Living before we die

I love summer and admit to getting a bit sad once winter descends!  I find myself desperately grasping onto each sunny day and trying to make the most of it at this time of year, wishing the days were longer and warmer and wishing I’d made the most of the summer whilst it was here!  Crazy when we know that summer and winter come and go each year as the seasons change.  There’s some interesting parallels here on how we live life and something I’ve been contemplating.

This weekend I went to a course on, wait for it – death!  Not the most enjoyable way to spend a weekend you’d think and not at the top of most people’s list, but it was really interesting which has led to this article on my take aways and how it can help us.  Those who follow me know I’ve spent years studying Buddhist practices and philosophies on life and this one intrigued me having experienced loss a couple of times already this year.

You see one thing we all know for sure is that we will die, there’s no greater certainty and we’ve no idea when really.  Because of this it’s so important we live whilst we’re alive.  Some of us might get it pointed out in advance if we’re sick or receive a terminal diagnosis but we’re all on the same conveyor belt whether we’re aware or not.

How can this help us though rather than send us into a state of panic or depression?  We never think about death in our western world.  We live like we’ll be around forever and then when it comes (as it always does) we’re completely unprepared, scared and desperately hanging on to life, wishing we’d actually lived it – like me with summer!

Here’s the thing from a Buddhist perspective though.  If we consider that we will die one day (fact), it changes the way we live, it changes our perspective.  If we thought we may die today our interactions become different with people, we do the things that matter, we treat each other with kindness and the little things stop bothering us.

For anyone who’s been close to death, lost someone dear or been in the midst of an earthquake or natural disaster this may have become clear.  It doesn’t need to take those things though for us to have the perspective and awareness and to live each day with meaning and appreciate more of what we have.  The scary thing is that each day we live is a day closer to our death.

Yet we live like we’ll be here forever.  The Buddhist nun this weekend likens it to staying in a posh hotel.  We know we’re only there for short time, we make the most of the fine white sheets, the fluffy bath robe and free shampoos.  We enjoy it, appreciate it but we don’t believe we’ll take any of it with us or cry when we leave because we knew right from the start that we’d be checking out.

When we think about our death we stop chasing after the things that we can’t take with us – money, status, material possessions and we focus on the things that make life meaningful.  We stop putting things off “I’ll be happy when I get… (the job, house, car, partner)”.  We learn to appreciate what we have and live in the moment rather than postponing our happiness to a point in the future.

When faced with death we stop worrying about getting it all perfect – our career, our house, the way we look.  We tend to not want to think about death, it’s a morbid subject and we certainly don’t want to think about the death of loved ones – we hope they’ll live forever.

Let’s face it though; it’s only when something ends we talk about how much we enjoyed it, miss it and how lovely it or they were.  This is true of holidays, leaving speeches and eulogy’s at funerals but why wait until then.  If, like Buddhists, this was our every day and not just in the face of something ending we’d learn to appreciate what we have, we’d spend our time doing the things that matter, with those we love and we’d tell people what they meant to us and what we appreciate about them.

Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, talks of this in her book Top 5 regrets of the dying.  What is it that people regret most looking back on life?  That they’d worked less, appreciated more and lived more true to themselves.

And when our final day comes, because we don’t always get the warning, we’ll have fewer regrets and we’ll have lived each day like we’d have wanted.

Find out more about beating the overwhelm and living life more meaningfully here

The power of collaboration: why I don’t believe in competition

I’m naturally an introvert so networking hasn’t always come easy to me.  When I started my business though I knew it was crucial so I started to attend different women in business groups for support and socialising.  One group I attended had different groups set up across the city but the one closest to me already had a coach in it and they had strict rules on non competition, “We’re only allowed one coach per group” they told me.

Now I know many coaches who are all very different; business coaches, fitness coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches and the list goes on – why would these people be competing I thought?  Surely this would be a space for collaboration?  It’s like an author who writes kids stories versus an author of travel guides – the same job but different audiences.  Some of my good friends are coaches who do exactly what I do and collaborating with them on pieces of work has been some of my most enjoyable and successful events – whilst we all share a mission of empowering women to be their best we do this in our own unique voice.

