Language Shifts- There are many toxic words/phrases that we use so commonly. These keep us feeling sad and helpless. When we feel tired or are in a low mood, these words are used more readily. These include “Should” “Can’t” “Have to” and just about any negative label used on yourself “Stupid” “loser” “ugly” etc. Pay attention to when you use these words. Pay attention to how they make you feel. Challenge these words and find more empowering words. The more we are aware of the toxic language we use, the easier it is to shift it, and eventually adopt a more empowering self dialogue.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Di Paola. Angela is the author of the upcoming book “That’s Life… or Is It? Reclaiming Time for Yourself. A Woman’s Guide to Discovering Lasting Happiness and Fulfillment. She is also a self development coach and consultant, specializing in helping people reconnect with and accomplish what truly matters to them. Angela is also a social worker by trade; she has earned a Master’s degree in Social Work, has worked at the Montreal Center for Anxiety and Depression, and has 11 years of hospital experience, 6 of which have been in mental health.
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 particular story comes to mind and this story takes place quite literally and figuratively at a crossroad. I had completed a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and took a year off of my studies to decide what to do next. On one hand corporate law seemed quite lucrative. On the other hand, I knew I wanted to connect with and help people. During this time, I taught at a school for children with behavioural problems, and volunteered at the psychiatric unit of a Children’s Hospital. It was in these environments where I was fortunate enough to meet these vulnerable yet brilliant and resilient children, along with their families.
And so, here is where the crossroads came into play. Do I make my way to meet with advisors from law school and get started on that career path? Do I embark in finding the “right” helping profession for me, which at this point seemed vague and uncertain?
Law school felt more prudent and, being the ever cautious person, I decided to put my focus towards law. Shortly after making my decision, I started walking towards the Law faculty to make an appointment with an advisor; I was told doing so in person would show more motivation.
Still with every step, a sense of unease grew. I felt like I was wasting my time, and that this was not what I was meant to be doing. Finally, at a crossroad, while waiting for the light to turn green, I could no longer tolerate this feeling.
I remember looking to the sky, and challenging the universe to give me a sign. Any sign that I should be doing something else. A moment later, and I’ll never forget this, I heard my name being called. I looked up and a bus with the children from the children’s hospital, passed right by me; the children waving and saying hi!
I remember thinking “Okay universe, you win this round.” I walked away from the law faculty and never looked back.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
I noticed a pattern people have where they fall into routines and just go about their day on autopilot. A day for some might look like this: Get up. Get dressed. Get the kids ready for school. Go to work. Come home. Have Dinner. Put the kids to bed. Maybe watch some TV. Go to bed. Repeat. There is no real agency. Life just happens to them, and they react accordingly.
Living life with purpose challenges this notion that people are victims of their circumstances. Instead it allows people to consider what they truly want and what choices they can make to get them there.
I recognize that this sounds overwhelming. I would often hear “Angela, I can’t even decide what I want for breakfast. Now you want me to make decisions about life goals I don’t even have?!”
What I tell them, and what I want to share with you, is how simple it can be if you follow these 3 steps.
1. The first step is to think of 1 or 2 things that are important to you. Is that spending time with your family? Is that working towards a meaningful career? Being fit? Is it being able to spend a week in an all inclusive? You don’t need to have big sweeping life-altering goals. If you have them, great, but it’s not necessary. All that matters is that you can identify what’s important to you. What achieving your goal would look like… feel like.
2. Decide that you are going to achieve your goal. That your goal is your priority. And here is the key, that as of this moment, you are working towards your goal. Not next week. Not tomorrow. Right now. Celebrate that. Each morning, as you wake up, joyously tell yourself that you are working towards your goal. Feel excited!
3. Finally, pay attention to the choices that you have throughout the day. Make and prioritize the options that will bring you closer to your goal. Remember, everything you do is a choice. From the moment you get out of bed to the moment you close your eyes at the end of the day. Whenever and however you can, choose what will directly or indirectly service your goal.
Follow these 3 steps and you will put yourself back in the driver seat. No longer will you feel helpless and as though you have no agency. Instead you will truly be living life with purpose.
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?
Yes. Definitely. Everybody is exposed to pain at some in their life. There is no escaping it. However, moments of pain can also reveal strength and resiliency we never knew existed.
My most painful moments occurred when my mother died and the few years that followed. Losing my mother in my early twenties was devastating to me and my family. My mother was such a central part of our unit, that losing her left us feeling rudderless. In the years that followed, and as we tried to make sense of this loss and move forward, we were confronted with more loss and illness. My grandfather, after struggling with illness for many years, also passed away. At the same time, I had been diagnosed with and was undergoing treatment for thyroid cancer. Suffice to say, it was a challenging time for me and my family . But, we made it through. Sometimes we fumbled, but we still did it. Each of us individually and each of us together. I realized that we are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for.
