TIME Parenting

Why Kids Who Believe in Something Are Happier and Healthier

Johan Ödmann—Copyright Johner Bildbyra AB

Spirituality better predictor of happiness than achievement, says author

Despite more than a decade of widespread attention on happiness and the benefits of positive psychology, there is an epidemic of unhappiness in children and teens. Quite severe unhappiness. Health statistics over the past decade show that beyond the 20% to 25% of teens with major depression are another 40% (yes, that’s a total of 65%) who struggle with intrusive levels of depression symptoms at some point, and often with anxiety and substance abuse as well.

Kids of middle-class and more affluent families—kids who would seem to have everything going for them—have far higher rates of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and anti-social tendencies than their less privileged peers. Why has the mass happiness initiative failed our kids? Science is bringing the problem into resolution.

An increasingly narcissistic culture and the constant reward for achievement, whether on the playing field, the music stage or the math test, creates what I call in my book the unbalanced “performance self” of the child; a child who feels his or her worth is founded on ability and accomplishment.

We want our children to have grit to persist and win, the optimism that they will be more successful, but where does it lead? Children come to believe they are no better than their last success and suffer a sense of worthlessness when there is loss or even moderate failure. Where love is conditional on performance, children suffer.

Now the antidote. A new study just published online in the Journal of Religion and Health by my lab at Columbia University shows that happiness and the character traits of grit and persistence go “hand in hand” with a deeper inner asset: spirituality, which this study measured as a deep spiritual connection with a sense of a sacred world.

More generally my research of more than 20 years on adolescence, depression and spirituality shows more specifically how putting a priority on performance stunts development of a child’s inner life and the single most powerful protection against depression and suffering, the spiritual self.

What we have learned is that children are born with an innate capacity for spirituality, just as they are born with the capability to learn a language, read and think. But just as it takes time and effort to develop the ability to speak or read, it also takes time and effort to develop our innate sense of the spiritual.

A strong new body of science, developed during the last decade to what we now consider to be a level of certainty, demonstrates, first, that any sort of spirituality becomes a source of health and thriving for kids and, second, that the lack of spirituality in families and youth culture can be a big source of suffering.

Among other things, our research demonstrates:

  • Spiritually plays a significant role in child social, emotional and cognitive development. Kids with a strong spirituality overall have greater grit, higher grades, more optimism and persistence than kids without a strong sense of spirituality.
  • Teenagers who say they have a strong sense of spirituality are 80% less likely than the norm to have unprotected or dangerous sex, and 40% less likely to use drugs
  • Personal spirituality that includes a direct personal relationship with nature, a universal presence or higher power (by any name) has a clear correlation with physical wellness and recovery from depression and disease; indeed, greater spiritual awareness produces the same readings in brain scans as recovery due to medication.

We have found that the natural spirituality of children and young people can be encouraged and fostered by such steps as meditation, prayer, or long walks in nature where a sense of transcendence can be engaged. Parents can demonstrate approval for (and model) such traits as caring for others, empathy or optimism.

Most important, even if it makes them feel uncomfortable, parents must not turn away from questions that children are prone to ask—those difficult “why” questions that go directly to moral issues or to such visceral questions as whether there is a God, how we know, and what that means to us.

In contrast to the performance self, the spiritual self is sturdy and resilient, happy at a win, but not dependent on it to feel worthy as human being. In our excessively competitive culture, with often thin support for spiritual development, parents must actively work to help their children to a spiritual life.

Parents who aggressively push their children to achieve “success” in finding the “right” school, achieving the “right kind of job” should consider the science of the matter. Spirituality is more essential to thriving and success than ability to perform. Spiritual children have a sense of inner worth, a sense of the lasting, higher sacred self, much bigger than the day’s win or defeat. And when they achieve their goals – that better job, or that higher income – the studies show that well-grounded, spiritually engaged young people can actually feel fulfilled by their life choices.

That’s something worth pushing for.

For the most intelligent parenting research on the web, subscribe to our free weekly newsletter, TIME for Parents.

Lisa Miller, Ph.D. is Director of Clinical Psychology at Teachers College, Columbia University and author of the forthcoming book, The Spiritual Child; The New Science of Parenting for Health and Lifelong Thriving

Read next: How Do You Talk to Kids About God?

