Back in early 2018 I was really struggling in my business.
We’d just returned from six years overseas and I was trying to establish my new career coaching business in my hometown of Perth, Australia.
Like many women, I’d left my corporate career when I gave birth to my first child because it felt like my former professional role as a Consulting Engineer wasn’t compatible with motherhood.
The company I worked for didn’t offer part time roles or job-shares for returning mothers and to be honest, I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage the demands of a career as an Engineer alongside the demands of motherhood.
I’d been unhappy in my career for a long time and I knew there was something else I was ‘meant’ to be doing.
After lots of soul searching, I decided to branch out on my own and start my own business, while also raising two small children (my goodness those years were really tough!).
Like so many of us who start our own business, I thought “I’m a smart girl, I’ll figure this business thing out.”
And to my credit I did manage to figure lots of it out and I made a lot of progress.
But there was also so much that I couldn’t figure out.
There was so much conflicting advice and information everywhere.
Every single coach promised they had the magic solution or the ‘silver bullet’ to all my problems.
I burned so much money (and I’m talking tens of thousands of dollars…) on coaching programs, E-courses and private coaches.
But progress was very slow and very frustrating.
After a while I realised that I wasn’t making anywhere near the kind of money I wanted to be making and I had no idea how to position myself or package myself up to generate a consistent income.
There were so many times when I was close to giving up and going back and getting a J-O-B….
The more that time went on, my confidence started to drop and within a couple of years I was wallowing in major self-doubt and self-criticism, wondering if I’d ever make it on my own.
My husband started hinting that I should go back and get a job in engineering again.
And then all of a sudden, out of the blue, a Facebook advertisement showed up in my Facebook feed about a free workshop for women in business, focusing on social media and marketing strategy.
And it was run by Marnie LeFevre, founder of Fempire.
I hadn’t heard of Marnie LeFevre at the time, but her messaging spoke to me and something called me to sign up for the free workshop.
It was the best thing I ever did.
Marnie’s free workshop explained so much of the mystery around business building.
It helped me understand why I’d been struggling so much, and what I needed to do about it.
She gave practical tips and strategies to help me on my way.
But perhaps the most beautiful thing for me was that I finally felt supported – I’d finally found my tribe.
I was so tired of doing it on my own…
And the fact that Marnie had created a sisterhood of women in business who support each other to succeed felt like such a relief.
I went up to the back of the room at the end of her presentation and waited to speak to her (along with many, many other women!)
I’ll never forget my first interaction with Marnie.
I told her about my business and how I’d been struggling, but also how big my vision was and how badly I wanted to succeed.
She looked straight into my eyes and said:
“I can see you have what it takes but you lack self-confidence.
You just need someone to believe in you.
And I can be that person for you until you can believe in it yourself.”
WOW… my eyes filled with tears.
She was so right.
I’d lost all belief in myself. I had no self-confidence left.
And just knowing that she believed in me, without even knowing me, filled me with so much hope and optimism.
Needless to say, I signed up for Marnie’s 3-day Fempreneur course, and then signed on to be mentored by her for 12 months. I can’t tell you the relief I felt to finally get really solid, practical advice to grow my business in a way that actually worked.
Fast forward two years and now here I am, working with Marnie as a Fempire Coach and loving every minute.
My whole life changed with that one decision to attend her workshop.
I feel blessed that I now get to help so many women who are in that place of feeling stuck and confused, just as I was, and I get to help them move into a place of momentum, flow, and business success.
We all need a good mentor.
Do you have one?
Do you have someone who can believe in you until you can believe it yourself?
If not, please reach out.
Our passion and mission is to empower women like you who need someone to help and guide you along the path of building a thriving, profitable business.
If you haven’t already, reach out for a free Discovery Call to see if we’re the right people to provide you the support you need.
Maybe our programs will be the transformation that you need to get where you want to go.
If you’re feeling lonely, stuck, and confused, let’s chat!
In 2018 I had the privilege and honour of becoming part of Marnie LeFevre’s vision to uplift and empower women in business by becoming a Fempire Business Coach for Women. Our mission at Fempire is to provide female entrepreneurs with the support, knowledge, & strategy to bring their business dreams to life. Just as the Dalai Lama said, we believe that the world needs more ‘peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds’. Women are naturally drawn to these roles and small business is the perfect vehicle for them.
My first twelve months as a Fempire Coach were a wild and fast ride of rapid growth and learning. There was laughter, tears, celebrations and commiserations. And while I came into the role with many years of coaching experience under my belt in my own practice, my first year with Fempire took me on an accelerated path that taught me so much about myself, about others, and about women in business in general.
In order to help you succeed as a business woman, I’m sharing the most important lessons I’ve learned in the hope that they give you comfort, help you to know that you’re not alone, and give you the courage and confidence to continue on, knowing that with courage and persistence, you will succeed as a business owner.
11 Fascinating Things I Learned in my First Year as a Fempire Coach
1. All Women Struggle with the Imposter Syndrome
If you feel like a fraud when starting out in your own business, you’re not alone. Every woman struggles with the imposter syndrome to some extent, but it’s even more prevalent among female entrepreneurs because we’re constantly stepping outside of our comfort zone. According toRebecca Burn-Callande, the imposter syndrome is “the single biggest block to success” for women in business. Thoughts of “Who am I to do this?” or “When will they figure out that I’m not qualified to do this?” can send you into an anxious spin and prevent you from showing up as your powerful self, with negative consequences. I see it all the time.
And just in case you’re wondering – yes, you are completely qualified to do the work you’re doing. We need you!
2. Women Struggle to Charge What They’re Worth
Women have a natural tendency to over-deliver and under-charge. Especially if you’re struggling with the imposter syndrome, you’ll be afraid to charge your clients what you’re worth, because even you don’t believe in your own value yet. Most of my clients come to me drastically under-charging. But here’s what I’ve learned:
And if you need to start out with low prices in order to build your confidence and to prove to yourself that you definitely do add value and that you provide an amazing product or service, then do that. But make sure you increase your prices when you start to feel resentful. You’ll quickly realise that your clients are often relieved when you increase your prices because it means you’re finally stepping into your power and claiming your value. And the clients who know and appreciate your value will be more than happy to pay you what you’re worth.
3. Being a Successful Business Woman Requires Sacrifice
There’s no denying that even in this modern era of working mothers, women still do the lion’s share of household duties. In surveys across the USA in 2016, it was found that women spend twice as much time on household activities each day than men. All those school drop offs, lunch preparations, loads of washing, and kids sporting activities take time. And if you’re serious about being a successful business woman, you have to make sacrifices and compromises at home.
You need to have difficult conversations with your husband or partner around them doing more at home, or maybe you need to hire help so that you can spend the time required to grow your business. Perhaps you’ll need to put your kids in before- or after-school care. But you can’t be one hundred percent responsible for your domestic duties and grow a business at the same time. I know that for a fact. And you’ll need to decide which one is a priority for you.
4. Mother Guilt is Real
Since us women have to make the tough decisions between work and children, we carry a lot of the guilt that goes along with it. When you finally decide to sacrifice some school pick ups to grow your business, you’ll be plagued by a constant sense of guilt and at three o’clock you’ll be thinking about your kids and wondering if you’re doing them any damage by not being there. I struggle with this too, and so do all working women.
Even though it won’t rid your guilt entirely, you might be comforted to know that groundbreaking studies have shown that children of working mothers actually fare better later in life. Carmen Nobel write that “Children whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibilities at those jobs, and earn higher wages than children whose mothers stayed home full time”. Kathleen McGinn says:
So focusing on growing your business is most certainly not harming your children in any way, and may even have a positive effect. Plus, you’re being an inspiring role model for your children and helping future generations by helping them to understand that woman’s work is equally as important as a man’s.
5. Not All Women are Cut Out to Be Business Owners
The Technician: This person knows the craft of your business. If you started a clothes line, then you’re a great seamstress and designer. If you’re a life coach, then you’re great at helping people find solutions to their life’s challenges. Most of us start out in business as technicians with a honed craft.
The Entrepreneur: This person has the ideas, innovation, passion, and charm. They have the desire and ability to forge strategic relationships with collaborators and investors. They’re forward thinking, and thinking about growing and scaling. They’re focused on opportunities and closing them.
The Manager: This person is details-focused and organised. They’re a planner and always on top of the accounts, the timelines, and the project milestones. They know which items are on the critical path to success.
Gerber says that the number one mistake that business owners make is this:
And this isn’t true! The majority of us go into business because we’re technicians and we want to make a business out of it. But we’re not trained entrepreneurs or managers. These are skills that we absolutely must learn and grow.
Women who understand this and embrace it become successful business owners. They dedicate themselves to learning the art and craft of being an entrepreneur and manager and they go on to establish thriving businesses. But some women discover they’re not at all interested in becoming an entrepreneur or a manager, nor are they naturally inclined that way. And they then realise that small business is not for them.
6. Women Have Different Business Coaching Needs to Men
Having coached both men and women, and having worked among men and women during my professional career as an engineer, I’ve learned that women have different needs when it comes to coaching. Men generally need the right strategy and ongoing guidance, and they’re off and racing. As women, we need a lot more nurturing and validation. We need someone to believe in us until we can believe in ourselves. We need someone to discuss not just our business challenges with but also our emotional ones too. We need someone to remind us of our value on a regular basis. And when we get all of this, we thrive.
7. Your Coach Can’t Do Your Work for You
If you’re a business owner then hopefully you have a business coach who’s helped you to map out the best way to grow your business and establish yourself as a successful business owner. Your coach would have worked with you to develop your business vision, your mission, your goals, your business funnel, your pricing structures and your marketing strategies to promote your business, to build a sustainable and growing client base.
But unfortunately the onus is then on you to implement the advice and strategy. It’s up to you to carve out the time needed to take action on the things you agreed upon. It’s my greatest frustration when clients come to their sessions with their tail between their legs, having to admit that they haven’t done what they agreed they would do. I understand it’s hard. I have a young family too. And I really want you to be successful. But if you’re not willing to make the time to do the work that’s required to grow your business, then maybe being a small business owner isn’t for you.
8. Your Coach Can’t Save You
As a coach, my biggest desire is to see my clients succeed and to enjoy the fruits of running a successful business. And I want to be there to support you, guide you, and give you encouragement and inspiration along the way. But unfortunately I’ve had to learn the hard way that I can’t save you if you get yourself into a pickle. For example, if you’ve sold out a workshop and then you haven’t been able to generate the content for it on time, I can’t jump in and rescue you. While I would love to, I’ve had to learn (the hard way) that as a coach, I need to pull back. Because if I do it for you, I’m not empowering you or teaching you how to do it yourself. This is really hard for a coach who wants to see her clients succeed.
9. Women Thrive in Community
An essential component of our Fempire business coaching programs is the monthly group workshops we provide where all of our coaching clients come together to network, workshop, and learn business education. We often get clients coming back after they’ve left the nest, asking to re-join the group workshops again because they realise that they need the support of the sisterhood in order to thrive.
10. Once Their Confidence Catches Up, Women are Unstoppable
One of the most beautiful things I get to experience as a business coach is watching my clients grow their confidence and then blossom like flowers. Often they start their business journey doubting themselves, struggling with imposter syndrome, and under-charging for their products or services. But with the right support guidance, encouragement, and sisterhood, they start to believe in themselves, step into their power and claim their worth. And they become unstoppable. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
11. Collaboration is Infinitely More Powerful than Competition
Once women get over the need to compete with each other, and instead start supporting each other through collaborations, referrals and affiliations, amazing things start to happen. We see it time and time again. When we come together, we really do have the power to change the world.
In 2018 I had the honour of being invited to join forces with award-winning CEO Marnie LeFevre as one of her coaches in the Secret Women’s Business Academy. The Academy’s vision has been to support females to become successful business women and entrepreneurs. The success rate for women in business is markedly lower than for men (ref 1), and Marnie is on a mission to change that. The opportunity felt like a perfect fit for me since I’ve always been passionate about helping women succeed professionally.
The Academy’s vision has now evolved to include a stronger emphasis on feminine leadership. As a consequence, the Secret Women’s Business Academy is now undergoing a rebrand to become Fempire. And as part of that re-brand, I am now a Fempire Coach. Our mission is “To inspire feminine leadership”. The tagline is:
The Future is Female.
And if that tagline triggers a reaction in you, it’s meant to. Marnie is a disrupter and she knows that in order to disrupt the status quo and create positive change, you need to ruffle feathers. We need to have difficult conversations. The tagline was inspired in part by the Dalai Lama’s famous words that he spoke at the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit:
“The world will be saved by the western woman.” – the Dalai Lama
He made this comment while he was sitting on stage with some pretty powerful women including Nobel Peace Prize winners Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams and former Irish President Mary Robinson. When asked what he meant by his statement, he followed up with: “We need more effort to promote basic human values — human compassion, human affection. And in that respect, females have more sensitivity for others’ pain and suffering.” (ref 2). Compassion, understanding, and kindness, he says, are the antidote to the world’s most pressing problems, and those qualities are more fully brought to the table by women. He also inferred that western women are in a position of privilege that gives them the opportunity and power to create this much needed opening and balancing of masculine and feminine roles worldwide.
In other words, it’s up to women to step up and claim their power to create the change that’s needed.
As a Fempire Coach, I now spend my days helping women to succeed in business and become successful leaders. But focusing my professional efforts on supporting women is not something I ever imagined myself doing. I’m passionate about feminine leadership, that’s for sure. One of my proudest achievements was winning the Women in Engineering Leadership Award in 2009 for supporting women to succeed in engineering leadership roles.
But gender isn’t something I’ve ever consciously attached a lot of significance to because I believe that men and women are equally competent and necessary in the workplace (I write all about that in another article here). And while I’m passionate about empowering women, I also feel equally passionate about empowering men, children, and in fact any human being to express their full potential.
And so I’ve had to go through my own internal processes of reflection and justification for why I’m now taking a powerful stand for feminine leadership by stepping into the Fempire brand. To be successful in my role, I need to resonate with the Fempire vision in my bones. And one of the most important questions I get asked by my male friends and colleagues is:
“With all this female empowerment, what’s happening to the men?”
So here are my thoughts.
Firstly, let’s define what we mean by an ‘empowered female’ is. I love Oliver Chapman’s definition:
“An empowered woman takes responsibility for her life, makes her own rules, honours herself, lives by her inner compass, values her passions, chooses empowering relationships, takes a stand, … she is courageous, empowers other women and owns her pleasure…. In this way, then, a fully-empowered woman can empower men to rise above the stereotypes of the past to become the fully-confident man he has always wanted to be and to share that confident life with her. And if all men embraced this, this world would be better off for it.”
So according to Chapman, confident women inspire men to be the best version of themselves too. The question, as Chapman points out in his article, is whether this kind of female is threatening or should be welcomed. At Fempire, of course, we would argue for the latter. But it’s understandable that many men might feel threatened as we move from the old paradigm in which the role of men has traditionally been to act as protectors and providers, into a new era in which those roles might no longer necessary.
In this new era of confident, independent women, what is the new identity for men, exactly? This is the question that many men find unsettling in the whole ‘female empowerment’ movement. And it’s understandable.
We Empower Women Through Empowering Men
Firstly, we won’t get anywhere with empowering women unless we empower men too. We are clear in our vision for Fempire: We are not a men-hating brand. Quite the opposite. We love the men in our lives; most of us at Fempire have husbands, sons, and/or fathers who we adore and cherish. And we know that our empowerment has positive flow-on effects to the men and children in our lives. Our mission is to create even more loving relationships through the work we do, for ourselves and for the thousands of women we impact.
In this era of female empowerment, we can’t forget men.
Most gender equality initiatives continue to focus on women, understandably. But a society of empowered women requires men to feel secure and empowered too. Maria Correira sums this up beautifully in her article Let’s Empower Women by Empowering Men. She says “It is not enough to enlighten and empower women and expect men to follow.” As she rightly points out, men are critically judged and assessed in our current cultural norms, based on our ideals of manhood. Terms like “man-up” suggest that being a man means exercising control over women, being tough, being strong, suppressing emotion. As Correira says, “It is also a challenge for women, who consciously or unconsciously often perpetuate these same social norms in the way they raise their sons or interact with men.”
As a mother of two young boys, I’m very conscious that my most important job is to raise boys who are kind, secure, and confident, who are comfortable with strong, confident women – and who respect and appreciate all women.
The gateway to positive relationships and empowered men, I believe, is to teach them how to be comfortable with their emotions, to be able to cry and feel, and to be able to express themselves and their needs respectfully. There needs to be a focus on helping men to move beyond traditional expectations of being a protector and a provider, and to see themselves rather as allies and equals with their female counterparts.
Female Empowerment is Good for Families
Women who feel fulfilled and happy enjoy better quality relationships at home. I know from my own personal experience that getting back into the workforce after having children was a huge positive move for my husband and I. I was happy to take time out from my career to raise our young children. However, there came a time when I was desperate to reclaim my own identity outside my role as wife and mother. My husband knew how miserable I had become. I was feeling disempowered and resentful and those negative feelings flowed onto him and the kids. He’s so much happier – we are so much happier as a couple and family – now that I’m thriving professionally and feeling happy and fulfilled again. Not to mention the relief my husband feels in not having to be the sole financial ‘provider’ anymore – that’s a heavy burden for men to carry.
There have been many times when I’ve had to go away for work and my husband has had to step up and take over full responsibility for all the domestic duties. And it’s been great for us. He’s gained a greater appreciation for everything I do, and I come back happier and energised because I’ve had some time to focus on myself and my work. My work trips have become a great tonic for our relationship as a family. We’ve all learned to appreciate each other more.
Female Empowerment is Good for the Economy
And it’s not just at the personal level that the positive effects of female empowerment can be felt – they’ve also been clearly measured at the community and global level. As Sean Illing succinctly says in his article Want Less Poverty in the World? Empower Women: “The single greatest antidote to poverty and social stagnation is the emancipation of women.”
“Women’s empowerment benefits us all, because it’s important for the economy. Countries that have opened up education to women and brought them into the workforce do much better economically than countries that keep women suppressed. It’s no surprise that countries that suppress women and deprive them of an education are more economically backwards than others, because leaving one-half of your population uneducated means that you created have a drastically inferior workforce.”
In their book entitled Equality for Women = Prosperity for All: The Disastrous Global Crisis of Gender Inequality, Lopez-Carlos and Nakhjavani (2018) describe the findings from research across 189 different countries worldwide. Their research showed how gender inequalities – a across education, income, law, employment, and wages – lead to instability and chaos at almost every level of society. Whereas in countries where females constitute an almost equal percentage of the workforce, the economy and the culture have been radically improved.
And here are some other important benefits that result from gender equality (ref 3).
Do we need any more compelling justification for gender equality across the board?
So what is the new role for men in this emerging era of ‘empowered’ women?
As we shift away from traditional masculine and feminine roles that have allowed us to evolve and survive as a species until now, we now have the opportunity to embrace a new way of relating as men and women which is based on seeing each other as allies and partners. We have the opportunity to truly see other as equals, while also embracing, appreciating, and honouring the vastly different yet essential qualities that both males and females bring to the table. Both masculine and feminine qualities need to be equally valued and necessary. Empowered women are here to support and strengthen the men, not compete and threaten them.
To calm the minds of those men who might feel threatened by the emerging empowered women, Sandra Sully has a great way of putting it:
“This is not a race where women are running against men. We are not competing. This is not a battle. We are not enemies. Gender equality benefits us all.” – Sandra Sully
“[Feminism] offers [men] an opportunity to be intimate allies with their female partners, to forge relationships based on more than duty and dependency. It gives men a chance to be loved for the wholeness of who we are, rather than solely for what we can provide.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
And given all of the above, I now feel sufficiently justified in taking a powerful stand for feminine leadership in everything I do, and first and foremost in my role as a Fempire Coach. Bring it on.
In my early thirties, I was going through a really tough time. I was suffering from chronic fatigue and lingering illnesses while trying to hold down a high-pressure career as a Consulting Engineer. I would wake up in a state of dread about the day ahead; deadlines, meetings, and seemingly endless demands on my time and energy that I couldn’t keep up with. I couldn’t understand why my health was suffering so terribly or why I was so messed up.
I was fed up with feeling sick, exhausted, and highly strung out. I needed answers.
A close friend of mine recommended a therapist who had helped her navigate her way through her own huge challenges. I was willing to try anything and anyone. I just needed to find some relief from my pain – both physical and emotional. So I booked a session with the therapist.
The first session seemed to go well. She seemed to understand my predicament with empathy and had some strategies to help me process things and move forward.
She wasn’t afraid to challenge me when I needed to be challenged. And I appreciated that because as hard as it is, I’ve always been willing to own my role in my difficult experiences.
The sessions were going well until one day, in about our fourth session together, I was telling my story about a situation that was playing out in a close relationship in my life (with someone who also happened to be going to this therapist – probably my first big mistake right there). I was explaining my perception and how I was feeling about it, albeit quite tearfully when she interrupted me abruptly and said very forcefully:
“That’s not your spiritual truth!”
I was quite taken aback and didn’t quite understand what she meant. I didn’t know if it was my ‘spiritual truth’. But in that moment, the words I was speaking were my personal truth as I understood it. I was talking about how I was feeling and those feelings felt very real in that moment.
She continued to challenge me forcefully and I started to feel like a naughty school child. It seemed like she was angry with me and I spiraled into a cloud of shame and guilt. Why was I in trouble? What did I do wrong? Was I wrong to be feeling what I was feeling? Why was she so upset with me? How did I get myself into this situation?
Needless to say, I never went back.
I felt so hurt by that episode that I never booked an appointment with her again. The last thing I wanted was to feel more shame and pain about my situation. I left her office feeling much worse than I did when I entered. Why would I pay big dollars to feel even worse about myself? As if I wasn’t feeling bad enough to seek therapy in the first place?
Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that Coaches and Therapists have a duty of care to challenge their clients when they’re stuck in victimhood and blame. I’ve since done a lot of work on myself – and also completed my own Life Coaching Certification – and I can (kind of) understand what she might have been getting at back then. But I wasn’t ready to see it at that time. I was stuck in so much emotional pain and trauma that it was impossible to see things logically.
I needed her to be gentle with me. I needed her to validate my feelings. Maybe after that, I would have been more open to seeing things from her perspective.
I’ve since had the privilege of working with some wonderful therapists who have (thankfully) been able to guide me gently back to emotional sanity and a state of inner peace and harmony. But it was a process, and it took time. Now I’m able to see that my incident with the ‘bad therapist’ was part of my necessary journey of cultivating deep empathy and kindness for all of my coaching clients who I now work with.
I don’t have a background in counseling or therapy, so I can’t speak to the professional requirements of therapists. I’m speaking below simply from my personal experience with different therapists, both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ (which of course is always open to interpretation and personal experience). Below are the qualities that I personally crave from a therapist. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below if you agree or disagree with me.
THE 5 QUALITIES I CRAVE IN A GOOD THERAPIST
1. Validate My Feelings.
So often, I don’t feel ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ by the people closest to me, and part of the reason I go to see a therapist is to have my feelings validated. After that, I can more easily move onto solutions and strategies, but I first need to know that my experience is real and “I’m not crazy”. A feeling of unworthiness is often at the core of my emotional pain, so I need you to validate my feelings as a first step in developing my own sense of self-worth and self-love. Then I’ll be able to move more effectively towards healing.
We heal through unconditional love and acceptance. And sometimes, our therapist is the first person we’ve received it from.
2. Practice Deep Empathy.
We can usually tell when a therapist doesn’t ‘get’ what we’re feeling or going through. And it’s hurtful when they brush things off or question “Do you think it’s as bad as you think?”. Yes, it is as bad as I think, or I wouldn’t be in therapy. It’s your role as a therapist to find empathy for my feelings and try to understand how I might be feeling what I’m feeling. And once know you ‘get it’, I’ll be much more willing to listen to your suggestions about how to move forward.
3. Challenge Me When I’m Ready – But Not Before.
I know that I need to be challenged and learn to take responsibility for what I’ve created in my life, where appropriate. Therapy wouldn’t work without a healthy dose of challenge. But nothing good comes from being told that I’m “playing the victim”, particularly when I’m still very much feeling victimised and I’m in need of empathy and validation. Don’t challenge me until you’ve worked through steps 1 and 2 above. Or I’ll go into shame and guilt and never come back.
4. Listen Without Taking Sides.
As a human being, of course I can have a tendency to go into blame and victim hood when I’m feeling wounded. And as a therapist, I know that you don’t do me any favours by agreeing with everything I say, or complaining with me about how terrible the other person is; that just keeps me stuck in my ‘story’ and is not helpful. Please allow me to speak my mind about my experiences. Listen, empathise, and maybe challenge me, but never take sides. In the session I described above, it felt like my therapist was taking sides with the other person in my relationship struggle. In order to heal and eventually move out of victim hood, I need you to hold a gentle but completely neutral and unbiased stance. Otherwise, the trust is broken and there can be no healing.
5. Be Gentle and Kind.
If I’ve come to see you, it’s because I’m suffering and I really want to do something about it. I don’t want to feel bad. I’m not willingly feeling terrible just to get attention. But I’ll be much more able to find my own healthy perspective when you treat me with respect, kindness, compassion, dignity, and appreciation.
What are your thoughts? Have you had any experiences with therapists, both good and bad, that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.
If you’re in need of some emotional support to get through some difficult times, I encourage you to take a look at my related articles:
“Everything is unfolding exactly as it should. You’re exactly where you’re meant to be.”
That’s what several well-intentioned people said to me (or words to that effect) when I was in the middle of my ‘dark night of the soul’ in my mid-thirties.
And those words enraged me.
Because it felt like nothing was going as it should. How was I ‘meant’ to be so miserable?
Why did my life feel so difficult and heavy?
This was not how I had ever imagined my life to be.
Very far from it.
How and when did everything go so wrong?
But, of course, I see now that it was unfolding exactly as it should. I can see that I indeed was exactly where I was meant to be, as impossible as that seemed at the time. Because if it hadn’t been for that period of my life, I wouldn’t have undergone the necessary metamorphosis that changed my life for the better.
My body had been trying to tell me for years, via chronic illness and fatigue, that I was on the wrong path. But I wouldn’t listen. The more I ignored the signs, the louder they became. It finally took a sledgehammer of painful personal experiences to wake me up to the truth of what needed to be done (you can read more about my rude awakening here).
