Allow your mind to keep going, imagine yourself doing all the things you want to do. This is how I became confident at interviews and speaking engagements, using the power of visualization. I even visualize messing up, and recovering gracefully.
Have you ever noticed how often we equate success with more? Whether that’s more products, more profits, more activities, or more accomplishments, we buy into the belief that we have to do more to have more to be more. And that will sum up to success. And then along comes The Great Resignation. Where employees are signaling that the “more” that’s being offered — even more pay, more perks, and more PTO — isn’t summing up to success for them. We visited with leaders who are redefining what success means now. Their answers might surprise you.
As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Helena Lucia.
Helena Lucia, CEO and founder of SISU Journey, left a successful career as a Senior Software Engineer in 2021 during the Great Resignation to help build solutions for the ensuing collective mental health crisis.
After going from financial advisor to senior software engineer to trauma-informed money coach, speaker, and podcast host, Helena uses her personal journey to create experiences that support deep healing through nervous system regulation, embodiment, energetics, and subconscious reprogramming. She believes that this kind of holistic approach could have helped her shave years off her therapy.
Helena is the host of the SISU Journey: Science and Stories of Resilience podcast, which was created in 2021 to help heal a wounded collective by telling diverse stories. For her expertise she’s been featured on The Art of Online Business podcast, Pause on the Play podcast, Present and Sober podcast, Whatever Works podcast, Bursting with Happiness podcast, and Intuitive Intelligence podcast.https://community.thriveglobal.com/media/2d7f4a7a820dfed64697e40d05044cde
Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today?
My life has been characterized by extreme leaps of faith, even if at the moment I didn’t recognize their extremity. The curious thing has been the question of faith in what, exactly? I grew up in extreme fundamentalism, leaving and joining several religious groups over the years including mainstream Christianity, spent about a decade believing only in science, before most recently finding a spiritual path ushered in through my personal healing journey.
So, although the deity has been dynamic, the process has been consistent. Looking back, I recognize the leaps of faith were less about a higher power and more about betting on me, and they have not let me down thus far.
Examples of these leaps of faith are:
- I left my religion and faith community with three children under the age of five, and another on the way. This community was the only source of my physical, emotional, and spiritual support. My husband was also a part of the community and was very angry and volatile about my leaving the church and became physically violent in response.
- I extricated myself from an abusive marriage and found a qualified therapist to help support my healing and processing not only the wounds inflicted in my marriage, but the sexual, emotional, psychological, and spiritual traumas experienced in my childhood. Since I was a stay-at-home mom for over a decade, leaving my marriage was a huge financial leap.
- I resigned from a job as a financial advisor at a credit union and went back to school as a full-time student in my 30s. Even though it wasn’t much, my job at the credit union provided a salary and benefits as well as some amount of credibility and confidence. However, it was producing a lot of stress emotionally and financially, and I recognized that I would need a big bump in income to support my kids and myself. I enrolled in a computer science program and, without family or community support, quit my job and took a leap.
- Most recently, in 2021, I left a high-stress job as a Senior Software Engineer to pursue a passion for spreading a message of healing and hope to the world. I anticipated that we would be seeing high incidents of mental health challenges in our “new normal”, and wanted to do my part in helping the world find creative solutions.
By 2020, I had been working in tech for almost ten years. I had been in therapy on and off for almost 15. But I was still very frustrated by the number of symptoms that continued to plague me. I had depression, anxiety, and insomnia, but mostly anxiety. I had worked through a ton of stuff, but I really felt I should be further along. For the first time in my life, I had money to throw at the problem, and I started doing exactly that. In fact, I declared 2020 would be my “year of the health”. (Ironic, I’m aware). But it was for me. I did psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy and studied how trauma affected the brain. I tried hypnotherapy and a host of other modalities. I took classes on many of them.
As the world drifted into a sea of chaos, I was feeling better every day. I realized that the next wave of the pandemic would be a mental health crisis and the world was not ready. So I decided to get ready, and my company, SISU Journey, was born.
As I reverse-engineered my own healing journey, I recognized there were four components that would have helped me trim years off my therapy: nervous system regulation, subconscious reprogramming, energetics, and somatic embodiment. These are the core elements of all the programs we create at SISU Journey.
