I’d I would say, figure out what you are learning because everything is teaching you something. Life is always teaching us. It doesn’t matter if life hands you something you perceive as amazing, or awful. It is your job to figure out what it is teaching you. The last 10 years of my life I have viewed my life through the eyes of a student. What am I being taught right now. Standing in line at the grocery story, teaches me patience. People with road rage, teach me kindness. Receiving a cup of tea in bed from my fiancé at night teaches me gratefulness. Living years with a man who was not kind, taught me how to create and uphold boundaries that I did not have in my life. Getting pregnant as a single mom, taught me the importance of community and being a listening ear for young moms. I challenge you to take some time out of your day this week and write down all the things that are going on in your life; good and bad and mediate on what each circumstance is teach you. When you start to view everything in your life as a teaching moment, it takes the pain and frustration out of it. The struggles are building your mental and emotional endurance and the good things are teaching you gratitude.
It sometimes feels like it is so hard to avoid feeling down or depressed these days. Between the sad news coming from world headlines, the impact of the ongoing raging pandemic, and the constant negative messages popping up on social and traditional media, it sometimes feels like the entire world is pulling you down. What do you do to feel happiness and joy during these troubled and turbulent times? In this interview series called “Finding Happiness and Joy During Turbulent Times” we are talking to experts, authors, and mental health professionals who share lessons from their research or experience about “How To Find Happiness and Joy During Troubled & Turbulent Times”.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sabrina Victoria.
Sabrina Victoria is the Creator and CEO of Human Better 365, a human transformation company and the creator of the Her Version Podcast. Speaker, entrepreneur and author of Envision Your Best Life 90-Day Planner & creator of Catapult Your Life in 365 Days, self-proclaimed Queen of Time, Sabrina focuses on time management and organization as the foundation of life.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Sure! I was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago and I have always been a natural people pleaser. I remember constantly looking for praise. I’m sure I upset my younger sister and brother a ton in that regard. I would always go above and beyond what was even asked, because I wanted all the praise and attention from my parents. Looking at me now, no one would ever know, but I was actually super shy growing up and had really low self esteem. I remember crying to my mom a lot about how ugly or how unpopular I was. Throughout my younger years and teenage years I wrote a lot in order to get all my feelings down on paper. I have tons of journals and notebooks filled with my daily thoughts, poetry and short stories. I still write to this day, I have tons of notebooks filled with awesome thoughts and brainstorm ideas. Growing up I was always a good problem solver. I loved to fix things, figure things out, organize things. I get a lot of that from my parents. I have always loved taking something and making it better, prettier or more functional. I remember I would amaze my parents by rearranging entire parts of the house. My mom would say, ‘clean the living room’ and hours later she would come down to check up on me and the entire room would be rearranged. And my room! My room was moved around every other month. That was always fun!