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Here Are 11 Influential Women You Should Know

Rula Ghani TIME 100 Women
Newsha Tavakolian for TIME Rula Ghani

From the champion of #BringBackOurGirls to those leading the fight against Ebola

When we think of “influential women,” there’s a familiar rotation that comes to mind: Taylor Swift, Malala Yousafzai, Hillary Clinton. This year’s TIME 100 is filled with bold-face names like those, and for good reason. Reese Witherspoon, Emma Watson, Kim Kardashian and Amy Schumer have used their fame to upend expectations about women in entertainment, and leaders like Janet Yellen, Angela Merkel, Elizabeth Warren and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are all fixtures on the 24-hour news cycle. But of the 40 women on this year’s list, many exert a different kind of influence.

Here are 11 women who are slowly working to make the world a better place, whether or not you know their names:

Chai Jing: This Chinese journalist and environmentalist’s documentary, Under the Dome, calls attention to China’s massive pollution problem. It was viewed over 200 million times before government censors attempted to suppress it (although other, more environmentalist sectors of the government supported the movie). The popularity of the film and the intensity of the reaction has prompted comparisons to Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring, and environmentalists hope the film could nudge the country toward greener policies.

Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier: These two geneticists developed a gene-altering technique that could help fight countless diseases. Inspired by the way ancient bacteria evolved to fight viruses, Doudna and Charpentier created the CRISPR-Cas9 technique, which allows scientists to add or remove genetic material to fight diseases like HIV, sickle-cell anemia or even some forms of cancer. It’s not just one cure for one disease — it’s a major breakthrough that could help scientists fight hundreds of different illnesses by making any number of genetic alterations.

(Read more: Meet the Women Scientists on the TIME 100)

Obiageli Ezekwesili: Even before she became the champion of the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, Ezekwesili was already a leading voice in Nigerian politics. Known as “Aunty Oby” by some young Nigerians, she founded anti-corruption group Transparency International, served as Nigeria’s Minister of Education in 2006 and as Vice President of World Bank‘s Africa division from 2007-2012. After militant group Boko Haram kidnapped over 200 girls from a Chibok school, Ezekwesili helped organize a global campaign to demand their immediate return. The girls have now been missing for over a year, and the government’s failure to rescue them was a key issue that contributed to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s victory over incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in the recent Nigerian elections.

Aura Elena Farfán: Ever since her brother was abducted by the Guatemalan military in 1984, Farfán has dedicated her life to getting answers for the thousands of families whose relatives disappeared during the country’s long civil war. She founded FAMDEGUA, an NGO that helps relatives get justice for victims of army violence during the war. Thanks to Farfán, soldiers who committed atrocities during the 1982 massacre at the village of Dos Erres are now serving prison time.

Rula Ghani: She’s a Lebanese Christian, a Columbia graduate, an American citizen and the new First Lady of Afghanistan. The wife of newly elected Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is looking to start a new chapter for a country that has long been considered one of the harshest places to be born a woman. She was the only one of the presidential candidates’ wives to appear during the campaign, and she is poised to be more hands-on than any Afghan First Lady in recent memory. “I would like to give women out there the courage and the possibility to do something about improving their lives,” she told the BBC last year. “If I’ve achieved a higher respect for women and for their role in society then I would be very happy. That would really be my greatest wish.”

Mellody Hobson: As president of Ariel Investment funds, Hobson is one of the top African-American women in the financial sector. And if one high-powered job weren’t enough, she has several more on her resume: she’s the Chairman of the Board of Dreamworks Animation, and serves on the board of directors for the Estée Lauder Companies Inc, Starbucks and Groupon. Sheryl Sandberg said recently that meeting Hobson helped inspire her to write Lean In: “She said she wanted to be unapologetically black and unapologetically a woman.”

Chanda Kochhar: Kochhar is the managing director and CEO of ICICI, the largest bank in India’s private sector (and the second-largest in the whole country). In 2014, Kochhar oversaw nearly $125 billion in assets and announced an 18% profit increase, and is credited for helping the bank bounce back from the 2008 financial crisis, Forbes reports. Considered one of India’s most powerful women, Kochhar has also been an advocate for expanding mobile banking to more rural Indian communities.

Joanne Liu: As International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, or Doctors Without Borders), Liu led the global fight against the Ebola outbreak last year. Born in Canada, Liu has served in more than 20 missions on four continents since joining MSF in 1996. She was promoted to International President in 2013, just before the Ebola outbreak, and her quick and effective response is credited for helping contain the deadly virus. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says Liu and her team “repeatedly got it right,” which helped curb the spread of Ebola.