We all have this ability inside us. We are all so capable and we are all so strong. What I noticed is that people don’t always realize this, that they can tap into this capacity and strength at any time… not just in moments of pain and suffering.
What I decided then was that I wanted to help people recognize and use their inner strength to achieve their personal goals. Looking back, I feel like every career choice I have made has been informed by this decision.
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?
I could think of a few reasons.
The country appears divided. The political climate is becoming toxic. People feel more outraged.
Communication surrounding differences seems less about understanding and reconciliation, even though that would build relationships and a sense of community. Instead, shame and humiliation are used to justify anger and to prove the ‘other’ wrong. As a result people are pitted against each other. This in turn creates an isolated and distrustful environment.
The cost of living continues to rise while wages haven’t significantly. People have to spend more to maintain the same standard of living. The result is that people have to work many more hours, thereby significantly impacting time doing things that would make them happy- such as spending time with their family, friends, or engaging in hobbies. Alternatively, people may fall into debt trying to achieve a satisfying standard of living, which then becomes a significant source of stress for themselves and in their relationships. It may also lead people to feel as though they are not good enough or are failing because they are struggling financially.
People are bombarded by negativity. News outlets constantly report on sensational yet frankly terrifying news. Very rarely do people report on the mundane yet simple acts of kindness, which happen much more frequently and consistently. This in turn creates a skewed view of the world as dangerous and hateful.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Any success I have is because of my clients and their willingness to do the work to better their situation. They have been able to overcome huge challenges and accomplish exceptional feats.
My role is to simply guide people on their journey; to provide them with the tools and support them through difficulties. To believe in them. To show them they can do and be whatever they want to.
Success allows me a platform to continue to do that work, whether in groups, individually or on a stage, and I will continue to share the tools and offer assistance.
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.Affirmations: I love to start and end my day with these. In front of a mirror. Looking myself in the eye. I find using affirmations help shift my mind towards success and positivity. There are many sources of affirmations on the internet, but I find it more effective when you develop your own.
A good affirmation has 4 components. 1. It has to be based in the present tense. “I am” is usually a good way to start one 2. It has to written in the positive; avoid writing about what you won’t be/do. 3. It has to be meaningful to you. Something that you want to be/do rather than something that you ought to be/do. 4. Include a positive emotion in your affirmation.
“I am excited because I am aware of and open to the many opportunities before me.”
“I am noticing the simple pleasures the day is bringing and I am filled with joy.”
“I am making healthy food choices and I feel energized and nourished.”
2. Excitement Builders: I find these are an excellent way to shift from feeling irritable and apprehensive in the morning to looking forward to the day ahead. Begin each day making a list of things that you can look forward to. If you are having a hard time, think of small, simple things that you know will make you happy. Take a moment and visualize each item on your list.
For instance, my list would include the following: 1. My morning cup of coffee 2. Sharing a joke with colleagues 3. Helping my clients have an “aha” moment as they are working on achieving their goals 4. Inevitable silly moment with my husband 5. My cat purring next to us while my husband and I catch up on our favorite show.
3. Learning to feel gratitude: At the end of the day, think of 1-3 events that lifted your spirit. For each event, write the following sentence:
“Today , (write the date) I am grateful that ____ (write the event)____________ occurred. The reason(s) is/are ____________________”
List every way in which the event positively impacted you. Use your senses. List all the feelings you had.
Today, November 26 2018, I am grateful for the cup of coffee I had this morning. The reasons are: I enjoyed the aroma and taste as I took my first sip and every sip afterwards. Holding the cup warmed my normally cold hands. I felt more energized and ready to start my day when I finished my cup of coffee.
The next morning, read your list. Relive the moment as vividly as possible. Let yourself feel the moment, as your mind makes concrete links between positive events, their impact and gratitude. This creates more genuine feelings of gratitude, which has many benefits such as higher level of positive emotions and increased optimism.
4. Visualizations: Take a moment, close your eyes and visualize your ideal self. What do you notice about yourself? What are you wearing? What are your qualities? What type of work do you do? Who are the people in your life? How are you spending your day? Be as detailed as you can. Don’t be afraid to dream big. In your mind’s eye, truly let yourself be in that moment. Use all your senses. When you open your eyes, smile and tell yourself that this is what you are becoming. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know how yet. It doesn’t even matter that you don’t truly believe it yet. Tell yourself anyways.
