Believe in Life. By life, I mean everything you can’t control. Other people, governments, the stock market, sports teams, societal structures, your parents (or lack thereof). Allow life to be life. One of the greatest things that holds people back from experiencing true joy in every moment is the need for control. These thoughts can show up like, “I can’t believe he/she did that to me.” “They should act this way.” “The system is working against me.”
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 Yana Dashevsky.
Yana Dashevsky is a life coach who helps her clients thrive, independent of the circumstances in their lives. Yana has traveled the world in pursuit of purpose and happiness, leading her to study religion in the heart of Jerusalem and learning to surf on the shores of Maui, Hawaii. Today, Yana lives in Atlanta full time, while traveling and speaking to audiences large and small about the three beliefs it takes to truly thrive in 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?
Aloha, and thank you so much for having me. I was born in Uzbekistan to a Jewish mother and Greek father who divorced shortly after my birth. When the Soviet Union broke up, my mom had the opportunity to move to America. This is how I found myself living in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of seven.
Growing up in a multicultural family, I always yearned to discover what truly makes people happy. I realized that no matter our background or culture, all humans simply want to live with joy. This yearning led me to a journey of studying politics and religion at Georgia State University. I extended my post graduate studies by spending time in the heart of Jerusalem. I also lived in New York City and Maui, Hawaii.
It was during my time on Maui that I started asking myself: Why after all these travels and amazing experiences did I still not feel true joy? That’s when I hired my first life coach. I began to discover that no matter where we live or what our interests or backgrounds are, true joy already lives within each of us.
From this personal realization I decided to become a coach, and became certified through Tony Robbins and Cloé Madanes. This has been the most meaningful work I’ve ever done, and what helped me discover what it truly takes to thrive in life. No matter one’s circumstances the secret is that thriving starts with our mind, and specifically, our thoughts. Helping clients develop a belief system that helps them thrive is the most vital part of the work I do. I am so grateful to share these beliefs with you today.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I owe a lot to Tony Robbins and his marketing team. The Facebook ads on my page about the power of coaching truly met me at a time when I was searching for a new career opportunity. At the time, I was studying to apply to law school and hired a Tony Robbins-certified life coach to help me mentally and emotionally through this process.
My first coach showed me that it isn’t our circumstances that bring us true joy. It is our mindset. And more importantly, our mind-body connection. There was a point in my own coaching that I thought to myself, “Holy moly, with what I know now, I could find myself living in a box on the side of the road and I would still know how to be truly joyful!” It felt like my coach had given me the greatest gift in the world, and it was at that moment that I decided I wanted to do the same for others. That’s when I got certified as a coach through the Robbins-Madanes training.
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’d have to say that my mother has always been my inspiration. She is an amazing person. As a little girl I watched my mom make incredible sacrifices to support our little family. My grandparents were holocaust survivors from eastern Europe and that is how my family ended up in Uzbekistan.
My mom wanted us to have a better life in America and got us here. After moving to Atlanta, she worked as a babysitter and housekeeper, all while going to school to update her engineering certifications from the Soviet Union, until she was able to pursue her career as an engineer in the States. She never once quit or gave up, no matter what or how many curve balls life threw at her.
Having said all of this, my mom and I are very different. She is technical, logical, and will do whatever it takes to get things done. I was always a free spirit and wanted to wander and explore. My mom never stopped me from being me, and she supported me through all my travels and explorations. I graduated high school half a year early and was only 17 when my mom gave me a graduation present of a solo trip to Europe for several weeks.
This is how I fell in love with traveling and exploring the world on my own. She always supported my career changes and my wandering soul, even though it was not the easiest thing for her to do financially. She is still my number one fan, my best friend, and my number one confidant. I truly would not be the woman I am today if it wasn’t for my mom.
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 don’t think of it as a mistake, but much more of a learning opportunity. Before embarking on my entrepreneurial journey as a life coach, I started two other businesses which failed. A kosher catering company on Maui, as well as an underwater photography business. This was my first venture as an entrepreneur, and I invested a lot of funds into it. I am very talented in photography, but I had no clue how to run a business or market my services, so it remained an expensive hobby.
Similarly, although my kosher catering company had a lot of demand and the money was great, it depended on a partnership with a local Rabbi. He moved off island shortly after our business started booming so that his growing kids could attend Jewish schools. Without a rabbi, I only had a non-kosher catering business, which on Maui is an oversaturated market.