Kira Orange-Jones: As Executive Director of Teach for America in New Orleans, Orange-Jones helped rebuild the city’s education system in the 10 years since it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Under Orange-Jones’s leadership, the distinction between public and charter schools has virtually disappeared, on-time graduation has increased from 50% to 75%, and college graduation has more than doubled. New Orleans is the second-largest TFA corps in the nation, and under her guidance, TFA teachers and alumni reach 1 in 3 students in the region. And thanks to her, New Orleans is outperforming other cities on ACT tests.

Pardis Sabeti: Pardis led a team of geneticists from Harvard and MIT that performed real-time DNA sequencing of the Ebola virus, which proved that the disease was spreading human-to-human, and not through animals. This crucial piece of information helped doctors and communities curb the spread of the virus. “What people really need to be doing is reducing contact between themselves—because it wasn’t being spread widely by animals or contact with animals,” she explained when she was honored as one of TIME’s People of the Year in 2014. “We need as many minds working on this important problem as we can have. We will only beat this virus together.” She also happens to be a big fan of the band Nine Inch Nails.

TIME fashion

Gisele Retires After 20 Years on the Runway

She was the highest-paid model in the industry

Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen formally announced her retirement from modeling on Wednesday after 20 years of walking the runway.

Bündchen posted the news to her Instagram account before a show at São Paulo Fashion Week, her last, along with a picture of herself when she first started at 14:

She is the highest-paid model in the industry, according to Forbes. As the face of brands like Chanel, Carolina Herrera and Louis Vuitton, she earned an estimated $386 million over the course of her career. Her 2014 paycheck alone was $47 million — $16 million more than that of her NFL-quarterback husband Tom Brady.

The supermodel, who has two children with Brady, says she is leaving to spend more time with her family but plans to continue to work in the fashion industry, likely as a designer. She already has her own line of flip-flops and lingerie.

TIME Heart Disease

What Divorce Does to Women’s Heart Health

broken heart
Getty Images

When it comes to the fallout from a divorce, one spouse is harmed more by it’s biological and psychological effects on the heart

Dissolving a marriage is hard on everyone, but researchers say the psychological stress of a divorce can have serious physical effects on the heart, especially for women.

Women who divorced at least once were 24% more likely to experience a heart attack compared to women who remained married, and those divorcing two or more times saw their risk jump to 77%. In the study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, Matthew Dupre of Duke University and his colleagues found that men weren’t at similar risk. Men only saw their heart attack chances go up if they divorced two or more times compared to men who didn’t split with their spouses. If men remarried, their heart risk did not go up, while for women who remarried, their chances of having a heart attack remained slightly higher, at 35%, than that of divorced women.

MORE: Divorce More Likely When Wife Falls Ill

These findings remained strong even after Dupre’s team adjusted for other potential contributors to heart attack, including age, social factors such as changes in occupation and job status and health insurance coverage, and physiological factors including body mass index, hypertension and diabetes. Previous studies have found links between divorce or widowhood and heart disease that were explained, at least in part, by changes in people’s access to health care and their ability to keep up healthy eating and exercise habits.

But these are the first results from tracking people over a longer period of time—18 years—to capture the cumulative effects of changes in marital status, says Dupre. “We looked at lifetime exposure to not only current marital status, but how many times someone has been divorced in the past. What we found was that repeated exposure to divorce put men and women, but particularly women, at higher risk of having a heart attack compared to those who were married.”

MORE: Study: Marriage is Good For The Heart

And it wasn’t simply changes in health insurance coverage or financial status resulting from the divorce that explained the higher heart risk. Even after Dupre’s group accounted for these, the relationship held. While he admits that the trial did not investigate exactly how divorce is seeding more heart attacks, other studies hint at a possible explanation. Dramatic life changes such as divorce, which signal an end to not only a significant relationship but potentially to stable financial and social circumstances as well, can lead to spikes in the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn can push blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar to unhealthy heights.

The long term scope of the study revealed the impact that social and life events can have on the physical functioning of the body. “The health consequences of social stresses are real,” says Dupre. For women, the 77% higher risk of heart attack connected to multiple divorces was on par with well-established factors such as hypertension (which boosts risk by 73%) and diabetes (which elevates heart problems by 81%).

MORE: Do Married People Really Live Longer?

That’s doesn’t mean, of course, that women should avoid getting divorced to save their hearts. “Another way to put it is to say that women who are stably married are at an increased advantage of preventing heart attacks than women who may have had to go through transitions where they weren’t,” says Dupre.

