Author and Journalist Dia Wall’s Best Advice for Keeping the Important Things in Perspective
As an award-winning journalist, wife, and mother of two, Dia Wall knows a thing or two about achieving goals—both personal and professional. It’s a thing the evening anchor and newsroom leader of the KSHB41 NBC affiliate in Kansas City prides herself on.
Now, with the publication of her book, The Unhappiest One: Finding Joy in My Journey to Purpose, in September, Wall has achieved something else: sharing some of her hard-earned wisdom with others.
“Success is great; we all want that,” she says. “I’ve wanted nothing more than to get to the point professionally where I’m at right now. But I think, for me, the reason why I felt it was time to write what I call a ‘sort-of memoir’… is that I have to keep things in proper perspective. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.”
But as Wall explains in her Achiever’s Exclusive interview with Josh Ellis, her current perspective on happiness and purpose was something that didn’t come naturally. Her book is about trying to reconcile the feelings of unhappiness she struggled with even after reaching the goals she’d set for herself.
“We all have this burning desire to reach and to meet higher goals and milestones,” Wall explains in the interview. “But what happens when you get there?”
The pandemic offered Wall the chance to reflect on this very question. According to her, it’s really about maintaining what she calls a “posture of gratitude.” This can involve things like doing the tough, unglamorous work needed for development, such as focusing on the fundamentals, setting priorities and never losing sight of the ultimate goal of finding happiness.
Here are five principles Wall highlights in her conversation with SUCCESS magazine.
1. You are not your work.
In our increasingly specialized world, it can be difficult at times to separate our personal identities from the work we do. In a piece of advice that echoes Toni Morrison’s writing on the subject, the author reminds us that our real value comes from our relationships with the ones we love.
“What you do isn’t who you are,” Wall says. “You can be the best professional there is; I can be the best journalist there is. But at the end of the day, I’m still ‘Mom’ to my kids. I’m still ‘Dia, my wife’ to the husband, you know?”
2. You are changing all the time.
According to the author, recognizing that we’re a constant work-in-progress not only relieves us of the illusory burdens of perfectionism; it also allows us to take stock of our changing hopes, desires and goals.
“For me, it was learning how to embrace a little bit of humility; being OK knowing that you are forever evolving, you’re forever growing and changing and adapting—and knowing that that’s normal,” Wall says.
3. No one really does it all on their own.
From taking time to reflect on her mother’s selfless acts of love, to highlighting the importance of having a mentor in a young professional’s career, Wall makes it clear that we all stand to gain by drawing on the strength of our connections and communities.
“You need people around you,” Wall says. “As we’re cresting these summits, you need people to coach you professionally. You need people to give you honest and critical assessments of where you are; things that work for them that could potentially work for you.”
4. You need time to reflect.
For Wall, seeing the ways the pandemic took a toll on so many people naturally made her appreciate the importance of the wisdom she’d already internalized.
“I already had the lessons and the wisdom that I needed to get myself back on track,” Wall says. “That’s what was so comforting and really, cathartic, of writing it down [in the book]. I do know how to have a posture of gratitude; look around me and say, ‘you know, it’s really not that bad.’”
For managers, she also points out that “the happiest, most productive, most well-rounded employees are going to be the ones who have a full and rich life that their job complements.”
5. You can strike a balance between appreciating the present and planning for the future.
Setting priorities allows us to never lose sight of what’s personally important to us. As the author explains: “I always wanted to be a wife, I wanted to be a mom, I always wanted to have a good family life; and that takes higher priority.” Others will have different priorities, and that’s OK—but the author reminds us to keep what matters to us most in the forefront.
At the same time, it’s important to take the time to stop and smell the roses—even in the midst of all that change. “When you’re laser-focused on long-term, further down the road, you can miss the beauty of what you have right in front of you,” Wall says. “The small stuff is really the good stuff.”