Forgive daily. Nothing will steal your joy like a grudge or a resentment. It sucks the life force out of your body, mind, emotions and spirit. Forgiveness is a decision, don’t wait to feel like forgiving, because it won’t happen. When you make the choice to forgive, that life sucking pain dissipates over time and you experience a lightened load.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Leigh-Ann Larson, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Founder and CEO of Elevate Counseling Services, Inc. Leigh-Ann is a strength based, solution focused counselor that works with individuals and couples around issues of grief and loss, trauma and substance abuse.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
A little over twenty years ago, as a young mother, home with three children under the age of seven, I was feeling a bit down about not having a career. Being uncertain of what I was going to do with my life, I went to a counselor. Counseling helped me sort all of this out. I enjoyed the process, loved re-inventing myself and my life got so much better. I decided that this, being a counselor, was what I wanted to do with my life. So I finished my Bachelors degree part-time while the kids were young and went to graduate school for my M.Ed. in Mental Health Counseling.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
Living on purpose, to me, means you live with intention. Every day is a collection of moments in time strung together, which creates your life. Think of these moments like a string of beads, varied in color, shape and texture. There are moments not particularly pleasing, but when you look at the whole, you have a beautiful, varied, string of moments (beads), unique to you. Living on purpose is about choosing those beads yourself. You get an array of beads to choose from in any given moment and pick which one is going on the string. Living on purpose means you are co-creating and building your life with the best option currently presenting itself at the moment.
Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?
My own emotional pain led me into counseling. Through this process, I felt a passion to help others through their pain. I also have another kind of pain in my life that has informed the way I make meaning in the world and frames the context in which I help people. I have had a fibromyalgia diagnosis for over twenty years, an autoimmune illness, which is currently in remission and degenerative osteoarthritis. Living with multiple, chronic, flaring and unpredictable diseases, has helped me learn to live in the moment. I have gratitude when I can “operate on all cylinders” and practice acceptance when I need to strategize my priorities. This lifestyle defines who I am as a person, has allowed me to accept pain, prosper and be a positive force in the world. This is what I bring into the therapy room with my clients. There are always problems, but there are also always solutions. I listen for the solutions and help guide my clients to find them for themselves. I have found living in the solutions is a far more interesting and engaging way to build and live this life.
The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
To begin, I am personally not a fan of the word “happy”. Happiness is just an emotion that comes and goes. It is not something that can be predicted or chosen — positive external life circumstances are a bigger predictor of happiness than internal factors. When people set out to find happiness, what often happens is there is a set up for disappointment. It is better to seek engagement, intellectual pursuits, or opportunities to serve or create. It is in the moments of seeking these things that we find happiness.
Secondly, I experience our culture as a quick fix, “let’s change my state of consciousness” so I can be happy. So instead of living “life on life’s terms” I see addiction happening: with food; alcohol and drugs; spending; or chasing relationships in obsessional patterns. This is not going to make people happy. In reality, these behaviors create depression, anxiety, isolation and exhaustion.
Finally, I think there needs to be a level of authenticity and vulnerability within a person and how they conceptualize and experience themselves. Many of us are pushed around by an external locus of control (what people, places and things tell us our lives should look like) instead of really going inward and having some serious introspection and truth-finding. This is the way to get to the core of what will bring a person into peace and contentment. Contentment is a preferred and realistic way of being as it can be a constant companion. Even if you are in a moment that is not OK, you can still be OK when you are content. This is not so with happiness.
What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. Start the day mindfully. Take it slow, stretch, breath, pray or reflect. Have a cup of coffee, take some time to breath, listen to music, read or journal. These are great ways to start the day off on the right foot. Take it slow and allow the body, mind, emotions and spirit to connect. This is the best way to engage with a new day.
2. Be interested in others. I think of myself as a servant-leader. This role helps remind me there are people out in the world I am supposed to be showing up for. This mindset helped me as a parent when my children were young (and the demands were plentiful and just kept coming). It continues to help me now show up for life even on those days that are hard, feel painful or are filled with problems. Engagement with others gets you out of your head and help you to see the bigger picture.
3. Accept and be your authentic self. When you are not authentic you are living behind high walls, hiding behind masks, trying to be someone other than who you are. Your relationships are superficial and lack connection. This is exhausting!
Nobody knows the real you, better than you. Do not hide your awesome self…bring it out into the world and you will attract the right tribe into your life. You will be energized and engaged by it all.
4. Forgive daily. Nothing will steal your joy like a grudge or a resentment. It sucks the life force out of your body, mind, emotions and spirit. Forgiveness is a decision, don’t wait to feel like forgiving, because it won’t happen. When you make the choice to forgive, that life sucking pain dissipates over time and you experience a lightened load.
5. Rock a Gratitude Attitude. A grateful heart won’t harden. Gratitude keeps you open to the possibilities of what life has to offer. It allows you to hope, dream and appreciate. Gratitude keeps you humble and helps you remember life itself is a gift. This disposition lends itself to a life lived well.
6. Above all else — LOVE. Love people, love places and love things. Fill your life with all of the things that make you smile and your heart sing. Fill your days with laughter, song, love and authentic living. As you engage with others, you will discover a life to be enthusiastic about.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
I have always been enthralled by Oprah Winfrey, her life and legacy. She motivates me to be my best self. Oprah and Deepak Chopra have joined forces and offer an array of excellent meditation programs which are helpful for building a mindfulness practice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, rather it is about learning how to dance in the rain”. Every day is a new beginning. When I open my eyes in the morning it is an opportunity for a do-over. I love this about life: we can go out and start the adventure again the next day. I enjoy my day, no matter what rain may be falling, because there are no promises that the sun will shine or the weather will be ideal tomorrow. Today there is music, I can catch a beat, any beat and just enjoy what is in front of me.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am working on two projects: one is “Manifest Your Best”. I have created this content and talk, with the objective, to help business owners and thought leaders take practical steps in building their best businesses. The content is transferable to all people in all aspects of life (relationships, health, finances). The podcast can be found on Elevate Counseling’s FaceBook page and will be fleshed out in a blog series next year. I also have a writing project underway “Business Leadership as Spiritual Practice: a 12 Step Model.” This is a spinoff of the recovery model that I work with. It helps increase confidence for those in leadership positions who frame their work in the context as a servant-leader and a solution focused decision maker. This project offers value to anybody who seeks to live in solutions.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start a movement of Natural Born Encouragers, called The Elevators. These people are authentic and genuinely interested in helping others live their best possible lives. They lead with compassion instead of competition and this allows for abundance and prosperity to organically boom for everyone. The ideal would be more people live from a place of loving abundance instead of fear and scarcity.
Thank you so much for joining us!