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My own story inspired me to pursue my career. I always felt silenced. I think a lot of people, especially women, have felt that way. I felt like I was suspended from living my authentic life because of rules and standards put on me. Fast forward to my early 20’s and my quiet voice led me to fall into the arms of a man who took advantage of the fact that I never spoke up, never complained, always did what I was told and never talked back or stood up for myself. I was mentally, emotionally, financially and sexually abused for that entire 13 year relationship and I felt the pull of suicide cross my mind constantly. I was in constant darkness, constant mental turmoil and isolation. I can’t tell you how many times I found myself in the bathroom sitting in the dark just crying, feeling like I had no one to lean on. That part of my life really made me realize how having community is so important. I promised myself that when I escaped that relationship I would create a platform that not only helped women find themselves, but that would also assist them in seeing the importance in speaking up and creating financial stability for themselves.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
Financial support? No. Physical support? No. Moral support. YES! 100%! First of all I want to say this: You don’t have to have an actual real person in front of you giving you encouragement in order to achieve success. I remember a time when I thought I was doomed to failure because I had no money for any sort of coach or support group, and that’s when I started searching for something else that didn’t cost any money. For years I pulled my power from reading books, watching online videos, reading online forums. I was isolated so I had to find people who could encourage me verbally, and this is when I was able to start creating glimmers of confidence in my own life. It took me years of research, education and self-reflection to get to where I am now. After I escaped that abusive world, I started to hone in on creating a community or tribe of people around me. I looked for people who were positive and had an optimistic view of life. Over the years, I have had several people in my life give me encouragement when it was needed. I have had a handful of coaches throughout the years, I have brilliant women in my life who always pick up the phone when I call and ask for their perspective. I have my parents, my grandparents, my fiancé. I believe that community is important and having people in my life that are cheering me on has been vital. For those of you that are searching for your own community, remember, building a tribe takes time. You have to be okay with it shifting and changing over the years. Sometimes we grow out of people, sometimes we have people leave and come back, the important part is to be self-aware of what you need in your world. Realize who is building you up and who is tearing you down.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Oh, I’m sure there has been plenty. But the first thing that just came to mind was the very first time I ever bought merchandise with our logo, website and slogan on it. I was so excited to see, promote and sell it! It arrived about a week later, and I was literally doing a little dance while cutting the box open. I was so full of joy and feeling like a real boss! I looked at the hundreds of dollars of merchandise that I signed off on and submitted the proof for, only to realize the website I had on every piece of merchandise was WRONG. Everything… every piece was wrong. It was unusable. I was mortified. I kept the huge box in my office for about 2 weeks. Finally, I contacted the company on a whim and wrote them a comical email about a CEO that doesn’t proof her own work, and whether or not they had a discount code for that. Luckily, the rep that received the email also had a sense of humor and they wound up giving me 50% off a repeat order…this time with the correct website!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Today, actually, I just sent out my first invitation for my podcast to host its first set of 4 roundtable discussions where I have a panel of women speaking on one subject for two hours. The response has been AMAZING. I am so excited to have the privilege of these women sharing their experiences in order to inspire and uplift other women. The four topics we are starting with are divorce, narcissism, mental and emotional health and entrepreneurship. I am giddy with excitement! I plan to continue to invite women to tell their story on a platform that empowers them in order to speak to those that need encouragement.
You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
This is a great question! I would have to say first on the list is that everyone knows the destination and focus of the company. Everyone knows the plan and is excited about where the company is going and the impact we plan on making within the personal development arena. Having my team on board is key, while we are heading in the same direction which really keeps us on track and accountable to each other. Because of this, everyone’s work tends to be produced at a high level, because they know that we are going BIG. There is no room for mediocre work.
The second is probably the most important, and that is great communication. I never expect people to read my mind. I am incredibly specific with what I am asking for and I don’t leave any room for wonder. I always emphasize that if someone doesn’t understand what is needed, that it is okay to double and triple ask. There is never a dumb question and I always appreciate when work can be done right the first time verses having to spend more time redoing things. My email is always open for any inquires and I am constantly reminding my team to reach out with any confusion. This keeps the line of communication open and keeps everyone feeling a real sense of certainty. Oh, a funny quirk I have is, I am notorious for drawing things out on a piece of paper. I am a visual person so you will often hear me say, ‘Get me a piece of paper I’ll draw it out for you.’ And I will actually sketch the idea out so my team can visualize what I am saying and they can create it.