It got me thinking about competition and the behaviours it drives – that there’s only room for one of us, that we should operate in isolation, that its every man (and woman) for themselves.

When I put on big events and invite other women to speak on the stage people say; ‘but what if they steal your customers?’  The speakers I invite to share the stage are generally women who want to empower women, just like me – that’s the whole point.  This work enables me to provide a platform for these women to showcase their work but also helps my audience hear different perspectives that may resonate.  Yes, it may also mean that someone may become a follower of them not me, off the back of my own event!  But in all honesty it’s because the connection has been made in a way I could not have achieved.  If I don’t resonate with that person they are not my customer and it’s great I’ve been able to help someone else in the process and connect them to someone who does – we can’t expect to always resonate with everyone.

One woman who came and spoke at my recent Auckland launch confessed afterwards – I was worried our subject matter was too similar and given my topic was so close to yours I thought ‘shall I even get up and give my talk now?’ – she did and it was great, it resonated in a totally different way and reinforced some key messages around authenticity we both share.  However, she delivered it in a totally different way and told her own story which of course will always be different person to person.  In this example we’re both women who’ve quit our corporate jobs to focus on empowering women to tap into their authenticity and use mind-set to succeed – pretty similar yet collaborative rather than competitive.

This has been a lesson I’ve had to learn. A younger me totally brought into competition, I wanted to be first and prized my success on winning at all costs. I played a lot of sports and even as part of the team would strive to be the stand out individual, top of the class. To win player of the year even though there were eleven other plays in that team. At work I believed I had to look after number one and focus on my own success to make sure it was me that won. It’s not that I wasn’t competitive rather that I’ve learned how we succeed together and now put collaboration first that we can live in a world where everyone wins.

I believe we’ve been taught for too long to compete, that it’s about survival of the fittest and that our success needs to be at the expense of someone else’s.

It comes from a place of fear, of threat, of insecurity and can lead to poor behaviour that is unsupportive – you’ll have all heard of examples of women who move up the career ladder only to pull the ladder up behind them rather than supporting others to do the same.

It is at odds with the lift as you climb approach I strongly believe in – where we help and support each other in a way we can all succeed.  We can only do this though when we feel secure in ourselves, aligned to our values and believe in our product/service.

It’s the same reason some of my on-line course material is freely available, do people rip it off?  Of course they do, like most things that are available on line these days it gets copied.  However I’m comfortable and confident in the message I have, the product I deliver and from that comes a place of strength and support rather than fearful competition.  Despite who copies my work they will never deliver it the way I do because they are not me and that’s what’s special about us all.

No-one will ever tell your story the way you do, no-one will ever deliver your content the way you do and this is what makes each of us powerful and we are so much more powerful together than we are apart.

It’s why I’ve put so much energy behind Women Support Women and will continue to do so because I believe we all have a gift to share and even those with similar gifts will all resonate with difference audiences and supporting each other doesn’t just help us but those we serve too.

The superwoman balancing act – how perfectionism sets us up to fail

We are all on a mission to be the best we can be, to be happy, to have the perfect houses, families, partners, and jobs, to complete our to-do lists, to complete our bucket lists, to make our parents proud, to get promoted, earn more money, and be successful. Good enough is no longer enough. We live in a world where we are so developed, we can have everything and instant gratification. Normal is what we have, but it’s not what we want to settle for—it’s no longer enough. We expect to have everything and for the fairy tale to be a reality, and it won’t be. We set ourselves up to fail; our imperfect lives (which are the best they can be) are never going to be perfect. We aim for perfection and are then disappointed because it never arrives.

All this against a backdrop of not quite feeling good enough those nagging feelings of self-doubt.  According to the International Journal of behavioural science 70% of us think we’re not as good as others believe we are, it’s called Imposter Syndrome.  It’s exacerbated by our fear of failure, trying to please everyone around us, striving for perfection but worried we’re falling short all rolled into one!  It’s particularly prevalent in women and given rise to these superwomen tendencies that so often end up in busyness, burnout and breakdown.

