Music is powerful and has a way of changing our outlook with just a few notes. If you’re feeling down, you probably don’t want to listen to sad music or an album that reminds you of your last breakup. Listening to music that is uplifting, has a great message, or leaves you tapping your feet or wanting to get up and move, is a quick and easy way to hit the “reset” button. Sometimes a good song can transport us and remind us that nothing is permanent.
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 Shane Svorec.
Shane Svorec is a lifelong writer and author who resides in New Jersey, along with her husband, three children, rescue dogs, and chickens.
Shane has made it her life mission to advocate for those without a voice. Using her many life experiences to connect with others, her writing reaches and touches readers of all ages.
She is highly involved in her community, a staunch public servant, a member of her local Board of Education, mental health and crisis intervention worker, a perpetual peacemaker, and a kindness spreader. Shane is best known by others as someone who searches for and shares light in dark times. www.brokenlittlebeliever.com
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 traveling the country in a VW bus. My mother, having survived Leukemia and being one of the first successful recipients of a bone marrow transplant in the US, had learned a painful lesson that life was unpredictable. As a result, we were raised with open minds, broad views, and generous and grateful hearts. We didn’t have a lot, but we made the most of everything we had and found happiness in the little things. I have always been an adventurer and an observer of people, places, and experiences. I learned at an early age to be self-sufficient and was naturally inquisitive, and because I spent so much time moving around throughout my childhood, I learned to become comfortable with feeling uncomfortable. Forming friendships and then moving on to another place where I would have to start all over again to create new ones, led me to practice a lot of self-reflection. This exercise helped me become better adept at not only understanding myself and my own emotions but others as well.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I have always gravitated towards positions that entailed helping others. I come from a long line of empathetic people who work(ed) in professions of service. I went to school for nursing, became a teacher, and later found a successful career in sales and marketing. Throughout it all, I was a full-fledged writer who enjoyed recording my many meaningful and diverse experiences, as well as, writing for various organizations with which I worked for and was involved with. My career aspirations felt very natural to me because of the connections they allowed me to make with people. Being able to connect with and understand and fill the needs of others, gave me great satisfaction. As a lifelong writer who started honing my craft as a little girl traveling the country in a VW bus though, it was my observations and experiences with so many different people and places that would become the focus of my writing and the foundation for my deep connection to human behaviors, reactions, and social and emotional challenges- particularly in times of stress. The more I wrote, the closer I felt to people and the more people were drawn to my writing. Writing from various viewpoints, my observational, empathetic, and solution-based writing, gave readers a glimpse of life beyond their own four walls while showing them that they were not alone. I had discovered that my greatest passion was more than just a past-time I enjoyed, but the career I was most inspired to follow as it fulfilled my mission to help others.
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 was fortunate to have had several people in my life whom I credit for helping me along. These individuals offered me the greatest form of help and encouragement by simply believing in me. I don’t think there’s any greater, longer-lasting, or more powerful way to help someone than to believe in them. If I had to choose one person, I would say it was my middle school principal, Tom Kane. He was perceptive and kind and made me feel important and valued simply by noticing me, addressing me by name, and taking the time to get to know me and my interests. He went out of his way to show his care and support by encouraging me and my dreams, and excitedly talking about my aspirations. His excitement and the faith he put in me to achieve my dreams, made me realize that they were possible. Rather than impossible, his care showed me that “I’M POSSIBLE”. At such an impressionable age and time in my life, his genuine care, consistent presence, and positive words of encouragement showed me that I mattered and that he believed in me.
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?
