Do something lovely for someone else. Pick up a treat for someone you love, reach out to a neighbor who may need some help, pay more than the standard tip for excellent service with a note written on the bill expressing your appreciation for good service, and tell someone dressed well they look great! Extending these random acts of kindness makes us feel better about our nature and increases self-esteem. It also can relieve anxiety about the misfortune of others. Lastly, extending these gestures of niceness helps us see the world as a more generous place and contributes to making life better.
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 Liane Haynes-Smith.
Liane Haynes Smith is an Author, Corporate Trainer, Intentional Life Coach, and Speaker. For over 20 years, Liane has been studying and implementing transformational success principles as a leader of highly successful sales & service teams and in her role as a coach for individuals and groups. She works with people who are reinventing their lives, as well as, inspires & trains leaders to create teams that love their jobs, exceed expectations during times of disruption and change.
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?
I grew up in New York City in the Bronx. I was a member of a family of four. My Mother was of West Indian descent and was a second-generation New Yorker, and my Father was from a small town in West Virginia. They met in college and married in a small on-campus ceremony the day after my Father graduated from college. My Mother was 19, and my Father was 23. He was determined to leave West Virginia as quickly as possible, and my parents headed north, returning to the bosom of my Mother’s close-knit Family in the Bronx. I grew up with two loving parents and relatives representing both sides of the family. At the beginning of their marriage, my parents were financially struggling, and I was born one year after they got married. We lived in the projects. At a time, reflective of President Johnson’s program called the Great Society. This social experiment allowed me to grow up with other families of limited means in a multiethnic, multi-cultural neighborhood that represented a blend of Catholics, Christians, and Jews.
My parents laid an excellent foundation for me to thrive, and each impacted my outlook in life. They were both hard workers and pushed past color barriers in a time that was pre and post the Civil Rights laws. My Father moved up in the ranks as a labor organizer, and my Mother, while working as an Art Teacher for a private school, raising two children, went back to school to get her BA and master’s degrees. We moved from the projects to a condo to a house in New Rochelle. They both instilled a sense of pride in my race, an awareness that I came from a family on both sides that kept moving forward despite obstacles. They instilled a sense of responsibility that I had as an African American and to our family tree that what I did with my life was an essential part of moving the needle forward. What I now appreciate is that it was never dictated what I should be. The emphasis was on getting an education, but the direction of my life and career was for me to discover. My Father was an optimist, and he taught me the importance of perseverance, getting up and greeting each day with a positive attitude, and being grateful. My Mother taught me an appreciation for beauty in nature, art, music, and a recognition of my innate gifts. It is important to note, I was aware of racism, pre, and post-Civil Rights laws starting at four years old, when we traveled by train, from New York to West Virginia. On the Mason Dixon line, they would attach a railroad car to all trains coming from the north. Once connected, we had to move from the caboose; we began our journey to another train car marked for “colored people only”. As a teen, I was aware of my race when I entered certain stores, and I was followed closely by a salesperson until I left or made a purchase. I was aware of my race when people assumed I came from a poor or disadvantaged background without knowing the details of my life. What helped me during these times was a strong sense of pride in my ancestry, who I was as a person and a human being, and that such behavior was a sad statement about the person exhibiting the behavior and their innate sense of ignorance and limited thinking.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I tried on many hats before I ended up becoming a Coach. I started my career following a circuitous route which allowed me the opportunity to test drive several scenarios, meet people who became chapters in my life and had work experiences that were impactful and contributed to the on-going evolution of who I am today. I started in non-profit through a high school internship with the Bronx Council on the Arts, which provided an opening to work with the New York State Council on the Arts and then led to a stint in administration and education coordination with the Eliot Feld Ballet and the New Ballet School. Due to a quest to earn a more substantial income, I moved into corporate America and into the Personnel Department of American Broadcasting Company. This required a mental adjustment after the lofty and creative mindset of the non-profit and dance world. Although this turn in my career did allow access to an educational benefit that enable me to complete the remaining credits for my undergraduate degree in psychology. I then floated into off-site events, cater waitering and the culinary arts, which culminated in another degree from the Culinary Institute of America. Little did I know that I was inching toward a career in Hospitality and Tourism which would be my base of operation for 25 years. First as an Assistant Manager of Banquets and ending as a Vice President of Client and Destination Services, for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board. I lost my job due to Covid-19. The Tourism and Hospitality industry was deeply and rapidly affected by people’s inability to travel. Up until then, I had been mentally entertaining a new beginning, but I envisioned that change much further down the road. I am a big believer in carpe diem, and I realized that this was an opportunity to begin a new chapter in my life and to really accentuate what I loved, in the area of mentoring and developing high performing successful teams into a new burgeoning career of coaching and training. I used the enforced change in schedule to recalibrate my life vision. My home office became my research, planning, and study center, where I became a certified Life Coach, transformed my mindset from Corporate Leader to Entrepreneur, and laid the groundwork for Coaching people who are looking to reinvent their lives and feel joy in the journey and developing a program to inspire leaders to create teams that love their jobs and exceed expectations.
