Quest 2018 – Can Competition Be Healthy in Entrepreneurship?

Quest 2018 – Can Competition Be Healthy in Entrepreneurship?

 

Exploring the question of whether competition be healthy in entrepreneurship as part of this year's Quest journey with Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder #WeQuest #BestYear #CompetitionCommunityIt’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.

 

Competition

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.

Exploring the question of whether competition be healthy in entrepreneurship as part of this year's Quest journey with Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder #WeQuest #BestYear #CompetitionCommunityThere 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.

Exploring the question of whether competition be healthy in entrepreneurship as part of this year's Quest journey with Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder #WeQuest #BestYear #CompetitionCommunityThis 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.

 

Community Building

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 impuleses 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:

Quest 2018 – Finding Purpose versus Testing Purpose

Quest 2018 – Dreaming Stuff Up versus Getting Stuff Done

And in the spirit of collaboration, please check out some of the beautiful responses this week from fellow Questers on this week’s instigation #CompetitionCommunity:

Alicia Anderson’s beautiful post Inviting Change.

Julie Peatt Cassaday shares her thoughtful response here: Week 4 Quest 2018 Competition versus Community Building

In service to helping you live your brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D.
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com
www.katiedejong.com

Quest 2018 – Getting Stuff Done vs. Dreaming Stuff Up

Quest 2018 – Getting Stuff Done vs. Dreaming Stuff Up

Discussing my thoughts on the topic of Dreaming Up Ideas vs Getting Stuff Done as part of this year's Quest 2018. #goals #goalsetting #productivity #newyearsresolutions #WeQuest #BestYear #dreams #achievegoals #nextyear #liveyourdreamsI love this week’s Roundtable Discussion in Quest 2018 with Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder #WeQuest #BestYear.

The discussion is on the topic of:

Getting Stuff Done versus Dreaming Up Ideas

 

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?”

This week’s roundtable conversation was with two visionary leaders who know this terrain well, Ishita Gupta and Charlie Gilkey.

In the conversation they discuss:

  • 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’.

 

What does it take to develop genuine grit? Read on to find out my thoughts. #goals #goalsetting #productivity #newyearsresolutions #WeQuest #BestYear #dreams #achievegoals #nextyear #liveyourdreamsI 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”.

How do we balance 'getting stuff done' with 'dreaming stuff up?' Regular quiet time is the answer. #goals #goalsetting #productivity #newyearsresolutions #WeQuest #BestYear #dreams #achievegoals #nextyear #liveyourdreamsCreating ‘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:

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.

I think 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:

Charlie Gilkey – Creative Entrepreneur Helping People Finish the Stuff that Matters

Charlie asks:

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

This one is easy for me to answer because I’ve been building my goal-setting process around my desired feelings ever since I came across Danielle LaPorte’s Core Desired Feelings and Desire Map concept in 2015. So, here is how I want to feel at the end of 2018:

Alive

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.

Connected

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.

Impactful

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.

Valuable

I want to feel as though I’m important and invaluable the people in my life, including my clients.

Nourished

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.

Joyful

I want my work to bring me great joy and satisfaction.

Magical

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.

Thriving

I want to feel financially abundant and free.

What about you? What will be your words for 2018?

You can read more about my Quest Journey here:

Quest 2018 – Map and Live Your Best Year Ever – A Revolutionary Approach to New Year’s Goal Setting

Quest 2018 – Finding vs. Testing Purpose

Quest 2018 – Can Competition Be Healthy in Entrepreneurship?

In service to helping you live your brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D.
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com
www.katiedejong.com

Quest 2018 – A Radical Alternative to New Year’s Goal Setting

Quest 2018 – A Radical Alternative to New Year’s Goal Setting

 

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 developed high-quality workbooks and materials for my signature coaching program The Professional Freedom Formula.
  • I refined and improved my signature coaching program and pilot tested it with two wonderful women who gave me glowing feedback.
  • I learned how to use content scheduling tools Buffer, Tailwind and CoSchedule to ensure a more consistent presence on my social media platforms Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
  • 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.
  • I participated in my very first TeleSummit and was interviewed by the lovely Dr. Julie Wilkening on the topic of The Art of Purposeful Living for her Healthy Habits and Productivity Summit.