I can’t really think of a funny example, but I can share that one of the most interesting mistakes I made in the course of my career led me to a realization that fueled my success and motivated me as a writer. When I look back, I realize that I spent so many of my earlier years underestimating the value of my time and talent and ignored my dreams of doing something with it. I had mistakenly thought that since writing was “just something that I loved to do” that it didn’t require anything in exchange for it. Out of the goodness of my own heart, I wrote speeches, edited pieces, and contributed to various works — many times without credit, payment, or even appreciation. I knew I was a great salesperson (my commission check reflected that) but when it came to writing, I equated it to a “hobby” since I wasn’t getting paid for it. It wasn’t until I chose to publish my pieces that I realized just how much of my messages had been delivered by others in presentations, speeches, and various articles in which I had written. I learned that regret and resentment can build up and affect us emotionally and physically and can be detrimental to our careers. It wasn’t until I decided to be bold and pursue writing professionally, that I realized how much I had given away and underestimated. I made it too easy for others to rob my time and “borrow” my talent, and when I considered why I loved writing (to connect with others and share important messages about humanity, self-love, and positive practices) I realized that being a writer and a published author was the career I was most inspired to follow. It has also given me the greatest ability to fulfill my desire to help people — not just patients, students, or customers, but everyone.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
My recently published book, “Broken Little Believer: Finding Purpose in All the Pretty Painful Pieces”, is the project I’m most proud of. Within it, are real-life examples of everyday challenges, crises, and celebrations from which readers can relate to and learn. It’s an inspirational tale about overcoming, it’s a cheer for the underdogs, and it’s an anthem for those struggling to find their voices. Because of this project, I have been asked to speak to and work with various non-profit organizations to bring about greater awareness while supporting things that matter to me and so many others. Some of the organizations that I work with include promoting foster and adoption, confidence-building workshops for young people, positive pathways to address dysfunction at home, mental health awareness and education, and the need for greater compassion during turbulent times. I believe that my writing has allowed me to help others on a much bigger scale by discussing topics and emotions that are often dismissed, ignored, or overlooked.
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?
Resilience: If I gave up whenever something was difficult or whenever I felt discouraged, I wouldn’t be where I am today. One of my biggest motivators in life has been proving others wrong. When people said I couldn’t do something, or asked “what’s the point?” when I tried something unthinkable, it only enforced my WHY and prompted me to figure out the HOW. If I wanted something bad enough and believed in something hard enough, I needed to dedicate myself and remain committed to seeing it through.
Humility: I came from nothing; therefore, I know what it’s like not to have anything and to have to start from the bottom and work your way up. Out of desperation, comes inspiration. I have always been motivated to work hard, earn my own way, and appreciate everything. I don’t take things for granted. We all will win some, and we all lose some, so it’s best not to get too comfortable or too cocky. I treat everyone the same no matter who they are, what title they wear, or how much money they make. How we treat others is a reflection of ourselves and what we do with our success and how we allow it to change us is up to us. I have always believed in paying it forward. We have two hands for a reason (one to help ourselves and the other to help someone else) so I have always made it a point to give back.
Empathy: By being empathetic, I have been able to lend understanding, patience, and compassion to situations that transcends differing opinions, backgrounds, and skillsets. With a healthy balance of logic and rationale, being empathic gives people permission to be human, allowing us to achieve success and create positive, healthy partnerships. If we don’t have empathy, not only can we not relate to others, but we can’t truly build long-lasting, loyal connections, or meaningful relationships. To truly make a difference and relate to others, you must practice empathy.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
The title of my book is called “Broken Little Believer” which, I believe, accurately conveys what readers will discover on the inside, and that is that hope and possibilities exist regardless of how or why we might be broken. A message of overcoming, I write and speak from a place of gratitude and purpose. I search for the beauty within experiences, both pretty and painful, and weave together messages of inspiration, enlightenment, and understanding. I am an authority on the topic of finding joy because I choose to live a life that includes focusing on possibilities vs. problems, identifying purpose in painful experiences, searching for the beauty around us, and creating a positive mindset that attracts happiness, peace, and fulfillment. I am an authority on the topic because I don’t just preach this message — I live it. As a mental health advocate, teen mentor, crisis intervention worker, and public servant, I encounter a lot of different personalities and countless situations where people are trying their best to get through difficult times. Life is not easy, but our vulnerability, honesty, and compassion allow us to better navigate these times and connect with others in meaningful ways to make finding joy easier.
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?
