Tia Graham was a mom with a toddler and a baby living and working in L.A. when she realized the quest for a “balanced life” was becoming an overwhelming daily struggle that left her tired and gloomy. Working through her own challenges and emotions brought Graham to Arrive at Happy, a happiness company she founded to help others build more fulfilling lives. She’ll be back in L.A. this month to launch her newest book, Be a Happy Leader: Stop the Overwhelm, Thrive Personally, and Achieve Business Results.
We recently chatted with Graham about how parenthood affects our happiness and how she finds her bliss.
Tell us a little about why you started Arrive at Happy.
I originally had the idea to create a happiness company around 12-years ago. Throughout my adult life, people would continuously ask me, “How do you stay so happy”, “Where do you get all your positive energy from?” and “Even when there are huge challenges, how to you stay optimistic?” I remember thinking to myself, I believe that I can help other people become happier. I would journal about creating this happiness company and would often talk about it with my husband. Fast forward, I am back at work as The Director of Sales & Marketing at The London West Hollywood at Beverly Hills hotel, and I have a 2-year-old and a 4-month old. I am NOT happy. I was full of anger, overwhelm, guilt, fear, stress, sadness, confusion, and so many other challenging emotions. This was not the first time in my life that I had been unhappy, but it was the first time that I thought, maybe I will not be that happy person anymore. Maybe this is my new normal. To a pretty happy human, that thought was terrifying. I started Arrive At Happy to inspire and teach as many humans as possible! Arrive At Happy shares research from the science of happiness, neuroscience, coaching, and happiness at work to help leaders, teams, and people be happier and more successful.
What do you hope readers gain from your book, “Be a Happy Leader”?
I hope they gain motivation, understanding and tools to support them in consistently choosing happiness, making choices based on positive psychology and neuroscience. And I hope they gain new strategies to be a GREAT and really successful leader. I want people to know that they can create a life and career with happiness as their compass.
Who influenced you the most growing up?
My mom and dad, both in their own ways. My mom for her love of movement, friendship, adventure, travel, healthy living and never settling. My Dad for his positive attitude, love of bringing people together and support of my crazy ideas.
What messages about happiness did you get from your family growing up?
Skiing and time outside makes you happy. Spending as much time as possible with friends and family. Fruits and veggies make you feel better. Traveling to new places lights you up and makes you realize that people are way more alike than different. Work hard and play hard – have fun! Do not take life too seriously. Dance, sing and be silly. Work hard in school and always try your best.
What would you tell your middle school self?
Do not look around at what other people are doing. Just focus on yourself and always stay true to yourself. Also – never care what middle school boys think of you! They will not be around when you are an adult!
Tells us how becoming a parent has changed you?
Wow. In every single way possible. I have two daughters who are 5 and 7. Parenting has made me realize that my career, titles and accomplishments are not who I am, they are what I do. It has humbled me and forced me to heal from challenges from my childhood. I have learned and am still learning to be more patient and see the world through my daughters’ eyes. I have learned that life is even more precious and special than pre-kids and it goes by fast. I have learned more about emotional contagion than I would have liked! Hahaha. I am still trying to NOT take in my daughters’ emotions. I have learned to love myself more and give myself constant grace and compassion.
What are you looking forward to sharing with your children the most?
Showing them the countries and cities that I love. Traveling with them throughout our lives. Sharing with them everything that I have learned from coaching, the science of happiness and neuroscience so that they will have the knowledge a lot younger than I did.
What would you like your children to know about the pursuit of happiness?
That happiness is a choice and that there are choices that you make daily that either increase or decrease your happiness. I will teach them Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar’s SPIRE model of well-being (spiritual, physical, intellectual, relational and emotional well-being). I will teach them that just like taking care of our physical immune system, we must take care of our mental/psychological immune system, and both take intention and work. Happiness is about contentment, purpose and a commitment to joy and it is about the acceptance that life has peaks and valleys.
What’s the best advice you’ve received so far about parenthood?
To continuously take care of yourself and fall MORE in love in with yourself as a parent. Prioritize your wholistic well-being, always. By doing so, you will be a better parent and partner.
From your experience and research, how does parenthood effect happiness?
From my personal experience, parenthood provides a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life that I did not have prior. It also gave me a broader perspective on life, and I realized that life is not ALL about work and fun with friends and family. Parenthood has also created some of the most unhappy times in my life so far. Times of guilt, sadness and overwhelm. I feel so connected to my daughters that when they are hurt or unhappy, I have emotional contagion and feel it, too. I am intentional about separating myself from their emotions.
Many studies have found that those without children value their lives more than those with children. Research also shows that parents experience more daily joy and more daily stress than non-parents.
When you’re not working, where will we find you?
Skiing and snowboarding with my family, hiking with my mom, reading, watching movies, doing yoga and traveling!
I understand that you were living in L.A., but you’re now based in Canada. Are you originally from Canada? What part? Tell us some of your favorite spots in L.A. that you enjoy with your family.
I was born and raised in BC, Canada, and have American/Canadian citizenship. I moved to Honolulu, HI when I was 20 and have lived in the Hawaiian Islands, Spain, NYC, Istanbul and L.A. I love L.A.! Some of my favorite family L.A. spots include the Melrose Place Farmers Market, The Grove, beaches of Malibu, Malibu Farm at Calamigos Ranch, exploring all of the parks and Duffy boat rides in the Marina.