As clients disappeared, so did my enthusiasm. It wasn’t until I found life coaching that I realized this was truly my passion and I would do anything to figure out how to be an entrepreneur so that my business would thrive. It hasn’t been easy. It’s taken a lot of personal investment in my own coaching and business coaching programs, yet, every step of the way has been worth the rewards of being able to do the work I do today.
If you have previous ventures that failed, that’s okay. As a matter of fact, that’s normal. Today I am a great example of what is possible when you create a business model based on something that truly helps humanity. My business gives me life in so many ways, and even through the biggest hurdles I wouldn’t change anything about my journey.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Currently I am working on three new projects that will help not just my personal clients, but add true value to the world. In early December of this year, I’ll be launching a podcast called “Learning to Thrive” where I will be teaching listeners how to truly thrive no matter what circumstances are going on in their lives. It’s my holiday gift to the world!
I am also working on creating both in-person and online retreats. In the summer of 2022, myself, alongside Becky Yee and my coach and mentor, Sheri Catt Strzelecki, will be hosting an 8-day immersive retreat for women. It will be in the canyons of Moab, Utah, at a remote lodge located on 24 miles of off-road (and off the grid) lands at the Basecamp Adventure Lodge. Alongside life coaching, there will be a nightly ceremony inside the Navajo-inspired hogans, lots of adventuring on the off-road paths, hiking in the canyons, and kayaking down the Colorado River.
Every woman who attends will be photographed professionally along her journey. The retreat theme is “Honor, Heal, and Reveal” where we will honor all parts of ourselves, and work on healing the shame, blame and judgment we have towards ourselves. We will reveal the new us through a once in a life-time opportunity of a professional photo shoot under the Milky Way, where each woman will become the light in the darkness of the new moon.
My biggest personal goal right now is speaking both to youth and also inside corporate spaces.The more I speak, the more I fall in love with presenting to larger audiences. From speaking to a high school girls’ soccer team about the power of gratitude, to hosting corporate talks on accessing flow states, I’ve got so many topics up my sleeve that I can’t wait to bring to a TEDx stage soon!
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?
- Integrity. I believe that what makes a leader truly successful is leading by example. I strive to be an example of what’s possible. I’ll never ask my clients to do anything I’m not willing to do myself. Therefore, I truly believe that my own coaching is my greatest asset. Working on my own shortcomings, asking for forgiveness when I myself make mistakes, doing so publicly, and most importantly, truly doing everything I need to show my clients what it’s like to thrive in my own life. This has been my greatest strength in the world of life coaching. Being the coach who is always willing to be coached.
- Honesty. I think this goes hand in hand with integrity, but I also believe this deserves its own category. I understand and know my own limitations. Life coaching is not for everyone. For many the first step may be therapy. Knowing my own limitations allows me to ask for help when I need it. For example, I have a Clubhouse room where we do deep work with emotions and inner child healing. Being that it’s a public space where anyone can jump in on the conversation, I took the time to interview and find a PhD in psychology. She is trauma informed and has the training to understand topics like suicidal ideation or sexual abuse, which are just not in my toolbox as a coach. Together we complement each other very powerfully, and honestly, I learn so much from her.
- Fun. I believe that in order to be an effective leader you can’t be all business all the time. You have to allow the humanity in all of us to come to play fully. For me that means incorporating a lot of fun, both into my own life and my clients’ lives. Even if it means something little like taking the time to celebrate themselves on a regular Tuesday with a small gift to themselves or going on adventures in their own lives. A work/play balance is important because each one fuels the other. As leaders it is imperative that we allow others in our lives to have fun, play, and prosper in all areas of their lives.
For the benefit of our readers, can you briefly let us know why you are an authority about the topic of finding joy?
I believe that what truly gives me expertise in this area is that I found joy myself. I discovered the joy within me. I did the hard work to get myself there. I hired the people I needed to help me succeed and I am the living example of JOY, no matter the circumstances in my life.
I have folks that see my presence on social media and they reach out to me all the time with questions like, “Are you always happy?” And I answer them honestly every time. I am not always happy, but I always find joy, even in the most difficult situations. I make it my goal to be authentic, to share my tougher days too, my own struggles and my own battles.
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?
Americans have been sold a false sense of happiness. Even in this question, the implied notion is that privileges and opportunities are what create happiness. This is not the case. This philosophy has caused Americans to keep on chasing their dreams, rather than encouraging us to soak in the gratitude of what we already have, right here at home, and to use these privileges with wisdom and integrity to serve those less fortunate than us.