Following my ‘moment of truth’, as I call it, I knew that I had to quit my career of almost 15 years as an engineer. It wasn’t easy walking into my manager’s office to tell him that I was leaving. No one could fathom why I was making this drastic decision. I’d invested enormous amounts of time, energy, emotion, sweat, and tears into my career from the age of 18. I’d finally built up an admirable reputation that established me as an authority in my field.
I wished I could be like my colleagues who seemed content with their professional life. I was never content; always searching for a new role, or a new project, that would allow me to finally feel the fulfilment and satisfaction I was seeking. But it got to the point where I knew in my heart that no amount of tweaking of my current professional career would get me whatever it was I was looking for.
Quitting was the only option if I was going to recover my health, my well-being, and my sanity.
Following my departure from the corporate world, I went through a long identity crisis as I tried to uncover who I really was, peeling back back the layers of my ego that had been heavily invested in being ‘an engineer’ and ‘an important professional woman’.
Who was I if I wasn’t those things?
I enrolled in every single course that crossed my path on ‘how to find your purpose’ and spent hours in therapy, trying to understand how I’d strayed so far from my true self and what to do about it. At times I wondered if I would ever figure it all out. I felt completely lost and confused. A turning point came during Jean Houston’s visionary program ‘Living Your Destiny’. We were asked to look at our lives through the lens of The Hero’s Journey. It was the first time I considered that perhaps there was meaning in my journey and my suffering. I came to the powerful realisation that:
When you take the time to stand back and look at the bigger picture of your life, you see a beautiful tapestry of purpose and meaning, woven together by all the different threads of your life experiences. It’s our job to pay attention to the different threads weaving through our lives and to try to understand the larger tapestry that is emerging.
And just as there can be no light without the darkness, each and every difficult situation and each emotional wound we experience on our path is necessary to bring out the contrast and texture of the final picture.
My decade-long set of struggles had been necessary preparation for the work I was ‘meant’ to do. Given that my biggest wound had been the struggle to feel happy and aligned in my professional path, I felt that it was my mission to become a ‘Purpose Coach’, helping people find their path and purpose so they can love their professional life and thrive.
It felt right in my heart.
And so I took the leap of faith to set up my coaching business.
And for the first couple of years, it was great. I developed a process to help people find their purpose, which I trialled on several different clients with great success.
The positive testimonials started to build and it felt great to be doing my thing and earning money on my own terms. I was ‘living my dream’.
Until everything started to feel really hard again.
I’ve wondered whether I’m really cut out to be an entrepreneur.
Maybe I should just go back and ‘get a real job’ again?
Maybe I wasn’t meant to do this after all?
I mean, I knew my new path wouldn’t be easy. But I never expected it to be this hard.
I was really struggling to make it work. I wasn’t “thriving and making a difference doing work I love” – the rally cry in all my personal branding and marketing. I wasn’t making anywhere near the amount of money that I was preaching to others was possible.
Talk about feeling like a fraud.
But now, once again, I find myself marvelling at the miracle of how everything unfolds exactly as it should. I had been intensely resisting the struggles in my business, feeling like “I should have it all figured out by now”. I was pushing, forcing, and getting increasingly angry that I didn’t have it all down to a fine art after three years in business. It got to the point where I got down on my knees and I prayed:
“OK Universe, if I’m meant to be doing this, I need some guidance.
Please help me.”
Soon after, the guidance came. In a moment of frustration, I had stepped away from my computer to go and lie outside in the sun. As I lay there on our outdoor lounge, a series of events flooded my memory in rapid succession.
I’m 15 years old and I’m in our Science classroom, peering into the fridge to look at the agar plates that we’ve inoculated with mold from an old, decaying orange. Penicillin mold has started to grow and I’m amazed that someone once figured out that this mold could save the lives of millions of people worldwide as an antibiotic. How cool that you can discover something that saves so many lives?
I’m 17 years old, standing on the banks of the Rio Parana in Paraguay, South America, as an exchange student all the way from Australia. Upstream, a large concrete factory is pumping its waste into the river while downstream, my friends and host-family are washing and bathing. I stare in horror as I watch the plumes of toxic waste flow right into the bay where everyone is bathing. I’m outraged and think to myself, “One day I’m going to do something about this.”
I’m 23 years old and I’m working as a Research Scientist with a big mining company on a biological mining process that has the potential to be way more environmentally friendly than traditional methods. But despite our best efforts, the economics don’t stack up. I feel frustrated and disheartened that our economic system doesn’t have a way to quantify the damage we cause to nature. Why can’t we see the long-term damage we’re doing for short-term profit?
I’m working part-time on a project in Indonesia with Engineers Without Borders to provide clean water to a large community in northeastern Bali. I feel such joy and satisfaction when after four long years we finally celebrate the completion of our successful project through close collaboration with the local people. This is what makes my heart sing.
I’m 34 and I’m a Consulting Water Engineer. I’m giving a presentation to the Executives of a large Water Utility about how we can better plan our water treatment systems to be more sustainable. One manager makes an off-hand comment about how I’m simply trying to ‘win work’ for my company, and they decline to consider the ideas in our Strategic Plan. Again I feel utterly disheartened. Why don’t they seem to care about doing the right thing?
I’m in my mid-thirties I walk away from my career as a Consulting Engineer because I’m tired of banging my head against a brick wall. I have an inextinguishable fire in my belly to make a positive difference in the world. But I feel utterly impotent and powerless. And I’m exhausted and unwell.
As these memories flooded my awareness, one after another, I realised that so much frustration in my life had been because I desperately wanted to make a positive difference. But it had gotten to the point where I realised that I had a lot of work to do on myself first, before I’d be able to create any kind of lasting change in the outside world. I was a mess and I needed to sort myself out. Suddenly the clarity popped.
I’m a changemaker.
And I’m here to serve heart-centered changemakers.
There it is. So simple. Yet, to me, so powerful.
This clarity has been the catalyst that’s allowed everything in my business to start flowing again, because I finally know who specifically I am here to serve. I’m here to help heart-centered changemakers find and walk their true path. How had I been missing this critical piece? This thread of my life had been so foundational in so many of my life experiences. Why hadn’t I claimed it until now? Once again, life had a larger game plan. There were things that I needed to experience and learn, through contrast and challenge, in order to prepare me for my work as an effective ‘Changemaker’. Without the struggle and challenge, I wouldn’t have reached the level of clarity and inner knowing that I now have.
‘Quest’ is an online group community led by Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder at the end of each year for the purpose of creating inspiring and meaningful business goals for the year ahead. Jeffrey uses techniques of ‘Business Artistry’ to push beyond the boundaries of normal thinking, which opens up new avenues for creativity, impact, and purpose. This blog article is a summary of four different articles I wrote as part of the Quest 2018 process.
Quest Topic #1: Reflecting Backward to Dream Forward
Last year I participated in Quest for the first time with Jeffrey Davis’ Tracking Wonder team. Quest is a refreshing, innovative approach to goal-setting that takes you on a free, four-week journey of self-reflection and strategizing to develop fresh perspective and ideas for the year ahead.
Jeffrey invites entrepreneurial visionaries from different fields and backgrounds to engage in discussion on different topics related to small business and entrepreneurship. The visionaries then ask the Quest participants to answer poignant questions that stimulate innovative thinking and reflection. The participants then blog, vlog or journal their responses on their different social media platforms and (if they want to) share them in a private Quest Facebook Group where the motto is Doing it Together (DIT) beats Doing it Yourself (DIY).
This is what I love most about Quest; the sense of community and camaraderie of being with a group of like-minded people, supporting and encouraging each other to work towards their ‘best year’. You can find different responses to this year’s Quest across social media platforms using the hashtags #BestYear and #WeQuest.
Quest 2018 officially starts on Tuesday December 5th. For this year’s Quest 2018, Jeffrey says:
“This year we invite you to forgo the New Year’s Resolutions and the to-do lists. Engage with visionaries and peers who will challenge you to re-think the status quo and the same approaches to business. Embrace change, be open to new ideas and prepare to Quest in a whole new way.”
To get the ball rolling, Jeffrey sent a number of questions to reflect upon to imagine what our ‘best year’ could look like in 2018. Before launching into visioning the year ahead, I felt the need to reflect on everything that unfolded in 2017. Sometimes we can get to the end of the year and feel as though we didn’t achieve as much as we wanted. But when we take the time to carefully reflect on what did unfold, it can be uplifting and empowering to document, acknowledge and celebrate just how much we did do. So I’m using Jeffrey’s great questions to celebrate what I managed to accomplish in 2017 – to ignite the fires of creativity, passion, and purpose for 2018.
Reflecting back on 2017
How did you show up for your best work?
In 2017 I decided that if I was going to show up and do my best work, it meant that I would have to step out of the shadows and get my face, message and work out there in front of people. This was an incredibly scary step for me. I’d never put myself out there in front of the public eye on social media before. Even though in my previous corporate career I was used to running workshops, meetings, doing presentations, and presenting at international conferences, I’d always been quite private on social media. So opening myself up to public scrutiny through being visible on social media felt like a big, scary step.
But at the same time, I was getting tired of inaction and inertia. It felt like I wasn’t moving my coaching business forward in the way I wanted and needed to. I was in a pattern of getting frozen in perfectionism, waiting to ‘get it right’ before showing up. So, in January this year, I committed to the motto of “Imperfect action beats perfect inaction” and as scary as it was, I put my first video blog out into the public eye on my Facebook business page. It was well received and it gave me the courage and optimism to continue ‘vlogging’ on a regular basis.
What kinds of distinct activities did you engage in? What did you make or create as part of your best work?
Here are some of the activities I engaged in:
I joined Lisa Marie Pepe and Divya Parekh and a team of nine other girls in writing and publishing the first ever book in the series of The Art of Unlearning: Conscious Choices for Empowered Living, which became an International Bestseller! This was such an uplifting experience and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be a contributor to a ‘bestselling’ book. This whole experience gave me a boost of self-confidence and allowed me to tap into a nourishing and empowering sisterhood of like-minded friends.
I became a member of Jeffrey Davis’ Writing Den and became (I think) so much more skillful at writing. Thanks to Jeffrey I learned much about creating engaging written content, the importance of consistency and routine, and his four pillars of Consistency, Signature Ideas, Well-Positioned Voice and Broadcasting. This helped improve the quality and professionalism of my Whispering Heart blog.
I learned how to use graphic design tools (Canva and GetStencil) for creating engaging and visually appealing graphics for my course materials and social media posts.
I commissioned Black Dahlia Press to do a completely new website for me, including new logo design and branding colours, which I love. It felt so good to finally feel proud of my website.
I learned how to use WordPress from scratch and can now make any changes needed to my website when and where needed (that feels like huge progress to me).
I set up a payment system online for my customers and clients to be able to buy from me via my website. This also felt like a huge step forward in professionalism.
Who did you engage and how did your work positively impact them?
I worked with some lovely new clients testing out my new and improved signature coaching program. According to their feedback, The Professional Freedom Formula program helped them get a very clear and deep understanding of their authentic nature, desires, and strengths, which allowed them to find alignment with their professional path and purpose. Both reported feeling a sense of clarity and connection to themselves that they’d never felt before.
I worked with some wonderful women in The Art of Unlearning and together we learned the joy of empowering and uplifting others.
I started my series ‘Conversations That Matter’ which is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I recorded two discussions with two amazing women and have a list of willing interviewees lined up for the coming year.
I joined Business Women Australia here in Perth, Australia and found a supportive and encouraging network of wonderful, like-minded women to collaborate with.
I met some amazing new people through my social media channels and have developed some wonderful new contacts.
The year 2017 was a year of breaking through barriers. I dared to step up and put myself ‘out there’. I dared to undertake ‘imperfect action’ in order to stick to my commitment to consistency and regularity, as opposed to perfection and procrastination. I proactively sought out collaborations that flourished and helped me step into my authentic self-confidence and power.
What 1, 2, or 3 big goals did you reach?
I developed a brand new website that I love.
I co-wrote our book The Art of Unlearning.
I started video blogging regularly and am no longer afraid to put my face and voice out there in the public eye.
I developed high-quality workbooks and materials for my signature coaching program The Professional Freedom Formula.
I developed strategies to produce and schedule high-value content on a regular basis.
In the process, what challenges did your ‘best self’ meet and how?
This year my main challenge felt like time-constraint. Being a mother to two young boys while trying to develop and run my own business is not an easy task. Plus, we moved from South Korea (where we had been living for 4 years) back to Perth Australia. A big international move, getting our family moved and set up into our new home and community was also no small feat. Maintaining continuity in my business with all the personal upheaval this year has been challenging. But I met the challenge and feel happy with where I am today.
What skill set or craft did you learn or improve upon?
I improved upon the art of consistency and routine in terms of content production.
I improved upon the art of imperfect action.
I improved the art of collaboration (or as Jeffrey says “Doing it Together (DIT) instead of Doing it Yourself (DIY)”.
And I improved the art of juggling motherhood with small business.
What 1 habit did you add, adjust, or drop?
I stopped spending so much time on social media and kept my attention focused on my milestones. I was much more focused and aligned in general. I said ‘no’ to more things, which is a new skill for me.
And overall, how did you feel throughout the year when you engaged with your best work?
When I’m engaged in my best work I feel alive, excited, inspired, impactful and GRATEFUL.
Dreaming forward in 2018
Jeffrey suggests the following exercise for ‘dreaming big’ to get the creative juices flowing.
Imagine your best possible self at the end of a year from now.
Imagine you are in December 2018 looking back upon how you have shown up for 2017. See yourself in a specific place as if you were looking back upon the year: maybe a favorite chair, a deck or balcony, a mountainside. As your best self “looks back” upon the year (2018), reflect upon and write in intimate detail your response to these questions.
How did you show up for your best work?
In 2018 we were much more settled as a family. There were no more international moves from one side of the world to the other, and we all felt increasingly settled into our new home, schools, environment, communities. This meant that I was able to settle into a routine of consistency and structure.
I showed up with regularity, consistency, conviction, inspiration, and a desire to serve and impact others positively.
What kinds of distinct activities did you engage in? What did you make or create as part of your best work?
I launched my first-ever group program for The Professional Freedom Formula (which until now has been a private mentorship program only) and had more than twenty people in the group. I mastered the art of group coaching.
I completed meaningful collaborations with Business Women Australia, including presentations and workshops on the topic of Personal & Professional Freedom, and initiated collaborations with other coaches/teachers/healers in the industry, to bring more value to the people I work with.
I did presentations for graduating high school students on what it means to find a joyful and meaningful career. Many of them enrolled in my Joyful Career Academy program and found their joyful professional path and purpose.
I had some of my written pieces accepted into major publications such as Huffington Post and Elephant Journal.
I proactively grew my email list and social media platforms which allowed a steady stream of clients to move into my group programs and one-on-one mentoring.
Who did you engage and how did your work positively impact them?
I engaged with other professional women, with other coaches/healers, with high school students and other like-minded people walking the path to greater authenticity and alignment in heart-body-mind-spirit. Their engagement with me allowed them to dig deeper to find their personal truth and to develop a map of inspired action that allows them to live it.
What did you do differently that stretched you?
I stepped up in confidence and visibility. My energy was magnetic, drawing the right people and situations to me.
What 1, 2, or 3 big goals did you reach?
I launched my signature group program The Professional Freedom Formula.
I took my program to high schools to help graduates make meaningful career choices aligned with their authentic nature and heart.
In the process, what challenges did your best self meet and how?
I came up against time constraints and nay-sayers but mastered the art of keeping my energy aligned with my vision and intention.
What skill set or craft did you learn or improve upon?
I improved upon my skill of group coaching and teaching.
What 1 habit did you add, adjust, or drop?
I added the habit of consistency, structure, and routine in my daily work which helped create more space and productivity in my working hours.
Overall, how did you feel throughout the year when you engaged in your best work?
When engaged with my best work, I felt aligned, impactful, valuable and joyful.
How about you? What will your #BestYear look like and how will you develop goals that inspire and excite you?
If you’d like to join my upcoming DREAM BIG IN 2018 email challenge I’d love to have you join us to make 2018 a great year!
Quest Topic #2: Finding vs. Testing Purpose
Ah, ‘purpose’, my favourite topic in the world.
It took me more than fifteen years to figure out exactly what mine is, but once I found my purpose, all those years of struggle, chronic illness, and frustration with life became a thing of the past. I believe that purpose is something so fundamental to our being, so central to our sense of self-worth and zest for life, that I’ve dedicated my coaching business to helping people find theirs.
Viktor Frankl, one of the few survivors of the Auschwitz Nazi Concentration Camp, wrote famously in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”:
“He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW.”
– Viktor Frankl
And this is certainly how I’ve experienced life. Once I found my ‘big why’, my life turned around for the better. Our ‘big why’ is the thing that we want to dedicate our time and energy, creativity and full potential, and our heart and soul to. It’s our ‘raison d’etre’ as the French call it, or ‘Your reason for getting out of bed in the morning.’ And I love seeing the transformation that happens in my clients’ lives when they finally find their purpose. Here’s an overview of what I believe to be the essential qualities of your ‘big why’.
The visionaries we spent time with in this week’s Quest 2018discussion were Katie Dalebout, host of the ‘Let it Out’ podcast and Caroline Miller, bestselling author of ‘Getting Grit’. The topic of discussion was ‘Finding purpose vs. Testing purpose’.
Writing Prompt #1: Katie Dalebout – Host of the ‘Let it Out’ podcast
Katie Daelebout hosts the podcast Let It Out and is author of the Amazon best-selling book of the same name, Let It Out: A Journey Through Journaling. Her unfiltered and authentic writing style helps others cultivate more self-awareness in their lives. Katie’s work has been featured in countless publications including Daily Mail, Women’s Health, Refinery29, Teen Vogue, The Telegraph, and Glamour.
Katie’s writing prompt for Quest this week is:
When we get clarity on what we want to create and it’s for the greater good of humanity, then that vision can happen more easily. When we make space to show up this way, the universe will fill it with our desires, but we have to make space. How are you going to make space in 2018 to create what you really want that will be for the greater good of humanity? What ritual might help your mindset make space?
#Purpose #BestYear #WeQuest
Katie brings up a very important point, which is asking yourself the question “What do I want my work to be in service to?” or “How does my work benefit the greater good for humanity?”. When we shift our focus from “How much money can I make?” or “What can I get out of this?”, to “How can I personally make a positive difference in the world?”, you propel yourself and your work into a new level where ‘synchronicity’ shows up on a regular basis. Katie calls this “the universe filling the space with your desires”.
So, to answer Katie’s question:
How are you going to make space in 2018 to create what you really want that will be for the greater good of humanity?
As Katie suggests, ritual is central to creating that space. ‘Ritual’ meaning something you make time for every day, to the point where it becomes such a natural and nourishing thing to do that you can’t bear to skip a day. Ritual is a conscious habit that we choose that uplifts and aligns us.
Something that’s worked well for me this past year (except for those unforeseen crazy days), is getting up at least half an hour before my family. I wash my face, then spend fifteen minutes doing my morning yoga routine out in the back room overlooking our garden. I then sit for 10-15 minutes on my meditation cushion and connect to my breath, focusing on the continuity of my in- and out- breath. I then focus my thoughts on a prayer, which this last year has been:
“Please continue to show me how I can be of service.”
On the days when I manage to do this, it sets my whole day up in a positive vibe. And on the days when I wake up too late or something comes up and I’m not able to do it (one of my boys waking up before me, for example), my day usually feels a lot harder and more chaotic.
In 2018, I commit to continuing this ritual to pursue it with even more rigour.
The second writing prompt for Quest this week comes from:
Writing Prompt #2: Caroline Adams Miller – Bestselling author of ‘Getting Grit’
Caroline Miller is a renowned Positive Psychology coach, speaker, and author who is considered one of the world’s leading experts on the science of goal-setting and grit. In 2015 she was named “one of the ten Positive Psychology coaches to follow.” Caroline is the author of 6 nonfiction books and her most recent book, Getting Grit has been heralded as one of the “Top 10 Books That Will Change Your Life in 2017.”
If you choose to tackle harder goals on a daily basis, imagine how you could amplify the positive impact you want to have on the world. It’s often said that “You can’t keep what you don’t give away.’” What will you give to other people through your best work in 2018 that will positively impact them so that you might keep it, as well? What do you need to do in 2018 to ensure that you live without unnecessary regrets and have that kind of fulfilling purpose and impact on others? #Purpose #BestYear #WeQuest
Caroline’s quote “You can’t keep what you don’t give away” reminds me of the similar quote “We teach what we most need to learn.” And in my case, this is certainly true. The one thing that I struggled with until my mid-thirties was the ability to live in alignment with my own personal truth. Once I made the commitment to be true to myself, things started shifting for the better. My health improved, my relationships improved and my whole life improved. But it’s not a decision that we make once and move on from. Living this way requires continuous choices each and every day.
In my coaching business, I work with people to help them find their own personal truth and then to find ways to live more in alignment with that truth, so that they too can experience improvements in all areas of life. So when I’m teaching this, I’m also re-learning it myself. Or I’m “giving it away in order to keep it” as Caroline said.
To answer Caroline’s question:
What do you need to do in 2018 to ensure that you live without unnecessary regrets and have that kind of fulfilling purpose and impact on others?
My answer is:
I need to show up with consistency and impact. I need to show up with inspiration and vision. I need to help people see and engage with the vision that represents the full expression of their life.
This means that I need to plan and execute a number of meaningful programs, activities, and engagements that allow me to fully express myself and my work.
I need to stretch myself out of my comfort zone and “tackle harder goals” so that I can test the limits of what I’m truly capable of.
And most importantly I need to make continuous choices each day to live in alignment with my personal truth, while helping others live theirs.
What about you? How will you find purpose and test purpose in 2018?
Quest Topic #3: Dreaming Stuff Up vs. Getting Stuff Done
As Jeffrey says: “The entrepreneurial world places a premium on getting stuff done. That’s helpful to catalyze creative-minded people out of analysis paralysis and daydreaming fantasy-making. On the other hand, not enough time for or skill in deliberate daydreaming can lead to burning out and supporting the status quo in our lives and culture. How do we learn the best practices to get stuff done and to dream stuff up? How do we become more aware of our excesses in either capacity and optimize our best days and weeks to assure we advance our best work while taking care of our best selves?”
How the seeds of their young geniuses came to play in their life’s purpose
How systems can help you stay afloat and act on their vision
How to use prototyping to figure out what works for you
Discovering that the key to innovation starts with you
The importance of dreaming as responsible entrepreneurs
How to avoid the dystopian state of ‘total work’
How to use digital tools deliberately to daydream deliberately
Both visionaries Ishita and Charlie shared their experiences in their formative years that allowed them to develop their gifts of creativity and productivity. Ishita grew up with a twin sister and describes herself as “always curious”, asking many questions, often ones that would get her into trouble. Her insatiable curiosity has served her well, together with her innate ability to dream big and to develop systems and structures that help her “get stuff done”. Charlie was a Boy Scout and later an Eagle Scout and went on to work in the Military, and his strength has always been an ability to be resourceful, productive and finding ways to be more efficient. He has an innate ability to look at how other people do things and to improve on them, to continuously improve his own efficiency and productivity.
It made me think back to how I was as a young child and some of my experiences that created who I am today. I had a tendency to be a bit of a dreamer and ‘getting stuff done’ was not my natural inclination. There was one pivotal point that changed all that:
My defining moment of the need to develop ‘grit’.
I remember it well. I was in Year 5 (aged 10) and we were all given the task of researching the River Nile and putting all our findings into a wall poster with pictures and information. I wasn’t particularly fascinated by the topic and found it very hard to make myself sit down to work on it. As a result, my poster was poorly done and not very visually appealing at all.
At the end of the project, all our parents were invited to school to have a look at the posters, which were put up all around the walls of our classroom. When my parents came in and asked me where my poster was, I felt embarrassed to show them. When I pointed out my very plain poster in between all the other colourful and vibrant posters that other students had done, my parents were horrified. “Is that yours?” they asked while I hung my head and nodded.
On the way home in the car, my parents told me how disappointed they were with me and how embarrassed they were to see my poster hanging there. I felt so small and humiliated, and like most children, I desperately want to please my parents. So I made a commitment in that moment to do much better next time.
From then on, I did everything I could to develop ‘grit’, which has become a popular term since Angela Duckworth popularised it in her TED Talk on True Grit: Can Perserverance Be Taught? It’s often defined as “Passion and perseverance for long-term goals”. I did whatever it took, hours of devotion, research or studying, to make sure I never let down my parents again. And I developed long-term over-achiever tendencies as a result, which served me very well, earning me a University Degree with Honours and a Ph.D., and a successful career as a consulting process engineer for almost 15 years. But it also eventually became my own downfall, causing me to suffer from burnout in my mid-thirties and a need to completely switch careers.
But despite the challenges I suffered later in life, ‘grit’ is the one skill that I will always be grateful for because it allows me to apply my mind, time and energy to anything I want and to make it work. I do believe it’s one of the most important life skills we can cultivate. And it helps us “Get stuff done.”
And while this week’s Roundtable discussion acknowledges the critical importance of “Getting stuff done”, it also asks the question of how we can create space in our lives to “Dream stuff up”.
Creating ‘white space’ in my life is something I’ve been forced to learn to do. My earlier over-achieving tendencies of pushing through all kinds of discomfort and pain not only led to chronic fatigue and illness, but also to a complete disconnect from my own heart and soul. If we want to do our best work, it’s imperative that we find the time to unplug and drop into silence on a regular basis, or at the very least to sit in quiet reflection.
Creating white space in our lives for quiet reflection, dreaming, and stillness allows us to reconnect to our hearts and our full creative potential.
This week’s first writing prompt comes from:
Writing Prompt #1: Ishita Gupta – Creative Entrepreneur helping people unleash their full potential.
Ishita says “I help you build confidence and power into your life + business so you feel in control, instead of overwhelmed. If you’re struggling with fear, stress, indecision, or healing from a rough experience, I can help you develop the inner strength to get through it. If you’re starting a business – or thinking about it – I can help you navigate that too. I understand where you’re coming from, because I’ve been there. I didn’t come from a family of entrepreneurs. I learned from scratch, trusted myself, and worked out my problems guerrilla-style. I can help you do the same.”