It also makes a good case for doctors including discussion about potential stressors, including lifestyle and social circumstances, in their health assessment of patients. Recognizing that divorce may be a life event that can contribute to higher heart attack risk, for example, they can monitor patients experiencing divorce more carefully, and be alert to the first signs of potential problems with cholesterol, blood pressure or blood sugar. “Understanding all of the factors that lead to a physiological response are equally important,” says Dupre. And potentially life saving.

TIME health

Watch Jemima Kirke Explain Why She Refused Anesthesia During Her Abortion

She couldn't afford the extra cost

Girls actress Jemima Kirke is opening up about an abortion she got during college.

In a new PSA for the Center for Reproductive Rights, Kirke says she became pregnant with her boyfriend’s child while at college in Providence, R.I. “My life was just not conducive to raising a healthy, happy child,” she says. “I just didn’t feel it was fair.”

Even though her family is well off (her father is former Bad Company drummer Simon Kirke, and her mother is fashion designer Lorraine Kirke), she didn’t want to tell her parents about the pregnancy, so she had to pay for the abortion herself. She scraped together the money with her boyfriend, but they didn’t have enough for anesthesia, so she got the abortion without it. “The anesthesia wasn’t that much more, but when you’re scrounging for however many hundreds of dollars, it is a lot. I just didn’t have it.”

Kirke presents her story as an example of the various obstacles that are put in women’s way when it comes to making reproductive choices. “We think we do have free choice, and we are able to do whatever we want, but then there are these little hoops we have to jump through to get them,” she says.

The actress and painter said she talks about her story in order to reduce the stigma surrounding reproductive choices, and because she wants to protect reproductive rights for her two young daughters. “I would love if when they’re older, and they’re in their teens or their 20s, if the political issues surrounding their bodies were not there anymore,” she said, adding that settling the debate about reproductive rights would give them “one less thing to battle.”

TIME Body Image

Chrissy Teigen Gives Instagram a Refreshing Look at Her Stretch Marks

"Stretchies say hi!"

We typically don’t turn to supermodels for a healthy perspective on body acceptance. But Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition model Chrissy Teigen has taken to Instagram to spread body positivity.

Usually tabloids are the only ones flaunting celebrity stretch marks, but on Monday night, Teigen posted a photo with the caption, “Bruises from bumping kitchen drawer handles for a week. Stretchies say hi!”

Social media often gets a bad reputation for fostering feelings of fo-mo, wanderlust and other insecurities. And that’s why it’s so refreshing when public figures like Teigen — or, recently, Amy Schumer — offer an unfiltered look at supposed flaws.

TIME feminism

Here’s the History of the Battle for Equal Pay for American Women

Equal Pay Day
Craig F. Walker—Denver Post/Getty Images Activists gathered on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol in downtown Denver, CO, to mark national Equal Pay Day in 2009

The fight for equal pay dates back to the Civil War

Based on national pay-disparity numbers, a hypothetical American woman would have to keep working until roughly April 14, 2015, in order to make the same amount of money as a man doing the same work would have made in 2014 — which is why the activist group the National Committee on Pay Equity has selected Tuesday as this year’s Equal Pay Day. Though the topic will get extra airtime today, the debate about equal pay is nothing new.

In February, 1869, a letter to the editor of the New York Times questioned why female government employees were not paid the same as male ones. “Very few persons deny the justice of the principle that equal work should command equal pay without regard to the sex of the laborer,” the author wrote. “But it is one thing to acknowledge the right of a principle and quite another to practice it.” The author noted that the U.S. Government employed 500 women in the Treasury department, but that they made only half as much as their male colleagues:

“Many of these women are now performing the same grade of work at $900 per annum for which men receive $1800. Most of them, too, have families to support; being nearly all either widow or orphans made by the war.”

That year, a resolution to ensure equal pay to government employees passed the House of Representatives by almost 100 votes, but was ultimately watered down by the time it passed the Senate in 1870.

In 1883, communications across the country ground to a halt when the majority of the workers for Western Union Telegraph Company went on strike, partly to ensure “equal pay for equal work” for its male and female employees (among other demands). The strike wasn’t ultimately successful, but it was a very early public demand for fair pay for women.

By 1911, significant progress had been made. New York teachers were finally granted pay equal to that of their male counterparts, after a long and contentious battle with the Board of Education.

In the 20th century, war was good for women workers. In 1918, at the beginning of World War I, the United States Employment Service published lists of jobs that were suitable for women in order to encourage men in those occupations to switch to jobs that supported the war effort. “When the lists have been prepared…it is believed that the force of public opinion and self-respect will prevent any able-bodied man from keeping a position officially designated as ‘woman’s work,'” the Assistant Director of the U.S. Employment Service said in 1918. “The decent fellows will get out without delay; the slackers will be forced out and especially, I think, by the sentiment of women who stand ready.”

