Five Questions with Willow Sweeney
by Alison Schroeder
Willow Sweeney is one of our two keynote speakers for One². As someone who's seen her speak before, I was exceptionally anxious to ask her anything I wanted to - within journalistic right, of course. I reigned in my fangirl and kept the questions within context of what she'll present to guests and attendees of One². Her topic - living above and below the line - speaks to the power of choice we all have in life. The power of the line is knowing when we are aware of our thinking, and when that's not working. It's about making logical, conscious efforts to better workplace culture through a fostering and positive attitude that starts with individuals. Here's how Willow answered my questions.
1. How Do People Change?
The first step is realizing you have the ability to change. People have the tendency to get in the way of that, by saying, this is who I am. I've been like this forever. I was programmed or nurtured this way ... I was simply made this way. I don't think any of that is true. I'm a big believer that all of the words that we use to describe ourselves - productive, procrastinator, judgmental, compassionate - are not character traits that we're either born with or describe who we are. I believe those are things we do. They turn into habits. That behavior is habitual, and it's not always easy to change, but it's always possible. People have gotten rid of bad habits in the past, but usually it takes an understanding or real-life consequences that get in our way, like saying, I don't want to do that anymore. It's not serving me well. You have a choice. Either you do the same thing over and over and get the same results, or you decide you're not going to do that anymore.
2. What is the Single Most Important Daily Habit People Can Have?
The habit that I think most directly affects day-to-day life is starting to practice being aware of what our thinking is at any given moment. Is my thinking working clearly and am I seeing things as they really are, or is my thinking muddled and cloudy? If we start to become aware of our thinking, even on an hour-to-hour basis, then I think we have a new habit starting. We can negotiate through our days differently, based on knowing if our thinking is working or not. I think that checking in to see if your thinking is working right is the daily habit that's most important.
3. What's the Easiest Way to Improve Ourselves?
People think it's really hard to stop talking about people behind their backs. It's not. It's really simple. Just stop doing it. Choose to stop complaining in the workforce. Choose to stop gossiping about someone or being judgmental. It's the quickest and simplest thing to do. Yet, people look right over it. That's just who I am; that's just what I do. No - those are your habits. You don't have to continue. If you want to improve workplace culture in a heartbeat, get all you employees on board with you. Make that a clear expectation if you're part of management.
4. What is the Biggest Self-Sabotage?
I think the number one roadblock to anyone's success is their own belief that they're not good enough. Doing the daily work to realize you're good enough will have the most lasting impact on your success. The hinge of all Social and Emotional Intelligence is getting to the point where we realize we are human beings who are good enough and sometimes, we succeed and sometimes, we fail. Neither of those defines who we are as people. Most negative behavior people display comes from a place within when they're not feeling good enough.
5. What Do You Tell Your 23-Year-Old Self?
When I was 23, I was chronically negative. I complained about everything. I was always funny; I was always joking about things. But, the jokes were really edgy and cutting and probably about the person across the table, whether or not she knew I was making the joke about her. I was also always pointing out the negativity in the world. I think chronic complainers believe they've cornered the market on noticing the negative. In reality, they're just the people who won't stop talking about it. I did that all the time. I would tell myself at 23: knock it off. Start valuing relationships and the other people around me more than being funny, witty, or negative. Once I started doing that - five years later - life became much better for me.