This week in Quest 2018, Ishita asks the question:
If what you desired most – the book deal, the mentor you’re scared to send the email to, the perfect partnership – what you’ve wished and prayed for – if it landed on your doorstep tomorrow, would you be ready for it? #DreamDone
My answer: YES.
Since quitting my consulting engineering career in 2017, I’ve spent the past 6+ years living overseas for my husband’s work while raising our two young boys. I’ve been “squeezing my business startup into the cracks of motherhood”, and while I’ve managed to do a lot in that time, I haven’t had the time and energy to really ‘give it my all’ in my business. And now I feel beyond ready to do so. My boys are now 6 and 3 and so I feel like those highly intense first years are easing up and there’s more time for ‘me’ in my life now.
What I currently desire most is to be more impactful in my work.
What I would love most is to be able to stand up in front of large crowds of high school students who are contemplating which professional field to go into, and to help them make a career choice that is aligned with their heart, their natural gifts, their true nature and their passion. Rather than being overly influenced by those in their environment who would have them pursue a career for money, status, or other inauthentic reasons. I chose my career path for mostly the wrong reasons and ended up burned out and miserable as a result. So I feel passionate about helping young people avoid the heartache that I went through, to find their authentic and joyful professional path and purpose.
And if that showed up on my doorstep tomorrow, I would be one very happy person.
This week’s second writing prompt comes from:
Writing Prompt #2: Charlie Gilkey – Creative Entrepreneur Helping People Finish the Stuff that Matters
When prompted to dream, a natural default for many of us is to start thinking and end up in our head. We dream of logical possibilities, things we might do, places we might be, and so on. What’s often left out of it, though, is how we feel. Since feeling drives action more than thought does, this is a major oversight and often leads to dreaming that never turns into action. So, rather than dreaming from the head, I want to prompt you to dream from the heart. What do you want to feel at the end of 2018 that you currently don’t feel or don’t feel enough of? #DreamDone
I want to feel excited about the projects I’m working on and the people I’m working with. I make time in my life for the things that make me feel alive.
I want to feel connected into a web of like-minded, passionate, soulful, creative entrepreneurs and people whose mission is to uplift and inspire those around them. I want to feel nurtured, encouraged and supported to be my best self.
I want to know that my work matters and that I can make a positive impact on people’s lives through the work I do.
I want to feel as though I’m important and invaluable the people in my life, including my clients.
I want to feel nourished by the work I do, emotionally and intellectually. I make time in my life for things that nourish and uplift my heart and soul.
I want my work to bring me great joy and satisfaction.
I want to feel magic in my life. As I tune into and pay attention to the synchronicities, pleasant ‘coincidences’ and grace that’s at work in my life, I make way for more of it to flow to me.
Quest Topic #4: Can Competition be Healthy in Entrepreneurship?
It’s hard to believe we’re already in the last week of our 4-week Quest journey with Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder. This is the second year I’m participating and once again it’s been full of rich, stimulating ideas, discussions, and reflections. #WeQuest #BestYear #DoingItTogether.
It’s school holidays and I’m home with my two young children attempting to squeeze this week’s response into the cracks of their needs and demands. With my husband offshore for work for the Christmas and New Year period, it’s a challenging time of single parenting for me. However, I managed to listen to this week’s wonderful roundtable discussion in the car on the way back from a 5-day holiday down at a seaside holiday village in Western Australia.
This week’s topic is intriguing and very relevant: Competition versus Building Community. Responses from different Quest participants can be found across social media using the hashtag #CompetitionCommunity. The discussion between Dorie Clark, Marketing & Strategy Consultant and Jonathon Fields of the Good Life Project explored the different aspects of competition in entrepreneurship and the need to build a loyal community of people who resonate with your brand and message.
On the topic of competition, both Dorie and Jonathon discussed how they’ve never been motivated by competition with others, but rather by an intrinsic drive to always improve on their own internal standards. Both have achieved wonderful things in their careers due to this desire to continuously improve themselves and their work. I think I’ve operated in a similar way over the course of my life.
Competition is healthy to a point; it helps us look around at others to see where we can strive for more ourselves. It gives us the impulse and motivation to push ourselves harder, to see what we’re truly capable of. It becomes unhealthy when the sole motivation is to always be ‘better than’ everyone else, leaving no room for cooperation, collaboration and ‘win-win’ solutions. I love these wise words from Franklin Roosevelt.
“Competition has been shown to be useful up to a certain point and no further.
Cooperation, which is the thing we must strive for today, begins where competition leaves off.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
True power and possibility come from shifting our focus from simply ‘outdoing’ others to generating collaborative, win-win solutions in contribution to a vision larger than ourselves.
It’s been shown again and again in different ‘happiness’ studies that those who focus their energy and efforts on something larger than themselves feel more fulfilled and genuinely happy than those who focus their efforts simply on increasing their own power or status. Both Dorie Clarke and Jonathon Fields have a very clear vision for a future that they’re working towards and this vision drives their efforts and communities in a way that leaves them feeling impactful, fulfilled and satisfied.
There is a lot of ‘competing’ out there particularly in the coaching world that I’m now part of; people trying to protect the communities they’ve worked hard to build and protect their own ideas and intellectual property. While I can certainly appreciate that it’s important to protect ourselves, last year I noticed that things started shifting for me personally once I stopped looking at fellow coaches as ‘competitors’ and started looking at them as potential opportunities for collaboration, and vehicles for bringing more resources, tools, and resources to the people I’m here to serve.
Once we can move past ‘competing’ to focusing our efforts instead on creating collaborative opportunities to serve our people more effectively, we open the doors to even greater impact and possibility.
Jeffrey Davis does this brilliantly in the way he sets up his whole annual Quest collaboration. And when we ‘light another candle’ by embracing our competitors and their work and providing opportunities for their greater impact and visibility, we expand our own networks, our friendships and our own ability to serve and impact others more genuinely and effectively.
The Role of Envy in Competition and Community Building
In the discussion of competition, the topic of envy came up and how the emotion can be used as a signpost for what we desire more of in our lives. Rather than feeling bad about our feelings of envy towards others, we can use them to uncover more about our own genuine desires.
This week Jeffrey Davis asked the question:
“Who do you envy and what is it telling you about your own desires?”
For me personally, I look towards those who have built knowledge, expertise, and networks through reaching out to people they admire and interviewing them about how they do what they do. They then culminate all their findings in books or podcasts to share their ‘secrets’ with others. This approach has three great by-products:
– You create a connection with someone you admire and expand your network significantly with inspiring people a few steps ahead of you on the path;
– You learn directly how these people have gotten where they are;
– You become an ‘expert’ of sorts on the topic you’re researching and you’re able to share your learnings and insights with others to help them.
Again, Jeffrey does this brilliantly in Quest. Another good example is Chris Guillebeau’s book Born For This: How to Find the Work You Were Meant To Do in which he travels the world interviewing people who have made the decision to go for their dreams, despite all kinds of difficult (sometimes seemingly impossible) obstacles they have up against them. In the process, he learns so much, establishes a broad network of like-minded people doing great things in the world and brings all this knowledge and insight to his followers and his readers. I’m currently pondering how I could do something along those lines to expand my network of like-minded dreamers.
Both visionaries Dorie Clarke and Jonathon Fields discussed the importance of building our own communities of people with shared values and beliefs, particularly as entrepreneurs.
Jonathon Fields’ instigation this week for #CompetitionCommunity is:
Finding or building community starts with shared values and beliefs. Write down three or four deeply held values or beliefs about the way you see the world and what’s important to you.
Here are mine:
To live our happiest lives, it’s essential that we get to know ourselves intimately through cultivating in-depth self-awareness. We need to tune into our hearts to become familiar with our own genuine desires and creative impulses and make daily choices to be true to ourselves. #Authenticity #AuthenticJoy #ListenToYourHeart
We create our own reality through our thoughts and beliefs. Keeping our thoughts and attention focused on what we want (not on what we ‘don’t want’ through worry and obsessing), we allow more of what we want to flow into our lives. #powerofintention #joyonpurpose;
It is up to each of us to do the ‘inner work’ to work through emotional barriers that prevent us from experiencing genuine happiness and fulfillment. Personal growth, healing, and transformation are necessary to experience greater levels of peace, joy and harmony #innerpeace #selfcare #selflove #relationships
“Loving what you do is the fountain of all youth”. Life feels good when your work and life feel meaningful and you’re contributing your unique gifts towards something you care about and that contributes something positive to the world. It’s up to each of us to find the work that makes us come alive and allows us to unleash our unique gifts for the benefit of all. #findyourpathandpurpose #findyourpurpose #professionaljoy #selfexpression #authenticselfexpression
We become the best version of ourselves when we find the people and communities who support us to be ourselves and reach for the stars. #relationships #community.
Dorie Clarke’s instigation for #CompetitionCommunity this week is:
To get an invitation, you have to give an invitation.
Who will you invite to the table in 2018, and what form will this take?
Late last year I started a video series called CONVERSATIONS THAT MATTER, which is a series of interviews with some brave and courageous women who have overcome serious adversity to find their inner light and share it with the world through their work. The series aims to discuss real issues and challenges that we all deal with to some degree, with the intention to:
– Help people understand they’re not alone in their own challenges and struggles;
– To share our stories and journeys in order to heal, connect and learn from each other’s journeys;
– Empower, uplift and inspire each other.
I’m going to continue the series this year and consider inviting some people I really admire and look up to. I’m still pondering who that might be.
I’m also looking for ways to include some of the complementary services offered by my coaching colleagues in my own coaching packages to:
1) Offer more value to the people I work with;
2) Collaborate with and support fellow colleagues in my field;
3) Expand my network of supportive friends and colleagues.
This year’s theme for me will be along the lines of Jeffrey Davis’ favorite saying:
Doing it Together (DIT) Beats Doing it Alone (DIY).
– Jeffrey Davis
Thank you Jeffrey for providing such thought-provoking topics again this week.
If you missed the first Quest instigations and responses, you can view them here:
Building a business is hard work. It takes grit, perseverance, determination, and persistence. It’s most definitely not for the faint-hearted.
And building your own business confronts you with all of your insecurities, fears, and doubts about yourself, raising questions like:
Who am I to do this work?
Why would anyone choose to work with me when my competitors are younger, smarter, and further along?
How will I ever make enough money?
What have I got to offer?
That little inner voice is debilitating and completely takes the wind out of your sails.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone.
So many female entrepreneurs struggle with these fears, doubts and insecurities. We see it all the time with our clients. And I’ve been through it myself so many times too (trust me, I know what you’re going through!).
Fear, doubt and insecurity are a natural part of stepping outside of your comfort zone. Those little voices come from that primitive part of your brain that’s designed to keep you ‘safe’. They don’t want you to step outside of the hut because you might get eaten by a mammoth. When you’re building your business you have to put yourself out there in a big way and open yourself up to judgement, criticism, and unsolicited feedback.
It’s scary and very uncomfortable!
Not to mention all the doubts you have about our own capabilities and competence.
It can be hard to pull yourself out of those situations where you spiral into self-doubt and fear. And there are days when you just want to give up on the dream. I know, I have them too, those days where I ask myself:
Wouldn’t it be easier to just go back and get a job?
I’ve learned over the years that there’s unfortunately no shortcut to establishing a thriving, profitable business.
Some days it feels like you’re putting your work out into a vacuum. Those are the days when it’s hard to get motivated. It’s hard being in business for yourself, being the sole person responsible for generating revenue, particularly in the early days when your revenue is dependent on your time and input. I’ve read all the promises of the 4-hour work week and ‘passive income’ and while they sound great, those are things that take time to build, and that advice is unhelpful when you’re in startup mode (which lasts for 1-3 years!). If you’re not familiar with the 6 stages of business growth, check out my article here.
If you ever get into one of those downward spirals of despair and negativity, here are some tips on how to pull yourself back up and out of it. These are some of the things that help me on a regular basis when I get into a funk.
1. Remember why you started your business.
When you’re in this state of mind, it’s important to reconnect with your personal and business ‘why’.
What is it that made you start your business in the first place?
What’s the important contribution that you want to make through your work?
Who’s going to miss out on receiving the benefits of your work if you decide to succumb to fear and insecurity and not show up?
If you’re not clear on your business ‘why’ yet, check out Simon Sinek’s video How Great Leaders Inspire Action and answer this sentence for yourself: “Because I believe….”
2. Get out a piece of paper and write down all the things that make you awesome.
I’m serious, you need to do this exercise if you’re feeling fearful and doubtful. Get out a pen and paper and write down your answers to these questions:
What have you achieved, overcome, and created in this lifetime?
What are your unique strengths and talents?
What qualifications have you achieved, or awards have you won, or things have you accomplished over your life and career?
What do your best friends say about you? What would they say if you were gone?
Remember and reconnect to all the positive things about yourself. So often we get focused on what’s ‘not there’ and forget to remember everything that ‘is already there’.
Remind yourself of just how awesome you are and believe it in your bones! Because it’s true.
3. Re-read some of the positive feedback from your clients and appreciate the areas where you have traction in your business.
Go back and read or simply remember some of the positive things people have said about your work and the impact you’ve made on them. Find a way to remember that your work matters and that people need and appreciate what you have to offer.
4. Focus on what you love about working for yourself.
Take some time to remember the reasons you decided to work for yourself. Write them down. For example, I remember how much I love the complete freedom and flexibility of my schedule and my pure freedom of creative self-expression. I love the ability I have to work from home, to be there for my kids, and to focus my time on what I want, when I want.
What is it that you love about working for yourself?
5. Force yourself to step away from the desk and take a break.
Any action you take while in a negative frame of mind is not going to be productive or inspired. It’s important to get yourself back into a good frame of mind before attempting to do anything at all. Do whatever it takes to re-centre and re-align yourself.
Perhaps you could get outside into the garden, or go for a walk, or do something uplifting, comforting and nourishing for yourself.
7. Don’t give up. You just may be on the verge of making a breakthrough!
No matter how bad your day is feeling, don’t give up. You might be just about to make a touchdown. Keep your thoughts and energy focused on the vision you hold and how good it feels to be living your dream, on your own terms. If you need help staying tuned in to positive energy and the flow of abundance, take a look at my article How to Create More of What You Want Using the Law of Attraction – Part 1.
And if all else fails, take a day off, go and do something you love and tomorrow is another day. But most importantly, hang in there. The world needs your precious gifts!
Are you doing all the right things when it comes to growing your business?
Get your FREE copy of THE FEMPRENEUR SUCCESS HANDBOOK and discover all the tactics and strategies that have helped my clients achieve sustainable business success within the shortest amount of time!
Expat life can be a wild ride filled with fun, laughs, adventure, good times and perhaps most of all – challenge.
It’s guaranteed to push you out of your comfort zone, confront you with your own shortcomings and force you to grow in ways you hadn’t expected. I realise now in hindsight how naïve I was coming into the whole experience six years ago when we embarked on our expat journey. It would have been helpful to get some advice from a seasoned expat wife beforehand, hence my reason for writing this letter (below), in the hope that my words might help other women setting out on their new adventure.
I’ve travelled extensively throughout my life and lived and worked in several different countries, including Paraguay, the USA, Italy, the UK and The Netherlands.
So it’s not that living overseas is new to me. But being an ‘expat’ is …. different … for reasons I’ll explain.
Expat experiences vary greatly and it seems the kind of experience you have depends very much on the company your family is relocating with and the size of the project. We left Australia six years ago for our expat adventure involving two years in Paris, France followed by four years in Geoje, South Korea. Our first two years in Paris were very different to the past four years in Korea, not only because the countries are so different but because in Paris the project was still in the design phase and therefore the foreign staffing requirements were much smaller. The work was being done predominantly by French staff with a small number of expats like ourselves. We found a rental apartment in central Paris and set about immersing ourselves in French life, language and culture, grateful for the opportunity to experience French life firsthand.
In Korea, the project moved into its construction phase and hundreds of expats were brought in to complete the mammoth project. To provide enough accommodation for all the foreign employees and their families, the company had no choice but to rent out whole apartment blocks in Geoje. As a result, it’s felt at times like living in an expat bubble on the fringes of Korean society, in a microcosm of the United Nations together with families from all different cultures and nationalities. At times you could even forget you’re in Korea, until you go into town to do the grocery shopping and remember that you can’t read the packaging on anything and often have to guess what you’re buying, you can’t ask questions or communicate with shop staff and can’t read any of the signposts (challenging when there’s big red letters and you don’t know what they mean!). While all this can be overwhelming at first and you feel like a fish out of water, it gets easier with time as you adapt and adjust.
The opportunity to live as an expat is truly a privilege.
You’re able to experience another way of life, travel to countries you might otherwise never visit, make friends with people from all over the world and expose your children to a truly international community at a young age, helping them cultivate understanding, compassion, and inclusivity.
And yet as an ‘expat wife’, things are particularly challenging. I must admit I don’t like that label; like so many women these days I’ve always taken great pride in having my own independence, my own career and my own salary.
And yet when you choose to temporarily leave your career to follow your husband’s work, ‘expat wife’ inevitably becomes your new identity.
Many families choose to be expats at a time in life when the children are young and more flexible with schooling, and the wife is either happy to take some time off to care for the children full time, take some time away from her career to complete studies in a new direction or work from home (which is becoming more prevalent in this digital world). In some cases the wives are fortunate to be able to work on local projects too, if their skills match a project need. In a few rare cases, it’s the husband who moves overseas for the wife’s job and takes on the primary child-carer role, however they’re definitely the rare minority (yes gender roles are still very traditional in this demographic).
Things become particularly challenging when…
All families live in the same few apartment complexes available, sharing the same facilities and open spaces;
All the children go to school together and share the same school buses, teachers, social and sports activities;
The wives share the same limited number of English-speaking babysitters;
The husbands work together on the same project and often bring their frustrations home to the wives;
Most people are connected by Facebook and other social media channels, which adds another layer of interaction on top of the already intense social situation;
Due to the difficulty of communicating with the locals, it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to integrate into local society or expand your social circles beyond the expat community.
Your life becomes inextricably intertwined with the other expats.
The radical intensity of day-to-day interaction with people you barely know leads to some difficult and often very challenging interpersonal situations. It can bring out both the best and the worst in people (myself included). Having been through some challenging and often very painful situations myself, I felt compelled to share this insight in the hope that it helps other expat wives as they set out on their journey. So here goes…
Letter to a Novice Ex-Pat Wife
Congratulations on your decision to embark on your expat journey!
What a wonderful decision you’ve made for you and your family. You have an exciting adventure ahead, one where you’ll get to discover a new culture and way of life, meet people from all different nationalities and backgrounds and expose your children to a beautiful international community with different cultures and lifestyles. It’s a unique and rare opportunity; an experience that I know you’ll treasure forever. You will learn a lot, possibly more than you bargained for. It will test you in ways you probably couldn’t have imagined. You may experience not just wonderful highs but perhaps many deep lows as well.
And that’s the part nobody tells you about before you leave.
When you move overseas, you leave all your friends and family behind. And because we’re social beings, it’s in our nature to want to find new friends quickly. When you arrive in the community, there’ll be many different social circles forming or already operating. Try to float among different groups and activities in the beginning. You’ll perhaps feel an enormous urge to fit into one of them as soon as possible, but try to resist that temptation. It will become apparent over time who your people are. Just be patient, friendly and approachable and start getting to know the people around you. If someone invites you over for a coffee or lunch and it feels right, be sure to go along. But don’t divulge too much too soon and keep your guard up politely until you’ve had a chance to get to know them properly.
It takes time to build trust and intimacy in friendships.
Friendships often form (too) quickly in the expat environment. You can end up sharing your lives at a very intimate and personal level without having had the chance to get to know each other. It’s in my nature to be very open and I’ve had to learn the hard way that it’s important to build trust first before you open your thoughts and heart to someone.As you float among different groups and people, be observant and try to get an understanding of the different groups out there and who’s included in them.
In this phase, be sure to listen to your gut and trust your intuition.
Don’t ignore those little alarm bells in your head for the sake of trying to fit in somewhere. If you have an ‘off’ feeling with anyone, be sure to listen to it. Don’t judge them for it and cut them off, because sometimes our judgments can be wrong, but be extra vigilant. Don’t share anything too personal before you’ve taken the time to get to know the people around you.
The expat community would make an interesting study in human psychology, because when a group of strangers ends up living together, working together and socialising together, it creates an unnaturally intense social situation, and well – strange things can happen. When social situations become stressed, it’s natural that our insecurities surface and we fall into default coping strategies. As women. we often unconsciously play out a certain ‘role’.
Over the past six years I’ve experienced, observed and witnessed particular roles that emerge in stressed social environments (and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of falling into some of them myself). To avoid potentially difficult situations, be aware that you might come across these characters (they’re exaggerated in some cases, but you’ll get my drift):
The Queen Bee
The Queen Bee likes to be at the centre of social circles and control who is included and not included. They’re often the ones organising many events and get-togethers as they thrive on social influence and control. They demand loyalty and respect and will do anything to get it, even if it means spreading untruths about others. While they’re charming and often very social extroverts, just be careful as they can have a nasty sting if you upset them or threaten their position somehow.
The charmer can appear seemingly out of nowhere, suddenly showing a lot of interest in you and wanting to spend lots of time with you. They’ve seen something they like about you and decided they want to befriend you. Although it’s very flattering and feels great to our humble little egos, just be careful. Charmers can reel you in with abundant attention, affection, and kindness, and then drop you like a hot potato when you don’t live up to their expectations or someone better comes along. This is hard because they made you feel special and it hurts when they move on. You might end up wondering what you did or what’s wrong with you and beat yourself up. But chances are the flattery caught you off guard and you didn’t have appropriate boundaries in place. Remember, it takes time to build genuine friendships and as tempting as it is, be sure to take your time to get to know someone before you open your life and heart to them.
The Smiling Assassin
Unfortunately, the intensity of the social scene in the expat environment can heighten the insecurities of many women. You might unknowingly trigger jealousy and resentment in certain people and find yourself suddenly on the receiving end of passive aggression. It’s confusing and upsetting when someone is lovely, smiling and friendly to your face and then you find out later they’ve been quietly assassinating your character behind your back, especially if it’s someone you considered a friend and it’s completely unexpected. This is another reason why you must form friendships slowly and carefully.
The Fair Weather Friend
Often in the expat situation, people end up unknowingly getting drawn into conflicts that cause all kinds of drama and tension they hadn’t expected. In future, they might try to avoid conflict at all cost, which means they won’t stick around if you find yourself unwillingly drawn into a conflict yourself. If you end up going through a challenging situation and turn to your friend for help, you might find they’re not there for you. This can be very disappointing if it’s someone you thought was a good friend. However, remember that in the challenging expat social environment, people go into survival mode and will do everything they can to protect themselves. You even might find yourself doing the same in future (I know I have to some extent). While of course, it’s painful to realise you can’t rely on a friend in a time of need, just use it as an indication that this person might not be friendship material in the long term and remember to build your friendships slowly.
The Ice Queen
One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn on my expat journey is that it doesn’t pay to stand up to what you perceive as bad behaviour. While you may feel noble, indignant and a little self-righteous in confronting someone for how they’ve treated you or someone else, it never pans out well.
They’ll probably vehemently deny what you’re calling them out on, tell all their friends how unreasonable you’ve been, and then target their hostility towards you instead. They might turn into the Ice Queen, openly ignoring you at every opportunity, throwing you ice daggers with their eyes and perhaps even turning others against you in an attempt to isolate you. If you see someone behaving badly, just take note and keep a safe distance. You can always show your support for the person who’s being treated badly by meeting with them privately and telling them you’re there for them if they need you. But otherwise, avoid confrontation and retreat.
It can be very challenging if your child is involved in a conflict of some kind and you have to deal with a mother whose child is never to blame. Most of us know conflicts arise between children as a natural part of growing up, and sometimes our child’s to blame and sometimes it’s the other child. Or sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding and no one’s to blame at all.
But if a situation arises where your child is very upset and you try to talk to the other mother about it, you might be confronted with the default position of “My child is never in the wrong” (perhaps not in those words). There’s no opening for discussion, your child will be given the blame and you might even be labeled a bad parent. I’ve seen many a friendship break up because of this type of conflict and it’s sad when mothers let this ruin an otherwise good friendship. Again it’s particularly hard when it happens with someone you thought you could count on as a friend.
And of course, there will be many genuine, truly lovely people who don’t have an insecure or unkind bone in their body and are just fun, beautiful people to be around. They will be the ones who take delight in building you up and encouraging you to follow your dreams, not tearing you down. Those are the keepers.
Advice for a Peaceful and Harmonious Expat Journey
Remember that it takes time to find your ‘people’.
Resist the urge to rush into friendships. You can let your guard down once you’ve gotten to know people over time and they’ve proven themselves trustworthy to you. Trust your intuition and simply retreat from anyone that feels out of alignment. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself and especially those whose eyes light up when you talk of your goals and aspirations. Some women will take delight in building you up and encouraging you, while others might feel threatened.
In finishing, here’s the most important advice I feel necessary to pass onto you:
Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.
Things are not always as they seem and you never know what’s going on in someone else’s life. Never make assumptions and always take everything you hear with a very large grain of salt.
In small expat communities where everyone knows everyone, gossip is sadly inevitable. It usually gets embellished with small (sometimes large) untruths that the person at the centre of the gossip has no chance of denying or defending. This can be very damaging to their integrity and reputation. As tempting as it can be at times, never engage in gossip. If someone starts talking negatively about someone else, just smile politely and make an excuse to move away.
If you hear something bad about someone else, reserve your judgment.
There are always two sides to a story. Resist the temptation to believe what you hear about someone else and continue to give the person the benefit of the doubt. It’s not fair to treat them differently, because you have no way of knowing whether what you heard is true (it probably isn’t).
If you’re the target of gossip yourself, hold your head high and let it go.
As painful as it is, you’re often not in control of your own reputation in small expat communities. If people decide to spread untruths about you, there’s sadly nothing you can do and it will test every inch of your self-worth to not react and hold your head high. We all make mistakes and sometimes do things we regret, but gossip makes us pay for them unfairly and in excess. Be gentle with yourself and with others, and extend the benefit of the doubt wherever you can.
