But where do you start? It starts with you.

Here are TEN tips to help you on your way…

1. Start each day on a positive note. Wake up each day and find the one thing to give you peace. One thing JUST FOR YOU. Instead of turning on the news where you will be flooded with negative news, read a devotion, go to a positive Facebook group, post some inspirational quotes.

2. Exercise. Even if it’s a brief walk or stretch routine, it is proven when you start your day with exercise you will improve your work performance, your mental focus, and be able to ward off stress. It also sets a pattern of consistency and when you are consistent with anything, success follows.

3.  Good nutrition. It’s that simple. Your body needs good fuel to maintain good positive energy throughout your day.

4.  Manage your stress. Stress exists in many forms. It’s different for everyone, but more often than not it’s usually tied to finances. Take steps to eliminate negative people, bills, thoughts. Get a plan, take baby steps to change the direction you are going in. The Holidays are near, its a great time to find a way to supplement your income.

5. Get Accountable. Write down your goals. Share them with someone.

6. Dream a little, what’s possible? You are Possible if you believe. It starts with you.

7. Make a list of your passions, interests.

8. Schedule a coffee, lunch or wine date with 1 person a week that you have not seen in years.

9. Network. Learn about what others in your same boat are doing.

10. Take action. Reach out to us. Have a conversation. We just may be exactly what you are looking for.