Since women were doing work that men would ordinarily do, the National War Labor Board decided they should be paid the same: “If it shall become necessary to employ women on work ordinarily performed by men, they must be allowed equal pay for equal work.” The same thing happened during WWII, as more women worked in munitions factors and the aircraft industry. During the war effort, equal pay was championed by unions and male workers, although not for entirely altruistic reasons—they were worried that if women were paid less for the same work, management could dilute male workers’ wages after they returned from the war.

After the war ended, the demand for equal pay seemed to lose some steam. In 1947, Secretary of Labor Lewis Schwellenbach tried to get an equal pay amendment passed that would apply to the private sector, arguing, “There is no sex difference in the food she buys or the rent she pays, there should be none in her pay envelope.” But as veterans needed work after the war and women were increasingly expected to stay in the home, Schwellenbach’s bid was ultimately unsuccessful.

National legislation was finally passed in 1963, when John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Law into effect, overcoming opposition from business leaders and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who were concerned that women workers were more costly than male ones. When he signed the bill, Kennedy called it a “significant step forward,” and noted that, “It affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelopes.” The next year, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination on the basis of race, origin, color, religion or sex.

There have been more legal wins for female workers since then. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protected pregnant employees, and the Family and Medical Leave act of 1991 allowed parents regardless of genders to take time off. But despite the fact that women made up almost 58% of the labor force in 2012, they still made only 77 cents for every dollar a man made, according to the National Equal Pay Task Force. In 2009, President Obama chose the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as his first piece of legislation, which restores some protections against discrimination that had been stripped in a 2007 Supreme Court case, and incentivizes employers to make their payrolls more fair.

But progress is still slow. Last year, a bill that would have made it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees who discuss their wages failed in the Senate.

Read TIME’s 1974 take on equal pay, here in the TIME Vault: Wages and Women

TIME Family

This Is How You Can Put a Baby to Sleep in Less Than 60 Seconds

All you need is some tissue paper

If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, don’t give up just yet. Simply reach for the Kleenex.

In under a minute, YouTuber and Australian father Nathan Dailo sends his baby to sleep by gently tickling the infant’s face with tissue paper.

“The tissue trick isn’t actually anything special. Any light touching on the baby’s facial areas such as the head, forehead or the bridge of the nose also works,” Dailo tells TIME.

The video has garnered more than 4 million views and inspired innumerable other parents to deploy the technique. However, Dailo cautions that his technique isn’t the only one.

“Remember that each child is different, and what works for some parents may not work for others. And always use you’re instincts. You are the parent,” Dailo stresses.

TIME Internet

Kindergarteners Who Share iPads May Perform Better: Study

Getty Images

Students perform better if they share an iPad with another student as opposed to having one all to themselves, according to a new study.

Though schools nationwide have ramped up their efforts to introduce technology in the classroom, there’s just a small body of evidence on the benefits for students. Now a new study suggests that iPads do have a role in academic performance, but the effect may be greater when students collaborate.

In the study, Northwestern University researcher and Ph.D. candidate Courtney Blackwell analyzed the iPad usage and academic performance of 352 kindergarten students in three elementary schools. In one of the schools, there were enough iPads for every student to use one. In another school, there were 23 iPads and the students shared them. In the third school, there were no iPads. Blackwell followed the students for one school year and tracked their performance on literacy tests.

Her findings, which Blackwell presented at the Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, show that students who shared iPads performed better than their peers who used an iPad on their own or did not use iPads at all in the classroom. Specifically, kids who shared iPads scored 28% better on their literacy tests at the end of the year, whereas kids who used their own devices improved by 24% and kids who did not have iPads in the classroom improved by 20%.

“While statistically significant, the percentage increase for the shared-iPad kids is not huge, but I do think it is a meaningful finding given there is no prior empirical research looking at how 1:1 tablets affect student learning compared to shared or no tablets,” said Blackwell in an email to TIME.

In her report, Blackwell concludes that schools may want to reconsider implementing tablet use for young kids, given how expensive the investment can be and the lack of evidence to support the need for individual tablets in kindergarten.