Guard your privacy on Facebook and social media. While it’s wonderful to be connected with others through social media, in small expat communities it can add another dimension of invasion into your privacy. Based on my experience, I would recommend being careful of your privacy on Facebook until you’ve gotten to know someone well. You can be ‘friends’ but just limit what you share with people through your privacy settings until you know someone well.
On a positive note, having warned you of some of the less enjoyable types you might come across, this article wouldn’t be complete without recognising, acknowledging and appreciating all the amazing women who have made my expat journey so rich and wonderful (thanks Jane Fitzer O’Shea for the inspiration for some of these types!).
There are The Rocks (the ones who are always there for you no matter what), The Warriors (the ones who go through extremely challenging situations and come out the other side positive and strong), The Funny Girls (the ones who make you laugh so hard your sides ache), The Dancers (the ones who can rock out all night and have endless energy and dance moves), The Helpers (the ones who are always there for everybody in times of need), The Girls Who Took Up a Cause (the ones who dedicate their time and energy to abandoned pets, orphanages, hospitals and any other cause that breaks their heart) and the No Nonsense Ones who aren’t afraid to offend and tell it like it is.
These types will be your saviour and get you through many a challenging period!
Treasure them as they will become your friends for life.
It’s my sincere hope that this insight and guidance helps you have a harmonious and fun-filled expat journey, and avoid much of the struggle myself and others have gone through!
Being an expat is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you will treasure forever.
Sit back and enjoy the ride!
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International
And yet the seemingly simple task of “choosing a job you love” is, in reality, not so easy at all.
There are a number of reasons for that, including:
You’re told to choose a career path when you’re very young, with little life experience, and without having had a chance to experience what many different career paths look and feel like on a day-to-day basis. The reality of many professions is very different to the preconceptions or fantasies we have about them.
You’re filled with societal expectations from a young age that teach you falsehoods such as “If you’re smart, you should become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer” or “The measure of success is the amount of money you make” or “Choose job security over passion” and other such misleading statements.
You’re not taught to trust your own inner instincts from a young age. You’re encouraged to take the advice from teachers and adults more seriously than the whispers in your heart. Over time most of us learn to ignore those whispers completely.
You might have been told that following our passion is not responsible or wise.
You might have been led to believe that your specific talents and gifts are not necessarily something that the world needs and that we should choose something more practical instead.
I took all the subliminal messages in my environment very seriously and they eventually led me down the completely wrong professional path.
I spent fifteen years of my life in a career that was a complete mismatch for my personality, strengths, and passion.
And as a result, I spent years feeling unwell, miserable, and exhausted.
My journey has led me to believe that this is probably more like the advice we should follow instead:
To find a career path you love, get out there and try many different things. The only way to know if a certain career path is right for you is to try it. There is no shame or failure in realising that you’re on the wrong path. All experiences, whether good are bad, are feedback. Let your experiences inform you and guide your future decisions.
Trust your own inner instincts. Learn to listen to those whispers from that little voice in your head. They’re your very own internal GPS system, guiding you through life and to your true path. Be sure to spend time in quiet reflection and develop the ability to listen to your own intuition coming through those whispers. It’s the most reliable advice you’ll ever get.
Don’t feel pressured to lock yourself into one particular path. Choosing one particular direction does not mean you’re locked into it for life. Allow yourself to ‘pivot’when you have to and try to stay open to what life is trying to tell you. Your life is constantly giving you feedback; it’s up to you to learn how to read the signs.
Your mood and energy levels are a gauge as to whether you’re on the right path or not. If you feel positive, have lots of energy, and come home feeling fulfilled and satisfied each night, even if it’s been a difficult day, chances are you’re on the right path. And the opposite is also true.
Don’t let your degree lock you into a particular profession. If you chose to go to University, view your degree as a great foundation for your life and appreciate it for all the skills it taught you. All the skills you learned at University are transferable and can be used in any profession.
You have unique and specific gifts and talents that the world needs. Your job is to discover what they are. Your job is to find how to apply them in a way that feels fun, fulfilling, and meaningful and allows you to make a positive contribution. Many research studies have shown repeatedly that those who feel the most satisfaction in their job are those who feel that they’re making a meaningful contribution to society.
You have passions for a reason. They’re a guidepost for your unique path and purpose. They’re clues to your ‘big why’, your purpose. Yes, you have a unique purpose. And it’s your task to find it. You won’t find it overnight, but it will eventually reveal itself to you and you will know, without a shadow of a doubt, when you have found it. All of a sudden you’ll have all the energy, inspiration, and motivation you need and more.
Your purpose is the vocation that allows you to express yourself and your potential fully and to contribute your unique gifts in service to something you care about, while making a positive difference and earning you an abundant, reliable income.
But the big question still remains – How do you find that particular path?
The most important thing is to give up the notion that you have to find it straight away.
The key, I believe, is to simply start by doing the things that bring you joy, fulfilment, and satisfaction, and to view your journey with curiosity and wonder. Stay open to how different jobs and activities make you feel, and keep going in the direction of the ones that feel good. Here are some questions to ponder along the way.
What is it that you love doing? What makes your heart sing?
What kind of work feels really fulfilling and satisfying?
How could you build a career around these things that allows you to thrive?
The key lies in reflecting back on those moments in life where you felt ecstatic joy, aliveness, and connection; where your heart literally overflowed with happiness. Most of us have experienced at least a couple of these moments in life.
The key to your purpose and true passion lies in those moments if you’re able to feel back into them and understand what they represented. They’re not random moments of happiness that you just happen to remember as highlights of your life, but rather they give you insight into what makes you happy and the values that you hold most cherished. And they contain the seeds of your true calling.
Try this process to more closely understand your own personal ‘bliss’:
Take a moment to describe those fleeting moments in your life when you felt a true feeling of happiness. Where were you, what were you doing, and with whom were you doing it? Which feelings did you experience and why?
Write them down, and then look for the hidden signs to your cherished values in there.
Here are some examples from my own experience to help you define yours.
Those Blissfully Happy Moments
My Blissfully Happy Moment #1
I’m on a road trip up north in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia with friends and we stop at a roadhouse somewhere to have dinner, in what feels like the middle-of-nowhere. Behind the roadhouse there’s a small hall where some locals are doing Karaoke; we decide to join them. Several drinks and many cheesy songs later, we walk outside to find our camper-van to sleep in. We come across a group of beautiful little Aboriginal children playing outside on the grass. One of them comes up to us, beaming with her big white teeth in an ear-to-ear grin. I strike up a conversation with her and we laugh and connect. Such a beautiful, innocent little girl who is a victim of circumstances – born into a race of people who have been mistreated and often looked down upon in White Australia, living in poverty and a world of limited opportunities.
I ask her if she likes dizzy-whizzies and she says “yes!”. I pick her up, swing her around and she giggles with delight. I do this a few more times at her request, and we swirl around and fall down, laughing from dizziness and fun. Finally, I tell her I have to go (or my drinks are going to come up!). My friends have already left. As I leave I give her a big squeeze and she grabs me back in a beautiful, giant hug. I feel her heart and her warmth, her beautiful, radiant soul. We stay locked in this beautiful hug and in this moment it feels like the world has stood still; two strangers locked in an embrace, sharing our humanity and love.
I never saw her again, but she taught me so much and in that moment: I knew I wanted to be a vehicle for everyone in this world to be seen and heard, for everyone to be able to step into their full light and brightness, regardless of their background, skin colour or social setting.
This was a seed of my calling.
My Blissfully Happy Moment #2
I’m boarding a plane at London Heathrow airport where I’ve been living, bound for Milan, Italy for a three-day weekend to go to a concert of Italian rock icon Vasco Rossi. I have nothing with me but my small backpack containing two changes of clothes, my wallet, my camera and my toilet bag. I’ll be staying with a good friend in Italy for the weekend, both of us huge fans of Vasco and what this rock legend represents – rebellion against the system, full expression of everyone’s uniqueness and individual identity, living life to the fullest in all its pain and glory. The exquisite, joyful feeling starts at the check-in counter when they ask me if I have baggage to check in. I say ‘no’ (traveling without baggage feels like a true symbol of freedom for me). I walk through the security area, sit down at a bar to wait for my flight and enjoy a large beer – just me and my small backpack. The feeling of freedom and joy is indescribable.
It’s not until later many years later that I realise what the joy in this moment was telling me; that freedom is one of the highest values I cherish. Freedom of expression, freedom to live life according to our own agenda, gifts and talents, freedom to contribute to the world in the way we want, freedom to allow others to be their own exquisite selves. Freedom from shame, expectations and internally or externally-imposed limitations. Freedom to be ourselves, fully and unashamedly.
Another seed of my calling.
These moments didn’t give me direct answers. But they helped me understand more about my values and what makes me happy. And there are many more moments I could allude to; all pieces of the puzzles that have helped me get closer to my ‘bliss’, even though it’s an ongoing journey that reveals more and more of itself as life goes on.
So I wonder, what are those moments in your life that made you genuinely happy? What were they trying to tell you about what you value and cherish most in life? And what guidance were they giving you about your inspired path and purpose?
Take the time to reflect on your blissfully happy moments and ask yourself what’s hiding in there. You might just find the next clue that will light your way on the road to following your bliss.
I was sitting on the terrace of a beautiful outdoor cafe in a leafy green suburb right on the beach. The warm sun was gently warming my shoulders and there was a gentle breeze in the air. I’d just been for a swim in the clear, blue waters of the Indian Ocean. The underwater visibility was beautiful as I swam to the edge of the pier and back, watching the ripples of sand on the ocean floor and fish swimming by in small schools. Stepping out of the water I felt cleansed, nourished and uplifted.
Now as I was waiting for my coffee and breakfast to arrive I glanced over at the waitress serving our group of tables outside on the peaceful terrace. She looked relaxed, happy and sun-kissed, as though she’d had a fun, long summer, probably stopping to work for a few months here on the West Coast as she backpacked around Australia, gathering by the Irish lilt in her accent. She looked focused on the milk she was frothing for the cappuccinos she was preparing, in a joyful and contented way. She laughed and tossed her hair as a passing colleague made a funny comment. I was suddenly struck by an enormous feeling of envy at the ease and joy she exuded, of the deep sense of peace and happiness she seemed to feel.
How long had it been since I had felt so at ease and in love with life? I had once been like that, just like this carefree waitress, I remember it well; that feeling of light-heartedness, spontaneity, ease, and joy.
How had my life become so difficult, dark and heavy?
Since those uncomplicated and carefree days in my late teens and early twenties, it felt like my life had been slipping deeper and deeper into an abyss and I had no hope of clawing my way back out. I’d been through a five-year battle with chronic fatigue, my parents’ heart-wrenching divorce, enormous struggle to establish my career, struggle setting up my life in another country and in a new language, difficult relationships, the pain of ‘unexplained infertility’ and most recently, two devastating miscarriages that turned my whole world upside down. It took all my willpower just to get out of bed in the mornings and to face another day, when all I wanted to do was pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep, or better still – never wake up.
I had recently walked into my manager’s office at work and told him that I needed to take two months off work. I couldn’t go on any longer. I was on the verge of a breakdown and I just could not keep up the facade. I needed help, I needed time out. Until this point, I had pushed through every difficulty of my life, never giving up, always pushing on, always struggling through. I had been intent on never letting anyone down, of fulfilling my duties and obligations no matter what state I was in. I had no more strength to do this. I was drained and depleted.
My cup was empty, every last drop.
This was the first time in my life that I had put my own needs first, by deciding to take time off work and just be for two months. Even though I was exhausted and felt so incredibly run down, I drove down to the beach each morning to enjoy the soothing calm of the waves lapping the sand and to watch the birds frolic in the waves, to try to instil some peace and comfort within my being.
I had never before felt entitled to take time out of the rat race to honour my needs, to listen to my body and heed the whispers of my heart. I had always felt a sense of duty to go on, a responsibility to keep contributing my salary to our household income and fulfil my work obligations, to put on a brave face and soldier on no matter what inner guidance I may have been getting. But losing our second pregnancy, after trying to create our family for so long, was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
The sense of grief and anguish was so deep and heart-wrenching, the pain touched every part of my being in every single waking moment. I was heart-broken and depleted. It was simply no longer possible to muster the energy to pretend everything was OK. It was not OK. After almost fifteen years of pain and struggle I had finally realised that this was very far from OK. Something had to change.
In that moment on the café terrace at the beach, as I sat in silence enjoying my coffee, it suddenly dawned on me that I had the power to change my life.
Until now I had felt trapped in my chosen career path and life circumstances. I had invested so much in my career, I couldn’t possibly abandon it … could I? Is it possible to leave something behind when you’ve invested your sweat and tears in it, when you’ve depleted and drained yourself to achieve it, when you’ve spent more than fifteen years pursuing it and dedicated every cell of your being to it? And you’ve finally got there? When you’ve finally built up the career and reputation you’d been working so hard to achieve all those years? Could I leave all that now and finally admit that I had been barking up the wrong tree? That this is absolutely not how I want to spend the rest of my life? That this life I’ve been living is not me?
There was something inside me in that moment that changed forever. I finally opened to the possibility that perhaps I could decide to leave my career behind to pursue something closer to my heart, more aligned to my strengths. Perhaps I could do something that brings me real joy and flows naturally and easily to me. Until now my career and way of life had been nothing but struggle and an uphill battle, I’d been desperately trying to prove myself in a world that was not authentically mine.
I’d always felt a little like a fraud and a square peg in a round hole, in my corporate career that valued logic, rational thought and ladder-climbing. While deep down I knew my strengths are creativity, linguistics and human relations. The only way I felt I could be accepted and respected in my corporate career was to be outstanding at what I did. That way no one could detect that I was putting on a facade.
What would it feel like to let down the facade, to drop the act and discover the real me?
And that’s when a voice deep within me said “Yes. Give up. Listen to your heart for once and follow its guidance. You’ve been ignoring it since you were a teenager. Look where it’s gotten you. Sure, you’ve climbed your way up the academic and corporate ranks, you’ve gathered nice titles behind your name and achieved great things, but at what cost? Is this what living life is about? Being forced to take time off work because you’re on the verge of breaking down completely; living life in a heavy fog of sadness, exhaustion, depletion and anxiety? Life is not meant to be this difficult!”
As I let the thought “give up” enter and permeate my being, something happened. It felt as though a veil was slowly lifting around me and light was slowly seeping in. Suddenly the colours around me seemed brighter, the sounds became louder, I could see a beetle on the tree a few metres away from me and appreciate its intricate beauty. A lightness filled my being, a feeling I had not felt in a very long time.
In that moment I knew. This was a turning point. It was time for me to reclaim my life.
It was time for me to listen to my heart, to be true to myself, to acknowledge that I had been living my life according to other people’s expectations, that I had abandoned the desires of my heart to pursue a life that was not authentically my own. And now I had the power to change that.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy to give up my career and pursue something closer to my heart. There would be many people surprised by my decision and perhaps many who would be disappointed. There would be many who would laugh. But now that I’d felt the connection to my heart’s desires and the subsequent energetic lift that it created, there was no going back.
The ‘good girl’ in me no longer cared about what others thought; it was time for me to like the life I live.
Like all big milestones in life, my fortieth birthday really got me thinking and reflecting.
Unlike the months leading up to my thirtieth birthday that were filled with dread, resistance, and melancholy, I felt strangely at peace about turning forty and even a sense of excited optimism…. mingled with a small but definite dose of denial.
I can still remember clearly when my Dad turned forty when I was a young girl and thinking “Wow, now my dad really is old now.” It was a scary thought that my Dad was now considered to be ‘mid-life’, with everybody telling him “It’s all downhill from here, buddy”.
And then seemingly out of nowhere, it was my turn to turn forty. This one definitely snuck up on me from behind.
It seems like only yesterday I was graduating from high school, feeling like the future was vast and limitless. We buried a time capsule on the school grounds in our final days of school that contained a letter to our future selves ten years down the track, saying what we hoped to do in the next ten years. Ten years seemed so long and far away back then. I had so many ideas about what I would be and have by then. And yet here I am, out of school for well more thantwenty years, wondering how it all went so fast.
Sure, lots has happened in that time. I’ve lived in eight different countries, had lots of adventures and weathered many turbulent storms.
But still, it’s hard to fathom that I’mnow considered to be mid-life, relegated to the ranks of “old farts”, the ones who have to scroll down for ages to find their birth year.
Given how quickly the past twenty years have gone, and how suddenly my fortieth seems to have come around, there’s only one conclusion I can come to about all of this, and that is:
Life is short.
And it goes way too fast.
They’re standard old clichés, but it’s finally sunk in that they’re true.
Seeing this clearly has made me re-think how I want to live my next forty years if I’m blessed to live that long or (hopefully) longer. Here are my suggestions for those of us entering the post-forty years.
6 Ways to Embrace Life After 40
1. Enjoy the journey, there is no destination.
We will never ‘get there’, wherever ‘there’ is. When I was younger I thought I’d have my life all nicely wrapped up by the time I’d be forty – the perfect career, perfect family, perfect home, perfect lifestyle. I hadn’t realized how much I still had to learn about myself and about life, and that the only way I’d get to know all this would be through riding the beautiful yet sometimes ugly and brutal roller coaster of life. I didn’t know that despite which destination I had in mind, life had a mind all if its own. And there were lessons I needed to learn, even when I didn’t particularly want to learn those lessons.
I had no idea I would spend the first 35 years of my life trying to live up to the expectations of others, deaf to the whispers of my own heart. I didn’t know it would take a crisis to wake me up to my authentic desires and to have the courage to follow them.
My point is, it doesn’t matter if we don’t get it ‘right’, whatever that is.
There’s no one keeping score.
The journey of life has an infinite number of paths it could follow and so many ‘sliding door’ moments. Each path we choose teaches us something about ourselves. And I think that’s the whole point, to get to know ourselves, to grow and develop, to appreciate every experience life has to offer, no matter how good or bad.
The optimism I feel about my forties comes from the freedom of deciding to live life on my terms, in alignment with my heart, and nothing less.
2. Do what you love and do it often.
Life is short as we know. You only get one shot at it. So why waste time doing things you don’t enjoy? Why not find out what you love doing and do it often and if possible, all the time? We’ve all heard the saying “If you love what you do, you’ll never work another day in your life”. That seems to me the ultimate joy, turning your passion and joy into your day job.
But it can also be just in the small things. Find out what makes your heart sing. Develop a relationship with your heart and hear what it’s trying to tell you. Maybe it wants to finally to go those dancing classes, or take walks on the beach at sunset, or move to the countryside. For me, a big one is travel and exploring the world. The more I can do of this, the happier my soul feels. Or maybe your heart wants to do something even bolder – give up that job, move cities or start that business you’ve been dreaming of for years. Whatever it is, find your passion and make it come alive. My biggest fear is getting to 80 and wishing I’d done all those things I love while I still had the health and ability to do them.
But it takes a lot of courage to follow our hearts, to take that leap of faith out of our comfort zone and into the unknown. We shouldn’t expect the path of the heart to be easy; it will by necessity shake things up in life. Any big change requires a period of upheaval, and that scares us.
As Gregg Lavoy says in his book Callings:
“Generally, people won’t pursue their callings until the fear of doing so is finally exceeded by the pain of not doing so, but it’s appalling how high a threshold people have for this quality of pain”.
3. Make more time for good friends.
Life is busy and before you know it, months can pass without spending much time with good friends and loved ones. We all need to spend more time with those special people who bring us alive, who make us laugh and who love us no matter what we say or do. There’s a saying:
“It’s not how we feel about the person that matters but rather how we feel about ourselves when we’re with them.” – Unknown.
Some people just make us feel good about ourselves. They inspire us and support us to be a better person. They mirror back all our positive qualities through their unconditional love and space of non-judgment. And they’re just fun to be with. If you’re blessed to have at least a few of those people in your life, spend more time with them. Plan the next catch up and make it a regular thing. After all, the true beauty of life is not in anything we can do or achieve but in enjoying the connections we have with others.
4. Be more present.
Given the hectic nature of life, it’s easy to get caught up in the chaos, with our minds either on what needs to happen next or what happened in the past. It’s a challenge to be right there in the moment with the people around us. It’s the tragedy of our times to see more than half the people in a bar or restaurant on their smartphones, rather than talking to the person they’re with. This is something I’m consciously practicing more and more; to put away all distractions and to be fully ‘with’ the person I’m with. I know how much I appreciate it when someone actually gives me their undivided attention. We need to do less multi-tasking and be more present.
5. Feel genuine, heartfelt gratitude.
One of our dear friends recently passed away very suddenly after running a half marathon. He was only 40 years old and very fit and very healthy. It was such a terrible and tragic shock for all of us; one that we’re still coming to terms with. He left behind his beautiful wife and two young daughters, who won’t have the joy of his presence as they grow older. This shock of losing someone dear to our hearts brought the finite nature of life even closer to home.
It’s a privilege to grow old, one not afforded to everybody. Next time you cringe at your wrinkles in the mirror, bless them instead, for at least they mean you’ve lived long enough to earn them. And wrinkles around your eyes are a sign of how much you’ve laughed. Don’t get me wrong, I still find it hard to accept the first signs of aging in my body (was that really a grey hair? Are my hands really starting to look like my Granny’s? Is that really the start of a varicose vein on my leg?). But at the same time, it means I’m still here and growing older. Which means I’m able to be with my family and watch my boys grow older, and that right there is a blessing to be grateful for every day.
6. Laugh, sing and dance more.
Laughing is a tonic for the soul. There’s nothing as good as laughing so hard that your tummy or cheeks hurt right? Or singing your lungs out when that favourite old song comes on the radio and you can turn it up full bore, feeling all the emotion and joy the song brings as memories come flooding back. Or dancing freely and letting your hair down, feeling care-free and alive. These are all things I hope to do more of as I grow older, because I want to enjoy this wild and beautiful roller coaster ride as much as I can.
Bring on the forties, let’s try to embrace this ‘getting old’ business with open arms!
From the luxury and comfort of a French maternity hospital to the hustle and chaos of a South Korean birthing clinic, my two birthing experiences couldn’t have been more different!
I hadn’t quite realised at the time just how spoilt I was to be giving birth to our first child at the American Hospital in Paris. We’d been posted to Paris for my husband’s work for two years when I was six months pregnant back in 2011. Moving to the City of Love, home of crispy baguettes, aesthetic beauty, fashion, and delicious pastries was a beautiful opportunity that we were super excited to undertake.
When we first arrived in Paris our highest priority was, of course, finding somewhere to give birth.
My husband’s colleagues all highly recommended the American Hospital (L’Hôpital Américain de Paris) and, not knowing any alternatives and having limited time to explore them, we promptly booked ourselves in for an intake appointment with a lovely American obstetrician at the hospital. She made us feel completely at home and comfortable with giving birth there, which as nervous first-time parents was a huge relief. Despite the fact that we sometimes had to wait in her waiting room for up to three hours for appointments and that it was a one hour bus ride from central Paris where we were living, we felt it was worthwhile sticking with her given her impressive track record of delivering babies, her friendly and comforting style and the positive word of mouth feedback that we consistently heard from friends and colleagues.
Our mastery of the French language when we first arrived in Paris was sketchy to say the least, so it was a relief to find a native English speaking obstetrician. She was the only such native English speaker we were to come across at the hospital, despite the name ‘American Hospital’. The hospital was formed in 1906 as a place for American residents to get American-trained medical care in their own language.
The hospital treated Allied soldiers in both World Wars I and II, with many surgeons and doctors playing an active part in the underground Resistance in WWII.
Brave doctors helped soldiers recover from war wounds and then be smuggled out of German-occupied France with the help of Resistance workers, instead of being held as POWs in Paris (the hospital played a fascinating role during WWII, rich with both inspirational and tragic stories). However, over time the hospital has evolved into more of a ‘standard’ French hospital, with predominantly French physicians and nurses and these days English speaking service is hard to come by. But it’s still one of the best maternity hospitals that can be found in Paris these days and we were very lucky that our insurance covered our stay there.
So, during the birth of our first little boy Jack, we struggled by in our limited French and the midwives struggled by in their limited English, but luckily the similarities between French and English are just enough to be able to pick up the gist of what’s being said.
While at the time we thought we’d struggled with a large language barrier in France, we later came to realise what a reallanguage barrier feels like while giving birth in South Korea!
The French have quite a beautiful birthing philosophy. Not having given birth anywhere else before I have nothing to compare it to of course, but now having given birth again in South Korea I realise that the French approach is centred around immediate bonding with the newborn child. Directly after I’d given birth, our baby boy Jack was put on my chest and allowed to stay there for around 20 minutes, giving him a chance to try suckling for the first time, which he took to like a natural. When we’d had a chance to spend some quality time with him, admiring his little hands and beautiful face, the nurses asked if they could take him to give him a bath and do some quick tests. After that, they dressed him and put him into a little bed on wheels and we were all taken back to our private room, where we were left to enjoy ourselves as our new little family of three. The staff did their best to allow us maximum privacy and family time. We had a buzzer we could press if we ever needed anything.
The service and after-care at the American Hospital resembled a five-star hotel more than a hospital.
The rooms were large, spacious and modern, with a super comfortable reclining bed with remote control, making it easy to adjust your position up or down to sleep or feed. The bathrooms were spacious with a large, hot shower. We had a television in our room, a fridge, a space to change and care for the baby and a mattress was organised so my husband could spend the nights with us in hospital. Perhaps the most amazing thing about the stay in hospital was the food. We all know the French love their food, and this hospital was no exception. We were brought three course meals three times a day, including exotic dishes such as Cordon Bleu, roast beef and vegetables, steamed salmon and roast potatoes, always with a delicious soup and dessert to go with it. And on top of that, the kitchen staff provided the breastfeeding mothers with an extra supply of yoghurts and cheeses to keep us going during the night feeds – so good.
We were allowed to stay in hospital for five days and with no extended family around in Paris to help (my mother would arrive two weeks later), we decided to take full advantage of these five days to rest and recover. We were definitely in no rush to leave, given the amazing care we’d been receiving from the sweet and caring nurses, the regular follow up visits from our obstetrician and the excellent food. Then nurses took great care to help me get my breastfeeding established smoothly during those five days which was a great help, given some of the initial teething problems I had. Both my husband and I felt strangely sad on the fifth day when we had to go home, after such a sweet first birthing experience.