Happiness is not created by our privileges or status. It does not come from the house we live in, the cars we drive, our careers, our looks, or even financial security.
Rather, happiness is created from living a life of purpose. A life full of meaning, and a life that positively impacts others.
Yes, it is very true that America is full of privileges, yet from our news and the media to the music on our radios, to our business identities, we are taught that we aren’t enough. Instead the main message we receive is that we will be happy when we achieve the next goal on our list.
Although Americans have access to so many incredible resources that are lacking in many other countries, we’re not using them with purpose or meaning. Rather we are continuously using them to chase the next big thing.
And a happiness found outside of ourselves is a fleeting glimpse of what is truly available to us right here and right now.
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?
We truly do not take the time to celebrate. Especially the smallest things in life. The fact is that most of us have roofs over our heads, access to healthcare and clean drinking water. The fact is that most of us have schools to send our children to, completely free of charge. Instead, we take it for granted and continuously want more.
Several years ago, while living on Maui, I met the “happiest man in America.” Alvin Wong. ABC News reported the following about Alvin and the criteria for being the happiest man in America:
“According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the happiest person in America is a tall, Asian-American male 65 or older, a resident of Hawaii who’s married with children, religious (observant Jews score highest), owns a business and earns more than 120,000 dollars a year — in other words, it’s Alvin Wong to a tee.”
Alvin came to speak at a Jewish community event about the essence of happiness and there were three things I clearly remember from his speech:
1. To not take ourselves so seriously, and to be able to laugh at ourselves. To embrace our imperfections, and in doing so, make an effort to be better people.
2. A true connection to the Divine. Alvin taught us that day, that no matter what your religion is, the most important part is to have a connection to a Higher Power. When we have a connection to the Divine, we begin to see all the interconnected parts of living a Life of purpose in a world we collectively share with one another. We become more inspired to not just take from others that which will serve us, but rather give. Give back to our communities, give back to our planet, to do our part in connecting to the whole.
3. To spend time in nature, having fun. That’s why Alvin enjoys living in Honolulu so much, and why it’s rated by Gallup as the happiest place in America to live. He talked about the true joys of life. Watching his kids and grandkids play on the beaches, the joy of surfing, the joy of waking up and taking in the beauty all around him. All the free things in life were the things that brought him the most joy.
Alvin was not a multi-millionaire, he did not have the best house on the block, he did not seek to change his looks or appearance to find joy. Rather he found ways to create more and more joy in his own life, and through doing so, created many opportunities for others to find theirs. Oftentimes, simply by being in his presence. When he spoke, laughed and smiled, his kind heart could be felt by all in the audience.
You never know what a simple smile can do to uplift another. A smile is so simple, yet so powerful. And most importantly, it’s absolutely free to give to another human being, and makes you feel good in the process as well.
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 wouldn’t call it a mistake, for when you’ve been taught otherwise and don’t know any better it’s just a learning experience. The main lesson we have yet to learn as a society is how to celebrate the little things.
As I’ve mentioned previously, we live in an incredibly privileged society, and yet so often many of us take it for granted. Privilege, in my opinion, is not a bad thing in and of itself. It’s when we don’t notice our privilege and aren’t grateful for it that it starts to use us, rather than us using it. And that doesn’t feel good in the long run.
Take our schools for example. Most kids are taught that success means getting A’s, good attendance, and participating in extracurricular activities. But how many of our children are being celebrated for being themselves?
I was a neurodiverse learner. As a teen I was given the ADHD label. I was labeled as being “disordered” and then treated as such. By my teachers especially, because I did not do well in the traditional school setting.
My school and teachers did not celebrate me for who I was. Luckily, my mom did not give up on me. She helped me find an alternative school that worked for me and my learning style.
I graduated high school half a year early. I did so with exceptional grades, and earned and kept a full scholarship all the way through college. I thrived on independence and my mom celebrated me exactly as I was by getting me the tools I needed to succeed.
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.)
I’ll make it even easier. You don’t need five things. You only need three.
And they’re not things. They are a threefold system of beliefs that are so closely intertwined, that when you master one, you master them all. Like an equilateral triangle’s foundation that is just as sturdy no matter which side it’s on.
#1: Believe in yourself.
#2: Believe in life
#3. Believe that life is always working out for you.