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?
I have to re-iterate that my Parents provided an excellent foundation. However, if I could compare someone to a literary figure, there was a person who was the Mary Poppins in my life. Her name was Georgia Delano, and I met her at the perfect time when I needed a mentor.
Georgia was wicked intelligent, classy, kind, and a force of nature in the very best sense of the word. She was hired to be the Head Administrator of the New Ballet School, where I was employed. Georgia was a Yale graduate that majored in Economics’; she was a wife, a mother of four, and a grandmother. I remember the first day she arrived at the school, which was housed on the top floor in the Union Square section of New York City. When Georgia came through the door, her smile and her distinctive voice were captivating. She fully engaged with everyone she met that day, listened to what they had to say, asked probing questions to become better acquainted with who they were and how they contributed to the school’s daily operations. Georgia made everyone feel special in terms of what they did within the scope of the school. Very early in her tenure, Georgia took me under her wing. She taught me that kindness yields more than meanness or nastiness. She heightened my awareness of the unfolding beauty present in each day. Georgia treated everyone with equal respect and personified her belief that we are all one, operating from different perspectives. She emphasized the philosophy that we all have gifts, and each of us can contribute to the world in small and grand gestures depending on our means. Over the years, Georgia became a second mother to me, and Georgia was a source that I could turn to for discussing ideas, theories, and thoughts. Right until the day she died, we maintained a loving relationship.
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?
One of the biggest mistakes I made during a specific time in my career was not caring for myself particularly when I was transitioning from one job to the next. I had just completed a very intense seven-year project of leading a Sales, Marketing and Service team for the opening and stabilizing a new hotel brand that launched at the beginning of an economic downturn. When I left that job, I took on a new position that had a new set of challenges and a learning curve to master. I failed to take any time off in between jobs and I was exhausted. My weariness was compounded by having a young child in elementary school and taking care of Mother, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I was addictively clinging to a mindset of excelling at one hundred and ten percent in all areas of my life. This contained trying to be a perfect Mom, which included baking chocolate chip cookies from scratch for school bake’s sale (What was I thinking?) and flowed into being the perfect Daughter, by moving my Mom into my home, so I could oversee her care. The results were that anytime I found myself sitting still for more than fifteen minutes I would fall asleep. I fell asleep in business meetings, in Doctors’ offices with my Mom, and at elementary school events. To counteract my sleeping symptoms, I was investing quite a bit of money in energy drinks, which in turn was impairing my ability to sleep soundly at night. My life was beginning to fall apart and one day when I found myself crying hysterically over a burnt tray of cookies needed for another bake sale, I knew some changes needed to be made. First, I took ten days off from work and went on a lovely vacation with my family. While away I began to write a blueprint of what I wanted my life to look like. I came to the conclusion that just like on an airplane during the departure instructions you are advised, in an emergency, when the oxygen masks drop, put the oxygen mask on first, fill your lungs and then tend to others. I had to re-prioritize my focus and move sleep, morning meditation, taking a lunch break, pausing in between tasks to take a walk around the office to the number one priority. Re-think my image of being a good Mom and find a bakery that made great chocolate chip cookies. Then find a facility for my Mom, where she could thrive despite her diminishing capacity. Lastly, I learned to write more reasonable To Do List, trust that shifting tasks to another day is ok, make time to breathe, look myself in the mirror each day and say, you are perfect just the way you are, good job, Liane!
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My company, DreamsEnvisions, was born out of a desire to inspire, empower, and provide clients the support and tools they need to bring their best personal and professional vision for life into reality.
The professional platform of, DreamsEnvisions focuses on working with business leaders looking to develop high-performing teams while maintaining positive morale, engaging peak performances, and operating cohesively during a time of disruption and change.
DreamsEnvisions offers individuals workshops and classes that engage them to experience more joy in their everyday lives.
My 2 Cents is a weekly segment on Instagram created to provide facts, ideas, and concepts designed to offer food for thought, options for addressing negative thought patterns, and methods for embracing peace and joy during difficult times.
Comfort Digest Wellness Snacks for the Soul is a bi-monthly newsletter for subscribers, created to provide activations for accessing joy, peace, and wellbeing.