“I think it’s important to remember that iPads and technology in general are just one part of the curriculum, with many other factors playing a role in children’s achievement,” said Blackwell. “Technology has always been touted as a potential panacea for education, but historically it has never changed the U.S. education system on a large scale. That said, with so many schools integrating one-for-one tablets and other devices, we need to know how technology is affecting learning to understand the best way to make tablets and technology most effective for students and teachers.”

Read next: Teachers Actually Want Students to Use This App in Class

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TIME career

Don’t Set Your Own Career Ceiling

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"Power is something you claim yourself, not something you are granted"


It’s hard not to be blown away by how creatively and deftly Deena Varshavskaya has made her mark in the world. At 16, she moved to the U.S. from Siberia. Instead of giving up on the difficult challenge of catching up to her classmates, a few years later she was studying at Cornell University. Ever the trailblazer, Varshavskaya left college just “two classes short of graduating,” as her LinkedIn profile reads, because she couldn’t wait to engage in the real world. Then in a decade she went from dropout to serial entrepreneur and now founder and CEO of Wanelo (from Want, Need, Love).

Touted as the world’s largest mall curated by people, Wanelo was named Best E-Commerce App by TechCrunch. Varshavskaya herself can claim titles like one of the Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs and Most Creative People in Business, which probably makes for really impressive ice-breaker material. Combined with the fact that she gets away with talking about her Ryan Gosling leggings at conferences while still being taken seriously as a businesswoman… can you say #careergoals?

With all of this success to draw upon, Deena shared with us a few of the lessons she’s learned about crafting a fulfilling career.

MORE 3 Graceful Ways to Share Your Successes at Work

Power is something you claim yourself

It’s not always easy to find your place at work while feeling empowered to grow. Here’s how Deena’s tackled this in her career and how she helps her team do the same:

“My goal as a leader is to empower my team to become their greater selves and to fulfill their greatest potential.

“At Wanelo, our team is pretty unique in that it’s the opposite of hierarchical. Everyone has the same potential to contribute to the problems we are solving as a company and grow as individuals in their careers.

“For many who start their careers, there’s often this pressure to blend in as much as possible and not stand out – to be “normal” or “average” because there’s a formula to follow in order to be successful and reach the next level. But I actually don’t believe normal exists because every single person in this world has his or her own quirks. I think it’s important that our team is empowered and unafraid to show these things about themselves and apply it to the work we’re doing.

“I’m very big on encouraging self-expression, and for me, Wanelo has been my space for endless personal growth. My entire life has been about overcoming fears and seeing what I’m capable of, and starting Wanelo was the exact path I needed to express myself.

“I want everyone on my team to find their own path and understand that power is something you claim yourself, not something you are granted. To get there, you should start by declaring really big dreams, then close the gap between what you said you’d do and actually ​doing those things. The smaller the gap between the two, the more powerful you will be.”

MORE 5 Things You Can Do in a Job That’s Not “The One”

Surround yourself with people who make you feel empowered

A huge part of developing yourself is feeling supported to take risks. If you don’t feel like you have that, Deena advises you seek out those who make you feel empowered:

“To be creative, I believe you need to take risks and make mistakes. Many corporate environments lack creativity because employees operate based on fear, where they’re more likely to focus on pleasing the manager than on solving the problem at hand.

“If you’re a person who wants to take risks and you aren’t getting that support from your career, maybe that job isn’t for you.

“If breaking rules and making mistakes to solve big problems is what motivates you, my advice would be to explore a different career. People often get stuck in jobs doing something that’s “good enough” for too long. Don’t settle for mediocrity! Find a job that gives you the space to pursue your curiosities and personal goals. It’s important to surround yourself with people who make you feel empowered.

MORE Why You Should Consider a Lateral Career Move

Don’t set an artificial ceiling for yourself

You might already know exactly what direction you want to go in and have big goals for yourself. But when you don’t feel qualified to become that ideal version of yourself, getting started can feel insurmountable. Pause. Read this first:

The biggest thing is to never set an artificial ceiling for yourself. If you want more growth, don’t hide behind the belief that someone else needs to give you permission to do what you want to do. Your professional ceiling is set by you.

“It’s also important ​to pursue the things you’re curious about, rather than fixate on practical considerations like money and success. Curiosity is what will allow you to find the kind of work that doesn’t feel like work. ​

“Finding your passion starts with setting really high standards and looking at what is possible in your life. Then it’s about moving forward with your intuition and trying the next big thing to see what fits next.”

Grade A wisdom from a grade A role model.

You can learn more about Deena by following her on Wanelo, Twitter and Instragram at @siberianfruit.

This article originally appeared on Live in the Grey.

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