When setting goals for the year ahead, it's so important to take some time to reflect on all the goodness that unfolded the year before. Gratitude and appreciation light the fires of passion, purpose and creativity!

What did you do differently that stretched you?

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.

 

 

Spending some time reflecting and giving gratitude for previous years lights the fires of passion, purpose and creativity for the year ahead.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?

Goal setting is necessary to align your own internal compass, and to get your energy flowing in the direction of your desires. Find out how the Quest process has helped me develop my goals for 2018.

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!

With love

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com
www.katiedejong.com

 

 

Those days when I just want to give up on my dream … And 7 ways I manage to get through them

Those days when I just want to give up on my dream … And 7 ways I manage to get through them

Those days when I just want to give up on my dream of running my own business - and 7 ways I manage to get through them #smallbusiness #whenthegoinggetstough #businessstartup #dontgiveupI’m not usually one to focus my time and energy on things that aren’t working because I’m acutely aware that “What we focus on grows and expands” and all of that. And yet, I also think there’s enormous value in sharing our vulnerability and real-life struggles so that we know we’re not alone and so that we can help each other through them. And sometimes we have days where it all just feels really hard. Running your own business can feel like a lot of hustle for little return at times. Sometimes it sucks. And it’s OK to feel that way every now and then. It’s part of the natural cycle of things.

Today I had one of those days when I sat down at my desk and I couldn’t find my ‘mojo’. I’d had a couple of deflating incidents; some people unsubscribing from my email list, very little engagement on an offer I put out that I’d been really excited about. All a very normal part of doing business, but sometimes those things feel deflating nonetheless. My head was full of thoughts like “Who’s going to care if I don’t coach or publish or offer anything today. Maybe I should just go back to my old corporate job.” … and a tirade of other unpleasant thoughts.

It can be hard to pull myself out of those moments.

 

Because starting your own business is hard. And there are days when I just want to give up on my dream.

 

My dream for the past six years has been to run my own thriving coaching practice from home, while being a Mum to our two young boys. I quit my previous corporate career in 2011 after more than fifteen years in the field of water process engineering. I’d chosen my field of study for mostly the wrong reasons; trying to please my parents and live up to the expectations they had for me to be a successful professional woman in the technical fields. And I chose it for the stable financial future that everyone told me I would have if I followed Science & Engineering. Which I did have, but that financial freedom failed to make me happy. I had mostly ignored the gentle pleads from my heart to follow my natural joy; languages, social connection, and writing.

 

It's hard starting your own business and there are days when I just feel like giving up. Find out how I manage to pull myself out of them.

But in 2011 I was finally forced to my knees and I had no other option than to step out of my profession.

I’d been through a very long ‘dark night of the soul’ (which I write about here Authentically Me: My Journey of Coming Home to Myself). I could no longer ignore the whispers in my heart that had now turned into a loud roar.

I remember the mixed emotions I felt when I finally made the decision to quit my job after almost 15 years of intense sweat and tears poured into my profession. Enormous relief, exhilaration, freedom, joy. Followed closely by lots of fear, self-doubt, and anxiety about what others would say and think. And many questions and doubts about what I would actually do going forward. I had never contemplated ‘going it alone’ before or being a business owner or entrepreneur. Those words had never even been inside my head in relation to ME.

 

But I’d been through so much struggle and inner turmoil to get to that point that I was determined to make my own way on my own terms.

 

After much soul-searching, I decided I wanted to save others from the struggles that I had been through, feeling off-track and miserable in my career for so long, to help them find their authentic and joyful professional path. I was determined to make it work.

I was lucky (or was it synchronicity?) that at the time I decided to quit my corporate consulting engineering career, my husband was offered a job overseas and I had finally fallen pregnant with our first baby boy. And so I took that to be a ‘sign’ and decided to throw myself wholeheartedly into pursuing a coaching certification while simultaneously becoming a mother twice over (our boys are now aged 3 and 6). In 2014, I finally became qualified as a Certified Coach and I’ve been busily working away at building my business ever since.

I feel fortunate that I’ve had so much passion and purpose to fuel me through the start-up phase because it hasn’t been easy.

 

It can be really hard starting your own business and sometimes you'll feel like giving up. Here are my tips on what do when you're having a day like that.It’s not an easy task going back to ground zero, starting out in a new field in which you know nothing, building connections in a field that you have none, developing new skills and competencies completely outside of what you’ve always known.