It was maternity heaven.
Fast forward almost three years and now we’re based on Geoje Island in South Korea, a small island with a large shipbuilding industry, containing two of the largest shipbuilding yards in the world – Samsung and Daewoo. Given the high demand for workers here, many thousands of expats have flocked here to support the fast-paced, high-tech engineering and construction projects underway on the island. So despite its fairly remote location (located off the south-eastern tip of South Korea), there’s a surprisingly high number of bars, cafes, restaurants, and facilities for foreigners and a thriving expat community, which makes it quite fun to live here. Not to mention the beautiful scenery and easy access to great hiking trails, cycling, kayaking and picturesque beaches.
But perhaps the nicest thing about living in Korea is the friendly, kind and welcoming nature of the South Korean people. Always smiling, nodding and bowing, the South Koreans are an innately happy and friendly people, seemingly always ready to welcome foreigners into their world (a different experience to Paris on that level!).
They love children and are always offering treats and cuddles to our little two-year-old Jack. Their tolerance of our inability to speak their language is amazing, but also makes most of us very lazy and give up too easily on the language lessons, given how easy they make it for us to get away with not speaking Korean (again, a different story to France!). I feel incredibly guilty about this. It’s the first time in my life I’ve lived in another country and made very little effort to speak the local language. In my international adventures so far, I’ve lived in South America, Italy, Holland for many years and finally France, picking up the languages of Spanish, Italian, Dutch and French along the way. However this time, due to life circumstances (a small toddler, a busy study schedule, and frankly a good dose of laziness), I haven’t put in any time to master even the basics of Korean, which feels quite disrespectful to the local people. So I only have myself to blame that the language barrier during our second birthing experience was even harder than we’d expected…
I gave birth to our second baby boy Lio in a birthing clinic called Elle Medi in downtown Gohyeon (one of the two main towns) on Geoje Island. It’s quite unique how things are set up here. The birthing clinic is on level 5 of a multi-story building on the main, busy shopping street. On the ground floor is a large electronics shop selling Korea’s famous brands such as LG and Samsung, on the second floor is a pizzeria and a dentist, on the third floor a dermatology and skin clinic, and then on level 4 a post-birthing clinic where mothers can go to rest and recover while having their babies cared for in a nursery as needed (the Koreans pay top dollar for this service, which includes pampering services such as massage and pedicures for the mothers). So in contrast to the western world where maternity wards are generally part of a larger hospital on private hospital grounds, here in Korea the birthing clinics can be found on the main shopping strip, mixed in with a host of other non-maternity related shops and services.
It felt quite bizarre to be stepping into the lift to go to give birth while others were entering the lift with their hot pizza boxes or heading to their dental appointments.
Perhaps the first experience that let us know things were going to be different was when we were led to a small room behind the reception area of the birthing clinic to be admitted as an in-patient, once it had been confirmed I was officially in labour. This tiny room was where I would eventually give birth later that evening. The first thing my husband noticed was the hair all over the floor. Bless the Koreans, I love them so much, but their hygiene standards definitely are different to ours! My husband insisted that someone come in straight away to clean up all the hair on the floor as we prepared to bunker down for delivery. A cleaner appeared immediately with a wet mop, and seemed to push the (now wet) hairs around rather than actually clean them up. Sigh. But it was going to have to do.
The midwives were lovely and spoke a couple or words of English; enough to communicate the main substance of what needed to be said – mostly. I’d been told previously that it wasn’t part of standard Korean procedure to put the baby on the mother’s chest straight after delivery and that I would need to ask specifically for this to happen. After asking, the midwife went off to ask someone if that would be possible and she came back saying it should be OK. As labour progressed I was cursing and wishing I’d spent more time attending Korean language classes so I could communicate better or at least understand what was being said around me, as the situation started heating up and our baby started descending down the birth canal. Given that it was our second baby, things went very fast and before I knew it I was 10 cm dilated and the obstetrician was being ushered in quickly, all sterile birthing equipment was brought in quickly and I was being asked to push. I desperately wanted to squat or bend over forwards as that felt like the only natural and comfortable way to deliver, but I was forced to lie with my legs in stirrups which was incredibly uncomfortable. I kept yelling out in pain and was told repeatedly by the midwives to “Shoosh!”
There’s nothing that makes you angrier while giving birth than being told to be quiet!
Within minutes (of extreme pain that I’ll thankfully never have to experience again) our beautiful second baby boy was born. After my husband cut the umbilical cord I was allowed to hold our little Lio briefly. But within two minutes he was whisked away off to the nursery for testing and the standard Korean procedure for many birthing clinics: 4 hours in a 37 degree Celsius incubator. Even if the birth has gone smoothly and there is no reason to suspect any issues, all babies are required to spend the first four hours of their life in an incubator. We couldn’t quite understand the point of this (that language barrier again), and we were told they would bring our baby to our room at midnight (he was born at 8PM). Given that I’d only seen him for 2 minutes, I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing him for four hours. And it felt wrong for him to be in an incubator by himself when he’d been snug in my womb for nine months.
We were allowed to look at him through the glass window of the nursery, and we could see him lying in the small Perspex incubator, flapping his arms and legs about and searching around with his head. It broke my heart; I wanted and needed to be holding him.
We approached the nursery staff and asked them if we could take him out of the incubator, at which point we were told “no” – we could have him at midnight. My husband entered a full-blown negotiating procedure, trying to bargain his release at 10 PM. They insisted that the hospital procedure required them to keep him there for 4 hours. We walked away and discussed the situation, gradually getting more and more angry that we weren’t able to hold our precious baby. We agreed to walk back and insist we take him out; he was our baby after all! After more resistance on behalf of the nursery staff.
I think they sensed I was going to explode or make a scene if they didn’t release our baby.
After lots of emotional sign language back and forth, they finally agreed to let us have him within 10 minutes. The relief I felt when I could finally hold him again was huge; it even seemed like Lio breathed a big sigh of relief himself, his short, quick breathing settled down and he quickly started purring with satisfaction.
The night in the hospital was tough. After delivery, we were transferred to a tiny room where we would spend the night. It had a bed, a small table, a tiny bathroom with a toilet and a shower hose next to it that you couldn’t use without drenching the entire bathroom (which was probably 1 x 1.5 m wide). It’s the Korean tradition to sleep on the floor in their homes, with only a small rubber mattress under their bedding, so they’re accustomed to very hard beds. The hospital bed was a simple single bed, rock hard, with a single hard pillow, making it almost impossible to prop yourself up to breastfeed. After the pain and discomfort of labor I was in need of some deep rest, but I couldn’t find a single comfortable position on the bed to get myself into sleep at all. So I spent the night listening to our baby boy’s breathing and purring, feeding him every 2-3 hours propped up uncomfortably on my hard bed, and being interrupted every few hours by nurses coming in to check blood pressure, temperature and take blood samples.
I was an exhausted wreck the following morning.
I realised the next morning that I was one of many mothers who had given birth in recent days. It was a small birthing clinic with probably only around 10 small rooms, and it seemed each room was full. The clinic was hustling and bustling with post-labour mothers walking around with their saline drips attached; it’s custom in Korea for everyone admitted into hospital to be hooked up to a drip no matter how mild their condition, so it’s a common sight to see patients walking around pushing their drip poles in front of them. It makes it really hard going to the toilet and changing clothes while being constantly attached to a drip.
Lio was taken for several tests the following morning, and we were even required to take him in the car for an appointment with an English speaking paediatrician several blocks away for more tests, given that the in-house paediatrician spoke no English (damn that language barrier again!). So we bundled him up and prepared him for his first car trip at only 12 hours old. My husband took him off to his appointment while I stayed behind and watched some of the scenes in the nursery. Given how soft, courteous and friendly the Koreans are in public life, I was surprised to see how rough the nurses were with the newborn babies. They picked them up and roughly propped them on their shoulders, pushing a bottle in their mouth if they fussed, and pulling their clothes on and off with no tenderness. To settle them they thumped the babies on their backs with what looked like considerable force.
We’d experienced this style previously when our two-year-old son Jack was in hospital here in Geoje with a broken leg; there was no cooing or gentle sweet-talking before the required interventions they needed to undertake. They would simply launch into a blood test or medical procedure without any of the friendly and comforting communication we’re used to from staff in western hospitals, leaving Jack with quite a bit of trauma and dislike of doctors and nurses. Hospitals here and the medical profession seem to be very business-like, with staff getting on with their jobs as fast and efficiently as possible.
Efficiency seems to be the most important goal – not patient comfort.
Needless to say, we wanted to get home as fast as possible after delivering Lio, back to the comforts of our own home. In contrast to Paris where we didn’t want to leave the hospital, we couldn’t get home fast enough this time around. Fortunately, our birth went smoothly and I was recovering well, so I was able to be released within 24 hours, even though I was warned that Korean insurance would not cover me for medical problems if I left before the required minimum of 48 hours. We considered it worth the risk.
So how would I summarise the Korean birthing experience? In one word – interesting. The most important thing was that the level of medical expertise was high and our baby was delivered safely and smoothly. The doctors and nurses were highly trained and knew exactly what they were doing.
At the end of the day, that’s all that matters. All the rest is of secondary importance, and well – not important at all really.
We’ve had beautiful weather the past 10 days since our beautiful little boy was born, and so we’ve ventured out a few times already for a walk and a coffee, with our little man rugged up in his winter clothes. We’ve definitely shocked a few of the local Koreans, getting out and about with such a small baby. In Korean tradition, all Korean mothers should stay indoors for at least 49 days, eating only seaweed soup and rice, with the indoor heating turned up high. While the new mothers are allowed to bathe their lower half for medical reasons, they’re not allowed to shower for at least 49 days. The baby isn’t allowed out of the house for at least 100 days. So when the locals see our little less-than-two-weeks-old baby out for a walk or sleeping in the cafe while we sit and enjoy a cup of coffee, we get many surprised looks ranging from shock, disgust and disbelief to amazement and wonder. It’s definitely a big point of difference between our cultural conditioning! I find it so interesting to observe what’s considered ‘normal’ within different cultures, depending on the traditions and practices we grow up with.
So from Paris to Geoje Island, my two little boys have come into this world in completely different ways within contrasting cultural settings. It’s been fascinating to observe the way things are done so differently in different places. In closing I extend my heartfelt gratitude to our wonderful obstetrician Dr Lee at the Elle Medi clinic for his great job in delivering Lio safely into the world, and all the other staff who helped us with his smooth arrival into this strange and fascinating world. With an international start to life, I wonder what other adventures await our little boys as they grow up.
Time will tell.
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Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International
The poor little thing was promptly put into a full body cast to give his femur the best chance of recovery. But it meant that he was bed-ridden and stuck in the same position for five long, whole weeks. At the age of only two years old, they were five looooong weeks. There were two positions he was able to lie in; either on his stomach with pillows propped under his chest, or on his back with pillows propped under his leg. And he needed us to turn him over each time he wanted to move from one side to the other.
For a little toddler who loved the joy of independence – he could run around by himself, play football, fly around on his scooter, feed himself, play with whichever toys he wanted when he wanted – this sudden reversion to complete dependence on us to do everything for him again, including moving and feeding him, was a big shock to his little system and abig frustration for his young little psyche.
Jack in hospital in his half-body cast to allow his broken femur to mend itself
How do you explain all of this to a toddler so that they understand what’s going on in a way that makes sense to them?
We were overwhelmed in the first week by all the support we received from our little community here in Korea. Our friends brought in home-cooked meals each night to the hospital, we had many visits from Jack’s little friends who brought along new toys, to Jack’s temporary delight. This buoyed our spirits and helped us get through that tough first week of shock and disbelief at the situation we were now confronted with.
And then the long recovery period set in.
Each day seemed eternal and was spent watching movies, playing with toys and gadgets, in between turning him from one side to the other. Nights were horrendous, the poor little thing couldn’t get comfortable and woke every two to three hours in discomfort from not being able to move and needing us to help ease his discomfort. My husband and I began to feel like parents with a newborn baby again, surviving in a haze of sleepless nights and stress.
My mantra became “This too shall pass”.
Each night I would collapse into bed and sigh with relief that we were one day closer to the end. We still received the occasional visits from friends, but as with all chronic, long-term illnesses or situations, people have to get back to their own busy lives and you’re left to wallow in your own miserable situation alone. I’ve experienced this before in life with losses; the high of friendship and support when something bad happens, and then the loneliness and desperation when everyone gets back to life while you’re still stuck with your suffocating grief, with nothing to do but endure it alone.
It was just Jack and I at home alone while my husband was at work, toughing it out together, crying and sometimes laughing together, like two mad hatters; riding the extreme emotional roller coaster that it was.
We had good days and bad days. And let’s face it, the bad days really sucked. Some days he would have an outburst of anger and frustration that could last up to an hour, desperately trying to release the negative emotion that had pent up in his little body. He would throw things and bite, hit things and scream with flailing arms and legs. The more I tried to comfort him the angrier he would get, so I would just sit next to him and cry myself, feeling completely powerless to help him, except try to explain again that he would be better soon and to let him know I was here for him. It was always a matter of letting him ride it out, express his anger and frustration, and be there for him to cuddle once he calmed down, which he always did, like a duck that’s shaken off the frustration after an angry encounter with another duck.
I learned a lot from his ability to rage and rant, express the furious emotion he was feeling, and then revert back to happy acceptance shortly after. Amazing.
It’s now seven weeks after the incident and he’s wearing a full leg splint now, the awful cast has been removed and his hips and other leg are now free, giving him some mobility again. His mood has improved out of sight since he’s been able to roll around on his own, crawl and even walk a little. His little face lights up with delight when he manages to stand up by himself, it makes our heart melt. He’ll be so happy when he’s able to walk again by himself. Each week at the check-up with the surgeon we secretly hope the surgeon will say he’s ready to walk freely again. And then at the sound of “perhaps one or two more weeks” my energy drops, I cry inside, and then I muster up the energy to get through another seemingly eternal week. With any luck, they’ll be able to remove the splint this week and he’ll be back to normal, with a little rehabilitation.
Here’s Jack finally in his full leg splint after 6 weeks in a half-body cast and unable to move #hooray
In the midst of all this, I was unable to do any work or any of the many things I’d planned before the incident. At first I resisted this enormously, trying to squeeze in a work module while he was watching a movie, even though I would be interrupted every five minutes when he wanted a cookie, or a different toy, or just to feel my presence and not my distracted half-presence.
Eventually, I had to give up hopes of achieving anything and surrender to the situation. I was being asked to let go and be with what is, as hard as that is for many of us.
When we get thrown a curve ball, we have to let go of the ideal goals or future we had in mind and accept the situation that’s right in front of us.
The easiest days in this past seven weeks have been those where I’ve surrendered to the day ahead and embraced the chaos. There were days where I screamed into my pillows myself and beat the hell out of them in sheer anger and frustration, or where I spent half the day in tears feeling so sad and powerless to make Jack feel any better. And then there were days where we both felt peace with the situation and even had fun together, laughing at silly videos or his dad’s funny evening dancing episodes. The more we embraced the chaos, the easier things seemed to be. Perhaps that was my lesson in all of this? Don’t fight it. Surrender and go with the flow, as undesired as that flow in life may sometimes be.
Is surrendering any easier? Not really. It’s tough and challenging too and frankly just sucks sometimes. But it’s also strangely liberating when we realise we can’t actually control any of this, so why bother?
As Elizabeth Gilbert says so well:
“If you can get some stuff done in the chaos sometimes, God bless you. If you can basically hold it together, propping yourself up with duct tape and glue, rock on. If you can manage to stay upright even one hour a day, you’re doing pretty great, as far as I’m concerned. And if you can be kind to the other stumbling fools around you half the time — well, that’s just heroic.”
Amen to that.
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In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International
Every once in a while when life seems to be sailing along pretty smoothly, we can get thrown a curve ball that stirs things up a little … and well, sometimes a lot.
We’ve all encountered those really difficult, uncomfortable situations where we think “Oh no… not this, not now…”. We struggle to see how we’re going to cope with the situation and start wondering what on earth we did to deserve this awful hand of cards.
And if someone tries to make us feel better by saying something like “It could be worse”, or the one that can really get up my nose if I’m in the middle of one of these situations: “You’re exactly where you need to be”… it can really take all your willpower to not pull your hand out and slap them.
We’ve had one of those situations recently.
A little over ten days ago my little two-year-old boy had a nasty fall from his scooter and broke his femur bone clean in two. It was nasty and really painful for the poor little guy.
We rushed him to emergency at the nearest hospital here in Geoje, South Korea, where after a fast set of X-rays the doctors determined they needed to undergo a rapid procedure to put his leg in a traction device to stretch the leg and pull the contracted muscles back out, to give the leg the best chance of re-aligning before surgery. The trouble was, we couldn’t communicate with the doctors given that our Korean is really very poor and their English not so good either. Before our eyes, they started pulling out all kinds of horrid looking tools and equipment, including a hand drill that they proceeded to use to push a metal pin through Jack’s knee. As I was jumping up and down in panic and yelling “Anesthetic! Anesthetic!”, our poor boy was screaming in pain and asking me to stop it, as the doctors pushed on with the procedure, nodding their heads giving some kind of indication that the drill they were using somehow contained anesthetic and would numb the pain eventually.
Jack post-surgery in his half-body cast in which he would remain for the next 6 weeks
After placing about 5 kg of weight onto the end of the traction device that was pulling his leg from the knee, we were ushered back to a waiting bay, where we were told that we would have to stay in hospital overnight, and probably for weeks.
For some strange reason, I’d thought they would fix us up and just send us home. At this point, our poor little boy was in raging pain, with the enormous weight pulling on his fragile and broken leg, while a doctor mentioned something in jilted English about surgery the next day. We had no idea what the surgery was for and if it was necessary, or what on earth our options were to help our little boy.
Fortunately, we were able to call in a translator from my husband’s work who was able to converse with the doctors and explain everything to us in detail. What a relief, that someone was taking the time to slow down and explain the whole rationale behind our hospitalisation, the surgery that would follow, why it was necessary and how he would recover from here on in. They explained they would send his X-rays away to get a second opinion on the treatment options.
Phew. He was going to be OK.
That night as poor Jack lay in his horrendous traction device resembling something out of a middle age torture chamber, he struggled to find any comfort and every small movement he made sent shudders of pain through his body that made him scream in agony. We were fortunate that the lovely old Korean lady in our shared room was very understanding and tried to comfort us in her sweet way as she made her way to empty her bedpan several times that night. Neither Jack nor I slept a wink due to his pain. It was one of the most awful things I’ve experienced and broke my heart to see him hurting so terribly and to be so powerless to do anything about it, except give him the occasional shot of paracetamol and stroke his head telling him he would be OK.
Fortunately, his surgery went well and things started improving. His hips, legs and one foot were completely enclosed in a full cast to avoid any movement in the thigh area. We were moved to a lovely room and we began the week of waiting, going off for X-rays, taking blood samples, chatting to doctors and nurses in broken English, waiting, waiting and more waiting. It was during this time the reality of the situation started to sink in. Jack would be in a cast and house-bound for 4-6 weeks. He would have to lie in the same position for that entire time. For an incredibly active young boy who loves nothing more than being outside and playing, running around, riding his scooter, playing football with his dad, this was going to be tough.
This was the ultimate challenge on so many levels. How were we going to get through this? How was he going to cope with this situation?
How were we going to entertain him and keep him stimulated six weeks long while he lies on his back? How was I ever going to get any free time to work?
As the dust started to settle from the initial shock of the situation and his healing process was progressing, I started to see the silver lining. Jack would recover from this; we had been told he should make a full recovery. Suddenly my heart went out to all those parents of children who are suffering from terminal illnesses. I felt the deep grief of their situation, the despair that must penetrate every waking moment of their lives.
Suddenly our discomfort seemed irrelevant and I felt an enormous wave of gratitude that our son was healthy and would recover from this.
Since then we’ve made a conscious decision to see the positives of our situation, taking one day at a time. We’ve relaxed into a space of acceptance and gratitude that sure, while this is challenging, it is also temporary and like all uncomfortable things, ‘this too shall pass’. The silver lining is becoming more and more apparent. This is an amazing opportunity to bond with our little man. Jack hasn’t had so many kisses and cuddles, skin to skin contact, one-on-one attention and dedicated play time as he has this past week. I’ve never had the opportunity to spend every waking moment and such quality time with him as I have had since the accident. I’d never noticed such minute details in his face, hands and feet before.
Usually, we’re rushing to get to school, playing with friends after school, getting ready for dinner, doing the night time routine.
While he usually gets kisses and cuddles, love and attention aplenty, this is different. It’s forced us into a level of presence that we haven’t had before.
I know I will look back on this time fondly as a beautiful time where we had the amazing opportunity to be next to each other all day long, simply enjoying each others’ presence. He’s had so many visits and help from caring friends that have made us realise how lucky we are and what a lovely community we have here. I’m even managing to get some work done while he watches a movie.
We all know the quote about the glass being half empty or half full.
When we choose to see the glass as half full, it’s as though we’re changing our reality simply through the way we’re choosing to see it.
The more I’ve focused on seeing the positives, the more positives I seem to be seeing. I’ve been amazed at the ease at which we’ve been able to adapt to this situation, simply through holding an attitude of gratitude and optimism. Or maybe I’m just having a good couple of days. Perhaps in two weeks time, I’ll be tearing my hair out and swearing and ranting and raving again.
Maybe then I’ll have to come back to this blog and remind myself to look for that silver lining again.
In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International
Have you experienced first-hand how the magic of the Law of Attraction can work in your business and life?
In 2015 I completed a great course for entrepreneurs and business owners called ‘Profit Quest’ by Jeanna Gabellini at Masterpeace Coaching. This was my first introduction into applying Law of Attraction principles into my business.
Her tagline that drew me into the course was:
“Double your profits, double your fun!”
When I first saw her promotions I thought “Wow, that’s a big call.” Can I really double my profits and double my fun in my small coaching business by the end of her course?
I enrolled in her course to find out and lo and behold – it appears her system really works.
It’s powerful and yet it’s so simple. And it’s based on the Law of Attraction.
Do you remember the big ‘hoo-ha’ surrounding the movie “The Secret” when it came out all those years ago? The movie was all about the Law of Attraction. I really liked the message in the movie, but at the time I thought it was also a bit simplistic and materialistic, telling people they could have whatever house or car they desire if they could just imagine having it.
But I’ve since realized that there’s much more to the Law of Attraction.
The Law of Attraction teaches you how to be a co-creator in your own life – to align yourself with a vision you love and then allow it to unfold.
The Law of Attraction is basically this: Like attracts like. So within, so without.
When you imagine having, being or doing something you care about deeply, something that feels joyful and exciting, you create an energetic ‘blueprint’ for what you desire. When you step back and surrender, and (importantly) believethat you can and will have the thing you desire, then quite miraculously, what you desire starts turning up in your life somehow. Not always straight away (although sometimes it does!); but the steps to reach it will start appearing. You’ll start getting intuitive insights into what you need to do. Suddenly you’ll meet the right person, or you’ll find the perfect resource to help you take the next steps.
The key is to let your imagination run wild and to feel into what you would really, really like to manifest in your life. And here is the catch – most of us are so trained into thinking a certain way; we have so many beliefs about what we think we can and can’t have. And when we focus on what we would really love to create in our life, we come up against all the internal, negative programming that tells us we can’t have that.
We’re not trained to dream big.
In fact, most of us have been taught to keep our dreams small.
One of the tasks we had to do early in the Profit Quest course was to define exactly how much money we would love to make by the end of the year, if everything in our business suddenly started aligning and flowing. This was quite difficult to do. At first my head took over and I wrote down a number that I thought I ould realisticallyachieve.
That number, however, is not a number that got me excited or inspired. We were asked to write down the dollar amount that would make us feel super excited – not a number too far out of our league that it feels impossible and overwhelming (hence leading to disappointment and fear of failure), but a number that feels like abigstretch, but also feels energizing and exciting.
So I wrote down a number that felt super exciting.
At the time I wrote it down, I didn’t actually believethat I could make that much money, but I thought it would be cool if I did!
When you allow yourself to think big like that, all of a sudden things start showing up that align with that vision. Since adopting this technique, I’ve experienced major positive growth in my business, all because I’ve managed to make big shifts in my internal mindset around what is possible for me, my business and my clients.
Jeanna makes a digital and hard-copy journal available called Speed Dial the Universe, which has been an incredibly powerful tool for me. It’s a daily reminder to dream big and to set your internal compass towards allowing miracles to manifest in your life. I was skeptical at first, but my experience with it has shown that it really does work. The journal is a fun way to start your day because it focuses your mind, body, and soul on positive outcomes that you desire in your life.
First, you need to be able to dream big and set a big, clear intention about what you want to create.
This isn’t easy when we first start out. Our internal beliefs put all kinds of limits on what we think is possible. But you can strengthen this ‘muscle’ and over time, if you commit to doing this practice daily, you will find that you’re able to allow yourself to dream bigger and bigger. And when you start seeing the signs and small steps of what you desire appearing in your life, it’s so much fun!
The other important ingredient is surrender. You have to set your clear intention and then let go. This part can be really hard! We’re so used to controlling everything we want to create in our lives. However, without surrender, you can’t be in a receptive state and be open to receive the insight and wisdom that’s trying to be transmitted to you.
And finally, belief. This is very intertwined with surrender and can be difficult. With many things that I write down in my journal, at the start I’m not sure I actually believeI can have those things. But I’m willing to write them down. And with this simple act, it opens the floodgates for possibility, belief, and optimism to flow in. And this allows us to start behaving as ifwe already have the thing we desire. This in itself opens the doors to miracles.
So when you start acting as though you already are someone who has the things you desire, you become a ‘vibrational match’ to the things you want, and you start attracting those things into your life.
Feel like giving it a try? Start dreaming big, focus daily on the things that you would really love to create in your life and then sit back and enjoy the ride. And let me know if anything shifts for you. As always I would love to hear from you!
To read more about The Law of Attraction and how to apply it in your life, take a look at my two recent blog posts:
There are so many great articles and resources available these days about ‘self-care’.
But sometimes our bodies and minds crave an even deeper level of care, which I refer to as ‘soul-care’.