Woman are good at being perfectionists; this comes from our need to please people but also our very high standards and expectations of ourselves. It can be a strength and what makes us good at what we do, but can also be our undoing. It’s where we set ourselves up to fail, expect too much, and lose touch with reality, and where the bar actually is – often we raise it far higher than it needs to be. 

Perfectionism is also our fear of failure manifesting. Sometimes our self-doubt means we’re so scared of not making the mark or falling short that we go way over what’s necessary, work twice as hard, to make sure we don’t fail. Whether we’re applying for a job, having our hair done, going to the gym, or just doing our day jobs. We want to be the perfect parents, workers, friends, and partners; we want to look like a perfect cover of a magazine and live in perfectly clean, tidy houses with perfect lawns. 

We place massively unfair expectations on ourselves. To work hard at work but not feel guilty if we can’t be at the school gates at 3pm everyday or to be a good mother and not feel bad for arriving to work at 9am. Much of this guilt comes from ourselves – we feel bad for leaving at 3pm even if we arrived at 7 – we worry what others will think and we are constantly trying to prove ourselves worthy.

It’s no wonder we’re so busy and can never find time for ourselves.  We are so busy in our modern world, the pace of life has quickened, expectations are higher and we’re all trying to do more things in less time. We have this superwoman complex where we try to juggle multiple roles in life all masterfully – with overflowing to do lists and excessive demands on our time – there’s never enough hours in the day.

We’ve also attached our self-worth to being busy.  It means we’re needed and valued and that we’re contributing.  Often is can be martyrdom at play as we struggle through our busy lives feeling secretly pleased the family/workplace might crumble without us.  So we wear busy like a badge of honour and attach our identity and worth to society in just how busy we are – this means we’ve deprioritised rest, relaxation, time out and anything that is the converse of busy – no wonder burnout is becoming more common!

Often its our own high expectations that drive this behaviour – especially if we’re perfectionists.  So what can we do about it?

Top Tips

It’s not about not doing our best or lowering the bar but resetting it to a realistic level.. Understanding the difference between excellence and greatness and perfect and what is achievable in reality.  If we’re perfect in one area of life there’s bound to be another far from perfect that’s not getting the attention it needs!

  • Give yourself permission to make mistakes – we are human
  • Knowing that we don’t have to be superwomen to be enough and to be worthy
  • Stop comparing to others
  • Putting ourselves first for a change
  • Making time for self-care – balance the busyness and build resilience
  • Leverage your strengths rather than trying to be good at everything
  • Asking for help when you need it and delegating tasks (both at work and at home)
  • The to-do list will never be complete.
  • You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and that is enough

“We don’t have to do all of it alone – we were never meant to” Brene Brown

Top tips to help women thrive #IWD2019

It’s International Women’s Day this month and a time to celebrate what makes women great and bring awareness to the importance of a more gender balanced world.  It’s also the one year birthday for my second book, Like A Girl and a special 2 for 1 deal throughout March is on offer to celebrate!

The theme for IWD2019 is #balanceforbetter and I’m a firm believer that equality for women is not about the downfall of men – equality is everyone’s business and balance is definitely better!  Likewise, equality is not a women’s problem that can be solved by women alone, we’re all in this together. 

I’ve heard many awesome successful women as well as mentioning abhorrent stories of bullying, sexual harassment and gender bias also talk about men who have been their sponsors & cheerleaders. I’ve also been privileged to work with some great men. We often forget this bit.  It may be true that some men (& women) are part of the problem but many more are also part of the solution.  Men are a key part of us making change towards a more equal society, they still make up the majority of our positions of authority, not to mention important parts of our family too, so it’s critical we bring them along on the journey with us.

Having said that though it is still harder for women, things are not yet equal.  In gender pay, in leadership numbers, in the way we are treated, the expectations on us and how we are judged.  Many women are doing the lions share of housework, social organising and child caring despite having full time jobs.  We also have a habit of beating ourselves up for either having career ambitions and not being at the school gates at 3pm each day or for not contributing financially whilst that career is on hold so we can be at the school gates at 3pm every day – no wonder we feel we can’t quite win.

Quite simply if you walk in a woman’s shoes life is different than if you were a male wearing those same shoes.