 

Not to mention the difficulty of setting up the actual nuts and bolts of a business, or the many costs of setting up and running one. There are so many little things that add up over time; business name registration, domain name purchase, building a website and everything that goes along with that, branding and logo design, purchasing graphic design tools, email list building software, online course platforms, social media/content scheduling tools, business insurances, legal documents, office set up … and the list goes on.

One of Sydney’s rising start-up entrepreneurs Jon Westenberg said recently:

 

“If you don’t have a plan to make money, all you have is an expensive hobby.”

– Jon Westenberg

 

And sometimes that’s what it’s felt like, an expensive hobby. Especially in those early years. Over the past six years, I’ve completed countless courses and programs from some of the biggest ‘gurus’ in the industry, trying to figure out MY plan to make money. Everyone seems to have a different idea or opinion on what it takes to “make it happen”. And I’m slowly realising that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach and each business and person is entirely unique and as such requires a unique approach. I’ve tried several different approaches; some have worked, some haven’t. But with time I guess you could say I’m slowly figuring out the best business model for my personality and services.

I’ve been extremely fortunate that my husband has been able to pick up the slack financially, especially in the beginning, because it certainly takes a long time to develop anything near a ‘sustainable income’. It takes time and a lot of patience to build a sustainable, functional business foundation. And it takes a lot of time and patience to build visibility and a platform of followers interested in your message and your work.

 

There is no quick fix, no overnight solution. It takes a lot of consistent, hard work before you begin to see the fruits of your hard labour.

 

And some days it feels like I’m putting my work out into a vacuum. Those are the days when it’s hard to get motivated. It’s hard going it alone. It’s hard being the sole person responsible for generating income from your business. If you slack off, no money comes in. I’ve read all the promises of the 4-hour work week and ‘passive income’ and while they sound great, it’s much harder to implement in reality.

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. Force yourself to step away from the desk and take a short break.

Because any action you take while in that 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-center and re-align yourself.

 

2. Get yourself out into nature and do something nourishing for your body, mind or soul.

Get outside into the garden, or go for a walk, or do something uplifting, comforting and nourishing for yourself. If you need some inspiration on how to do that, I wrote about 10 ways to do that in my blog article:
Soul-Care – 10 Ways To Comfort Your Being In Times of Overwhelm.

 

3. 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? I wrote about mine here: Quitting the Rat Race: 5 Reasons Why You Should Break Free and Follow Your Heart.

 

4. Remember WHY you’re doing it. And get inspired again by your goals.

When you’re in this state of mind, it’s important to reconnect with your PURPOSE – your ‘big why’. I remind myself how much pain I felt when I couldn’t find my professional purpose and joy for the longest time. And I think of all the people who have told me how desperately they want to find their joyful career path and to live a life more aligned with their heart and soul. I take the time to go back and read my Business Inspiration and Vision.  And then I go back to the exciting goals and vision that I set for my year ahead, which I do each year through Quest with Jeffrey Davis at Tracking Wonder.

 

Building a business can feel like hard work, and it can feel like we're only sowing seeds and not reaping any harvest. Find out my tips on what to do when you're feeling that way.

5. 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. And spend some time appreciating those areas of your business where you ARE experiencing flow, traction and momentum. Find a way to remember that your work matters and that people need and appreciate what you have to offer.

 

6. Remember that you’re making progress, even when you can’t yet see the fruits of your labour.

Building a business requires us to continuously plant seeds and they don’t always germinate when we’d like them to, or sometimes they don’t germinate at all. Some days I can feel disheartened when I feel like I’m not seeing any results of my hard work. But then I experience an unexpected surprise or breakthrough and I’m reminded that progress is ALWAYS being made, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

 

Many people give up right before they're about to make it. If they only knew they were ALMOST there... don't give up on your dreams!

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 Attract More Abundance & Joy Into Your Life.

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! And if you ever need to reach out for some moral support, I’d love to connect with you. You can reach me at katie@katiedejong.com.

In service to helping you live your brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com
www.katiedejong.com

Need help finding your unique professional path and purpose? Get your FREE copy of my E-Book PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND YOUR UNIQUE PATH AND PURPOSE here.