I have long believed that modern conveniences would come at a cost to humanity. I believe that shortcuts and fast fixes have created a culture of immediate gratification, which short circuits our ability to wait on, wonder about, and wish for things. We are in a constant state of movement with little downtime for self-reflection, inner dialogue, and meaningful conversations with others. There’s less face-to-face time and more abbreviated exchanges. While the effort to be more concise, productive, and efficient has its benefits, it has also had an impact on our emotional and social connections. There is purpose in pain, and often times the struggle that we try so hard to avoid, numb, or lessen, is where we learn the most about ourselves and identify our strengths, acknowledge our weaknesses, find our path, and see our purpose. I believe that we as a society have been drawn more to products and platforms that redirect, override, and distract from the value of “growing” through things. Our avoidance of things that make us uncomfortable, has resulted in a low threshold for discomfort and a society that struggles to find joy when conditions 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?
I think one of the biggest myths about finding joy and happiness is that we must be happy all the time, and if we aren’t, something must be wrong. We are human and we are designed to feel things. Finding joy and happiness is a habit that needs to be practiced daily! Even the most positive people are not happy every moment of every day. That’s simply not realistic — hence the subtitle of my book “Finding Purpose in All the Pretty Painful Pieces”. We are all a collection of experiences and a product of our thoughts. We are what we believe and we become what we practice. We all have bad days and endure hardships, but it’s important to recognize that happiness is a choice. We are allowed to feel down and disappointed, but when we pause and reflect on things, we can focus on finding joy and creating happiness. We can choose to remain unhappy, or we can choose to look for joy and create happiness in our lives. Recognizing that life is not all rainbows and unicorns is important, but looking for them after the storm is an exercise that makes finding joy possible.
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?
The biggest mistake I have seen people make when looking for happiness is looking for happiness in another person, an experience, or something with a timestamp on it. It’s ok to derive happiness from the company of someone, an experience, event, or an occasion, but happiness needs to be self-sustained otherwise we become dependent on someone or something for it to last. The key to true happiness is not who, what, or where, but HOW. How do you feel happiest? Is it when you are well-rested, self-sufficient, adventurous, or bold? Is it when you achieve a goal? Establish healthier routines? Cultivating your “how” is what makes happiness attainable and sustainable. People, places, and experiences should enhance our happiness, not create it. To find happiness, we need to be still long enough to hear what our mind, body, and soul craves and be willing to independently pursue it. The more we do this, the more we experience personal satisfaction, achieve personal goals, and find personal fulfillment. It is in this practice that we understand the importance of seeking and finding our own joy, fostering our inner happiness, and developing skills to tap into them and retrieving them when needed.
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.)
- Find reasons to be grateful every day. Keep a notebook handy and for one entire day, jot down all the thoughts that come into your mind throughout the day. You’ll be surprised at how much we beat ourselves up with our words and thoughts. Little thoughts here and there and negative self-talk become long lists of frustrations, disappointments, and resentment. It’s hard to find reasons to be grateful when we are so critical of ourselves and others. Instead, be a collector of reasons why you’re grateful. Maybe it’s something simple like having clean sheets to sleep on, you had a nice chat with a friend, you got to work on time, or you spotted a beautiful bird or flower on your walk today. When you practice an attitude of gratitude, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your day changes.
- Remove “can’t” from your vocabulary and replace it with what you “can” do. We all have weaknesses and it’s easy to name, number, or list what we can’t do, but rather than looking at our limitations, we should begin by listing our strengths and possibilities. A simple switch in mindset is all it takes to capitalize on good feelings and increase your chances of success by tapping into what you CAN do.
- Create your own positive reinforcement statement. This is your own message, a positive affirmation to yourself that you say to yourself and repeat as needed when you feel down, anxious, frustrated, disappointed, or overwhelmed. No more than 3–5 words in length, this message is something that’s easy to remember, quick to say, and meaningful to you. The more you say it, the more you believe it and begin to build proof that “This too shall pass” or “I am safe”, or “Tomorrow is a new day” or “I am strong” — just to name a few examples. Make your own and truly feel the words. Carry it and repeat it throughout the day to remind yourself of the truth it carries.