Before I go deeper into each belief, I want to preface this with another statement and elaborate upon it a bit.
Our thoughts create our reality.
Every time we think a thought, it sends an automatic response into our body. Each and every thought. Especially the subconscious ones. Each thought that runs through our mind takes up physical space in our brains, and our brain, in response to that thought, sends a memo to the rest of our body.
That’s where our feelings come from. Feeling or emotions (I’ll use the terms interchangeably here) are simply vibrations we experience in our body. Some of these vibrations feel good, and others not so much. How we feel about a given circumstance, will drive the way we react to it.
Take for example the thought: “I am enough.” Say it out loud if you have to and feel into your body what that thought feels like. For some, who resonate with that thought and believe it to be true, it will feel good in their bodies while saying it or thinking it. For others of us who have a subconscious belief that we really aren’t enough, it doesn’t feel good in our bodies to acknowledge or say this thought.
Remember, depending on how we feel, we will act. Our emotions fall into two general categories: painful emotions (anxiety, sadness, anger, frustration) and pleasant emotions (happiness, joy, love, fulfillment). As my teacher Tony Robbins says, “At the most basic level, there are two forces that motivate people to do what they do: the desire to avoid pain or the desire to gain pleasure.” In addition, Tony taught me that “people will do more to avoid pain than they do to gain pleasure.”
This is the reason so many of us are driven to chase happiness outside of ourselves — financial security, cars, houses, status, or in my case — experiences, because we simply aren’t used to seeking pleasure and will do anything to avoid the pain of appreciating ourselves and life, exactly as it is.
Here is where the three beliefs come in. A belief is just a system of thoughts that you think over and over and over again, until it embeds in your subconscious so deeply that you feel it in your body without even having to “think about it.”
So, let’s break these three beliefs down a little bit and I’ll help you by introducing some of my own thoughts that you can borrow. You can start incorporating these beliefs into your whole being, one thought at a time.
#1 — Believe in yourself.
There is no amount of shame, guilt, blame, judgement or resentment that will get you to feel joy. Those are the “painful emotions.” Those are the emotions I harbored within me when I believed that I wasn’t enough. I wasn’t good enough, I would never fit in, no one liked me, and the thoughts went on and on. It was based on conditioning, from the label of disordered, to not fitting in at my school, to my father not being in my life. I adopted those exterior circumstances as my own.
When I hired my very first coach this is the belief I had to strengthen over and over and over again. And it started with the thought I offered you earlier. “I am enough.” Exactly as I am. Right here, right now. I am worthy, I am lovable, I love myself.
Borrow my thoughts and find evidence in your own life why they are true for you. How are you enough? Why are you worthy? Tell me about all the ways you are lovable. Give me 100 reasons why you love yourself.
For all of us, these will be different, because my story is not yours. So, make lists answering these questions for yourself. These lists will become your evidence.
Even if you reject that notion at first, thinking these thoughts on purpose is like taking your body to the gym. Of course, it’s going to be hard. You’ve never used these muscles before. I promise you, if you keep showing up for yourself it will become easier and easier to give yourself a little more love each day.
Until you wake up one day and it’s no longer a thought you have to practice. Instead, it will become your belief about yourself. Of course, the old story will chime in from time to time, we are human after all, but it won’t feel like going to the gym for the first time to bring yourself back to “being enough.” Rather you’ll have practiced so much, that it will be like driving a car and having to be a little more vigilant because the traffic pattern changed.
#2 — Believe in Life.
By life, I mean everything you can’t control. Other people, governments, the stock market, sports teams, societal structures, your parents (or lack thereof). Allow life to be life.
One of the greatest things that holds people back from experiencing true joy in every moment is the need for control. These thoughts can show up like, “I can’t believe he/she did that to me.” “They should act this way.” “The system is working against me.”
It’s not that any of those might not be true, most likely they are. Yet, when you dwell on those things it ultimately makes you feel worse. It also gives your power away, your happiness, and your joy. Where your attention goes, energy flows. The more you pay attention to the negatives in your life, the more negative you will feel.
Here are two thoughts I used myself and teach my clients to start practicing when they want to have control over the things they cannot.
“It’s okay” and “of course.” “Of course, they acted this way, and that’s okay.” “Of course, my elected official did that, and that’s okay.” “Of course, my dad wasn’t in my life, and that’s okay.”