Self-care strategies are wonderful and absolutely necessary to stop us from getting out of balance, stressed and unwell. Things like establishing a morning routine, scheduling days off or time out, journalling, and getting plenty of sleep are things we all need reminding about.
But I’ve been through some pretty heavy periods of extreme overwhelm in my life, and self-care strategies weren’t enough.
I desperately needed soul-care.
In this article today, I’m sharing strategies that I wish I’d known about back when I was in the middle of my challenging, dark years.
A little backstory so you understand where I’m coming from …
When I was in my twenties I suffered from a mystery illness that could only be explained by medical doctors as ‘chronic fatigue’. The doctors told me it was “all in your head” when blood tests appeared to show that everything was normal.
But I knew there was something seriously wrong. It started out as a very heavy fatigue and gradually turned into a living hell as I became overtaken by numerous viruses and infections.
I tried countless therapies and healing techniques while spending all my time (and money) going from one doctor, healer or therapist to another. Nothing seemed to help.
I managed to hold down my intense job as a Consulting Engineer through this whole period, but every day I would wake up feeling drained, ill and exhausted before the day even started. It was awful.
It wasn’t until someone suggested I go to the Tara Health Centre in Perth (Australia), where I was living at the time, that I was finally able to get the support I needed. Thanks to their cutting-edge, all natural diagnostic techniques and treatment methodologies, they were able to help me recover my energy and vitality in less than a year.
During the treatment process, it became apparent that I was under high levels of emotional stress.
As you probably know, emotional stress can have a profound impact on our health and well-being.
I was fortunate to find great therapists who told me that I needed to find ways to soothe and nourish myself emotionally, to support my physical recovery.
Up until that point, I’d never prioritised my own emotional well-being. Aside from doing regular yoga and meditation, I’d spent my years partying hard, studying hard and working hard trying to establish myself in the professional world and keep up my social life. I’d been stuck in a perpetual cycle of over-achievement, people-pleasing and self-neglect, all trying to seek the approval and validation that I so desperately craved.
There had been no time to seriously consider the needs of my soul.
But I now see clearly that that’s precisely why I developed the chronic fatigue in the first place.
I made a commitment to begin nurturing my soul and emotional well-being, and with time I started to really feel and appreciate the deep connection and interdependence between my emotional well-being and my physical health.
I’m passionate about helping you to find ways to nurture your emotional well-being so you can thrive, physically and emotionally.
One fantastic method that has profound positive impacts on your emotional well-being is The Healing Code, which I share in another blog article called The Healing Code: How to Reclaim Your Health & Well-Being in 3 Powerful Steps. I recommend having a read through this article to learn how you can heal illness and emotional pain using Dr. Alex Loyd’s simple yet very powerful process. It’s a technique I revert to time and time again when I experience illness or an emotionally painful situation.
More recently I came across Anthony William’s book Medical Medium, which describes ten beautiful ways for coming to a place of deep rest, connection, and nourishment, to enhance and maintain your emotional well-being. William is a medical psychic who has devoted his life to helping people overcome illness and disease, was four years old when he shocked his family by announcing at the dinner table that his symptom-free grandmother had lung cancer. Medical testing soon confirmed the diagnosis. Anthony is now the go-to healer for well-known people such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Naomi Campbell, and Christiane Northrup. Several of the techniques he describes in his book were new for me and I hope they provide you with some new ideas and inspiration to bring some more soul nourishment into your own life, as they have for me.
With all the focus and attention on the benefits of meditation these days, I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that meditation is first on Anthony’s list of methods to soothe your soul. You might be familiar with traditional forms of meditation, which involve sitting quietly and choosing a single thing to focus on, perhaps a mantra or a lit candle, or a recorded voice that guides your thoughts. In all cases, the intention is to quiet the ‘monkey mind’ that’s caught up in endless thoughts, to reach a state of stillness and to be able to access the intuitive guidance available underneath.
I like to think of it as being like a big lake that’s stirred up by river streams (thoughts) pouring in and out. When you stop the turbulence by stopping the flow of water in and out of the river, and allow your thoughts to become still, suddenly the water becomes quiet, the sediment starts to settle to the bottom and the water on top becomes crystal clear.
These moments of stillness and clarity have profound positive effects on your body, mind and soul.
If you’re fortunate enough to be able to get to a beach regularly, according to Anthony “it’s possible to maintain a superior meditative state of healing by watching the waves on a beach – if you know how to tap into them.” Anthony says he’s seen countless clients heal themselves of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), pain and suffering using the following technique: As you sit, stand or walk on the beach, envision every wave as a surge of soul-cleansing energy. When a wave comes in, imagine it bathing any pain and scrubbing loose any damaging emotions or thoughts. As the wave recedes, watch it take away all those impurities. With each new wave, let yourself be cleansed of poisonous memories, injuries from past lives and stains on the soul. See them all wash out to sea. When you feel purified, let each new wave bring strength and renewal to your spirit and soul.
3. Surrounded by Trees
Getting out in nature is of course very healing in itself, but for the most healing and soothing effect on your soul, Anthony suggests taking a moment to appreciate the peaceful environment around you and to pay special attention to the trees. Turn your mind to their root systems. Think about the minerals and water they’re drawing from deep within the earth, up through their trunks, up through their branches. As you let yourself feel surrounded by this deep earth energy, envision roots growing out of your feet and into Mother Earth’s soil, down into the centre of the earth.
Something I like to add (thanks to a technique taught by Amy Oscar) is to imagine my energy merging with the molten core of the Earth, and then receiving her energy back up through the soles of my feet. This is a beautifully grounding experience. When you intuitively feel it’s time to end the grounding, imagine that you’re leaving your roots protected and preserved in the earth as you break free and walk away. These roots remain a part of you. Wherever you are, transcending time and space, you can draw healing energy from the earth when you need it.
I do a grounding technique each and every morning called Connecting Heaven and Earth by Donna Eden, which is another great way to begin the day feeling fully grounded and in your body. It’s also incredibly soothing for the soul. Grounding techniques fortify every aspect of your being. They strengthen your root chakra which reinforces your will to survive, invigorate your spirit to receive positivity and ward off negativity, and create a strengthening frequency for body and soul.
4. Free as a Bird
As Anthony explains, bird-watching is a healing and soothing activity simply because it takes you into nature and into a state of presence and mindfulness. When you truly focus on seeing and hearing the birds, you elevate it to a very enlightening meditative experience. Birdsong, Anthony says, is the most sacred form of music; it mends a fractured soul and can reverse disease. Apparently, this is because the frequency of these melodies resonates deep within your DNA, allowing it to reconstruct the body on a cellular level. If you listen to birds with respect and appreciation, your life will begin to transform. Observing birds is powerful too. Anthony says that here on Earth our souls can feel caged and our spirits suppressed. When we witness a bird’s freedom in flight, it “ignites and unleashes the spirit and breaks the cage of the soul.”
5. Bee Watching
Bee watching is a secretly miraculous meditation according to Anthony. As bees dance from flower to flower, absorbing the sun and distributing pollen along the way, they emit a healing frequency that reverses disease and promotes soul and emotional restoration. This is something we can’t understand on a rational level, but our cells understand. When you make yourself aware of the bees and ask your body to tune its channels to their frequency, all of the cells in your body will start to resonate with this healing vibration.
6. Collecting Stones
When you want to cleanse yourself of negative emotions, Anthony suggests taking a walk in nature and keep your eye out for small stones that call to you. Over the course of your stroll, select three that feel good to hold in your hands. Name each stone by the label of whatever feeling you’re harboring that you’d like to leave you. For example, you might name the stones Guilt, Fear or Anger. Anthony suggests that you keep the stones on your bedside table. Develop a relationship with them; become friends.
The healing frequency of the minerals will act as an antidote to whatever ails you, whether emotional, spiritual or physical. When the time comes that you feel the stones have done their job and you’re ready to let them go, carry them back to nature and release them into a body of water such as a pond, ocean or lake, river or stream. The living water will purify them of the venom they’ve drawn from you, and you’ll walk away purified too.
Anthony suggests that it will be centuries before scientists discover all of the healing benefits that the sun provides. Not only is it calming and warming, but “the sun’s rays contain mystery elements and promote biochemical reactions in our bodies that produce more than just Vitamin D”. No wonder I can feel so miserable in cold climates if I haven’t seen the sun properly for months! He says just look at pets and how they instinctively find a warm, sunlit patch on the floor to bask in. All animals love to sunbathe; they know it’s a powerful healing tool. Anthony suggests spending time each day to allow your skin to absorb sunlight, if possible. He suggests acclimatising to 15 minutes a day, taking care not to get sunburned. If it’s a cold time of the year, find a peaceful spot where the sun comes through a window. He says to make the meditation most powerful, call upon the Angel of the Sun to help the rays enter into your being to soothe your soul and heal your body.
8. Picking Fruit
Picking fruit, Anthony says, is one of the most powerful meditations in existence. He says it is a sacred act of respect and gratitude to Mother Earth for the miracle of food. Even if you only do it once in your lifetime, it will be an experience you can reignite over and over, just by thought, to activate the healing in your soul. Anthony explains how each piece of fruit on a tree is living food that’s connected, via the plant’s roots, to living water deep within the earth. When you touch the fruit, your cells will resonate with the fruit’s grounded nature, spreading peace throughout your body. On top of that, fruit picking forces you to stretch as you reach for the fruit. These natural stretches apparently supersede any human created exercises.
On the topic of stretches, I adore Donna Eden’s 5 minute Morning Energy Routine, which is a series of delicious stretching exercises that wake up, energise, heal and harmonise the body. This is another one I do religiously every morning because it feels so good and my health feels so much more resilient when I remember to do it. Picking berries or wildflowers has the same effect as picking fruit, apparently. Since humans have existed on the planet, berry picking has been a celebration of abundance. When we follow this millennia-old tradition, it ignites the ancient celebration of life within our soul and promotes healing. As you pick the fruit, meditate on all the months of development that led to this moment. First the plant started as a seed and grew to fruiting size. When it reached maturity, it didn’t start bearing fruit every month of the year; rather, it developed with the seasons. Our lives go through similar cycles. When we take the time to focus on nature’s rhythms, we activate trust and faith within our souls that our efforts to live a good life will be fruitful.
Picking berries or wildflowers has the same effect as picking fruit, apparently. Since humans have existed on the planet, berry picking has been a celebration of abundance. When we follow this millennia-old tradition, it ignites the ancient celebration of life within our soul and promotes healing. As you pick the fruit, meditate on all the months of development that led to this moment. First the plant started as a seed and grew to fruiting size. When it reached maturity, it didn’t start bearing fruit every month of the year; rather, it developed with the seasons. Our lives go through similar cycles. When we take the time to focus on nature’s rhythms, we activate trust and faith within our souls that our efforts to live a good life will be fruitful.
9. Watching Your Garden Grow
think most of us these days have heard about the therapeutic effects of tending to a garden. Anthony says “Getting your hands in the dirt for the sake of growing new life grounds your body, strengthens your spirit and rejuvenates your soul. Further, the soil carries the soul of Mother Earth. Getting (literally) in touch with that puts you in sync with divine natural rhythms.” As you garden, you’re also absorbing the sounds of nature and if you pay attention, you can observe the chirps of the birds, the buzzing of the bees and the wind rustling in the trees. Weeding can have a profound effect too, Anthony says, if you envision each weed as an ill thought, negative emotion or painful memory. When you pull it out, you’re “simultaneously removing it from your soul and mind, making room for more abundance in your life.”
10. Gaze Beyond the Stars
Anthony suggests that to reclaim your soul, you can spend time each night gazing up at the sky. “First get familiar with the stars; your soul has a direct telepathic connection to them. Let their light and the wonder of their existence resonate for a few moments. Then shift your focus to beyond the stars. Envision that your home lies way up there, in a place free from suffering. Tell yourself, This is a home I belong to, and will someday warmly return to… You can stargaze for just three minutes a night and find that your soul rejuvenates in dazzling ways.”
When reading Anthony’s suggestions, I realised that in many ways he’s suggesting we return to the ways of our ancestors and indigenous people, who naturally honour and respect nature’s rhythms. They intuitively know that the way to a happy and healthy life is to live in sync with, and pay respect to, nature. They live in a state of wonder and awe at the intelligence of nature and all natural systems. In Australia in the 1980s, the government rolled out a scheme to provide housing for our indigenous Aboriginal people. They were outraged when the Aborigines would remove the mattresses from the houses to sleep out on the street. From the Aborigine’s point of view, they needed to be connected with nature and the stars while they slept and couldn’t understand why we would want to sleep inside.
Somewhere along the way in our modern mode of living we’ve grown disconnected from this sacred connection to nature. This could easily help explain why so many people today suffer from depression and chronic disease.
So please enjoy these techniques for reconnecting and re-tuning yourself to nature, to soothe and nourish your soul. I’ll definitely be trying to implement more of these in my life myself these coming months. Please let me know if you feel any difference or improvement in your mood, health or vitality, I love hearing from you!
In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Fempire Coach for Thriving Female Entrepreneurs firstname.lastname@example.org
For the first time ever, this year I joined an inspiring group of wide-minded, visionary entrepreneurs in Jeffrey Davis’ Quest 2017: 12 Principles to do Business as Unusual – a powerful approach to planning the year ahead that involves weekly writing prompts to invoke “a possibility mindset, provocative points of view, deep reflection and a healthy dose of wonder”.
The group shares their thoughts and ideas in a Facebook forum that provides the container for everyone to share what kind of possibility 2017 could hold for each of us. As Jeffrey says “Together, we’ll seek meaning, integrity and impact in life and career while remembering that Do It Together (DIT) beats Do It Yourself (DIY)”. This is an open, free forum that you can join too if you’re looking for a thought-provoking and creative way to plan your year. The QUEST2017 group process is finished for now, but you can still use the writing prompts in this blog to reflect on your own journey. I decided to share the process with you here for two reasons: 1) To share my reflections, hopes and aspirations with you for the year ahead, and 2) To help you reflect and ponder your own plans and ideas, in the hope that it helps you align your own heart, body, mind and soul. This is a long blog post with 12 short essays so I don’t expect you’ll have the time to read through all of it! But please feel free to scroll through and jump to the sub-headings that feel relevant for you. Below are the 12 different writing prompts from 12 different visionaries, plus my responses.
THEME 1 – INNER YOU
Writing prompt #1: Your True Calling
The first writing prompt has been contributed by Krista Tippett (@kristatippett). Krista is an American journalist, author, and entrepreneur. She created and hosts the public radio program and podcast On Being. In 2014, Tippett was awarded the National Humanities Medal by U.S. President Barack Obama. Krista asks:
“What is your vocation, your sense of calling as a human being at this point in your life, both in and beyond job and title?” #YourTrueCalling
This happens to be an easy one for me to answer right now because the question has been a central theme in my life for as long as I can remember. They say that what we’ve struggled with most in life is often the very thing that we’re called to do as our vocation. And interestingly enough, the one thing I’ve struggled with most in my life is having a clear sense of what my true calling is. And I’m quite clear in my heart now that helping others find their true calling is my true calling. To me, your true calling is something that makes you feel completely aligned in body, mind and spirit. It allows you to unleash and fully develop your very specific and unique gifts in a way that feels joyful, uplifting and energising and allows you to contribute your gifts in service to something larger than yourself. I believe we each have unique and valuable gifts that the world needs and that we each have a specific calling that we’re uniquely designed for. I’ve come to believe that your true calling is the alchemic ‘sweet spot’ where your true nature (your authentic self), your natural genius (your natural strengths and talents) and your passion (what you care about deeply) intersect. Walking the path of your true calling allows you to become more and more of who you are (a process of unfolding), while giving your gifts in service to something that the world needs.
“Our purpose in life is to become the fullest expression of ourselves”– Kate Northrup
We start walking our true path when we commit to following what feels light and easy and joyful (I agree completely with fellow QuesterPaula Trucks-Pape on this concept). And as another one of our fellow Questers Ginny Lee Taylor quoted, your true calling is:
“… Where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”– Frederick Buechner
I now dedicate my business to helping people uncover their true calling through a process that’s designed to find their own sweet spot where natural ability meets passion and joy. If we’re doing something for the money or success or image, it isn’t our true calling. If we’re doing something for the job security and to play it safe, it isn’t our true calling. Sure, we may have to do these things as intermediate steps on the way to our true calling, but I believe it is our intention that defines whether it’s our true calling or not. If our intention is to serve the world somehow through our unique abilities, then we’re living our true calling. The calling itself may take on various forms and outwardly appearances along the way, but if we stay committed to developing and expressing our natural genius in service to something we care about, we’re on the path of our true calling. I know firsthand how soul-destroying it can be to feel completely out of alignment with our true calling and to ignore what wants to be expressed through us. I’ve felt a deep call to do something meaningful with my life for as long as I can remember. There was a distinct moment when I was seventeen years old as an exchange student in rural Paraguay, South America, standing on the banks of a local river looking out at people bathing in the polluted water that was just downstream from a major cement factory. I felt called to do something about situations like this where people and nature suffer from the effects of heavy industry. And that’s what I ended up doing for almost fifteen years, working as a process engineer designing wastewater treatment plants that clean up polluted water before it’s discharged back into the environment. It felt good to be doing something to keep our environment and waterways clean. For years I was a strong advocate of sustainable planning and strategy. But even though it felt good to be doing something positive and to work on interesting, challenging and rewarding projects, internally I felt empty and frustrated and a continuous, nagging feeling that there was something else I was ‘meant’ to be doing. If I’m completely honest, I pursued science and engineering to please my parents who thought that engineering would give me lifelong job security and opportunities (which is true). But I most definitely wasn’t operating in my zone of natural genius, or in my zone of joy or true passion. I knew I had gifts to give that were completely untapped. My gifts are in languages, writing, teaching and connecting with people. For years I struggled on in different roles as an engineer, always hoping that the next role would give me the fulfillment and satisfaction I was seeking. But it never did. Eventually, this stifling of my natural talents and heart’s desires turned into very real physical effects. I developed what the medical world could only describe as ‘chronic fatigue’. I battled constantly with lingering illnesses and viruses, combined with continuous, overwhelming fatigue. I kept going to work during this period, but every day felt like a living hell. I can now see clearly that the illness was a ‘soul crisis’ and my body’s way of telling me that I was completely out of alignment. But it took me almost ten years to finally accept that I had to stop living my life to please others and to finally find out what it means to please myself. I had to go through a process of shedding everything that I’m not, and to instead embrace everything that I am, in order to ‘find’ my true calling. Interestingly enough, after years and years of seeing different therapists, medical professionals and natural healers (with little to no effect), my health made a sudden turnaround on the day I decided to quit my corporate engineering job of almost fifteen years to focus on things closer to my heart. I gave myself permission to give up the struggle and striving and committed to doing only what feels joyful and uplifting. And every day after that my health and energy improved. Today I feel so blessed to experience ongoing health and vitality. And I’m convinced that it’s because I chose to finally listen to my heart and give myself permission to be me. If it feels at all relevant for you, feel free to get a copy of my free E-Book Pathfinding: How to find and start living that special calling that you are uniquely designed for, where I discuss this topic of finding your true calling in depth. Helping you find your true calling really is my true passion!
Writing prompt #2: Do I love myself enough to stop working on myself?
The second writing prompt comes from Susan Piver (@spiver), a New York Times bestselling author, a meditation teacher and renowned speaker. She is the author of eight books, including How Not Be Afraid of Your Own Life. Susan’s mission is to teach everyone to slow down, soften our hearts, sharpen our minds and create a life of fearlessness and authenticity. Susan asks:
“Do you love yourself enough to stop working on yourself yet?Who would you be in that case?”#LoveYourself
My immediate response to the question “Do you love yourself enough to stop working on yourself yet?” was – No. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to answer that question in the affirmative, although after reflecting on this question these past few days I’ll definitely strive to. Here’s a picture of my bedside table today. It pretty much always looks like this, the titles of the books just shift and change over time. But they’re almost always on topics of personal and spiritual growth, psychology or social entrepreneurship. I’m a life coach by profession, so it’s hard to know how much of my reading is to stay informed and abreast of the latest developments in my field and how much is my desire to improve and ‘fix’ myself (because I don’t love myself enough to stop working on myself yet?). But I find this question intriguing and through-provoking and I’m grateful to Susan Piver for asking it. I feel such an ongoing hunger for knowledge in the area of personal growth, and despite how many times I’ve told myself to take a break and read something different for a change, I always end up getting bored and reverting back to whichever self-improvement book I was reading. So am I constantly reading because I don’t love myself enough to stop working on myself yet? Or am I doing it to better serve my clients? I think both. And because it feels like my calling. In my response to the first Quest 2017 prompt #YourTrueCalling I explained how my true calling happens to be helping others find their true calling. And funnily enough, the one big issue that gets in the way of people having the courage to follow their true calling is SELF-LOVE. We all know the inner critic dialogue that says “I can’t do that, I’m not smart enough” or “I couldn’t run my own business, I’m not savvy enough” or whatever line it is that comes up when you try to justify to yourself why you can’t make the transition to making your JOY your full-time job. “I can’t/couldn’t …. [insert what your heart really wants to do] because I’m not … [insert limiting beliefs and negative judgments about yourself]”. A big part of my work is helping my clients work through their own inner barriers to authentic self-confidence and self-worth (= self-love), just as I struggle continuously with this myself (we’re all human after all). We’ve all built up so many excuses and reasons for why we can’t and won’t commit to pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and into the zone of uncertainty and fear – where the magic happens! – to follow our true calling. And why? Because we think we’re not good enough and can’t make it happen. Because we don’t believe in ourselves enough. And perhaps because we don’t love ourselves enough to do whatever it takes to make ourselves blissfully happy…? Don’t we think we deserve this and nothing less? We were all born as pure, unconditional love, before we started getting bombarded with negative judgments and criticism from our environment. Panache Desai calls our original pure love essence the ‘liquid gold’ that’s inside each and every one of us. And he refers to it as gold because it can take time to excavate and dig through the layers of emotional scarring that we’ve built up around it to protect ourselves from the pain in the world. If we want to fully love ourselves, the opinion in the psychology/healing world has been that we need to peel back the layers of the emotional onion, layer by layer, with the help of a therapist, counsellor or healer, to heal them and to rediscover our original, undamaged inner child who knew only love. Or do we? Could we just make a conscious decision right now to love ourselves anyway, emotional scarring, warts, imperfections, flaws and all? I guess that’s the whole purpose of Susan Piver’s question “Who would you be if you loved yourself enough to stop working on yourself?”. Perhaps we’re fine and worthy of 100% self-love right now, as imperfect as we are. What if there’s nothing to learn, do, or fix or improve? Who would I be then? Hmmm. Good question. Could I stop working on myself and love myself anyway? Could I stop bombarding my clients with techniques and tools for removing emotional barriers and instead just mirror back to them the unconditional, pure love that is within them already? Is it my true calling to reflect back to others the liquid gold that is already theirs? Interestingly enough, I had similar thoughts recently when I realized that everything boils down to being able to love ourselves in the midst of all our imperfections. I wrote about this recently in my article Radical Self-Love & Acceptance: Could this be our one true purpose in life? But back to Susan’s question. Who would I be if I loved myself enough to stop working on myself? I would be free. I would be relieved. I would be relaxed. I would be at peace. I would love and be loved, fully, unconditionally. I would be secure in the knowledge that I have arrived, and there’s nowhere to go. I would be someone who feels so at peace in my own skin and in my own heart that I naturally exude peace and love to all those I come into contact with. A kind of Dalai Lama. Is that possible? I don’t know. But I’m sure as hell willing to give it a try. Thank you Susan for your beautiful question. I can see now. This is it. This is what we’re all being called to do. To love ourselves unconditionally just as we are, right now, right where we are. In our all imperfection and total perfection.
Writing prompt #3: Where will I be brave enough to bring forth even more of myself this year?
The third writing prompt comes fromKristen Noel at Best Self Media (@BestSelf_Media). Kristen is a writer, speaker, motivator and Editor-In-Chief of Best Self Magazine, the leading voice for holistic health and authentic living. Kristen asks:
Where are you going to go deeper this year, where can you be brave enough to bring forth even more of yourself — to infuse your work, creativity and business with that which is uniquely YOU, thus inspiring others to do more of the same? What could that look like in 2017 for you?#BringYouForward
Hmm. Another good question, thank you Kristen. I guess this brings me to the first question – who am I if I’m being uniquely ME? I believe the keys to our uniqueness lie in who we were as a child, before we became conditioned by our environment. So I started looking there. My uniqueness #1 – An ability to embrace the paradox of life The first thing that comes to mind is that I’m quite a person of paradox. My brother Cam who’s 14 years younger than me always saw this quite clearly. He used to call me a ‘square on the edge’, which I thought was hilarious (once I could get past the square part). When he was young he observed me as a teen and young adult and he saw someone who worked hard, studied hard and got good grades, but who also loved to party hard, rebel and push the boundaries. My mother used to say that I didn’t just burn the candle at both ends, but that I “snapped the candle in two and burnt all four ends”. When people asked me how I did it all I would reply, “I don’t sleep much, I’ll sleep when I’m dead” (thanks Bon Jovi). As I’ve grown older I’ve been forced to find a more appropriate middle road, because living that way is not sustainable (obviously). But I still walk the tightrope between the polarities of my character. I love yoga and meditation and reading books on Buddhism and spirituality, but I also love to drink gin and rock out to Led Zeppelin or AC/DC. I love going for slow, peaceful hikes in nature but I also love to compete in high-energy triathlons. I love drinking my hot lemon juice and green smoothie every morning, but I also love to eat hot chips and drink beer on occasion. I’m a responsible Mum to two young boys and a focused and disciplined small business owner, but I also love to goof around, be silly and dance to Hi-5 with my boys.