- Move, Meditate, Music. To have more joy and happiness in your life, I believe in the 3Ms: Movement, Meditation, and Music. The more we move, the better it is for our physical and mental state, but movement also shows us that a change in scenery, a dose of fresh air, or a different view can also lead to a change in perspective and mood. When we remain in one place for too long, we become stagnant and bored. Movement wakes our body up, gives endorphins a green light, and increases our chances of seeing, feeling, or experiencing something that could bring us joy or happiness. Meditation doesn’t mean closing your eyes and humming, it means breathing deeply and exhaling slowly. It means, rather than fighting your emotions, you allow them to be released and acknowledged. Meditation doesn’t require any special equipment, skill, or experience, it’s simply time for yourself. Think of it as a tune-up for your car. Where ever you are, just take a few minutes to go down the list and check-in with yourself. Look over any “check engine” lights or “warning” signs and be sure to address them so that they don’t manifest or cause any secondary issues. Meditation is quiet, reflection time we give ourselves and it’s the tune-up our bodies deserve to function optimally. We don’t often drive our cars and ignore engine lights or low fuel alerts, so why should we ignore our physical, mental, and emotional needs? Mediation allows us to hear when we need to rest, recharge, and regroup. Music is powerful and has a way of changing our outlook with just a few notes. If you’re feeling down, you probably don’t want to listen to sad music or an album that reminds you of your last breakup. Listening to music that is uplifting, has a great message, or leaves you tapping your feet or wanting to get up and move, is a quick and easy way to hit the “reset” button. Sometimes a good song can transport us and remind us that nothing is permanent.
- Awareness of others. There are few feelings that compare to the joy that comes from helping someone else — particularly someone who can never repay you. Having an awareness of others, their circumstances, and their needs is a healthy responsibility of humanity, but choosing to care is a choice. We discover joy and lead happier lives when we have a healthy awareness of others and, when felt led to help in some way, we follow through and open our hearts to the needs of others. Oftentimes, it’s when we help someone else that we focus less on our own problems and discover greater perspective and compassion for others. There’s no better time to volunteer, donate, or advocate for someone or something than now. The world, and so many people, are searching for joy and happiness, and you could be the reason why someone feels it. Chances are, it will be felt by you as well.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
The best thing a concerned friend, colleague, or partner can do to help support someone who is feeling down or depressed is to simply listen. People don’t want or need you to solve their problems for them or to hear about the time when you were feeling down or depressed. They just want someone to listen and know that they care. We all feel and experience things differently, so what might have worked for you, may not work for someone else. Be patient, be consistent, and be compassionate. Just showing up and being there for someone is far more important than what you say. Oftentimes, just sitting with someone and being there for them is the comfort and peace they need most. They will talk when they are ready.
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.
I think one of the worst feelings in the world is feeling like you’re alone like no one understands you. My book, “Broken Little Believer: Finding Purpose in All the Pretty Painful Pieces” is all about the many pieces that make up our lives and the people we become because of them. I firmly believe that our “pieces”, as unique as they are, match up and connect with the broken pieces of others. Finding matches (i.e., others who have been through similar experiences and understand us), makes sharing, caring, and being open and honest about our fears and feelings so important and meaningful, both to us and others. If I could inspire a movement, I would find a way to showcase the beauty of our differences and eliminate feelings of loneliness by creating a program where everyone could be matched with a friend — someone who understands what they’ve been through or are dealing with and can offer support and encouragement. I would love to create partnerships (especially for those who are either too embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to talk to others about their problems or don’t know how) to bring comfort and reassurance to others. I believe that too many people are suffering and hurting needlessly in our country and if we found a positive way of bringing people together and matching our “broken” pieces, what a beautiful experience it would be and what a remarkable masterpiece it could become.
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 🙂
Wow! This is a tough one! I can only pick one? 😊
There are so many female artists and strong and influential leaders in various industries with whom I would love to sit with and talk to, but if I had to choose one to have breakfast or lunch with, I would say Martina McBride. I have long admired her music (a chapter in my book is named after one of her songs “Anyway”) and it sums up so much of how I feel and what I believe. I admire her talent, philanthropy, and attitude. Her music and involvement in various charitable organizations have helped a lot of people in different ways, therefore, I would love to sit with her and thank her for her positive contributions to my life and so many others.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can follow me, learn more about my book, and living life with peace, positivity, and purpose at: www.brokenlittlebeliever.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!