Cassandra Sousa, Community Director at CommunityCo
Cassandra is a passionate community builder with a background in the energy and organics industry. With her experience as an entrepreneur, teacher and team leader, she finds joy in building and maintaining client relationships, participating in youth mentorship, and understanding how social impact plays a role in businesses’ DNA.
Cassandra shares how change has impacted her life and her career. She chose to follow an unconventional path and leave a “dream” job to pursue a purposeful career.
Tools for Change: Letting Go of Clutter and Adding Meaning
We often want to make change and don’t know where to start. Fears crop up and distract us from following through on our intentions. When you are ready to make a change in your life, there are several ways to chip away at it.
One powerful way to create change is to return to who you are and create clarity. Decluttering your space helps you do this and has great side benefits. A book I love for this is Simplifying: Essays by the Minimalists (Asymmetrical Press, 2015). It’s full of inspiring essays, each of which has a relevant lesson and can set you on a specific task.
It’s easy to get attached to stuff as well as to your job, home, and more. When you feel stuck about anything, it’s the perfect time to make regular incremental changes in your space. Through this exercise, you rediscover who you are.
Additionally, when you unclutter your house or even a closet, you unclutter your mind. You gain power over both your space and yourself. The results set the stage for greater change and further clarity.
My podcast guest Cassandra Souza loves this book, too. After she read it, she first went through her kitchen and discovered just how much she owned that she wasn’t even aware she had—how could it be meaningful? How could she need it? By working through this book, she also learned that tiny, incremental changes can make a huge difference.
Creating change seems scary at first because it feels like it will be a radical difference, but effective change can start with something as small as getting rid of a few extra mugs. Then the next week, a few pieces of clothing you haven’t worn recently. Baby steps, each one doable.
After a car accident a few years ago, I moved from my larger house into an efficiency and pushed myself to downsize by half. At first, I found I was attached to many of the items. Or I couldn’t let go because of the price I paid or what it meant to me at the time. Today I live in a 500 square foot home, and it’s been freeing. Along the way, I discovered that the more space I have, the more curious I can become.
Spending habits can also be decluttered, believe it or not. Online shopping today can get you almost anything within 48 hours. Are you buying because it’s there, or because you genuinely need it? By grocery shopping once a week, my guest found herself throwing out a lot of produce she thought she would use, so she started buying less (more often), and the waste disappeared.
When we are dissatisfied, it’s easy to keep buying things to fill up the tank, but it can’t be filled in this way. The fuel is somewhere else, something else. It’s good to ask ourselves : what is safety for me? For me, it’s only a roof above my head, and eating every day. That’s all. Now I can give myself these things and focus on seeking change in my life.
Purpose + Meaning = Magic
It feels good to surround ourselves with purpose and meaning. Recycling and upcycling can help you limit the items in your space to what is meaningful and beautiful to you. When each piece of furniture has a story, you love to live with it. Your focus is no longer about accumulating. Look around at home or in your office and ask, “How does this make me joyful, how does this allow me to make an impact and leave a legacy and make a difference in people’s lives?”
What keeps you up at night that makes you so excited that you can’t wait to do it the next day? That’s the magic we seek to shift towards. A neighbor once asked my guest a powerful question: “Do you want to live a life of safety, or a life of self-discovery and expansion?”
We tend toward what’s comfortable, but it’s the edges that give you the flutter in your chest, where you discover the fear you need to get over to move forward. Where do you want to create change? Don’t be afraid of that flutter, because that’s when interesting things happen for you and those around you.
Big Change: How to Do a Leap of Faith
My guest told us her leap-of-faith story, when she applied for a master’s degree program across the country and promised herself she’d go if she got in, which she did. Because she had lived in the same area her whole life, she said she felt so scared and so sure at the same time.
To make this momentous change, she took many small steps. She bought a notebook and carried it with her everywhere. She filled the pages with lists of tasks—all the baby steps: looking at costs, selling her car, finding an apartment, etc. The list kept her grounded, she said. When she got too overwhelmed, she’d walk away for a short time and come back, look at the list, and start doing something.
The notebook also served as a journal. From the back cover, she wrote of her fears and frustrations, and her excitement. Time after time, she saw that the core of her fear was about not being familiar with what she was getting into (not a fear of leaving the familiar). Researching more about her leap felt reassuring and eased that fear.
Another resource for her leap was the support system of her huge family helping and encouraging her. Slowly her hesitation turned into excitement. To create change and get to place of feeling that driving purpose as well as a sense of peace, she recommends finding someone that you really trust that to be your sounding board. Whether a friend, partner, relative, or coworker, choose a person that’s your go-to, to help you talk through the pros and cons of everything. Someone who will honestly play devil’s advocate for you, too.
The overall lesson is to start small. Find out who you are, what safety means for you, and where you want to be. Make space in your life to get creative. Create small, incremental changes—regularly. Rushing doesn’t earn you any brownie points.
It’s human nature to be afraid of change. Grow, develop, find your own voice. Eventually, you can become a role model and help others around you who might need a push.