Often though some of these issues are with us; who are the people who have the highest expectation of us, those who judge us most harshly, those who think it’s not ok to ask for help or say no – most often, as women that person is ourselves!  So what can we do in light of IWD2019 to ensure we’re being our best and thriving at life?  Here are 6 tips to enable women to thrive.

Be you and let that be enough

We’re always trying to be more, never feeling good, pretty, clever, rich, fit, strong, thin (place your word here) enough!  We have so many moulds to try and fit as women, in the workplace and at home.  It can leave us feeling like an expat living in a foreign country far from who we truly are and adrift from what matters to us, and it’s exhausting trying to ‘be someone’.  We live in a society though that puts pressure on us to fit in, to be liked, to follow the norm.  At work we have to tread the careful line between being more assertive but not labelled a bully, or be more vulnerable without being labelled as weak – it’s no wonder authenticity is so hard!

Knowing who you are, what you want and what matters most is key.  Making decisions in line with our values and doing things that align with our passions ensures that our schedule matches our priorities.

Speak up, lean in, take risks, back yourself

We can be guilty of standing back, waiting for permission, waiting for that idea to be 100% before sharing or waiting for someone else to speak before we ask the question, not speaking up at meetings or apologising too often before we speak or ask a question and waiting for a bit more experience before we apply for the promotion.  When we do this we can miss out.  If we lean back rather than lean in the opportunity will go to someone else.  Sometimes we have to back ourselves, lean in and take a risk.  This is how we grow and develop.  It’s easier said than done though and here’s why:

Face your fear, challenge yourself and have permission to fail

Generally fear is what stops us!  Fear of what people think, the unknown, leaving a familiar space, what if we make the wrong choice, what if fail.  We can be guilty of playing it safe to avoid failure, our fear of rejection sometimes mean we don’t even ask.

It’s called our comfort zone for a reason and sometimes we think it’s better the devil we know than the devil we don’t.  We’ve been taught to avoid risk and to play it safe – we don’t want to fail at any cost.  However getting out of our comfort zone is the only way we grow and develop, challenging ourselves and taking risks is a key part of this and yes sometimes we might fail and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

So often failure is a stepping stone to success, it’s how we learn and grow.  I’ve learned things from many trial and error moments that I’d never have otherwise known. 

It’s easy to look at those we admire and think they’re doing it right and we’re doing it wrong but quite often they’ve made mistakes, learned from them, bounced back from failures and that’s got then to where they are today.  Even the best fail in fact it’s often why they succeed.

So give yourself permission to fail and know that it’s often how we learn to succeed.

Let go of perfectionism

This can be difficult though if we’re perfectionists.  Sometimes we’re so scared of failure we go right to the other end of the extreme.

The irony with perfection though is it sets us up to fail, it’s not real.  Whether it’s an airbrushed photo in a magazine we’re trying to look like or a perfect side of someone’s life on Facebook we’re trying to emulate – we’re always going to fall short because we’re not comparing full stories, real life!  Yet we still beat ourselves up when we fall short and compare ourselves in this way.

Navigating perfectionism isn’t about not doing a great job, it’s about resetting the bar to a realistic level and understanding that sometimes done is better than perfect and being in touch with the imperfect reality that exists.

We are a breed of people pleasers and always so concerned with what others think.  We’ve probably spent our whole lives trying to make our parents, teachers, friends, bosses etc proud of us.  We feel we have to work twice as hard, exceed expectations and constantly keep raising the bar on ourselves to a point where we’re struggling to keep up.  We all know where this leads and it’s why so many of us are busy and burnt out.

Balancing busyness and avoiding overwhelm

We do have a tendency to be superwoman!  To do everything and do it perfectly.  We take on too much, over schedule ourselves and then feel like we’re failing when we approach burn out.  Saying no and delegating is a key part of avoiding this overwhelm and manging the busyness.

Resilience is key but so is having good boundaries and taking time out, prioritising self-care, prioritising us.  For people who put others first, don’t like saying no, feel we have to do everything and do it perfectly, please everyone around us – this can be tough.