The last trait would probably be laughter. I am always joking, laughing, making funny voices and cracking everyone up. When I can laugh at myself, it makes everyone around me more at ease and creates an atmosphere of happiness. There is always a time to be serious… but there is also plenty of time to be hilarious. Humans need both. Just to give you an example, I can’t tell you how many times I have completely made a fool of myself on Facebook lives or zoom meetings by just saying the most ridiculous things. Having everyone in the room laughing is a good thing, as long as they are doing it with you… not at you. There is a tight line to walk with this trait, so if you are toying with the idea, be aware of keeping solid boundaries. People getting too comfortable with you can start to take advantage of you. It’s important to have a good balance of seriousness and humor.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
Oh, joy is a trait I have honed in on over the duration of my life. So I will have to paraphrase quite a bit here. Let’s break this up into two stories. Let’s see, I got pregnant out of wedlock when I was 20 and because of religious reasons my family and friends completely disowned me. I’m not going to say this was a ‘joyful’ time, because it was not; however, I knew at even this age how important humor and laughter was. I would purposefully tell my son’s father to tickle me while I was pregnant in order to allow my child to hear me laugh. Once my son was born I made time every single day to laugh with my baby boy and continued to find humor and joy consistently. Now mind you, soon after my son was born, I became a single mother. During this time there was no child support payments. I was living paycheck to paycheck. I was receiving eviction notices on my door, getting my car reposed, and eventually living with a man for 13 years that abused me. However, I always came back to laughter. I always came back to joy. No matter what I was going through, I would find time to laugh with my son, we would have tickle fights at the park, look up hilarious jokes in the car, play with our food, make funny voices, work on our beatboxing skills. I have none, which is why it was so hilarious. Even the abuser thought I was funny. I would randomly find humor or lighthearted sarcasm in our day and just find myself laughing hysterically. My son is now older, obviously, and he is absolutely living proof that you can shine joy even if you are not necessarily feeling it. My son is the most confident, optimistic, hilarious, problem-solving young man ever. I always choose joy. Joy over hate. Joy over frustration and anger. Joy wins every time.
My second story is COVID related. It’s interesting because in the beginning of COVID I was actually joking that 2021 was one of the best years of my life, my business was booming, I was living my best life. Even when COVID hit I was still saying out loud… ‘this is still the best year I have ever had’. COVID did dry up my initial business, not too many people were trying to improve their lives when their money started to dry up… most were just trying to survive. COVID actually wiped out every single client I had. When that happened I did not panic, I looked for what I could sell online, since everyone was at home staring at their phones. I started a clothing company called Jacket Junkie that used recycled clothing to create magnificent jackets that redefined the fast fashion industry. One month after launching the brand I was on a family walk and tripped on a piece of sidewalk that was uneven. My tibia, fibula completely cracked in half along with a few other cracks of other bones in my leg, my leg was hanging off my leg. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen in real life. I was rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery. I had never broken anything before, I had never had pain like that before, I was devastated. I could have easily sat in a puddle of ‘poor me’ and everyone around me probably would have understood that. However, a week after being home I started to ween myself off the meds and got right back to work. Everyday I woke up looking for joy, everyday I was finding things to be grateful for. I took all those wonderful thoughts, bought myself a computer stand for my bed and over the course of 6 months created an online sober community, a sobriety program and wrote a book. Soon after that I started another podcast, and it started booming right out of the gate. I am consistently booked solid 3 months ahead with women who are willing to tell their story in order to inspire and uplift others. During all of this I could have lost my cool, I could have become depressed, I could have decided that the entire world was against me, but instead I kept finding reasons to find joy, to keep going, to stay optimistic. I now have four streams of income coming in, as well as the one I had pre-COVID. Finding joy paid off.
Ok, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview about finding joy. Even before the pandemic hit, the United States was ranked at #19 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low, despite all of the privileges and opportunities that we have in the US?
There is only one answer. Expectations. We all have a blueprint, a story in our head as to what we believe our life is suppose to look like. We created that blueprint through what our parents taught us, society has taught us, the school system has taught us, our friends have taught us. Everyone’s blueprint is different. For some it might be to live simple, find a partner and never have children. For others it might be to make lots of money, then get married and possibly have kids. For someone else it might be to travel the world and live paycheck to paycheck working small jobs between travels. As humans we tend to take mental surveys of what people expect of us and when that combined survey doesn’t equal the life we are actually living, it can be frustrating. What we need to realize is that our life does what everyone’s life does, it pivots. Unpredictable things happen. Marriages don’t work out, people die, we get hurt, we don’t get the job or the raise, we find out we can’t get pregnant. All of these real life struggles mess up our perfect blueprint of how our life was supposed to unfold and that can be frustrating. Instead of living in a fantasy of what our life should be, it is best to see our life how it actually is and find gratitude where you are. Any areas that need adjusting can be done over time. When we allow our mind to feel joy where we are, this is when we start to let go of all those expectations and start to really navigate through our actual life and find happiness in all the areas; even the areas that are not perfect.