Letter to a novice expat wife: The surprising truths of expat life that no-one warns you about

Letter to a novice expat wife: The surprising truths of expat life that no-one warns you about

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 to a novice expat wife’, 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…

Dear friend,

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 very social extroverts, just be careful as they can have a nasty sting if you upset them or threaten their position somehow.

 

 

The charmer 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 accusing them of, 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.

‘My-child’s-never-in-the-wrong’ mothers 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 to follow your dreams, 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.
  • Avoid gossiping. 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 have been 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!

With love,

What’s Your Bliss? How to Find the Career You Love So You’ll Never ‘Work’ Another Day

What’s Your Bliss? How to Find the Career You Love So You’ll Never ‘Work’ Another Day

What's Your Bliss? Use these questions to uncover what your ideal career looks like - the one that makes you one to jump out of bed each and every morning because your heart is FULLY in it! #career #careerchange #careerpath #findyourpurpose #purpose #livefromyourheart #listentoyourheart #careertransition #careerplanning #yourbigwhy #findyourbigwhy

Why is it so hard for so many of us to find a career path we love?

 

Most of us have heard the famous quote allegedly said by Confucius, the Chinese teacher, politician, and philosopher who lived more than 2500 years ago.

 

“Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work another day in your life”.

– Confucius

 

It sounds so easy. 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:

  • We’re told to choose a career path when we’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.
  • We’re filled with societal expectations from a young age that teach us 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.
  • We’re taught not to trust our own inner instincts from a young age. We’re encouraged to take the advice from teachers and adults more seriously than the whispers in our hearts. Over time most of us learn to ignore those whispers completely.
  • We’re told that following our passion is not responsible or wise.
  • We’re told that our specific talents and gifts are not necessarily something that the world needs and that we should choose something more practical instead.

 

I took all these subliminal messages very seriously and they eventually led me down the completely wrong path.

 

What's Your Bliss? Use these questions to uncover what your ideal career looks like - the one that makes you one to jump out of bed each and every morning because your heart is FULLY in it! #career #careerchange #careerpath #findyourpurpose #purpose #livefromyourheart #listentoyourheart #careertransition #careerplanning #yourbigwhy #findyourbigwhyI spent fifteen years of my life in a career path 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 wonderful 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.
  • If you chose to go to University, view your degree as a wonderful foundational building block for your life and appreciate it for all the skills it taught you. Don’t let it lock you into a particular profession. 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 find out what they are, and 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.

In my blog article Pathfinding: How To Find Your Professional Path and Purpose, I define your ‘true’ path and purpose like this:

 

Your ‘true’ path and 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, fulfillment, 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 brings you joy? What makes your heart sing?
  • What brings you a deep feeling of fulfillment and love for life?
  • How could you build a career around these things that allows you to thrive?

 

These are not easy questions to answer, and many of us can spend years, if not a lifetime, getting clear answers. In my own quest to find my joyful professional path, I’ve come across a technique that helped me get closer to my true essence and authentic joy. It’s a process of reflection that I call “Those blissfully happy moments.” 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 heart’s joy 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 the depth of your unique joy and the values that you hold most cherished. And they contain the seeds of your true calling.

Do you wish you could find the professional path that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? In this article you'll find out how. #findyourpurpose #howtofindyourpurpose #purpose #career #careerchange #careertransition #loveyourjob #liveyourbestlife #liveyourdreams #followyourheart #followyourpassion

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 exquisite 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.

 

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.

Do you wish you could find the professional path that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? In this article you'll find out how. #findyourpurpose #howtofindyourpurpose #purpose #career #careerchange #careertransition #loveyourjob #liveyourbestlife #liveyourdreams #followyourheart #followyourpassion

I ask her if she likes dizzy-whizzies and she says “yes!”. I pick her up, swing her around and she squeals 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 authentic passion and joy and about the values I hold most cherished. 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.

 

You need to look beneath the feeling of joy you experienced in those blissfully happy moments and ask yourself what they were trying to tell you. Were they random moments of happiness or was there a message in there for you? I’ll bet you there was.

 

So I wonder, what are those moments in your life that have made your heart overflow with joy? 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 purposeful and joyful professional path? I invite you to spend a few minutes reflecting on those 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.