My visualization for instance is as follows. I am on a stage, in front of thousands of people about to deliver my keynote speech. I am wearing a black power dress. My family is in the crowd cheering me on. There is an enthusiastic energy buzzing in the room. I feel confident and excited to inspire my crowd to be the best version of themselves!
5. Use the body to hack the mind: There is something to be said for the mind-body connection, and you can certainly use it to your advantage. Start your day with a glass of lemon water to rehydrate and refresh the body, which in turn energizes you. Engage your body with simple morning stretches; this not only awaken your muscles, but has the added effect of calming the mind and releasing endorphins. Speaking of releasing endorphins, completing a morning workout routine to your favorite playlist will also boost your energy and your mood.
6. Language Shifts- There are many toxic words/phrases that we use so commonly. These keep us feeling sad and helpless. When we feel tired or are in a low mood, these words are used more readily. These include “Should” “Can’t” “Have to” and just about any negative label used on yourself “Stupid” “loser” “ugly” etc. Pay attention to when you use these words. Pay attention to how they make you feel. Challenge these words and find more empowering words.
Instead of should or have to, use choose. Everything in life after all is a choice, and in using the word choose, you are taking ownership of your actions!
Instead of can’t, ask yourself whether you want to. If you don’t, it’s ok. Just own that you don’t want to. On the other hand, if you want to, then instead of shutting yourself down by saying can’t, ask yourself “How can I?” instead.
When you find that you are using negative labels on yourself, challenge these labels. Look for evidence against it. We are not always losers for instance. There have been times when we succeeded. Remembers those.
The more we are aware of the toxic language we use, the easier it is to shift it, and eventually adopt a more empowering self dialogue.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
Yes, I can think of a few books and an app I often go to to keep myself motivated and excited about life!
Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is a beautifully told story of resiliency and accomplishment despite horrific situations such as apartheid, and its aftermath. Trevor tells this story in such a human and accessible way. It is impossible not to feel inspired and motivated after reading it.
Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I read this book at a time where I felt overwhelmed and on the verge of a burn out. It was the perfect time frankly for me to read and practice the lessons offered about quieting the mind and being in the present moment. I find myself going back to it regularly, especially in moments of stress and anxiety.
Winnie the Pooh series by AA Milne- I loved these stories as a child. To be honest though, I probably love them more now as an adult. I find myself reading about the adventures of Pooh whenever I need a reminder that there is so much joy to be found in slowing down, In having fun with those you love. In allowing yourself to be curious and look at the world in childlike wonder.
Insight Timer App — Is an app that offers thousands of guided meditations. What I love is that there is a meditation for just about everything and will cater to just about anybody’s needs. Whether you prefer breathing exercises, body scans or guided visualization, whether you have an hour or only 1 minute, this app has you covered. I use it every day.
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?
Absolutely! When it comes to life lessons on joie de vivre, I look no further than the simple wisdom of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series. It is difficult to choose just one quote though; there have been so many that have influenced me at various points in my life. I suppose if I had to pick the most relevant one for me today, it would be:
“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.
I have a tendency to focus on the future; to plan, and especially to worry. I think about where I am not, and how much there’s left to do to to get there. I then tend to feel overwhelmed and worse incapable.
This wonderful quote grounds me. It reminds me that I am not currently living in the future where all these worries exist. I am living here, today, in the present moment. In this present moment, I have choices. I can choose to do just one task and then feel more accomplished. I can choose to take a moment and appreciate simple pleasures such as a morning cup of coffee, and feel gratitude.
How I feel and what I do is is entirely up to me. Why wouldn’t I make today my favorite day?
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I am very excited about it too. I will be releasing my book “That’s Life..Or is it?” this summer. This book is for all the women who feel overworked, overextended, and overwhelmed. For the women who give themselves to everyone else and forget about themselves. I want them to remember that they are the heroes of their stories; not the supporting characters. That their motivations, needs and desires matter. That they matter. With simple and practical techniques, they can reclaim their time and use that time to reconnect with with the story they’ve always dreamt of for themselves. We all have them, and it is possible to live these dreams.
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. 🙂
What an interesting question. Something I haven’t really thought about before. I suppose that with all the negativity and divisiveness, I would like to center my movement around kindness despite differences.
If there is somebody you don’t agree with or who upset you, then my movement would encourage you to choose a simple act of kindness towards them anyways. I can appreciate that this can be difficult and in some cases feel impossible. But then I think of stories like that of Daryl Davis, a black man who inspired dozens of individuals to leave the Klan through compassion and communication.
I truly believe that this type of kindness is much more effective in creating a positive change in our perceptions of one another and in building relationships and communities. I also believe, that like anger or hate, kindness is contagious. If I can choose to spread one through a movement, then why not choose kindness?
Thank you so much for joining us!