What are the main myths or misconceptions you’d like to dispel about finding joy and happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
Well, first I’d like to start out by saying that I don’t believe joy and happiness are the same thing. I know many times people interchange them in conversation and for purposes of this interview, I also interchanged them. However, let me explain. I believe that happiness is everywhere and also comes in different sizes. For instance, happiness is eating your favorite meal and it is also getting a big bonus at work. Happiness is found in our daily lives all day, everyday. Similarly, we can float in and out of happiness instantly. Imagine the happiness you feel when you are jamming to your favorite song while driving with the windows down, happy, right? Now imagine right in the middle of that song you get a flat tire. You can switch from happiness to frustration rather quickly. Make sense? The question is, ‘How do you stay in a state of happiness when things start falling apart?’ Gratitude. Happiness is finding things to be grateful for, happiness is living in gratitude. Now what about joy? This is where it gets tricky. I believe that joy is the self-realization that happiness is temporary, but then choosing happiness anyways. It is being content with where you are, where you are going, and being able to acknowledge when you are happy or unhappy. Mastering the ability to embrace and find gratitude in this process is what will produce real authentic joy in your life.
In a related, but slightly different question, what are the main mistakes you have seen people make when they try to find happiness? Can you please share some stories or examples?
I see it all the time, we all see it, and many of us see it in ourselves. Looking for happiness in material items; collecting more stuff, buying the bigger house, the more expensive car, the newest toys and gadgets. Many people believe that the quickest way to happiness is through their eyes. They want everything they can see. I often look around and see people wearing the newest brand name clothes, their hair is always cut and colored, their nails are always done, yet they are absolutely miserable human beings. They have so much anger, frustration and sadness in their life. We need to, as a society start putting more emphasis on internal happiness and healing. The biggest mistake a person can make is living way above their means trying to fill a void in their life. This goes back to finding joy, joy is finding happiness and gratitude in your world despite the negatives. Trying to cover up those hurt feelings with stuff only makes our life more complicated and cumbersome.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share with our readers your “5 things you need to live with more Joie De Vivre, more joy and happiness in life, particularly during turbulent times?” (Please share a story or an example for each.)
- Oh, this is going to be fun! First and foremost, the thinking that has taken me to where I am now mentally, emotionally, physically, financially is this: don’t focus on what you can’t do, focus on what you can do. So many times we get caught up focusing on the donut we can’t eat or the vehicle we can’t afford that we forget about all the things we can have. Over analyzing what we can’t do causes depression. No one likes a list of things they can’t have. For example, if you are looking to lower your blood sugar, or lose some weight, start to focus on all the things you CAN eat, rather than the things you can’t eat. What are all the options that ARE available to you? Doing this one little shift in thinking is a total game changer for so many people. When I broke my leg I could have sat for months depressed about my two businesses that were failing due to COVID and my leg, but I wasted no time in that space. Instead I looked at what I could do. Quick side note: This is one of the great things about constantly writing all my thoughts down. Having my notebooks overflowing with ideas, is what allowed me to pivot swiftly within my wheelhouse of my future dreams. Start making lists of all the things you can do.
- Second I would say, figure out what you are learning because everything is teaching you something. Life is always teaching us. It doesn’t matter if life hands you something you perceive as amazing, or awful. It is your job to figure out what it is teaching you. The last 10 years of my life I have viewed my life through the eyes of a student. What am I being taught right now. Standing in line at the grocery story, teaches me patience. People with road rage, teach me kindness. Receiving a cup of tea in bed from my fiancé at night teaches me gratefulness. Living years with a man who was not kind, taught me how to create and uphold boundaries that I did not have in my life. Getting pregnant as a single mom, taught me the importance of community and being a listening ear for young moms. I challenge you to take some time out of your day this week and write down all the things that are going on in your life; good and bad and mediate on what each circumstance is teach you. When you start to view everything in your life as a teaching moment, it takes the pain and frustration out of it. The struggles are building your mental and emotional endurance and the good things are teaching you gratitude.
