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Deep Breath In.

Deep Breath Out.

My breath is a reminder that I am alive.

Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful.

Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful.

This is how I wake up every morning.

This mantra is immediate because I was given another gift. I was given the gift of another day to live on this earth and make a difference.

"There are days when, I’m dreading the tasks that I have to do but I am grateful for the opportunity that I have the freedom to do it."

I left a six figure job to work for myself 2 years ago. I never thought I would start a coaching and leadership development practice on my own - much less be able to support myself and my new family with it. I am grateful for all of the things that led me to this place.

There’s a lot to be said about this morning ritual.

I used to wake up regretting the choices I made to get me to the point of burnout. I woke up praying to rewind the day of stress and sadness. How could I have put myself into a state of illness? I was angry with myself and my desire to be successful to the fault of my health. Depression and anxiety were a reality.

One dark dark night before another work day, I recall crying so hard and begging God to tell me why was I here on this earth in so much pain? Why was my health failing? Why won’t my hair grow back? Why was my body sabotaging my ability to live? What was the reason I was here? What was I supposed to be doing because my heart was broken and I couldn’t figure out what my purpose was. I heard the echoes of my sobs reverberating off the walls.

It was SO loud, so painful to hear and then I realized - I was finally in that present moment to hear my pain. I had been so busy in my busyness in creating a life that I thought I was supposed to live that I wasn’t living the life I was created to live. I stopped crying. And realized I was so grateful to have that moment to realize I needed to do something to help myself be a better person for myself and to help others not feel this way anymore either.

I was suffering in silence. I was struggling in silence. And the longer I stayed silent, the more anxious I became and the more it started to impede on my personal and professional life.

I asked for help. I sought help with my doctors, therapists, my life coach and my family and friends. I make it another practice to voice my gratitude for their presence in my life. A short note, email or just stopping and saying “Thank you” is a priceless emotional paycheck that I write daily.

What I realized, was that I wasn’t being present. I was so fixated on what needed to be done or what I didn’t do well…that I wasn’t focusing on what was going on in the NOW. I realized that without mindfulness there isn’t gratitude. Buzzing through life like the worker bee that I was - wasn’t getting me anywhere. I was going nowhere fast! I burned out! I wasn’t making good decisions at work or in life. I was so stuck!

A wise co-worker friend told me as I was crying in her office, that I was more focused on being a human doing versus being a human being. How profound!

As I learned to work with my anxiety, I learned that mindfulness plays a key role in managing the worrisome demons that creeped into my mind and heart every evening and throughout each day. And each day was a gift. And I was taught when you receive a gift- an expression of gratitude is needed to make things right. The Universe wasn’t done with me yet. And I was treating each day like it was a chore. I had big work to do. I wasn’t quite sure what that was but there had to be a reason why I was here and being challenged so hard.

Sundays were the worst. My Joy was 100% gone. I also feared that if I continued to become more anxious and ill…I may have a heart attack or for even worse. My doctors encouraged me to practice mindfulness.

My first thought was "UGH! You want me to sit still - stillness?! There’s NO WAY!” I could barely sit still in the doctor's office as I waited for them to tell me (again) that I needed to remove myself from the stressful work environment, create boundaries and chose myself as a priority.

"What was getting in the way? Fear! Fear of success. Fear of failure."

Fear of leaving the security of an 18 year Corporate Career. I was petrified. But in order to get better- I had to be better to myself. How could I help others be better leaders, when I wasn’t being the best leader of my own life?!

So I forced myself to practice gratefulness. I was practicing a celebration of the life I was blessed to live. I was here to support others. Practicing mindfulness got me to celebrating gratitude.

Don’t get me wrong. That shit was hard!

I tried and failed. I tried and failed again. What I realized after numerous attempts that I wasn’t really failing because I was STILL TRYING! There’s no judgement in mindfulness. That’s what jammed me up. I was judging myself.

I learned that gratitude is also a practice.

Knowing that my mornings were the hardest. I started to practice my gratitude by giving thanks for a new day. I knew in my heart and soul, that I had more work to do on making a difference in someone’s life by starting with myself. Even one person affected - could make a world of difference- and that mattered. I also wanted to be healthier. I wanted that more than anything.

And my gratitude practice started to creep up into my day. Whenever I wanted to take a mental picture of a moment that I wanted to last forever, like the look of love in my new husband’s eyes, the laughter of a child at play, or someone holding the door open for me - I stop and pause and say my grateful mantra. It places me in the moment. It’s like I’m pressing the “SAVE” button in a Microsoft Word document. The moment is locked into my mental database.

And I smile for that moment.

I breathe in that moment.

In that moment, I am grateful.

Deep Breath In.

Deep Breath Out.

My breath is a reminder that I am alive.

Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful, Grateful.

Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful, Thankful.

Joyel Crawford is the founder of Crawford Leadership Strategies, LLC. She is determined and passionate Certified Professional Career & Life Coach and Leadership Development Training Consultant with over 15 years of experience Human Resources and career management. She is thrilled to bring her years of expertise to others and is excited about helping others achieve their career and business goals. Joyel is a Certified Professional Career Coach (CPCC). She also holds PHR, SHRM-CP (retired), DISC, Birkman and Life Coaching certifications.

She is a member of Forbes Coaches Council, SHRM, Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and National Association of Professional Women. Her career advice has been featured in Forbes, Essence, Huffington Post, The Muse, and Next Avenue.

You can find her here: Website. LinkedIn. Twitter. Facebook.

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