We all have myths and misconceptions about success. What are some myths or misconceptions that you used to believe?
Myth 1: Other people get to decide if you are successful.
I used to believe in a very corporate image of success. I’m not sure exactly what that model was but, in my mind, I would need to convince a bunch of people to believe in me in order to be successful. I grew disillusioned because I never seemed to be able to find that corporate community where I felt fulfilled and understood. It was only when I separated from the external success paradigm that I realized that success is a metric I give myself, and nobody can give it to me or take it away.
Myth 2: Success involves ticking the boxes of some invisible checklist.
I grew up with a lot of very clearly defined rules. Birth control was forbidden, and we were taught that we should accept “as many children as God gives us”. Success in this paradigm involved staying at home, raising children, and keeping everything together. I had four children by the age of 25, but I wasn’t passionate about cooking, cleaning, quilting, or any of the other allowable pursuits.
When I left the religion and subsequently left my marriage, I found that the larger society also has boxes to tick, and I seemed to be already failing at many of them. My home was now considered broken, even though the divorced version was already so much healthier than the illusion of the intact family we had been promoting. I began to try to play the corporate game, hoping to find a spot in that culture that ignited my passion, gave me a sense of fulfillment and belonging, but that also never happened. I had been left behind at that game as well.
The more I became healed and evolved the authentic version of myself, the more I realized I don’t have to tick any boxes except the ones that call to me from the depths of my soul.
How has your definition of success changed?
My new definition of success is that it is an inside job. I created a course called Banishing Burnout: What They Forgot to Teach Us. The point of the title is that we’ve been taught since an early age how to play by the invisible rulebook. But they forgot to teach us how to listen to our own bodies, which hold all of the wisdom for what we are meant to do in this world.
So success for me involved figuring out what I was born to do and figuring out how to change my life so that is what I am doing.
These are the questions that I ask myself now: Am I connected with my deepest desires, honoring them and moving in the direction of them, unapologetically and fiercely? Do I have the time freedom to take my kayak out onto the lake in the middle of the afternoon if I feel like it? Do I have location freedom to travel and move about as I desire? Do I have space in my life for the people and the activities that I love? And most of all, am I working on something that matters in the world, that seeks to make the world a better place? Am I standing firm in my values and does my company stand for integrity and truth? Do I have the financial means to do the things I love? Do I have emotional healing and peace? These questions now are the framework for my metric for success.
Nobody gets to give it to me, and nobody can take it away.
The pandemic, in many ways, was a time of collective self-reflection. What changes do you believe we need to make as a society to access success post-pandemic?
It seemed to me that the biggest takeaway for the collective from the pandemic was that the sky will not fall if we don’t obey the invisible rule book. Everyone was walking around doing what they were told they should be doing… college, jobs, marriage, kids, dog, picket fence… but when the pandemic stopped us all in our tracks we were forced to consider whose life we were living anyway. The social obligations fell off the calendar, kids didn’t go to college straight after high school and the world did not end.
I hope we have learned that we don’t have to live a prescribed, cookie-cutter life. My deepest desire is that people would connect to the wisdom of their bodies to find out where they belong instead of painting their life by numbers. One of the greatest gifts I have been given in the last couple of years is truly living my passion, and that started by learning to navigate my nervous system and listen to my body. If all of society learned to live in their bodies and threw away their list of shoulds, the possibility is limitless.
What do you see as the unexpected positives in the pandemic? We would love to hear a few of your stories or examples.
One unexpected positive was the opportunity to reevaluate our lives. The lockdown created space: social space, physical space, and time-space. Space gave us room to catch our breath and slow down the pace. It also helped us realize how much the non-stop action was taxing us. The human body is amazing, it will adapt to being stretched beyond for years and years. This constant state of fight-or-flight has consequences, though, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Even though the fight-or-flight was still activated because we were experiencing collective trauma, the space allowed some of us the room to start processing it, or to figure out which pieces no longer serve us. Before the pandemic, people often commented that they don’t know if they could work from home. Everyone that I know that has returned to the office only goes in once or twice a week.