Need help in identifying your joyful professional path and purpose? Download my free eBook PATHFINDING: How to find your unique path and purpose and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love!

Do you wish you could find the professional path that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning? In this article you'll find out how. #findyourpurpose #howtofindyourpurpose #purpose #career #careerchange #careertransition #loveyourjob #liveyourbestlife #liveyourdreams #followyourheart #followyourpassion

In service to helping you live your brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com

The moment of clarity: How do you know when it’s time to follow your heart?

The moment of clarity: How do you know when it’s time to follow your heart?

How do you know when it's time to give up the struggle and follow your heart? Is there ever a good time? Find out about the moment I KNEW it was time to take the leap of faith and turn my life around #findyourpurpose #purpose #followyourheart #followyourbliss #livefromyourheart ##healing #selflove #bethechange #innerwork #mindset #shineyourlight #liveyourdreams #followyourheart #positivityrules #successmindset #authenticity #listentoyourheart #listentoyoursoul #courage #faith #resilience #powerofpositivity #dreambelieveachieve #noregrets #havenofear I remember the moment so clearly. 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 caressing my shoulders and there was a gentle breeze in the air. I’d just been for a swim in the crystal clear, blue waters of the Indian Ocean, the underwater visibility so 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 had 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, which is what I gathered 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.

 

How do you know when it's time to give up the struggle and follow your heart? Is there ever a good time? Find out about the moment I KNEW it was time to take the leap of faith and turn my life around #findyourpurpose #purpose #followyourheart #followyourbliss #livefromyourheart ##healing #selflove #bethechange #innerwork #mindset #shineyourlight #liveyourdreams #followyourheart #positivityrules #successmindset #authenticity #listentoyourheart #listentoyoursoul #courage #faith #resilience #powerofpositivity #dreambelieveachieve #noregrets #havenofear

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 instill 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 fulfill 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.

 

How do you know when it's time to give up the struggle and follow your heart? Is there ever a good time? Find out about the moment I KNEW it was time to take the leap of faith and turn my life around #findyourpurpose #purpose #followyourheart #followyourbliss #livefromyourheart ##healing #selflove #bethechange #innerwork #mindset #shineyourlight #liveyourdreams #followyourheart #positivityrules #successmindset #authenticity #listentoyourheart #listentoyoursoul #courage #faith #resilience #powerofpositivity #dreambelieveachieve #noregrets #havenofear

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.

 

You can read my full story in Authentically Me: My journey of coming home to myself.

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com

Over the hill and loving it! Six ways to embrace life after forty

Over the hill and loving it! Six ways to embrace life after forty

Over the hill and loving it - 6 Ways to Embrace Life After 40 #40 #turning40 #40thbirthday #overthehill #thebig40Like all big milestones in life, my approaching fortieth birthday has really had me thinking and reflecting. Unlike the months leading up to my thirtieth birthday that were filled with dread, resistance, and melancholy, I feel strangely at peace about turning forty and even a sense of excited optimism…. mingled with a small but definite dose of denial.

 

I remember when my Dad turned forty when I was a young girl and thinking “Wow, now my dad really is old.” 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 now seemingly out of nowhere, it appears I am about to turn forty. This one has 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 all of a sudden, out of school for more than twenty 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 fun and adventures and weathered many turbulent storms. But still it’s hard to fathom that I’m now 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.

 

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; against my best wishes.

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.

 

Over the hill and loving it - 6 Ways to Embrace Life After 40 #40 #turning40 #40thbirthday #overthehill #thebig40

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, moOver the hill and loving it - 6 Ways to Embrace Life After 40 #40 #turning40 #40thbirthday #overthehill #thebig40ve 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.

 

Over the hill and loving it - 6 Ways to Embrace Life After 40 #40 #turning40 #40thbirthday #overthehill #thebig40

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.

 

Over the hill and loving it - 6 Ways to Embrace Life After 40 #40 #turning40 #40thbirthday #overthehill #thebig406.       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!

 

 

If you’d like more help in identifying that unique calling that’s yours to live, please download my free eBook PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND YOUR UNIQUE PATH AND PURPOSE and learn all the tips and strategies you need to build a life you truly love.

