The Thrive Questionnaire With Cara Santana

The actress and GlamSquad Global Engagement Officer shares her energizing morning routine and how she empties her inbox everyday.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Cara Santana, an actress and the newly appointed Global Engagement Officer for Glamsquad, is determined to use her influence for good. In addition to appearing in the Starz series Vida and working on the upcoming indie drama feature Steps, the El Paso, Texas, native is focusing her time to advocate for immigrants who are separated from their families near her hometown. 

In her Thrive Questionnaire, she shares how she ends her day with an empty inbox and the one daily habit that helps her thrive.

TG: What gives you energy?

CS: Work! Everyone on my team would tell you that I am most productive in the morning, which often means a barrage of emails with thoughts, ideas, and questions early on. Working and being productive gives me the most energy, so it makes sense that I like to start my day energized.

TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?

CS: Organization. I always make my bed before I leave the house. I make sure everything is put away. I function best when I feel like everything is in its place and in order. I also can’t function well without my first cup in the morning, and then I’m off to the gym. I like to work out at the beginning of the day because it gets my intellectual juices flowing.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.

CS: Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits Of Highly Effective Teens. My mom and I read it together as I was coming into my adolescence, and I live by so many of those principles today. In adulthood, I read Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which reiterated some of the most valuable lessons I learned as a young girl. I would recommend that book to anyone.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?  

CS: It sleeps next to me. I would be lying if I said I don’t periodically check messages in the middle of the night, and or write down ideas or thoughts I have in my notes section. I am certainly a product of my generation.

TG: How do you deal with email?

CS: People find this to be an absolute absurdity, but by the end of the day I typically have a completely empty inbox. I try to respond to emails in real time and delete everything out of my phone once I’ve handled it. That includes text messages, photos, etc. My friends are always shocked when I show them a blank inbox. But don’t worry; it’s all archived on my computer!

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?

CS: I tend to function best under pressure. I’m of the mindset that it’s better to be busy than to be bored. Typically I just take the immediate task at hand to completion or as far as I can, delegate what I don’t need to handle myself, and leverage my incredible team to ensure that everything gets done. I know enough to know I don’t know everything, so I like to rely on people whose strengths are my weaknesses so that we can tackle all tasks at hand.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

CS: Watch dog videos. My explorer page on Instagram is literally filled with dog videos. It relaxes me and makes me feel happy.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

CS: I typically feel the opposite sensation of being overwhelmed or burned out and always need more to do — which is not the best quality. I can remember shooting a film, doing pick ups on another, starting production on the television show Vida, preparing to go to the Venice Film Festival, working on brand partnerships, navigating other elements of my business, and furnishing our new New York apartment and still being like “Wait what’s next? What else can we stack on?” I get it from my mom — she’s a workaholic. At 63 she’s still going. I always strive to work towards a good life balance though — it is a daily process.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?

CS: Another terrible quality about myself is I never stop to think about any of the small successes. Instead I tend to focus on the “failures.” The last time I can remember being down on myself was last Friday. I had come back from a trip to the border, where I am working on immigration issues and I said to my assistant, “What am I doing with my life?” I feel like I am always questioning if I am doing enough, if I’m good enough, if I am doing it right, how to do it better etc. So in short, all the time.

TG: What advice would you give your younger self?

CS: “Take your criticism seriously, but not personally.” It’s a Hilary Clinton quote, and I love it.

TG: Share a mantra that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

CS: “A setback is a setup for a comeback.” Every failure is one more attempt at success, so I just remember to keep my head down and focus on what I’m passionate about.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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