I am also excited to be a co-author in the latest edition of the Everyday Woman’s series. The newest book is called Everyday Women’s Guide To Being Successful in Business. An anthology designed to share methods of success for women supporting women.
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?
- Seeking expert knowledge and accepting help is an essential step on the path to success. Hiring a Coach is one of the best investments one can make in themselves. I knew if I wanted to take my business to the next level, I needed a Business and Marketing Coach. When I hired Angela Giles, she assessed my business and my capability as a new business leader. Then based on my needs, Angela, designed a targeted plan that included marketing, visibility, delegation of duties and selected automation to support workflow, time efficiencies and growth. I was introduced to ideas and systems that I did not know existed and advised on how to keep moving the needle forward. In addition, I also engaged a Mindset Coach, named Callie Kares, who has been instrumental in helping me eliminate limiting thoughts, and expanding my sense of self as I moved from a corporate mindset to business owner.
- Perseverance — With all new ventures when one is taken away from what is familiar fear and doubt can become a hindrance. At various times in the process of building my business, I plagued with fear and doubt. During those times I had to breathe, reconnect to my vision and the why it was important for me to bring my dream to fruition. Perseverance has pushed me forward over every challenge and when I look back what was initially laced with fear and doubt can now be addressed with ease and confidence.
- Being Authentic and Self Aware — Being Authentic and Self Aware — Being authentic and self-aware requires understanding one’s strengths and flaws and is a crucial component to being a business owner and building an authentic leadership style. Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses determines not only who we are but enables one to surround themselves with the necessary talent to ensure a smooth-running engine. Being authentic and is not fitting ourselves into ill-fitting mold and to stay true to ourselves and our unique qualities.
Early on I realized that as a woman and a person of a color, particularly in my work as a corporate trainer I could bring a set of experiences and a point of view that could allow a more expansive lens particularly in the areas of inclusion and connection.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
Instead of calling myself an authority on joy, I see myself as a lover of life. Someone who lives from a perspective of the glass is more than half full. I believe that most humans are inherently good, but we all have to manage our internal demons. Finding joy and beauty in life has been a way for me to positively manage a lousy day, harness depression from seeping into complete misery, and providing hope when life is not unfolding the way one would like. I do not believe in burying our feelings or going into denial when life has handed us a blow. Based on the experience of undergoing a debilitating depression. I have learned that connecting to some form of joy and noticing the beauty that surrounds us, whether it is a cloud formation, enjoying the sun’s warmth, or hearing the laughter of children, are examples of life experiences that can induce joy. In a state of joy, one enables the introduction of a new perspective. That creates a space for realigning our thoughts, eradicate an unpleasant mood, makes room for solutions, or provides an oasis of blissful peace during a time of emotional struggles, such as when I had to care for my Mother as she succumbed to Alzheimer’s. I believe that we have choices throughout any given day, and when appropriate or needed, I choose my right to experience joy and encourage others to do the same.
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?
Our society in the United States is not as focused on the indexes that appear to drive happiness scores in other countries worldwide. When you look at the countries that consistently rank within the top five on the World Happiness Report, their scores excel because they live within societies with a substantial premium on specific lifestyle preferences and are willing to make collaborative choices for the betterment of the whole. They embrace the concept of work-life balance, holistically support the quality of family life, and are focused on collaborating within their communities. They are willing to invest more in collective services, such as childcare, health care, education, and elder care which improve the overall quality of the lives of their citizens. There is less time screen time spent on the internet, social media, and consumerism. Lastly, there is a greater level of trust in national, regional, and local institutions.
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?
Finding joy and happiness is a choice that requires a conscious decision to keep an eye on what is working well in our lives. No one prescribes that we walk around all day every day in a state of continuous bliss. We need to understand that there will always be something that is not unfolding or working perfectly the way we would like at any given moment in our life. The question becomes, is your preferred preference to keep your attention focused on what does not work, or can you balance what is working with what is not. Being grateful and taking time to look at what you appreciate about your life is vital — also, taking time to notice what brings you joy and what makes you happy. Become aware of what you would love and then lay out a plan to draw these aspects into your life. Set goals focused on improving your health, finding your ideal job, having loving relationships, acquiring more money or time freedom. These areas may take time, commitment, and hard work, but the joy that comes with achieving a goal or a dream is unbeatable. Also, it is imperative to understand that fear can arise when changing old habits and incorporating new ones. Therefore, keep your focus on achieving your goal and do not let fear deter you. In addition, select activities that positively impact your spirit, elevate your mood, and physiologically help your body transition into a happier place. Laughter creates endorphins. Doing something lovely for someone else stimulates the natural anti-depressant serotonin in the brain. Taking time to watch a sunrise or sunset, take a walk, or enjoy nature improves your overall outlook. Life is short; become your own best friend and acknowledge what you like about yourself. Celebrate your small and large wins, and take more time to enjoy your life either with people you care for or on your own.