Want to find your unique path and purpose? This article tells you how. #findyourpurpose #purpose #howtofindyourpurpose #career #careerchange #careertransition #howtofindtherightcareer

In service to helping you live your brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com

Parisian Luxury & Korean Chaos: A Tale of Two Radically Different Birthing Experiences

Parisian Luxury & Korean Chaos: A Tale of Two Radically Different Birthing Experiences

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, however, owever 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 mid-wives struggled by in their limited English, but luckily the similarities between French and English are just enough to be able to pick up the jist 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 in what a real language barrier was 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-pace, high-tech engineering and construction projects under way 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, 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 more angry 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 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 labour 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.

With love,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Life Coach & Career Strategist
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com

Embrace the chaos: How to survive when life throws you a curveball

Embrace the chaos: How to survive when life throws you a curveball

“The landscape of our lives … changes by the minute. You find your balance one day and think, ‘Hooray! I have solved it’ and then five minutes later the world utterly transforms again, and you’re knocked on your ass one more time”
– Elizabeth Gilbert

Yep – that’s what happened to me recently, again. I’d just gotten into a groove with things, my little boy was at school five mornings a week, I was finally in a position to do more writing, finish some courses I’d been working on and tick off all the things on my to-do list. I could perhaps even have some down-time and just enjoy being pregnant with our little number two who’s on the way this November…  ah the curse of making so many plans with such optimism!

Because then as many of you know, our little boy Jack fell off his scooter shortly after and broke his femur bone in two – I wrote about the trauma of this horrible episode in my June blog post ‘Looking for that silver lining’. The poor little guy was promptly put into a full body cast to give his bone the best chance of recovery, which meant that he was bed-ridden and stuck in the same position for five long, whole weeks. At the age of only two and half 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 a big frustration for his young little psyche. 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 “one day at a time”. 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 here 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 more angry 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 that’s present, 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.

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. 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.

As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her blog recently:

“My life gets the most painful when I try to set the entire mess (myself, other people, life itself) into order”.

Yep – that’s painful. Been there done that too. It sure is painful and it never works.

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.

If you enjoyed this article, you can sign up here to receive email notification of new blog posts and to receive our community newsletter. I’d be honoured to have you join our tribe!

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
Looking for the silver lining: How to find the goodness in difficult times

Looking for the silver lining: How to find the goodness in difficult times

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 offer us a compensatory thought such as ‘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 these 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 super 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 ‘anaesthetic!, anaesthetic!’, 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 anaesthetic and would numb the pain.

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. 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 happy and would get through 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, getting ready for bed. While he usually gets kisses and cuddles, love and attention aplenty, this is different. I actually 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 it half full, when we choose to see the benefits of a situation, 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. Is it really true we can influence our reality by changing the lens through which we choose to view it? Maybe. 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.

Maybe then I’ll have to come back to this blog and remind myself to look for that silver lining again.

If you enjoyed this article, you can sign up here to receive email notification of new blog posts and to receive our community newsletter. I’d be honoured to have you join our tribe!

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Professional Coach & Founder
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
The Art of Dreaming Big: Imagination and The Law of Attraction

The Art of Dreaming Big: Imagination and The Law of Attraction

There is a definite 'art' to being able to dream big. From a young age you're taught not to dream too big and not to want too much. But the only obstacles to achieving what you 'truly' want are the ones in your mind #lawofattraction #dreambig #dreambelieveachieve #imagination #manifesting #manifestation #motivation #inspiration #inspirationalquotes #motivationalquotesRecently I completed a fantastic course for entrepreneurs and business owners called ‘Profit Quest’ by Jeanna Gabellini at Masterpeace Coaching. 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? That 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 us how to be a co-creator in our own life, to align ourselves with a vision we love and then allow it to unfold.

 

The Law of Attraction is basically this: Like attracts like. 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) believe that 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 about 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.

 

There is an art to being able to dream big. From a young age you're taught not to dream too big and not to want too much. But the only obstacles to achieving what you 'truly' want are the ones in your mind #lawofattraction #dreambig #dreambelieveachieve #imagination #manifesting #manifestation #motivation #inspiration #inspirationalquotes #motivationalquotesOne 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 could realistically achieve. 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 a big stretch, 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 believe that I could make that much money, but I thought it would be cool if I did!

