Our journeys are about the greenhouse conditions we were born into, the experiences that shaped our greenhouse conditions from the time we began to grow, and the present moment of how we choose to recalibrate those conditions. The greenhouse of our own body, heart, mind, and soul needs to be tended, every day. Ultimately, we’re made of the stories we live, starting with our personal ME stories first.
When I say to put your ME first, I’m not referring to so‑called “me time”— the occasional yoga class, Peloton session, or morning mediation on your Calm app that looks pretty but has to be shoehorned into your day. I’m alluding to feeling the wholeness of every minute you’re alive. The consummate time that makes you completely you. Not just your tasks and to‑do list but your internal lights and shadows. Your senses of trust, curiosity, and faith and the fears that have been collecting within you since the day you took your first breath. Your why in purpose and the values by which you live.
Rosalind (Roz) Brewer, the ex‑COO of Starbucks and current CEO of Walgreens, came to this epiphany during her own hero’s journey. As a graduate from Spelman College (a historically Black college) with a degree in chemistry, she entered the business world as a scientist at Kimberly- Clark. Even though her brain was geared toward science, she quietly observed how her ideas could only go so far if she didn’t have ownership of a crucial decision-maker: money. So she learned how to control and manage budgets to see that her decisions would get implemented. As she climbed the ladder with quiet determination and integrity, she experienced what it took to be a true leader . . . and to be true to herself.
In 2019, she shared a story about the time she was president of a division at Kimberly-Clark, and mom to a young child. She realized that she couldn’t separate those two parts of herself and perform her best. There needed to be more harmony and alignment. She had to make sense of her identities, redefine her boundaries, and adapt.
It was then that she made the pivot to show up wholly as Roz, and she’s been blazing her true-self trails ever since. Becoming the CEO of Walgreens makes her the only Black woman to (currently) be at the helm of a Fortune 500 company. But the most inspiring piece of her backstory isn’t that headline, but rather the fact that she doubled down on herself.
If you need a quick, light, yet meaningful refresher in being true to yourself, I highly recommend (re)watching Pixar’s Inside Out. The film dramatizes something adults need to remember as much as kids need to learn. As characterized by little Riley in the movie, we all contain the emotions of Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust. Of course, we know our emotional intelligence has the capacity to take on a much larger set of emotions, but the bottom line is this— there’s only one person who can make the choice to listen to your emotions . . . and only one person who chooses how you’ll react.
Of course, this type of work on ourselves is the opposite of spending ninety minutes decompressing with clever entertainment from a Pixar film. It can take you through the wringer and make you question everything you thought to be true. But the journey shouldn’t feel like training camp with the navy SEALs (unless that’s your passion to begin with). Should you take it on with a beginner’s mindset and the willingness to fail forward, your quest to live a whole, fulfilling and purposeful life will go from mission unknown to mission (so very) possible.
The tools and methods for doing this work that I’m about to introduce have been around in some form for centuries, but what we’re constantly doing at DH is refining them to make them relevant and current to the work world we live in today. As Aristotle said around 300 BCE, “Happiness is the purpose of our existence . . . and happiness is dependent on ourselves” [emphasis added]. This is our time to take these couple thousand years of learnings, imagine what they could mean for you, and start looking inward, not just at the brightest lights within you but your darkest shadows too.
One of the ways we define core values at DH is with an exercise called Happiness Heartbeats. It helps you identify your values by mining your own experiences.
It’s important to note that for some, this exercise may only scratch the surface. It really depends on you how deep you want to go. I also recommend looking into your company’s resources for mental health and well-being, or hiring professionals like therapists and psychologists, should you want to explore further for yourself. People in my life have also done their personal ME work by harnessing the powers in spirituality, religion, faith, nature, and/or plant-based medicines. The ultimate result doesn’t differ based on your chosen method(s). In the end, this exercise is just one of the many tools in the toolbox we can use to nurture our greenhouses.
Take some time to think about your own personal lowest and highest points. The outcomes of this exercise are a direct result of how deep you’re willing to dive into those lights and shadows I’ve been referring to. The times when you were most proud and felt like your best ME (joyful, fulfilled, happy, authentic) and the darkest times, when you couldn’t even imagine how you’d get back to a place of normalcy, let alone happiness.
A key question to ask yourself at this point is whether you want to explore your heartbeats (these high and low points) professionally, personally, or both. At DH we believe in the concept of work/life integration, so we suggest both. But there’s no right or wrong answer; it’s your call as to what feels most true to you. Choose what you think will give you a greater sense of control and agency in being the leader of your life. No matter how you do it, the most important thing is to select the moments that speak the most to you. Here are some of my heartbeats as an example:
Now, looking at a layer deeper, think about why each moment was a high or low and which value(s) were present (or painfully absent) for each event. What value(s) were at play that made the moment meaningful or painful? My deeper layer looks like this:
If you’re having trouble connecting the moments with values that speak to you, here’s a list of common values for reference:
The next step in Happiness Heartbeats is to figure out how to prioritize these experiences for yourself. Do so by asking yourself these questions:
• How did these moments forge the person I am today?
• How were my values lived (or not lived) in my highs and lows?
• Which moments (and therefore values) were the most influential?
• How do I live these values today?
As you reflect on your heartbeats you may start to see a pattern. For me, authenticity, freedom, and relationships crest to the top. The biggest shifts for me after doing this exercise the first time were making greater efforts to stay true to myself and prioritize people I loved as if I might never see them again. Another was deprioritizing things that weren’t close to making the list, like ambition and achievements in money, title, and status.
In Japan, Saori Aoki, COO of KAN Corporation and coach|sultant® for DH Japan, shared what she discovered by doing the Happiness Heartbeats exercise:
Until I met with DH, I never allowed myself to be happy. The Happiness Heartbeat exercise was very tough for me, but it was a very meaningful opportunity to understand my life and its origins. I couldn’t remember any ‘highs’ in my life, even though I had many ‘lows.’ I struggled to find my true value and self-worth. I always worked very hard but didn’t think about happiness in my life. I was doing my best only to serve people. However, I felt pain from being betrayed and used. I was a selfless giver (referenced from the Adam Grant book Give & Take), I realized that I had never given to myself. I believed ‘happiness’ was too bright for me, not suited for me . . . I was not allowed to be happy. But then I gave myself ‘permission to be happy.’ I’m so happy now and I want to make people happy more.