Another positive is that the unwritten rule book has been thrown away, not only by me but by several others. A lot of people are realizing that they do not have to go along to get along, and that the only boxes they need to tick are those calling from within.
We’re all looking for answers about how to be successful now. Could you please share “5 Ways To Redefine Success Now?”
Redefining success my way involves seeking out a path that follows the desires of your heart. These are the five ways to begin figuring out what that is today.
The acronym for this methodology is SPACE. It stands for:
- S — Space. Create more space in your life. At the beginning of every week, look at your calendar and check to see if that old busyness is sneaking back in. Is there anything you can take off your calendar? Is anybody you are seeing out of obligation and not because it’s going to be a nourishing connection? If the answer to that is yes, but you still choose to see that person, schedule out an equally long buffer of time afterward. The first hour and last hour of every day should be treated as sacred space. Why? Your subconscious is accessible when your brain waves slow down, so if we can protect that from being exposed to media, news, email, social media, or anything that might trigger negative beliefs, and replace it with something empowering, that is extremely beneficial. Putting space, even a small buffer, between meetings is highly beneficial. There was a time when I realized immediately during a meeting that there was an energy one of my coworkers gave off that was highly triggering to me. In the past, I would have been feeling very anxious by the end of the day and have no idea why. Because I started to put a buffer between meetings, I was able to clear that energy from my body fairly quickly.
- P — Pay Attention. This is when you get to start being an investigative journalist researching the messages of your body. You’ve been walking around with an incredible early warning detection system yet, somehow, we’ve been wanting to put the brain in charge. Begin changing that by voraciously paying attention without making meaning or passing judgment. When you are taking notes, you notice things objectively. Explore the state of unbiased observer. It was through this method that I discovered the true “energetic cost” of traveling. I started to plan in recovery time from a plane trip, whereas before the pandemic I flew all the time without noticing the impact.
- A — Access Your Assistants. Assistants can be people or tools. In the wellbeing space, so many people specialize in one modality, which is great, but it is one tool in a sea of tools and, as the saying goes, when all we have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Hypnotherapy, for example, is really great for subconscious reprogramming and examining deeply-held beliefs. It can also be used for a lot of things, like habits. But, in its normal usage, it is probably not the answer for nervous system regulation. There are polyvagal exercises, earthing, and many other techniques for that, particularly when we learn to navigate and recognize the different dysregulated states and try some things out to support us. Accessing assistants means we can try a series of very short tools and evaluate how the body responds. Does it seem to feel supported by that? For example, if you wake up from a deep sleep dysregulated, that probably means your subconscious is working through some things. If you have a list of things available that support your subconscious, maybe the next night you put on a guided hypnosis or sound healing track and see how that feels. Assistants are also (SAFE) people in your life. As Brene Brown teaches, starting to become vulnerable with others can be our medicine. We should do it slowly, though, so our nervous system adjusts and we make sure we are continuing to honor our body. When we are dysregulated, we can start to take on beliefs that there is something wrong with us. Science teaches us that our brain and body are working not only as expected, but so many other people are experiencing the exact same phenomena. Nobody has to do this alone. There are both human assistants as well as tools that are available to support you. This is particularly powerful combined with paying attention. When I learned about earthing (standing outside with bare feet) and its power to regulate your nervous system, I had my doubts. But when I started to learn the landscape of my own nervous system and start earthing when dysregulated, it became a powerful tool I teach all my clients.
- C — Create Your Dream Identity. When we are walking through life without intention, our identity is what others decided and gave us. They decided if we were stupid or smart, sane or not, funny, artistic, good at _____ and we internalized that as if it were gospel. You don’t have to do that anymore. You get to decide who you are, and you will know it’s real if it’s your deepest desire. Now, I’m not talking about being 6 feet tall and looking like Halle Berry. I’m talking about who you are on the inside, how you exist in the world, and what you do or don’t do as a result of who you are. Many times when we have been in a dysregulated state for awhile, we lose connection with pieces of ourselves, so collecting the clues is part of the reason we pay attention. What did you love to do as a child? What kind of things did you like to eat? Wear? There are a couple of exercises I use for this section, and one of them is the Average Perfect Day Exercise. This is where you think about the components of a an average perfect day in your dream life, and vividly imagine them on paper. You run through the track from morning until night. If you read this every morning, allowing it to be dynamic and change with you, you will begin to see the structure of your dreams unfolding. Allow your mind to keep going, imagine yourself doing all the things you want to do. This is how I became confident at interviews and speaking engagements, using the power of visualization. I even visualize messing up, and recovering gracefully.
