As the year winds down to the close, and the holiday season takes center stage, it’s prime time to look back at the past year: all its ups, all its downs, all its successes and moments of joy.

Smart Meetings heard from industry leaders as they shared what they are grateful for—in their lives, as well as in their illustrious careers. Alongside sharing all they had to be grateful for, these professionals spoke to how they each take the time to practice gratitude and relish in the joy of their lives and work.

Victoria Matey

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Victoria Matey

Event Psychology Advisor, Matey Events

What are you grateful for in your life?

I’m grateful for the family and friends I have been blessed with.

What are you grateful for in your career?

In my career, it’s the incredible people I’ve met throughout my time in events. Their continuous and amazing support is something I’m truly grateful for. Without them, major achievements would be quite a challenge. And honestly, any success wouldn’t feel as meaningful without these fantastic individuals around me.

How do you practice gratitude?

I practice gratitude by saying “thank you” to appreciate someone’s kindness or efforts, by trying to shift my perspective to see the positive side whenever faced with challenges and by acknowledging my own progress. I believe that being kind to others starts with being kind to myself, which contributes to self-esteem and fosters a mindset of gratitude.

Desireé Dolecki, CMP

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Desireé Dolecki

Director, Conferences & Events, Association for Manufacturing Excellence

What are you grateful for in your life?

I am very grateful for my family and friends, and I appreciate that I can be myself with them. I have a husband, who is a wonderful partner, and we have an amazing daughter. I cherish the time we get to spend together at home, as well as the time we take to travel together to experience other cultures through food, music and traditions. I appreciate my family’s sense of humor, and how we do not take each other—or ourselves—too seriously. We enjoy lots of laughs, hugs and fun every day. I am thankful for our health and acknowledge that we must take care of ourselves in mind, body and spirit. I appreciate that we can provide ourselves with healthy meals and a warm, safe place to live and sleep.

What are you grateful for in your career?

In my career, I am very grateful for my team members. They are supportive, hard-working, reliable, responsive and just fun to be with. We collaborate well together and lean on each other as needed based on individual strengths.

At AME, we start each board meeting by sharing gratitude. I appreciate that we take the time to do this. I am grateful that my job allows me to work within a remote environment, which gives me more family time. I have the opportunity to shape our annual conference, creating event spaces where attendees can share, learn and grow. I am encouraged to continuously improve which means we never settle for the status quo!

How do you practice gratitude?

I try my best to practice gratitude daily. A simple thank you, even for a small act, can go a long way. At the end of each day, I take the time to reflect on the positive, so I wake up ready, optimistic and encouraged for the next day!

I let my team members know they are appreciated and acknowledge their efforts and contributions. I make sure I am available anytime they need me, even to just listen. At home, there are lots of hugs and constant reminders of how much I love and appreciate my family. Even though my daughter is a teenager, I read to her every night so we can both enjoy a good story and our time together. In our community, I volunteer at our local food pantry.

Rachel Aden, CMP

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Rachel Aden

Senior Account Manager, Arrowhead Conferences

What are you grateful for in your life?

I’m grateful for so much! Besides the obvious family and friends, I’m grateful for the things that don’t seem to make sense, such as when things don’t go as planned (which isn’t the easiest for a professional planner!).

I try to focus on being intentional in seeing the good in all situations. Like most people, I’ve experienced hardships. I’ve learned to be thankful for these trials, as experience has taught me that amazing things always result from them, even if I don’t understand why they are happening.

When my marriage fell apart, my world turned upside down. After realizing there was nothing I could do to fix the marriage, I focused on trusting God and being thankful for whatever he was going to do in my life. I believed that he was not only going to bless me in the future, but I also saw how he was blessing me in the midst of it.

My relationships with my family and friends became much deeper, and I learned and grew throughout the process. As a result, I became more mentally healthy and mature. I also chose to become physically healthier and am so grateful for all of it. No matter what life throws our way, we all have the choice to become bitter or better, and I’m so grateful that I’ve seen the benefits of choosing to become better.

What are you grateful for in your career?

I get the opportunity to work with Christian ministries, which is extremely rewarding and provides so much purpose. And the best part is that I get to do it with a team who feel the same way. I’m not only in awe of the knowledge and abilities of my colleagues and am constantly motivated to pull my own weight as I don’t want to be the weak link, but I’m also in awe of their hearts.