When we allow ourselves to think big like that, all of a sudden things start showing up that align with that vision. I’ve only been doing this for around 6 weeks now, but since doing it 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 journal available called her Speed Dial the Universe (both digitally as an App and in hard copy), and it’s 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.

 

Here’s How The Law of Attraction Works

Manifestation  =   Clear Desire  +  Surrender  +  Belief  +  Gratitude 

How to activate the Law of Attraction to create more of what you want #LOA #lawofattraction #abundance #create #dreambelieveachieve #thepowerofthemind #scienceandspirituality #liveyourdreams #dreams

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.

There is a definite 'art' to being able to dream big. From a young age you're taught not to dream too big and not to want too much. But the only obstacles to achieving what you 'truly' want are the ones in your mind #lawofattraction #dreambig #dreambelieveachieve #imagination #manifesting #manifestation #motivation #inspiration #inspirationalquotes #motivationalquotesAnd 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 believe I 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 if we 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.

 

When you have a clear intention, you start calling it forth. I’ve experienced profound internal shifts since using the Speed Dial the Universe journal each day. I haven’t doubled my profits yet, but I’ve definitely doubled my fun and I finally have real clarity and inspiration about exactly how I can double my profits too. And I can’t wait to implement them as they feel energizing, authentic and magnetic. I’m receiving insight and guidance each day and the next steps seem to be appearing effortlessly on my path. I feel excited, clear and optimistic. And I know my course colleagues have all experienced similar internal shifts that are helping them create a very real and clear roadmap to live the life they love.

There is a definite 'art' to being able to dream big. From a young age you're taught not to dream too big and not to want too much. But the only obstacles to achieving what you 'truly' want are the ones in your mind #lawofattraction #dreambig #dreambelieveachieve #imagination #manifesting #manifestation #motivation #inspiration #inspirationalquotes #motivationalquotesFeel 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:

HOW TO CREATE MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT USING THE LAW OF ATTRACTION – PART 1

HOW TO CREATE MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT USING THE LAW OF ATTRACTION – PART 2

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@katiedejong.com
QUEST 2017: A profound approach to plan an impactful year ahead

QUEST 2017: A profound approach to plan an impactful year ahead

#Quest2017 #TrackingWonder #JeffreyDavis

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 Quester Paula 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 Whispering Heart Coaching 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 from Kristen 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:

  1. Embrace and nurture the paradox in myself and others.
  2. Speak my mind more freely with the intention to inspire and motivate.
  3. 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 the Imagination 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 which everyone feels 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:

  1. What’s one thing I can do today that will allow me to serve people more effectively?
  2. What can I do today to uplift or inspire someone to step up and find more courage and confidence?
  3. 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:

What is your intuition calling you towards next?” #FollowIntuition

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?

 

Writingn 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,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Life Coach & Career Strategist
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
Fate or coincidence? Reflections on the random or not so random nature of life

Fate or coincidence? Reflections on the random or not so random nature of life

I’m currently in the process of writing my story — my life journey so far — as a way to process my thoughts and feelings, to further heal and integrate myself and to put my journey in perspective for myself (and perhaps others down the track). For many years I felt a lot of pain about certain aspects of my life, the way certain things had unfolded and how many things had happened, or not happened. And somehow writing it down helps me see things from an entirely different perspective, and to feel that there is perhaps a benevolent reason for all the things have happened along the way, and that everything has led me exactly to where I’m supposed to be — right here, right now. I’ve recently been writing about a time in my life when I was 23 years old and at University finishing my year-long Honours research project. Writing about this part of my life got me thinking and pondering the random or not so random nature of life.

Have you ever had one of those moments in life where one minute you’re moving along in a certain direction, thinking you know where you’re headed and what you’re working towards, 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 afterwards you’re left thinking “Wow?!” Imagine if that certain event or interaction hadn’t happened? Where would I be now? Out of the infinite different possibilities and paths that my life can follow, how did I end up on this particular one and was it coincidence? A random accident? Or the hand of something larger than ourselves forcing our life onto a path it is 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 my lab one afternoon, finishing some experiments that I desperately needed to finish in order to finish writing my Honours thesis, when a guy knocked on the door and said his name was Mark, and 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 that was me, he said he was finishing his mineral science degree and had just returned from Reno in the U.S.A, where he had been doing work experience for a big company who was doing exactly the kind of research that my Honours research was about. He said “You’re working on bioleaching right?” (a biological process for breaking down minerals to free up the precious metals for those who are interested!). When I confirmed that yes I indeed was, he said that this company was looking for graduates with specific experience in bioleaching, and that I should ring this lady 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), and 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 Uni 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, I worked as a consultant with a Dutch company for many years, we 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 this company was hiring? What path would my life have taken then if I hadn’t rung them about the job? 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 — warts, miracles and all.