When you give your brain the opportunity to not fight or resist the pain, and offer it the soothing words of “of course” and “it’s okay”, a miracle begins to happen.
Again, this doesn’t justify other’s actions. Rather it helps us find ways to find joy right here and now, no matter our circumstances. And that’s a miracle. Our brain is an incredible processing machine. It will search for more and more evidence to support the program you’re choosing to use. Which leads us to our last and final belief.
#3: Believe that life is ALWAYS working out FOR you.
By this point your mind is an evidence-seeking supercomputer. When you believe in yourself and find ways to allow the world to be the world, your mind starts to make connections that it never saw possible before. And you’re already feeling much better without needing any single exterior circumstance in your life to change.
When you’re in this state, your mind will start to make connections about how life is always working out for you.
This part of the process is truly where I discovered my own superpowers and where so many others have as well. Our deepest challenges are also our greatest opportunity to be the change we want to see in the world.
Humans truly value the hero’s journey. Look at our movies, look at the great leaders of our times, look at your own life. Martin Luther King Jr. truly comes to mind when I think on this subject. He took not just his own struggle, but the struggle of the people of his generation. He took their greatest pain and transformed it into a life of meaning.
Martin Luther King, Jr. did not sit on the sidelines. Until his last days, he showed up for what he believed in. He utilized the pain to drive him into service. Although there is still so much work to do, look at how far we’ve come because of one man.
This is my belief too. Our pain is our greatest asset. My own pain is what sent me on the journey of self-discovery to find true joy from within. Not a fleeting glimpse, not a luxury item I can buy at the store, but the emotional capacity to feel joy in my body, even during the most turbulent times.
This is how we create true joy from within, no matter our circumstances. I want to offer one final thought. For some, finding joy is NOT the most appropriate thing to do, especially during tumultuous challenges.
This is where the difference between coaching, therapy, or even a surgeon comes in. Before working on incorporating this belief into our own lives, we have to make sure that we are not in the deep experience of the trauma.
For example, if someone’s loved one passed away or they are recovering from surgery, I would never start here. It’s like asking someone to climb Mount Everest when they’re in a wheelchair recovering from surgery.
Coaching, and this belief system, allows you to truly thrive and find joy in difficult times. However, if you are in the middle of an excruciatingly painful experience, take time to heal, ask for help, and get the resources you need to guide you through the challenge itself. Afterwards, you can begin to incorporate these beliefs.
What can concerned friends, colleagues, and life partners do to effectively help support someone they care about who is feeling down or depressed?
Simply listen to them. Again, we live in a society that encourages fixing. We get uncomfortable when others are uncomfortable, especially those we love. We automatically want to run away from the pain of their experience so that we don’t have to feel their pain for ourselves.
Yet when we apply these beliefs to our own lives, we open up the space to be able to be with our own pain, without needing to fix or change it right away. And this ultimately feels good. It feels good in our own bodies to see ourselves as whole, complete and worthy, even while we are experiencing genuine pain. And I promise you it feels good to others as well.
When we truly listen, when we give our friends and family the right to express their own pain, without the need to fix it for them. We allow their humanity to shine. We allow them to simply be themselves, to be seen and heard, exactly as they are.
Ironically, this method works wonders. Most of the time they will discover answers for themselves that you probably wouldn’t be able to offer them. Their pain is the key to their own hero’s journey, and every hero is allowed to discover their own path to the top of the mountain. That’s how we become the hero after all.
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.
My life goal, and the purpose for which I feel I was born, is to make true joy as affordable and accessible as a Coca-Cola, in every corner of the Earth. No offense to Coke, it’s my favorite soft drink, and their marketing is phenomenal and the taste exceptional, but again, it comes from an industry based on instant gratification.
I’m going to change that. My goal is to allow a Coca-Cola, a good income, fancy homes, nice cars, etc. to be the icing on the cake. The things we enjoy when we’re already satisfied. When we already feel sufficient. When we are already experiencing true joy, rather than when we’re reaching for it.
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 🙂
It would be my absolute honor to meet Vishen Lakhiani, the founder and CEO of Mindvalley. I see his company being the change that I want to see in this world. He is a huge inspiration for my own journey. I would be so honored to have him as a guest on my upcoming podcast.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To work with me directly visit: www.YanaDashevskyCoaching.com
Let’s get to know each other on Instagram: @yanadashevsky_lifecoach
Join my free Facebook Community: Thrive Academy.
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!