“We cannot run from paradoxes; we can only embrace them and become one with them. For, in reality, the apparent opposites are two sides of the same coin that are meant to reside in harmony” –Patricia Spadaro
How will I use this quality to infuse my work, creativity and business this year to inspire others? In reflecting on this question, it strikes me that the ability to embrace seemingly contradictory behaviours can actually be beneficial for all of us. It’s about balancing out all the different aspects of ourselves. By giving ourselves permission to embrace all the crazy impulses we feel, we start expressing ourselves more fully and feel more alive as a result. This year I’m going to commit to embracing my paradox even more. And I’m going to encourage my clients to give themselves permission to feel all the unique impulses they have and to find ways to act on them. This seems to me a fun and enjoyable road to authentic and full self-expression. And since my calling is to help others express themselves fully through their work and life calling, this is probably an essential component that I hadn’t thought of until now! (thank you, Kristen) . My uniqueness #2 – A (latent) ability to speak my mind freely As a child I was always very forthright with my opinions. My mother tells me that she always knew exactly where she stood with me. But growing up, I was constantly told by my family that I would end up having no friends if I didn’t learn to keep my thoughts to myself and be ‘nice’. So I learned to temper my opinions and say only what I thought people wanted to hear. I learned the hard way that others don’t always value what you think and that true authenticity and honesty is an opinion that’s tempered with maturity and compassion for the other person’s perspective. Otherwise you’re just being obnoxious and small-minded. But over the years I’ve swung completely the opposite way and it’s now a major challenge for me to speak my mind freely and to put my opinions out there, for fear of upsetting someone. I’ve developed a hyper-alert sensitivity for knowing when I could upset someone and to keep my thoughts to myself. But given the challenges we’re facing as a global community right now, I don’t think we have the luxury anymore of beating around the bush. I need to develop the courage to voice my opinion and withstand the inevitable controversy and discomfort this brings, and hopefully inspire others to do the same in the process. I’m going to shift my focus from wondering how I might offend someone, to how I can say the right thing to inspire and motivate someone towards positive action, even if I risk receiving negative feedback. I have to assume that the number of people I will help will be greater than those I might offend. My uniqueness #3 – An ability to see and hear others It’s really important to me that the people I’m with feel heard and seen. If I’m in a group I want to make sure no one feels left out. I like to really seepeople and to appreciate the unique qualities, abilities and perspective they bring. I’ve been fortunate to live more than half of my adult life overseas in different countries on four different continents and this has given me a deep appreciation of different perspectives and the huge challenges that people face around the world. It’s helped me see that at the end of the day, no matter what our background, history or culture, we all want the same things – to feel secure, to belong, to feel valued, to be appreciated and to be happy. This is my true desire for everyone. Where will I be brave enough to bring forth more of this quality this year? I feel committed this year to take an even stronger stand to connect people with each other (to nurture a greater sense of belonging for people) and to really see and hear the people I connect with. I will make a commitment to ask and listen, rather than teach and talk. My pledge for 2017 This year I commit to bringing even more of myself forth into my work, creativity and business with that which is uniquely ME, by focusing on these key areas:
Embrace and nurture the paradox in myself and others.
Speak my mind more freely with the intention to inspire and motivate.
Nurture connection and belonging. Ask and listen.
Thank you taking the time to read my thoughts. I’m so excited to dive into the next writing prompts to plan the year ahead with possibility and wonder!
THEME 2 – ENGAGE
Writing prompt #4: How will I use my power as a force for good in 2017?
Today’s writing prompt comes from the visionary psychologist Dacher Keltner at the Greater Good Science Centre (University of California, Berkeley). Dacher asks:
“In your work life, your personal life, and in your community, how will you use power as a force for good, and empower those around you in specific acts that make up your day?”#PowerforGood
At first glance I found this a difficult question to answer, given that I haven’t had a particularly broad sense of the word ‘power’ until I decided to download Dacher’s highly revered book The Power Paradox. I was immediately glad that I did. This is a man who speaks to my heart and who believes that each and every one of us has the potential to be a force for good in the communities and networks we move in. I love how he defines power: “Power is the medium through which we relate to one another. Power is about making a difference in the world by influencing others.” Keltner has a beautiful way of describing this concept further: “Power is not something limited to rare individuals in dramatic moments of their highly visible lives – to malevolent dictators, high-profile politicians, or the jet-setting rich and famous; nor does it exist solely in boardrooms, on battlefields, or on the U.S. Senate floor. Instead, power defines the waking life of every human being. It is found not only in extraordinary acts but also in quotidian acts, indeed in every interaction and every relationship, be it in attempt to get a two-year-old to eat green vegetables or to inspire a stubborn colleague to do her best work.” Given that I’m a mother to two young boys, much of my ‘power’ these days is indeed in getting children to eat green vegetables. I found Keltner’s description refreshing and uplifting, reminding me that power is indeed not limited to how we conduct ourselves in business, but how we operate as a person in every aspect in our lives. In his enlightening book, he defines four ‘social practices’ that constitute powerful, positively influential leadership: empathising, giving, expressing gratitude, and telling stories. He suggests that each of these practices “dignify and delight others… They constitute the basis of strong, mutually empowered ties. You can lean on them to enhance your power at any moment of the day by stirring others to effective action”. So, to answer this writing prompt, I decided to address how I’m going to implement these four practices in my work life, my personal life and my community. Empathising: Like many creatives, I have a natural ability to empathise and I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to figure out where the other person stops and where I begin, so that I can untangle myself from the emotional problems of others and give back what is not mine to carry. Learning to turn down the dial on my empathy register has been a challenge for me and to move from being a ‘fixer’ and ‘saver’ into someone who has healthy, strong boundaries, while still maintaining my ability to empathise. I spend a significant amount of each day empathising with my sons and my husband and the issues they’re dealing with, as well as with my coaching clients where I act as an empathetic sounding board for the challenges they’re working through. However, in terms of using empathy in service to ‘power’ more effectively, I could be more empathetic in my networks and social communities by asking more questions and listening to the answers, as opposed to focusing only on giving and teaching. People like to know they’re being seen and heard, and I can definitely pay more attention to seeing and hearing those in my social networks in 2017, and showing genuine empathy for the challenges they’re dealing with. Giving: Again, giving is a natural part of your profile as a mother and wife. It seems that most of our day is spent in giving our time, attention and focus to people other than ourselves. However, I can definitely focus on giving more to my clients this year in terms of excellent service, providing more free resources and helpful information to support them on their journey. The same goes for my social media networks. After reading Dacher Keltner’s book, I believe that a subtle shift in focus from ‘marketing’ with an agenda of giving to receive, to plain and simple ‘giving’ will help me grow my social outreach more organically, with more authentic and genuine impact. Expressing gratitude: While gratitude has been a focus of mine for a few years now, this is definitely something I can always do more of. I can extend heartfelt gratitude to those people already within my networks and in my community, because without them, I have no ability to have any ‘power’ or ability to influence others. I can express more gratitude to my family and friends because they are my support, my nourishment, my everything. And I can especially extend more gratitude to my clients, because without them, I have no ability to build my business, to develop my gifts, to live my true calling or to affect any kind of positive change. Telling stories: I love this one. I really believe that stories are how we connect to each other. It’s through sharing our stories that we connect authentically, share our humanity, our vulnerability and our strength. And most importantly, stories help us know that we’re not alone in our humanly struggles and triumphs. I’ve written about the Power of Story in a recent blog post. Until now I haven’t thought of telling stories as an effective ingredient of leadership, but I can see how it is. Leadership is all about creating connection and a sense of camaraderie around a common cause. I will strive this year to use story – both telling my own stories and encouraging others to share theirs – as a way to nurture a feeling of camaraderie, belonging and togetherness in my networks. As Jeffrey always says, Doing It Together (DIT) beats Doing It Yourself (DIY)! Thank you Dacher Keltner for helping me reflect on this topic and for your valuable, refreshing insight.
Writing prompt #5: What sacrifice am I willing to make in 2017 in service to the greater good?
Today’s writing prompt #5 comes from Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific Director at theImagination Institute in the Positive Psychology Center (University of Pennsylvania). Scott asks:
“What is one major personal sacrifice you are willing to make this year in the service of the greater good?”#Sacrifice
This was a really hard question for me to answer. I’m coming out of a long phase of life that’s felt like one long, challenging road of self-sacrifice. I’m 41 years old and we’re very blessed to have two young boys aged five and two. It took us a long time to manifest these two little guys and it wasn’t easy. It was a journey filled with heartache, loss and pain, but we did it and we’re so grateful that we’re one of the fortunate couples who were able to make our baby dreams a reality. I’m acutely aware of how many couples struggle every day with the pain and devastation of unfulfilled baby dreams. The road to parenthood was filled with much sacrifice; sacrifice of the small pleasures in life while we tried to live, eat and be extremely healthy to give our bodies the best chance of conceiving. And then as every mother knows, the first few years of raising young children requires an enormous sacrifice on every front. We sacrifice our sleep, our bodies, our sport, our free time, our work, our social lives and more. I really like the quote that fellow Quester Alicia Anderson found on sacrifice:
“A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves.” – Mother Teresa
I’ve definitely done all of that and more 0ver the past six to eight years. Would I have it any other way? No, absolutely not. And yet I’m at the point in my life where I’m ready to reclaim my life, to start building my own identity again and to keep working on building my business and my dreams, which include the ability to inspire and empower others to live their best lives through my small coaching practice. The hardest part for me over the past six to eight years has been the need to put my work and my business on the back-burner to focus 100% on my family. This year I’m finally in a position where I can start to focus more on myself and my work and that feels good! So, what is one personal sacrifice I would be willing to make this year in service to the greater good? Hmm. My greatest challenge as a mother to young boys is time. What do I need to sacrifice in order to find more time – Sleep? Family time? Time with friends? Sport? Social outings? No, I’m no longer prepared to sacrifice those important things because they’re what make life so rich and rewarding and I believe we must enjoy the journey as much as – if not, more than – the destination.
“You should never sacrifice three things: Your family, your heart, your dignity” – Unknown
Rather than sacrificing life’s small pleasures for the sake of the greater good, I believe that my ability to make a positive impact will lie in becoming more focused in the time that I do have. I’m making a commitment to myself to spend more time planning and less time jumping in and engaging in random actions that aren’t aligned with a bigger vision. I’m making a great start by planning the year with Quest 2017 for the first time, and I start private business coaching next Monday to help me approach 2017 with laser focus. I’ve decided that my one big personal sacrifice this year will be along the lines of what many fellow Questers have already voiced – my addiction to playing safe and small. While I continue to play small and keep my (potentially) controversial thoughts to myself, I’m not serving anyone. The fear of speaking out and attracting negative feedback is irrational and no longer a reason to withhold the gifts I have to offer by speaking and writing freely. It’s only through truth, raw honesty and authenticity that we have the ability to provoke, invoke and inspire. It’s only by daring to put ourselves out there and be seen, that we reap the joy and satisfaction of being of true value and service.My pledge for 2017 This year I’m willing and prepared to sacrifice my addiction to playing small and safe. I will endure the (potential) discomfort of negative feedback when voicing my opinions freely and without inhibition. I commit to stepping up into greater visibility in the knowing that in doing so, I’m helping others do the same. Thank you Scott Barry Kaufman for helping me reflect on this topic and for your valuable, refreshing insight.
Writing prompt #6: How will I shift my focus from ‘keeping busy’ to ‘leaving a legacy’ in 2017?
Today’s writing prompt #6, the final prompt under the theme ‘ENGAGE’, comes from Jocelyn K. Glei (@jkglei), author of the book ‘Unsubscribe’. She describes herself as a writer who’s obsessed with how we find more creativity and meaning in our daily work. Jocelyn asks:
“How can you shift your focus from “keeping busy” to “leaving a legacy?”#Legacy
Hmm… another great question, thank you Jocelyn. I often help my coaching clients get a sense of the kind of legacy they want to leave, so they can build a life vision and goals around that. It’s a very useful and powerful technique for getting through to people’s desires and motivations in life. But it’s been a while since I’ve reflected on the question of legacy myself. So thank you Jocelyn for the prompt. What kind of legacy would I personally like to leave? When I think of legacy I often think about what my dearest ones would say about me at my funeral. I’d love to be remembered for my big heart, for my big dreams and my zest for life. I’d love people to say that I uplifted them, nourished them and made them feel good about themselves and their choices. I’d love people to remember me as someone who was fun to be around and who could make them smile and laugh. I would be touched if people felt that they could be themselves fully around me, knowing that my heart is warmed by people who have the courage and confidence to be themselves without inhibition, who don’t care what society expects or demands, but who choose to do what makes their heart feel good. But in reflecting on this, I have to remind myself that legacy is not what people will remember about you when you die … it’s about what you leave behind that will continue on without you when you’re no longer here.
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will” – Chuck Palahniuk
So what will be my legacy? Who am I to leave a legacy? Is it reserved only for the mighty and powerful who change the world in some significant way? Or is it possible that we all have the oportunity to leave a positive legacy, no matter how small we feel our contribution might be? If I’m to leave a legacy, what would I like to leave behind? I love to empower and inspire people to embrace everything about themselves and to find ways to express themselves authentically in life and through their work. My business mission is to help as many people as possible in this way: “I’m devoted to helping you connect to your heart and find your calling, to design a life that feels truly joyful and fulfilling.” I believe a life well lived is one where we give ourselves permission to own the desires and dreams we have and to make them a reality in whichever (small or large) way we can. I believe we’re all born with natural, innate gifts and talents – what I call your natural genius – and I’m on a mission to help as many people as possible to unleash their natural genius into the world in service to something larger than themselves. My business vision is all about helping people harness their natural gifts in service to the greater good. It states: “I hold a vision of a world in which each and every one of us is expressing and contributing our unique gifts in a way that feels deeply satisfying and rewarding, in service to something larger than ourselves. This focus on serving the greater good while bringing our full, authentic selves into our work creates a world in whicheveryonefeels connected and valued and is expressing their full potential, while contributing to the flourishing of life.” If that could be my legacy, to know that I’ve contributed to this vision in some bold, impactful and courageous way – I would be one proud lady. If what I leave behind is a trail of people who have – because of me – had the courage to follow their hearts and to impact the world in some way through their gifts, then I would know I have left a positive legacy. And what is the part that will continue on without me? Perhaps it will be an organisation that I set up, dedicated to helping people get their gifts into the world. Hmm, I like that idea… So – how do I shift from simply keeping busy, to aligning my daily actions and choices directly with this greater vision for my life and my business? I believe the answer may lie in questions that I could ask myself each and every day before I jump into action:
What’s one thing I can do today that will allow me to serve people more effectively?
What can I do today to uplift or inspire someone to step up and find more courage and confidence?
What can I do today to build on my legacy of helping people get their natural gifts into the world?
I’m excited about the New Year and the chance to see how these questions might act as a daily compass to keep me focused on the bigger vision and legacy for my life and my business.
THEME 3 – CHALLENGES
Writing prompt #7: Do you spend your time acting or reacting?
This week’s writing prompt came from Jonathon Fields (@jonathonfields), a New York City dad, husband and lawyer turned award-winning author, media producer and entrepreneur. His most recent book,How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science and Practical Wisdom, is a wake-up call and a path to possibility, complete with 30-days of inspiring, actionable explorations. Jonathan’s current focus, Good Life Project, is a global movement that inspires, educates, connects, and supports mission-driven individuals in the quest to live better, more engaged, connected, and aligned lives. Jonathon asks:
“When it comes to the way you live each day, do you spend more time acting or reacting? If the latter, what one commitment can you make to be more intentional in the year to come?” #ActingorReacting
This will be a short response today. I’m very fortunate that I’m a Mumpreneur who gets to divvy up my time in the way I want, working from home while raising two young boys. They both go to wonderful schools and so I have time during the day to work on projects that I want, without the inevitable disruptions and distractions that come with working in an organisation or company. So, I spend my days every day acting very intentionally, rather than reacting to things around me. It’s a delightful way to live and I chose very intentionally to live and work this way so that I can focus my time and efforts on my life work and passions. One of my biggest frustrations in my old corporate career was the inability to focus and get things done, due to the constant need to react to the things happening around me. So it’s truly a blessing to be able to work the way I do now. My biggest distraction while working from home is my own procrastination and household chores than can always be done, rather than working! I find that having a very detailed plan of what I need to do each day helps me to focus and stay on track and inspired with the work I’m doing.
Writing prompt #8: Adapt from within or adapt from without. Are you ready?
Today’s writing prompt #8 under the theme ‘Challenges’ comes from Linda Rottenberg (@lindarottenberg), author of the fantastic book ‘Crazy is a compliment: The power of zigging when everyone else zags’’. Linda is the CEO and Founder of Endeavour, the world’s leading organisation supporting high-impact entrepreneurs. Linda asks:
“Today we all have a choice: We can take risks and actions to ensure that we adapt with the constantly changing times or we can hope for the best and do nothing. Adapt from within or you may be forced to adapt from without. Are you ready?”#Adaptation
I think this is a great question and so relevant for the times we’re living in. I’ve spent a lot of time in my life wondering how to best adapt to the times we live in. I studied Biotechnology at University, largely because of long discussions I had with my Dad when I was trying to figure out what to study. We both agreed that innovation and environmental protection were going to be big needs in the 21st century and Biotechnology was at the forefront there. My Honours research was on a topic called ‘Bioleaching’ – a mining process that harnesses bacteria to remove precious metals from minerals. It was a pretty novel process for the mining industry back in the late nineties. My first professional job was with BHP in Reno, Nevada (USA) in 1998 as a process engineer. It was exciting to be involved in cutting edge, innovative projects that promised to be more environmentally responsible. But then I experienced my first mining industry crash in 1999. Less than one year out of University and the entire mining industry ‘busted’ as metal prices came crashing down. The BHP headquarters in Reno was forced to close its doors and my colleagues and I were made redundant from one week to the next. A classic case of ‘adapt from without’. I vowed after that experience I would never work for such a volatile industry or allow my life to be so heavily dependent on market conditions. I decided to go back to University and study further in the field of environmental engineering. I was determined to do something positive for the environment and to immerse myself in a more stable and predictable industry. I had an interesting and challenging career in water management and I was fortunate to experience the good times in Australia from 2005 to 2011. Infrastructure projects were booming and the engineering consultancy I worked for had an over-supply of exciting, large and challenging water projects to work on. Engineers could name their price and pick and choose where they wanted to work. We received generous pay rises each year and bonuses were in abundance. They were definitely the glory days. And then in 2012 the bubble burst. On the back of yet another resources industry collapse, engineering consultancies across Australia were forced to let go of many of their staff and those left behind were forced to fight over the small project scraps being tendered out, as infrastructure expenditure halted across the country. We were fortunate enough to be in a position to move overseas with my husband’s work in 2011 for a 5-year long adventure in Paris, France followed by Geoje, South Korea, for his role on Shell’s first ever floating LNG facility. When we first arrived in Geoje in 2013 it was yet another ‘boom’; big companies from all over the world were working on large shipbuilding and oil & gas projects at the massive shipyards here in Korea and expats were flown in from all over the world with generous salary packages. And then the bubble burst again. For the past two years oil prices have come crashing down and again massive projects are being shelved and people are being laid off. In 2011 I’d had enough of the boom-bust cycle in engineering and I made the decision to branch out on my own and start my own coaching business while raising our young family. I’m so grateful I did. It hasn’t been easy and I’m learning the hard way that working for yourself is uncertain and challenging and it stretches you well beyond your comfort zone. But the rewards are deep job satisfaction, flexibility and an ability to do things on your own terms. You get to do what you want, when you want, and work on things you care about deeply. But most importantly, you develop a certain resilience and ability to generate income even when times are tough globally. If you offer something of real value where there is a deep and consistent need, then you’ll always find a way to serve people and build your business in the process. Adaptation has become my middle name since branching out on my own. I’ve been on a steep learning curve while adapting to the field of coaching and the online business world. I’ve had to learn how to set up and run my own website and blog, how to create and launch programs, how to market and sell my services, how to set up online systems to support and develop my business and how to move with the times in technology so that I can stay afloat and embrace the fast-pace changes in the online world rather than get left behind. It’s become plainly clear to me that we’re facing times of unprecedented change. It’s most definitely a time where we need to adapt from within or be forced to adapt from without, as Linda Rottenberg suggests. I’m so incredibly grateful that I happen to love change, variety and finding new and creative ways of doing things. So to answer Linda’s question – “Adapt from within, or adapt from without – are you ready?” – my answer is YES! Bring it on.
Writing prompt #9: How will you stop yourself from being held back this year?
This writing prompt was contributed by Desiree Adaway of Adaway Group (@desireeadaway). Desiree is a writer, speaker and coach whose mission is to build resilient organisations. Desiree leads difficult conversations on race, class and gender. She asks:
“How have you allowed a system, institution, or tradition to hold you back? What will you do to make sure this does not happen in 2017?” #HeldBack
I didn’t need much time to reflect on this one, and my answer will be short. I’m thankfully in a phase in my life where there is nothing holding me back except my own fears and inner gremlins. I’ve worked in many organisations and institutions during the course of my life where I’ve felt held back in some sort of fashion. My decision to branch out on my own in 2011 was a direct result of this frustrating feeling. Now that I’m working on my own terms, I’mrevelingg in the delicious feeling of freedom and free reign to work how and when I want, and to impact the world around me in the way I want. Nothing feels more delightful than that, and it’s my mission to help as many people feel the same way! Thank you Desiree for the prompt!
THEME 4 – LOOKING AHEAD
Writing prompt #10: What is your intuition telling you to do in 2017?
Prompt #10 is from Jess Lively of The Lively Show, a podcast designed to uplift, inspire, and help you add a little extra intention to your everyday.Inc.com named it “the #1 podcast that all female entrepreneurs should listen to” and Levo League named it “one of the 10 best podcasts every woman should know.” Jess asks:
Whew. It’s mid-January and my family and I have just returned from a few weeks away to my second home – Holland – where my husband comes from and where we lived for many years. Although our time away was filled to the brim with jetlag, visits and catch ups, I always find holidays a refreshing break from the routine of day-to-day living and they allow me to gain fresh insight, even if they are crazy busy. They also help me tap into my underlying intuition. There are a few things calling to me this year. Intuitive nudge #1 – Forgive more I’m a believer that things don’t tend to come into our awareness ‘by chance’. As I was reflecting on this question this morning, a tweet popped up on my phone screen by Emily Burgess that says “The only type of growth comes from forgiveness. Heal your heart. Forgive more.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I think my intuition is telling me loudly that in order to make sure this year is a good one, I need to forgive more. Forgive myself, firstly, for the things that I could have/should have done better in 2016, and give myself permission to be human and to make mistakes. What’s important is that we acknowledge our mistakes and try to make amends where we can. I need to find the grace within me to forgive those who I feel ‘wronged’ me in 2016 and refer to the quote by Lewis B. Smedes that says “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and to discover that the prisoner was you.” We all do the best we can under whatever circumstances we’re presented with, and sometimes our imperfect actions hurt someone else. We need to cut each other some slack and allow each other to make mistakes, and forgive quickly. So first port of call this year – more forgiveness. Intuitive nudge #2 – Step out of the shadows into full visibility Next, I’m feeling a very strong intuitive urge to step up and out of the shadows. I’ve been comfortably hiding in the shadows for the past few years while I’ve undergone several major life transformations; quitting my corporate career to re-educate myself and start my own business, becoming a mother to two young boys and living in several different countries as we follow my husband’s work. As we prepare to move back to Australia in the next six months, it’s time for me to have the courage to live my message out loud. I’m passionate about helping people find their true calling and to live the work that lights them up and energises them. The only way I can do this effectively is if I commit to stepping up and proactively getting myself in front of people, with the intention to serve them in the best way I can. Intuitive nudge #3 – Employ at least one virtual assistant to help develop my business The next message coming loud and clear from my intuition is that I must start to leverage my time more effectively and employ one or two people who can assist me with the things that I’m not good at – social media, website development, email newsletters, administration, book-keeping etc. This past year I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure these things out myself when I could have been spending that time coaching or putting my ideas together and developing services and products. I’ve been stuck in the chicken-and-egg thing; I want help getting my business off the ground properly and yet that requires a significant financial investment. So I continue to try to do everything myself, which means I don’t have time to move my business forward as effectively as I could. So it’s time to bite the bullet and employ people to do the things I’m not good at and frankly do not have the time for. It’s time! Intuitive nudge #4 – Develop and launch my coaching programs My next intuitive nudge for this year is to work hard at developing the content for two coaching programs I’m working on that provide people with the opportunity to do much of their deep self-reflection and introspection at home, privately, before they enter coaching sessions with me. This leverages my time much more effectively, and allows me to serve and reach more people. I just need to stop procrastinating and get the programs developed and out there! Intuitive nudge #5 – Continue to get private coaching myself At the end of 2016 I decided to invest in private coaching from Jennifer Smith at The Art of Better Blogging, and it was the best decision I’ve made. Thanks to Jenn’s help, I’ve been able to get crystal clear on exactly what I need to do to grow my business and get the exact, specific advice I need to hear in order to step up into full visibility and get my products and services out there. For too long I dabbled in online programs and courses without private coaching, thinking I could do it myself once I had the necessary information – wrong. I became stuck in an endless cycle of spinning wheels and was not going anywhere. Deciding to invest in private coaching was by far the best thing I did in 2016 and I now know it’s an absolute necessity going forward. Intuitive nudge #6 – MORE is not BETTER Something I discovered in a very tangible way last year was that doing more does not mean I accomplish more. What’s important is that I take the time to get quiet, to listen to my own intuitive guidance and to align my heart, mind, body and soul before proceeding in any particular direction. I’ve been a perpetual ‘doer’ my whole life, and it’s not only exhausting, but ineffective. In recent years I’ve experienced that when I take the time to slow down and align my actions very intentionally, magic happens. And this year I intend to infuse a whole lot more magic into my life! Wow. That’s a LOT to work on this year. I’d better stop writing and go and get started. Thank you Jess Lively for your wonderful prompt and for your super insightful podcast that I’ve recently started listening to. I highly recommend Jess’s podcast to anyone who wants support, encouragement or advice on how to live your best life. @JessLively.com
Writing prompt #11: How will you take stock of your habits and improve them in the coming year?