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….?

In service to helping you live your fullest and brightest life,

Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Life Coach & Career Strategist
Whispering Heart Coaching
katie@whisperingheartcoaching.com
Authentically Me: My journey of coming home to myself

Authentically Me: My journey of coming home to myself

There is so much out there now about 'being yourself', 'following your heart', and 'being authentic'. What does it really mean to be true to yourself? After living the first half of my life according to everyone else's expectations, it took 10 years of struggle, pain, and finally a personal crisis to wake me up to my own true voice and life path. #authentic #authenticity #beyourself #liveyourdream #followyourheart #listentoyourheart #livefromyourheart #dreambelieveachieve #livelifeonyourterms #onyourterms #betruetoyourself #truth #courage #havenofear #nofear #change #embracechange #youcandoit #positivityrules #successmindset What does it mean to be true to yourself?

 

This question has fascinated me since I had a recent epiphany 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’s not that I hadn’t known this before, that I had been living in a way that was inauthentic to my heart’s desires, but more that I could finally name it and see clearly in how many ways I had been inauthentic to my heart and soul throughout the course of my life.

I have 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 be authentic?

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 is 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 tremendously. 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.

There is so much out there now about 'being yourself', 'following your heart', and 'being authentic'. What does it really mean to be true to yourself? After living the first half of my life according to everyone else's expectations, it took 10 years of struggle, pain, and finally a personal crisis to wake me up to my own true voice and life path. #authentic #authenticity #beyourself #liveyourdream #followyourheart #listentoyourheart #livefromyourheart #dreambelieveachieve #livelifeonyourterms #onyourterms #betruetoyourself #truth #courage #havenofear #nofear #change #embracechange #youcandoit #positivityrules #successmindsetI 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.

 

There is so much out there now about 'being yourself', 'following your heart', and 'being authentic'. What does it really mean to be true to yourself? After living the first half of my life according to everyone else's expectations, it took 10 years of struggle, pain, and finally a personal crisis to wake me up to my own true voice and life path. #authentic #authenticity #beyourself #liveyourdream #followyourheart #listentoyourheart #livefromyourheart #dreambelieveachieve #livelifeonyourterms #onyourterms #betruetoyourself #truth #courage #havenofear #nofear #change #embracechange #youcandoit #positivityrules #successmindsetSo 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?

 

There is so much out there now about 'being yourself', 'following your heart', and 'being authentic'. What does it really mean to be true to yourself? After living the first half of my life according to everyone else's expectations, it took 10 years of struggle, pain, and finally a personal crisis to wake me up to my own true voice and life path. #authentic #authenticity #beyourself #liveyourdream #followyourheart #listentoyourheart #livefromyourheart #dreambelieveachieve #livelifeonyourterms #onyourterms #betruetoyourself #truth #courage #havenofear #nofear #change #embracechange #youcandoit #positivityrules #successmindsetNumber 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.

If you feel lost and need help uncovering your most authentic and joyful path and purpose, download your FREE copy of my E-Book PATHFINDING: HOW TO FIND AND START LIVING YOUR UNIQUE CALLING and start taking steps to build a life you love today. Live a life of no regrets! 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, and until next time, lots of love.

There is so much out there now about 'being yourself', 'following your heart', and 'being authentic'. What does it really mean to be true to yourself? After living the first half of my life according to everyone else's expectations, it took 10 years of struggle, pain, and finally a personal crisis to wake me up to my own true voice and life path. #authentic #authenticity #beyourself #liveyourdream #followyourheart #listentoyourheart #livefromyourheart #dreambelieveachieve #livelifeonyourterms #onyourterms #betruetoyourself #truth #courage #havenofear #nofear #change #embracechange #youcandoit #positivityrules #successmindset

 In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Katie De Jong, Ph.D
Personal & Professional Freedom Mentor
katie@katiedejong.com