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?
One of the main mistakes that people make in their quest for happiness is they seek happiness outside of themselves, via material purchases, look to other people to make them happy, or expect an event or experience to make them happy. Happiness ebbs and flows, and in the end, it is the rituals that we adopt and maintain daily that contribute to our ongoing happiness. This includes the people we surround ourselves with, our overall physical and mental wellbeing, our willingness to learn and grow, to set and achieve new goals, along with our ability to manage stress and change, all contribute to our overall happiness. Happiness is also about the journey we take to meet our goals and consciously expand our vision so that we can see both the good and not preferred in equal measure.
When I was saving to purchase my first car, I was so excited and happy every time I was able to add money to my car fund. I was in 7th heaven when I drove my new convertible out of the car dealership and drove my friends around in my car for the first six months. I felt the freedom not having to use public transportation and how nice it felt to take off and go on my first driving vacation. After six months, the car became part of my regular existence and no longer generated the same excitement.
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.)
- Create a Joy Diary. Write down all of the things in your life that make you happy and keep expanding this list over time. When one is depressed or overwhelmed by the negative occurrences in one’s personal life or the world, one never remembers what can lift t one’s spirits or move oneself out of a dark place. Therefore, as one finds oneself sinking too deeply into a black hole, the key is to go to your Joy Diary and choose one or two activations that will make you smile, bring you joy or provide intervals of peace. Consider this as a way to take control of your life, manage negativity and bad news. See your Joy Diary as a reference source designed to reconnect you to a state of joyfulness.
- Do something lovely for someone else. Pick up a treat for someone you love, reach out to a neighbor who may need some help, pay more than the standard tip for excellent service with a note written on the bill expressing your appreciation for good service, and tell someone dressed well they look great! Extending these random acts of kindness makes us feel better about our nature and increases self-esteem. It also can relieve anxiety about the misfortune of others. Lastly, extending these gestures of niceness helps us see the world as a more generous place and contributes to making life better.
- Laugh. Find reasons to laugh Listen to a funny podcast, or a comedian that you enjoy, play with your children, call a family member, and reminisce about a fun time that you shared or watch a cartoon. For inspiration and fodder, you can go to Youtube or Google funny stories and videos. Laughter inspires hope, lightens your burdens, and can keep you connected to others.
- Pay attention to the life unfolding around you. Ex: Notice a beautiful cloud formation, a butterfly landing on a flower, a dog frolicking in the grass, a group of children playing, the smile of an older adult at the supermarket. At the end of each day, write down one beautiful moment in your journal or in the back of your Joy Diary to remind you every day that you can see beauty despite what is going on in the world.
- Listen to music. Keep a playlist of music that lifts your spirit. Music for your listening pleasure has a transformative effect on our psyche and can activate our imaginations and transport our mind and body beyond our current situation. Invite people to your home for a listening party or enjoy the sound of music as a mood elevator.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
- Encourage writing down feelings in a journal to release negative emotions and to create a better sense of well-being.
- Know that you cannot solve their problem, but let them know that you are there to support them.
- Rather than guess, ask the person what you can do to support them.
- Relieve overwhelm and offer to help with practical tasks to reduce stress and pressure.
- If the person is isolating themselves, invite the person to a social event without applying pressure to attend.
- Help them keep their living space neat and clutter-free. A messy environment can increase feelings of life being out of control.
- Support the person in eating healthy and nutritional meals.
- Engage the person in activities that are known to uplift spirits, such as listening to music, watching lighthearted entertainment, sharing funny stories, and laughing.
- Remind them why they are valued and appreciated for who they are.
- If appropriate and welcomed, give them a hug.
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.
To reduce car emissions, every car owner worldwide has to offer five days a month when they will not drive. The selected non-driving car dates are submitted with tax filings. Every car will have a microchip in which the dates are entered. On the designated non-driving dates the implanted chips will prevent the car from starting.
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 🙂
I would love to meet Viola Davis. I had the pleasure of observing Ms. Davis when she was at one of my former Hotels for a press junket. She was kind to everyone that she interacted with including members of the film crew and our hotel staff. During meal breaks she was the one that created a sense of community during the junket and rallied her fellow actors to gather for communal meals. I admire her acting, the roles she has played and her position as a respected and talented actor, I also admire her social activism and her willingness to speak her mind about issues that concern women and people of color.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please refer to my website: dreamsenvisions.com
Follow me on social media:
Linkedin: Liane Haynes-Smith
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!