By Teri Williams
As we approach the new year, let’s consider a New Year’s resolution that may be different than previous years. Let’s avoid focusing on weight loss or even our money.
Instead, let’s focus on loving ourselves and being valued as we are. Let’s focus on finding simpatico, or alignment with our relationships, workplace and even the companies we do business with to reduce stress caused by biases, including racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, partisanship, colorism, religious bias or fatphobia.
According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, simpatico means having shared qualities, interests, etc. We tend to understand simpatico in our romantic relationships. We search for someone who we feel is similar or “like minded.”
However, when it comes to employers or corporations, we can get too comfortable being uncomfortable. We may not even realize the day-to-day stress of not feeling simpatico with all aspects of our lives — where we work, where we live, where we spend our money and who we choose to spend time with. That stress is a “tax” that ultimately impacts our health and even our wallet.
On a personal note, during our holiday party in Los Angeles at OneUnited Bank, I spoke with two new employees who stated they were very happy working at the bank. Now, as the president and owner, I recognize they may have been telling me what I wanted to hear, but their reason was only indirectly related to their work.
Their reason was that they did not feel the racism or ageism that they felt working for previous employers. Their reason was the alleviation of stress because they felt a simpatico work environment.
On a further personal note, when I graduated from Harvard Business School at the top of my class, I had many options for corporate careers including lucrative jobs in investment banking and consulting. However, while interviewing for those positions, I did not feel aligned, or simpatico with their values or culture.
It was a difficult decision to turn down high-paying job offers and potentially lucrative careers. But it was the right decision for me. I ultimately joined American Express in the marketing division and loved it. In fact, I feel like I have never “worked” a day in my life because I have always felt simpatico with my career choices.
So here is an exercise to achieve a more simpatico life in the new year.
On the left side of a paper, write down your values (such as wisdom, social justice, equality, peace, beauty, unity, nature, wealth, the environment, inner harmony, benevolence, helpfulness, honesty, forgiveness, loyalty, responsibility, friendship, etc.) and the interests that are important to you. Now do not write down your parent’s interests for you, but your unique values and interests for yourself.
Below your values and interests, write down the biases that you have either experienced in your life or fear experiencing based on your uniqueness. Again, don’t listen to others. Listen to your inner self.
Write down biases such as racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, partisanship, colorism, religious bias or fatphobia that have or may cause you stress.
Now on the right side of the paper, write down all the people who you spend time with including family, friends, coworkers, etc.
Below the people, write down your employer (even if you are self-employed) and other companies that you do business with such as vendors, cleaners, grocery stores, schools, banks, clients, retailers, etc.
Take a black pen and draw a line between your interests and values and the people and/or companies that share your interests and values. Those lines represent your simpatico relationships. Hopefully you will have many black lines.
Now take a red pen and draw a line between the biases that you have experienced and/or fear and the people and/or companies where you have experienced or felt those biases. Hopefully you will have very few or no red lines.
Simply stated, let your goal for the new year be to maximize the black and minimize the red lines. Live in the black. Life is too short for us to not find simpatico or alignment with our relationships, workplace and even the companies we do business with to reduce stress. Let’s focus on loving ourselves and being valued as we are.
Happy holidays and a simpatico new year.
Teri Williams is the president and chief operating officer of One United Bank, the largest Black-owned bank in the United States.