We all have a deep passion for serving ministries and we genuinely care for each other like family. We pray for each other as well as our ministry and industry partners each week, and our desire is to do what we can to help ministries accomplish their goals of sharing God’s love with everyone in the world. We’ve seen God bless us so many times, not only during the pandemic, where we didn’t need to furlough anyone on our team, but also by leading us to grow and start new initiatives. I’m personally so grateful that God has led me on this path to be a part of something so big and meaningful.

How do you practice gratitude?

My highest goal in life is to be a light to others. Along with keeping the big picture in mind, I try to use that as my guide in the choices I make. When I’m presented with an opportunity, I ask myself if it accomplishes that purpose, and if so, I try to take advantage of it.

Life is short and we only have one to live, and I desire to make the most of it. I enjoy mentoring and I get great fulfillment when I can lift others up. I’m not afraid to be real and transparent if it can encourage someone. I look for these opportunities, and it seems like I’m always the one who is blessed through them!

Tarin Horan, CMP, CSEP

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Tarin Horan

Vice President, Events and Sponsorships, Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC)

What are you grateful for in your life?

I am grateful for my family and my health. My husband and I have two sons (13 and 12) that keep us on our toes. I love to see the world through their eyes. This summer we traveled to Seattle and Vancouver and had a ball. We toured the cities, tasted a lot of donuts on the underground donut tour (highly recommend you try one) and took in the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest. As my boys grow up, they will be less interested in hanging out with Mom, so this trip and time with them was priceless.

Being in events, I am an early riser and hit Orangetheory Fitness for a 6 a.m. class five days a week. Some mornings it is hard to get out of bed, but then I think about how lucky I am to go workout. I am so fortunate that my body can run, row and lift. It is the best hour of my day. I don’t have to think—I just follow the coach’s direction.

What are you grateful for in your career?

I love what I do. Every day is different and that is perfect for me.

One of the many things I do is collaborate with our different event steering committees. These committees are comprised of event sponsors and subject matter experts. These individuals are truly amazing. Many of them are c-suite, and they volunteer their time to help me curate the content for our events. I am so fortunate to know them, work with them and call many of them my friends.

I am grateful for my team. We work hard, and together we produce award-winning events.

My right-hand woman has been on my team for the past eight years, and I am thankful for her. Together, we pivoted our events to virtual during the pandemic, and then back to in person after the pandemic. We challenge each other to think outside the box and to create new experiences for our members. The broader team at NVTC is always willing to help set up or take down after our events. It truly is refreshing to have their support on event days.

How do you practice gratitude?

There are a few ways I practice gratitude. First, at OrangeTheory, I love to encourage the person next to me. They could be trying OrangeTheory for the first time, or maybe they are just struggling that day, for whatever reason. A high-five or a “Keep going, you can do it!” can go a long way.

At work, you will always see me with a smile on my face. I love to see our members at our events and greet them with a big smile and welcome. I am grateful that they are at our events and part of our organization. Without them, we wouldn’t still be here.

Constance “Connie” Samuels, MBA, CMP, DES

Constance Samuels for Meeting Prof Gratitude
Constance Samuels

Director, Events & Education, National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO)

What are you grateful for in your life?

There isn’t enough time to truly express everything I am grateful for in my life. However, at the center of my gratitude, I am incredibly thankful for my amazing circle of family and friends and the gift of life.

The end of every year is always a time of introspection for me with the Thanksgiving holiday, adding another candle to my cake (December birthday!), Christmas and the impending New Year. I often scroll through my photo album to look back on the wonderful moments I’ve had over the past year—and realize how incredibly blessed I am.

What are you grateful for in your career?

I have a fulfilling career and work for a wonderful organization that is supportive of all my goals.

How do you practice gratitude?

Expressing and practicing gratitude comes with repetition and intentionally. I express my gratitude aloud—as verbally communicating my gratitude holds more weight to me than just simply “feeling” it.

While my life is not perfect, I often remind myself to “be thankful for what you have, while you strive for everything you want.”

Read More: How Gratitude Made All the Difference for Event Leaders