- E — Embody Your Dream Identity. Now that you know who you are becoming, what are some things that person would do? Be? Wear? Choose three things you can do that day to embody this new life. It may mean returning an email that felt difficult. It is really important for the nervous system to move into a new state slowly, so it’s very helpful if these three things are small and bite-sized. I like to recommend taking small sips instead of one big gulp, particularly at first. When you’ve been practicing SPACE for awhile, and your window of tolerance (comfortable zone for your nervous system) becomes wider, you will probably make some pretty giant leaps in this space. Recently, I shared my story very vulnerably in several large groups I was in — — on the same day. I thought I was ready, but felt like I’d been hit by a truck that evening. I was able to care for myself and was feeling restored the next day, but I would encourage you to really move into this slowly, instead of diving in headfirst. We are a dive-in headfirst culture, but slow and steady is often so much more sustainable.
How would our lives improve if we changed our definition of success?
Wow. Well, I can certainly tell you how my life has improved.
I am sleeping at night. When I awake in the morning, my energy comes from excitement about what I am working on instead of the dull roar of anxiety, adrenaline, and cortisol.
I am doing the things I always wanted to do, speaking, interviewing, etc. in the spaces I always wanted to be in, with ease and confidence. I am showing my kids that they don’t have to follow the rule book, and that their dreams are valid to pursue. I am sharing my experience, and other people’s lives are changing as a result.
When I was looking for my previous job, I wrote down my requirements for what I wanted in a future role. I said: I want to make an impact, an interesting (engineering) problem, a diverse and inclusive culture, and a product that is making the world a better place. I had no idea I would have to start my own company to actually find that.
What’s the biggest obstacle that stands in the way of our redefined success? And what advice would you offer about overcoming those obstacles?
This is an easy one: other people. When you start finding your own internal energy and setting boundaries on other people, it can make other people feel all kinds of things. They may feel abandoned, or rejected, or jealous.
My therapist gave me a couple of tools that have been extremely valuable for dealing with others. The first is a glass wall visualization. If someone is trying to take energy from you, imagine a glass wall between the two of you. The wall has a volume button and a mute button, so feel free to turn the volume down of that other person. Their energy does not get to share space with yours. The second tool is a mantra. Choosing a mantra like, “No, I’ve decided not to go out tonight” and then just repeat that no matter what the argument is. These are simple, but powerful tools.
The second piece of advice, find personal and professional support. If you have a history that needs to be unpacked, I definitely recommend finding a good therapist. If it’s the future you’re struggling with, the right coach may be able to support you with that. I have had times in my life where I had both.
Where do you go to look for inspiration and information about how to redefine success?
The first place I look is within. I spent a lifetime putting other people’s words before my own, but now I know that my path is unique and my highest self is the best teacher.
Second, I find messages that align with my values in my heart. I have a very supportive, loving partner. I have a couple of coaches and some accountability groups through my coaching program as well as others. In these groups, I find wise counsel and sometimes counsel that doesn’t serve me. Again, I get to decide.
And then, of course, I read books and consume talks and content by people I admire.
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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He, she or they might just see this if we tag them.
I mean, obviously Glennon Doyle. Her book Untamed felt so empowering to me, I bought several copies and passed them out. Her background and path feel so familiar to me, and every time I hear her speak, her words speak to my soul. I love that she is a fierce anti-racism advocate, and she uses her platform to highlight those values.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Your readers can find support and resources to support them in the above topics at https://sisujourney.com. They can also follow me on Instagram @sisujourney and subscribe to SISU Journey wherever they listen to podcasts.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this. We wish you continued success and good health.