- Speaking of gratitude, find gratitude everywhere. Every single day, no matter were you are in life, embrace gratitude. I play this mental game with myself sometimes. Whenever I am feeling a bit flustered or stuck I ask myself this. If I was guaranteed a million dollars would I be able to get through this, accomplish this, finish this, carry this? The answer is almost always a resounding, YES! There will always be things in our life that cause some sort of struggle, that is called life. But remember that each struggle is a building block that is making you stronger. There is nothing more exciting about your day than the moment you wake up. The fact that you are reading this means you are more fortunate than all the people that did not wake up today. Now what are you going to do with your day? Are you going to sit around and find all the negatives in your life or are you going to strive to continue to build and create the life you know you deserve? I could promise you a million dollars in your bank account tomorrow morning and you might think that all your worries would go away that day, but what if I told you in exchange for that million dollars you wouldn’t wake up? Would you still have the same excitement? No? Why? Because waking up is the GREATEST thing, the thing to be most grateful for. Waking up is better than having a million dollars in your bank account. We truly have so much to be thankful for.
- My favorite way to bring more joy would be to laugh often and laugh hard. One of the things, besides my hair that I am known for is my laugh. I have a loud, obnoxious laugh that some people find annoying (only assuming) and some people wish for (I have been told). Every single day I laugh. I am conscious of the importance of laughter and the impact it has on our mental and emotional state of mind. Look around and find reasons to laugh, if you can’t find one, set out to get into a tickle fight with your partner or your kids. The vibrations of laughter on our soul have positive long term effects on how you live life and enjoy life.
- And lastly, all day, everyday, smile and acknowledge everyone that looks at you. This is a habit I have had for about 20 years. I always smile, wave and acknowledge everyone that acknowledges me. It does not matter who it is, or what they look like. Pushing happiness into my world is the best gift I can give to humankind and the easiest way to do that is through love and kindness. I know this simple act has such an impact on my community, I can feel it. The ripple effect is real, and you can create the same effect in your community.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
Joy and happiness is a choice. We all have positive things and negative things in our lives. Many times individuals that are feeling down or depressed are only focusing on the negatives in their life. You can’t help or make someone feel a certain way. You can guide them through offering books or videos that encourage personal growth. However, many times individuals are stuck in their own stories or identities. So my favorite way of encouraging support is through example. Always showing up with a good attitude, pivoting negative conversations into positive ones, and sharing stories from my own life that have brought me happiness. Most individuals will follow the flow of the conversation. The important part is to acknowledge when you hear positive stories from them and be sure to embrace and encourage them to share more positive stories. Continuing to praise positivity and ignoring negativity can start to create a different atmosphere for them long-term.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
More open and honest storytelling. So many people are walking around with brilliant stories of victory that no one knows about. Fear of judgment rules our lives. If we could put our finger pointing down for a moment, we would start to realize that we are all more alike than we think. Finding more compassion and more empathy for each other is a great asset to have.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Oh, my! First person that comes to mind is Barbara Corcoran. I had listened to her audio, If You Don’t Have Big Breasts, Put Ribbons in Your Pigtails long before Shark Tank even existed. I have watched pretty much every episode of Shark Tank, and I find her to be so brilliant and level-headed. Who would have thought that a decade after listening to that audio, I would have ended up in a similar situation to her; working with my ex’s new girlfriend. I imagine Barbara exiting that situation much like I did, with dignity and my head held high. When I stepped out on my own, I embraced what Barbara did, used all the knowledge I had learned and did it all by myself!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
All of my social media is listed under Sabrina Victoria and you can always find everything I am currently working on under www.sabrinavictoria.com.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!