Writing prompt #11 comes from Charlie Gilkey (@charliegilkey), a self-described “Walking contradiction: author, consultant, social philosopher, and veteran. Co-creating a better tomorrow with others today.” He’s a champion of and catalyst for Creative Giants, talented Renaissance souls with a compassion-fueled bias towards action. Charlie asks:
“How are you going to take stock of your habits and improve them the coming year?” #KeepDropAdd
Charlie advises that in order to make way for new things in our limited time, we need to ‘drop’ some things. He asks us to reflect on which things in our lives should stay, which things should be dropped, and which things should we add? Thanks Charlie for this reflective prompt. It was necessary for me to think about these things with intention, even though my habit is to just keep ploughing ahead without thinking about these things. I think I can answer this one fairly quickly. Here’s what I’ll keep, drop and add this year. KEEP: My morning 20 minute yoga routine, quality family time on weekends. DROP: Unfocused time on social media, trying to do things myself that I’m not good and instead pay for help to do those things. Paying for help with the tasks required for running my business is the only way I’m going to break the unproductive cycle and win some extra time in my day. This will be a big goal for me this year. ADD: More self-care (a massage once a month, more yoga practice, more meditation), more telephone chats or catch-ups with friends, more date nights with my husband.
Writing prompt #12 – What does your ideal day look like?
This prompt comes from visionary Jenny Blake (@jenny_blake), an author, international speaker, business strategist, career coach and yogi now living and working in New York. She’s the author of ‘Pivot’, a wonderful book I’ve just finished reading that outlines a four-stage process to mindfully navigate career paths. Jenny asks:
“Describe your ideal average day one year from now. Where are you? What routines help start the day? What projects are you thrilled to dive into? What kind of impact are you having on the world around you? Who are you with? How do you unwind at the end of the day? Don’t think too hard about the answers; go with your gut and fill-in whatever first comes to mind.”#IdealDay
This is a fantastic exercise that I get my coaching clients to do when I’m working with them. The only way we can begin to create the life we reallywant is to first imagine it. The hard part here is to let our mind think truly big, rather than confining ourselves to what we think is possible. It’s not easy to imagine our most ideal life, but opening up our imagination to what’s possible is the first and critical step to creating more magic in our lives. It was great for me to spend the time reflecting on this (I don’t tend to do it enough myself). Here’s how my ideal day would look: It’s December 2017 and it’s been a truly wonderful year. I wake up to the gentle noise of birds outside our window and as I lie in bed I give quiet gratitude for the day ahead and for all the blessings in my life. I wake up gently, put on my yoga clothes and head outside in the cool, fresh morning air with my yoga mat to do my fifteen minute yoga routine on the back lawn. The sun is just coming up over the horizon and the birds are chirping on this beautiful, warm summer morning. I feel my body ground down into the earth as I move through my yoga poses and then I sit quietly in ten minutes of meditation and reflection, imagining a perfect outcome to the day ahead. I head inside to make my morning lemon juice. My boys are now awake and we enjoy a cuddle, a chat and breakfast together. It’s my husband’s turn to get the kids organized and off to school this morning, so I take the time to relish a long shower and prepare myself for my exciting day ahead. Today I’ve been invited to speak on ABC Radio about my Joyful Career Academy that helps young adults through a process of self-reflection and self-discovery that identifies their unique strengths and soul gifts, to uncover the most ideal career path that allows them to bring their full self into the work place. Before the talk after lunch, I’m spending the morning with two of my favourite coaching clients who I’m guiding through a process of starting up their own business. We’ll be working through some of their biggest challenges and helping them break through their blocks to maor growth in their business. After the delightful coaching sessions I go out for lunch with a dear friend of mine and we discuss all things from family life and holiday plans to the things that light up us up and make us feel excited. We discuss music, fashion, sport, shopping, our latest projects and ideas. After a nurturing conversation, I head off to the ABC to get ready for my talk. It’s a wonderful afternoon connecting with like-minded people and reaching out to more people with my message. I feel uplifted and inspired by the impact I’m able to make in helping people unleash their natural genius and get their unique gifts into the world in a way that makes them feel deeply fulfilled, satisfied and valued. I head to school to pick up my beautiful boys and we head down to the beach for a play in the sand, a swim and an ice-cream. My husband meets us down at the beach for fish and chips. We all head into the water for one more swim and play before we head home. The kids go to bed easily after a bath and bedtime story, and my husband and I relax onto the couch to enjoy some quiet alone time with a good glass of red wine. It’s been a great day. It’s been a great year. I’ve developed a full and rich website of resources and guidance for people seeking a more fulfilling working life. I’ve earned my first wonderful annual income based on my high-end coaching packages and public speaking engagements. I’ve launched an online course to help fulfilling career seekers find and live their calling. I have a wonderful team of talented, highly competent people working for me and helping me serve and reach more people. We moved back to Australia and found the perfect family home, in a suburb we truly love. We’ve made new connections and rekindled old ones. We’re surround by caring friends and family. We really are truly blessed.
BONUS writing prompt #13: How will you manifest your understanding that we’re all connected?
Our final visionary for Quest 2017 is Rebecca Walker (@rebeccawalker). She may be best known for her role as the original leader and founder of Third Wave Feminism, the movement, and the co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation, a non-profit organization that works through grant-making, leadership development, and philanthropic advocacy to support young women ages 15 to 30 working towards gender, racial, economic, and social justice. She has authored many books, including her latest collection,Black Cool, which explores the singular aesthetic that has helped to shape the world. Time Magazine named Walker one of fifty most influential American leaders under forty because of her transformative views on race, gender, sexuality and power. Rebecca asks:
“This coming year you have the ability to share a bit of your privilege, energy, and love in a way perhaps you haven’t done before. In 2017, for what person or group will you support with your whole heart and clear voice to make their life easier and personal evolution more possible? How will you manifest your understanding that we are all connected?” #Connected
I truly do believe that we are all connected and that when we make the decision to show up powerfully and be the best version of ourselves, we have a positive and inspirational impact on those around us. We impact the world predominantly through our connections and relationships. And so this year I commit to connecting and reaching out more, to proactively building networks and communities with the intention to serve as many people as I can with my message. My message is an echo of Howard Thurman’s famous quote “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive”. There are so many people out there feeling less than excited about their work. So many people drag themselves into their office or workplace and feel frustrated, uninspired or at worst, depressed and loathing about the way they spend their days. Many people don’t know how to lift themselves out of the rut in which they’ve unknowingly landed and struggle with the nagging feeling that there must be a more enjoyable and fulfilling way to live life. Many people feel they have a ‘calling’, if only they could figure out what it is and know how to live it, and how to make enough money in the process to quit their day job. I will show up for those people this year. I’ve heard many stories lately from friends and acquaintances who struggle at a very deep level with overwhelm and fatigue in life. One of them said “I just have to rediscover my love for my work”. But perhaps the love for your work has changed or been lived to its completion and it’s time for something different. We need to let people know that it’s okay to crave change and something different. It’s a very normal and healthy reaction to life, if we could only embrace the positive side of wanting change. We shouldn’t see it as a failure or a shortcoming of our own in some way. It’s simply acknowledging that you’re ready for the next exciting phase of life. There are ways to change or shapeshift your career to find more pleasure and enjoyment in day to day living. It is possible – and necessary – to move in the direction of something that lights you and up and allows you to use your strengths and talents in a way that offers real value to others. It’s possible to love your life, and you should! Life is too short, it’s a tragedy if we spend our time feeling stuck and overwhelmed. So – my commitment this year is to show up for all of you who struggle with the issues I just described. I know how it feels. I’ve been there – for almost 15 years I was there, struggling with feelings of frustration and complete lack of inspiration. And now that I know the joy of finding my calling, I want more than anything for everyone to feel that kind of deep joy and satisfaction every day. So dear friends, this year I will be here for you, cheerleading you and motivating you to dig deep, to find your calling and most importantly find the courage to take the necessary steps to get out there and start living it. And since we’re all connected, I know that any small positive impact I can have on someone’s life, those changes will flow onto the people around them and the ripple effect takes action. All we need to do is step up and show up for the people we’re here to serve.
Pulling it all together – synthesising the QUEST
Wow. What a process! So much reflection and deep processing of my values, thoughts and ideals. I’ve emerged so much clearer and stronger in my convictions and plans for the year ahead. Thanks to Jeffrey Davis’ tools and resources, I’ve been able to process the different themes and visions to come up with a solid plan for 2017. I feel really thankful to have been able to participate in this process. A big shout out to anyone who wants to jump on board this process for next year, I highly recommend it. And I hope that by sharing this process with you, it’s helped you in some way on your journey.
In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,
Have you ever had one of those moments in life where you’re moving along in a certain direction, thinking you know where you’re headed, and then boom!
Suddenly something comes out of left field and not only changes your direction but changes the entire course of your life? And afterward, you’re left thinking “Wow. Imagine if that certain event hadn’t happened? Where would I be now?”
Out of the infinite different possibilities and paths that your life could follow, how did you end up on this particular path and was it coincidence? A random accident?
Or was it the hand of something larger than you, forcing your life onto a path that it’s ‘meant’ to follow?
I had one of these moments in 1998. It changed the course of my life forever. It went like this:
I was working in the lab one afternoon at University, finishing some experiments that I desperately needed to complete for my Honours thesis in Biotechnology. A guy knocked on the door of our lab and said his name was Mark. He asked if I was Katie. He’d heard about me through one of his lecturers, who happened to be one of my supervisors. When I said yes I was indeed Katie, he said he was finishing his Mineral Science Degree and had just returned from Reno in the U.S.A, where he’d been working for a big company who was doing ‘Bioleaching’ – exactly the kind of research that my Honours research was about.
Mark said “You’re working on Bioleaching right?” When I confirmed that yes I was, he said that the company he had just left was looking for graduates with specific experience in Bioleaching and that I should ring his ex-boss to see if I could apply for one of the roles. He gave me the number of the lady I should call, wished me good luck, gave me the names of a few people to meet up with when I got there (if I got the job). He then said he had to go and left.
I never saw him again!
The opportunity sounded super exciting — who wouldn’t want to be paid to move to the United States straight after University for a great job? I spoke with the lady he recommended, and the next thing I had a job offer in my hands. This was October 1998, and I was being offered a job with the company starting in November. At the time I was in a destructive relationship that had been on and off for at least four years, which I’d tried leaving several times but without success (we loved each other but you know how these first loves can be, we also hurt each other a lot).
Life had been hell for at least a couple of years as I struggled with this relationship while juggling the incredible demands of my full-time studies, two part-time jobs, my parents’ divorce and a hefty social life. This was my opportunity to start anew, to get great experience and to travel to amazing places I had only dreamed of. So I said yes!
That decision changed the course of my life forever.
While in Reno I had an amazing time, worked hard, partied a lot, learned to snowboard, made amazing lifelong friends. And I met my husband Bas with whom I now have two beautiful children. Bas is from Holland and so we spent many years living and working in The Netherlands. I learned to speak fluent Dutch, worked as a consultant with a Dutch company for many years, lived and partied in Amsterdam and other cities in Holland, and I’ve inherited my beautiful Dutch family-in-law and have some amazing Dutch friends.
That one visit from ‘Mark’ in the lab that afternoon in Perth, Australia changed the entire course of my life, with a unique set of ups and downs, good times and dark times to follow; all that have shaped and molded the person I am today.
I’ve since often wondered who was this guy Mark?
I don’t even remember his last name so I wouldn’t be able to look him up and to tell him how much his short visit changed my life. I’m not able to thank him for the incredible impact he had on my life direction. And sometimes I even wonder if he was real? Since I’ve never been able to find him again, was he some kind of angel, sent to get my life on the path it needed to be? It seems too surreal and impactful to be ‘random’ or ‘coincidental’.
What if he’d decided not to drop past my lab to tell me that this company was hiring? He didn’t have to make the effort to come and tell me – a complete stranger – about this opportunity. What path would my life have taken if I hadn’t applied for the job that took me overseas to meet my future husband?
Was it coincidence? Or divine intervention?
I really don’t know the answer to this. But something deep within me believes it was meant to be, that perhaps it’s not so random. All the good — the really good & beautiful — plus the bad, the ugly and heart-breaking that followed as a result of me taking that specific life path, all seem to have been perfectly designed to get me to right where I am now — to be the person I am, doing what I’m doing.
Have you had a moment like that that’s changed the course of your life forever?
What’s your verdict? Is it random? Coincidental? Or not so random at all….?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please take the time to leave a comment below if you’ve had a similar experience!
In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International
This question has fascinated me ever since a recent epiphany I had on this very topic. I realised suddenly that so many years of struggle and pain I had endured were because I had been living an inauthentic life. It was Katherine Woodward Thomas who came up with these words during one of her coaching calls and they were a true ‘ah-ha!’ moment for me. It was cathartic to finally find the words to name the reason for all my struggles and to see clearly in how many ways I had been inauthentic to my heart throughout the course of my life.
I’ve since been on a rampant search for my own true, authentic voice. Who am I really? What do I really want? What does it mean for me to beauthentic?
We receive so many messages when we’re young. So many messages that are not necessarily true for us, yet we take them on as if they are, because who are we to know? We’re young and parents and teachers know better, they’ve experienced the world. Of course, the messages we receive are radically different depending on our cultural background, our gender, our parents’ social class etc. And how we react to them also depends on our own individual personality.
In my case, a middle class white family in suburban Australia, I received messages like: You’re a good girl if you do this, you’ll get far if you do this, you have to work hard and struggle to get anywhere but it’s worth it, success takes sacrifice, education is the most important thing in the world, particularly science & engineering as those fields will always have jobs, corporate careers are the way to make money, we have to sacrifice what we love to do what is best, financial security is paramount, creative talents are for hobbies, not a real career, there is no money in the arts, humanities studies are not real studies, you will never make money as a linguist, you are loved and valued for what you can achieve… . As an impressionable young girl, desperately wanting my parents’ love and approval, I took these messages seriously.
I ignored the whisperings of my heart, telling me…
You love writing, you love languages, you love creative expression, you love people, community and connection, you love stories, you love dancing. Because the messages I received allowed no room for these whispers. They simply didn’t fit in my world of parental expectations. I was fortunate that I did not ignore every whispering I received from my heart. I’m blessed with quite a stubborn, rebellious and adventurous spirit that urged me to spend 12 months in rural Paraguay (South America) as a cultural exchange student, which was a life-altering and heart-opening experience, and to take 12 months off university after my second year to backpack and work my way around Europe. I learned the art of living off the lowest wages, of doing any job that came up to cover the next train ticket, of feeling at home in all kinds of squalid accommodation, befriending people from all walks of life and all different countries and lifestyles.
Each of these experiences cracked me open in some delightful way, allowed the light to flow into my heart and reach the furthest corners where my true essence was lying there waiting for me to tap into it. I discovered my love for people of all cultures, all races, all backgrounds, a deep compassion for those born and raised into poverty and difficult circumstances, a deep compassion for the planet and all the damage we are inflicting upon it, a deep joy of connecting with other human beings and listening to their stories.
But somehow the childhood messages were deeply ingrained.
I remember the exact moment at which I made the decision to ‘sacrifice’ my heart’s joy for the noble good of earning a decent living and setting up a financially secure future. I was sitting in a plane on the way back from Argentina, having travelled there over the university holidays on money earned from working three part-time jobs (yes I had a tendency to burn the candle at both ends) and savoring the delicious experience I had just had. My heart opens in an indescribable way in South America, there’s something about the way they value family, fun, community, and dancing above all else, and live a seemingly uncomplicated and joyful life. At that moment I was on my way back to finish my final year of university, which I knew would be tough, and I knew I would have to do postgraduate degrees after the basic degree to find a good job in my particular field.
If I’d had the courage to put aside my childhood conditioning when deciding what to study at university, I would have chosen to study languages without a doubt. Learning and speaking other languages brings me so much joy, I absorb them quickly and easily, with almost no effort. Wouldn’t that be a sign of your heart’s purpose, if something feels so joyful and effortless?
But my childhood conditioning and parent’s advice urged me to pursue a career in science & engineering, given the increased job opportunities I would have. In that moment sitting in the plane, coming back from my overseas holiday, I knew the fun times were over. From now on it would be hard work, sacrifice, and time to build that much coveted financially secure future…. my heart sank and I knew I was making a choice that was perhaps not authentically me. But what choice did I have? A financially insecure future was no option in my mind of beliefs. I knew that a secure future would require sacrifice, hard work, sweat, and tears, right?
And so I embarked on the journey of being an inauthentic version of myself
…seeking financial security, job opportunities and deep down, my parent’s approval. I knuckled down and finished my degree with Honours, then on to completing my Doctorate (self-sacrifice is honorable right? And we’re seen and loved for our achievements right?). This is where I started unraveling at the seams. While I was passionate about my chosen field, the whole field was simply not in my zone of genius. I’m a creative soul, a linguist, a humanitarian. So why on earth was I doing science & engineering? The work was tough and difficult, I had to work long hours to keep up with the demands, it didn’t come naturally to me yet I was determined to do well. There was no room for failure. My health plummeted; I was drained, depleted and completely exhausted. Yet I had to achieve and do well, after all that was how I would be seen and loved. I was chasing that elusive abundant financial future and job security. I was chasing love and approval.
Childhood conditioning runs deep.
As I moved from university into the corporate world, I was finally able to enjoy my first decent income. So it was all worth it right? I had a great permanent work contract with a great company, I had interesting and challenging projects. I’d made it. I was secure. I consistently ignored the signs of my inner wisdom. I over-rode them. I was getting more and more tired, my brain was becoming foggy, my attention span was dwindling. I was tired, always tired. Physical symptoms started manifesting, indigestion problems, sleep problems, and finally an acute over-active thyroid that caused me insomnia and a loss of 10 kg within one month. You would think this sign would get my attention that something in my current life was not right, right? Well, not really.
I read Louise Hay’s book on the spiritual causes of physical illnesses. The spiritual cause behind an over-active thyroid was ‘when would it be my turn?’ This was absolutely what I was thinking. When I looked around me, I saw all my friends enjoying life, with active social lives, budding careers, travelling, starting families. While I was stuck in pursuing a difficult career that had wonderful career prospects and financial security, but with my physical body that was falling apart and a mind that was in torture but had no idea how to escape it. There was no room for changing my career path. I had invested so much in this path, I’d given everything, my blood, sweat, and tears — literally. My partner and I had bought a house and we were financially stuck. We needed my income. There was no room to take time out. I hadn’t earned enough sick leave at this early stage of my career to take time off.
I had chosen this path and I had to make it work.
As ways to survive I delved into yoga and meditation that helped greatly. I read spiritual teachings, hoping to discover my true life purpose and how to live it. I rested as much as I could. I got help through acupuncture and bio-resonance to alleviate my physical symptoms. I maintained a semi-decent social life. On the surface, things looked pretty good. My career was flourishing, I had been invited to be a Shareholder of my company and I was holding down senior management positions. I was facilitating workshops, attending conferences and presenting well-received papers. This was everything I had always wanted, wasn’t it? So why was I still always so tired? And why did I feel so empty? Something was missing. Something big was missing. I wasn’t getting my gifts into the world. I didn’t feel as though I was making an impact, my soul was under-fed and under-nourished in every possible way.
And at a deep soul level, I was simply exhausted.
I believe the Universe never stops giving us gentle nudges in the direction we need to be going to live our purpose. I had ignored my gentle nudges for so long that they were eventually turning into sledgehammers. The final wakeup call came when my husband and I wanted to start our family. We went through two devastating miscarriages within a 12 month period. For the first time in my life I actually thought I could no longer go on. I entertained thoughts of leaving this world. Nothing could explain the deep, gut-wrenching pain and sadness I experienced every waking moment. I had always wanted to be a mother. I couldn’t understand why the Universe was making me endure this, after all the suffering I had been through continuously since my early twenties, with the constant fatigue and physical symptoms, why this on top of that? Hadn’t I suffered enough?
But fortunately, the Universe knows the game plan. Somehow it knew that this was the only way to wake me up from the deep illusion I had dug myself into.
It didn’t work after one miscarriage. I went straight back to work and into the same old routines and behaviours as before. Over-doing everything. Over-achieving in everything, as a way to prove my worth and that I was good enough. It took a second miscarriage to shake me up sufficiently such that I would walk into the office the next day and request 3 months off work. I handed over my job and went home to rest, reflect and rejuvenate. For the first time in my life, I was choosing for me and my needs. What an amazing feeling. At the age of 35 I realised I had never done this before, put my own needs first, I had always been trying to please others, live up to others’ expectations of me. It was during this time, away from the grind of corporate office life, sipping coffee at the beach one morning, that I had an epiphany.
I had a choice.
I could continue this life of chasing love and approval through things that do not feed me spiritually and emotionally. Or I could choose to leave that life behind and find the path that is authentically me.
I didn’t take this decision lightly, given how much I had invested in my career to date, but once the thought had entered my head that there was another way, there was no going back. It felt like a tonne of bricks had been lifted from my shoulders. It felt like the light was seeping in under the veil of illusion that had kept me separated from my authentic self. I felt my heart fill with joy. It felt like the Angels were rejoicing and celebrating that I had finally heeded their call.
It’s been two and a half years since I left my corporate career and finally became a mother, to our absolute delight. We were given the amazing opportunity to embark on overseas postings through my husband’s work, which has given me time and space to dig deep and discover my true passion and calling (does the Universe suddenly support us in every way after we’ve woken up to the call to find our authentic self?). After much reflection, I decided to study remotely to become a Life Coach and to focus on writing. Through coaching I am finally following my heart’s passion, connecting with people, listening to their stories, helping them find their own authentic self. I cannot explain the synchronicity that has followed me since I made the decision to be true to my heart and soul, doors opening at exactly the right time, my health improving out of sight, my energy levels soaring, meeting the right people at the right time, being guided to the right books, the right teachers and the right clients at the right time.
I cannot explain the synchronicity that has followed me since I made the decision to be true to my heart and soul…
… doors opening at exactly the right time, my health improving out of sight, my energy levels soaring, meeting the right people at the right time, being guided to the right books, the right teachers and the right clients at the right time.
How did my friends and family react to my decision to leave my old career behind and follow my heart? Initially with shock and disbelief (I had many people openly laugh at my decision), followed by understanding and compassion, and these days with admiration and respect. People are realising more and more that the only path to real, authentic joy, is to be our real, authentic selves. There is something that happens when we dare to connect with what is authentic and true in our own heart. In my case, I feel like I’m finally tapping into the Universal power, opportunities miraculously open up, synchronicities abound, I feel I am flowing with the river instead of swimming upstream and I feel a deep sense of relief, joy and clarity that I had never felt before. I wake up excited about the new day ahead and uplifted by the positive contribution I can make through my own unique gifts and talents.
To me, this is what it means to be authentic. My heart and soul feel alive and connected to all of humanity, I feel aligned, I feel infinite gratitude and deep inner happiness, and most importantly, I finally feel free. I don’t believe there can be anything more beautiful than being able to joyfully serve others, in a way that feels authentic to our hearts. I think we pay a high price for being inauthentic.
It’s as though the Universe is programmed to increase our pain and struggle exponentially the further we get away from our true, authentic self.
So I wonder, how do we help each other to find our own authentic selves? In their hearts, our parents had the very best intentions for us as children. It isn’t their fault they embedded messages into our belief systems that encouraged us into directions that may not be our authentic path to follow. They grew up in difficult times when financial security was the only thing that mattered. It was still about survival, not self-actualisation. And I don’t want to paint a bad picture of my parents; they were very loving, very supportive and simply wanted the best future for us. I wonder how many of their generation and all the thousands of generations before were able to be their authentic selves? How many people actually had a choice? I dare to think not many. The fortunate few who were able to be authentic to their heart and soul were the lucky minority. We are so fortunate that we’re now entering a time of prosperity, of increased choices and opportunities to explore deeply how we can earn a living doing what we do well and what we love. Times have changed.
I am now 100% committed to helping others find their own authentic voice. I’m passionate about helping people experience that degree of freedom and joy that comes when we take the time to slow down and listen to those whispers in our heart that lead us back to our authentic self.
It has to be acknowledged that the path of our authentic self is not always easy. We are still challenged with many things we need to learn along the way, it can be difficult creating a secure financial base and livelihood from doing what we love. It takes courage to escape the confines of our secure jobs that provide for all of our needs except perhaps our spiritual and emotional ones. We have responsibilities in life and commitments, it is not always possible to take that leap of faith when we want to. But I do truly believe that once we make the commitment to find our authentic self and to courageously take steps in that direction, we suddenly find unlimited support and opportunities opening up to help us, the support of the Universe is suddenly up underneath us and limitations we thought we had dissolve or go away. Miraculous things can happen when we decide to ‘go for it’, all the way. Just as it seems pain and struggle increase the further away we get from our authentic selves, in reverse, joy and ease seem to increase the closer we get to being our authentic selves.
So what would I recommend we do in our quest for finding and being our authentic self?
Number one, we need to listen to our hearts. Stop, slow down, take time out, get quiet, and listen. I know we lead busy lives, I know we think there isn’t always time. But once we make the commitment to be true to ourselves, we find we can make time, and suddenly and miraculously we find our access to time increases. The whisperings are there in our heart, just waiting to be heard. We need to ask ourselves, what do I love doing? What kind of person do I love being? Within those things we love doing lie hidden the treasures of our own specific, unique gifts that we uniquely have to bless the world. The world desperately needs our specific gifts because no one else can give them except us. If we don’t nurture and contribute them in service, we and the world will have missed out on our biggest blessing and the Universe will mourn that loss. The heart cannot give false advice, it always leads to growth and expansion, to service in joy and a profound blessing to our soul and the world. So we just need to get quiet and listen.
Of course, we encounter obstacles along the way, those false nagging beliefs that tell us we can’t do that, or we’re not good enough to do this… we are all slaves to our internal beliefs. But these beliefs can be overcome through gentle and deep belief work that remove the obstacles we have created in our minds. We might come up against unforeseen challenges that make us feel we’re on the wrong path after all. However, I believe the Universe continues to provide us the challenges we need to grow, strengthen and evolve the skills we need to be doing the work we want to do. Being authentic requires growth and expansion, healing and love. It is not a journey for the faint-hearted, but it is one that is guaranteed to bring us back to our soul, where all that is joyful and wonderful in this life resides.
Time is short, don’t waste another day – you CAN make a difference and earn great money, doing what you love. Find out how in my E-Book PATHFINDING.
In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International
Kate De Jong is an expert Fempire Coach, blogger and inspirer who intimately understands (and shares) what it is like to juggle motherhood and entrepreneurship, whilst staying sane and enjoying the freedom and fulfilment of being a successful coach and fempreneur.