We also have an attachment to being busy though.  We wear it like a badge of honour, it makes us feel valued and attaches to our self-worth.  This leads us into the trap of not taking time out or feeling like down time is lazy, selfish or unproductive.  However this stuff is the foundation we build on, to enable us to be superwoman, without it we’re always fending off burnout and exhaustion.

Celebrate success and own it, get comfortable accepting praise

We are so busy focusing on what we haven’t got, the things that didn’t go well, the bits about ourselves we don’t like that we forget about the good stuff.  Our brains are wired to think more negatively and as women we’re often taught to down play our success and wave away praise to avoid being a tall poppy and to appear modest.  So often we put our success down to something outside of ourselves or we respond with things like ‘it’s nothing really’.

If you’re receiving praise or acknowledgement it’s because you’ve earned it, saying thank you is a great start.  Remember to celebrate your success, own the praise and know that it helps address the negativity bias in our brains as well as doing wonders for our brand!

We are more powerful together than we are apart

We are often taught to compete and that our success must be at the expense of someone else’s.  I’ve learned that we are far more powerful together than we are apart and collaboration is key for us to flourish.  In the spirit of #balanceforbetter we are all in this together regardless of gender!

IWD2019 recommended viewing for more inspiration

Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability

Sheryl Sandberg – Why we have too few women leaders

Inspiring TED Talk – why do ambitious women have flat heads?

Gender bias, equality and why its still harder for women

Navigating perfectionism blog

Imposter syndrome resources page

Navigating Perfectionism

Tomorrow I fly to Auckland to do a TV interview. Thankfully I’m not as nervous this time around having now done one I feel slightly more comfortable knowing what to expect. You can watch my last TV interview on Imposter syndrome here. What you can’t see is that out of shot my legs were shaking!

The producer told me after the show ‘that was great, can you pitch us some more ideas and we’ll have you back on’ so I did but heard nothing. I thought perhaps she was being nice or said that to all the guests (Imposter Syndrome in action – right there!) but then they got back in touch recently and here I am now preparing for an interview on perfectionism on TV3s The Café this week. 

This is something I know well. I remember as soon as the last interview was over the first thing I did was re-read my script to see what I’d missed, which bits could have been better and the parts that had not gone perfectly – do you find yourself doing that with meetings, presentations, conversations with family?

We are all on a mission to be the best we can be, to be happy, to have the perfect houses, families, partners, and jobs, to complete our to-do lists, to complete our bucket lists, to make our parents proud, to get promoted, earn more money, and be successful. Good enough is no longer enough. We live in a world where we are so developed, we can have everything and instant gratification. Normal is what we have, but it’s not what we want to settle for—it’s no longer enough. We expect to have everything and for the fairy tale to be a reality, and it won’t be. We set ourselves up to fail; our imperfect lives (which are the best they can be) are never going to be perfect. We aim for perfection and are then disappointed because it never arrives.

Woman are good at being perfectionists; this comes from our need to please people but also our very high standards and expectations of ourselves. It can be a strength and what makes us good at what we do, but can also be our undoing. It’s where we set ourselves up to fail, expect too much, and lose touch with reality, and where the barrier actually is, often we raise it far higher than it needs to be. 

Perfectionism is also our fear of failure manifesting. Sometimes we’re so scared of not making the mark or falling short that we go way over what’s necessary to make sure we don’t fail. Whether we’re applying for a job, having our hair done, going to the gym, or just doing our day jobs. We want to be the perfect parents, workers, friends, and partners; we want to look like a perfect cover of a magazine and live in perfectly clean, tidy houses with perfect lawns. 

Rather than settling for a standard “good enough,” we find our “good enough” can be way over real expectations. So on a scale of 100 percent, where 80 percent is good enough, perfectionists feel they have to deliver 120 percent—that’s their good enough. Even 100 percent, in a perfectionist’s eyes, is failure, despite this exceeding good enough on the scale.

It’s not about lowering our standards, but being more realistic and understanding that sometimes as a perfectionist, our bars will be set way higher than everyone else’s and higher than they need to be. It’s exhausting and often leads to disappointment when we fail. Sometimes done is better than perfect, because perfect isn’t always possible.

If we have our hearts set on perfection, we’re setting ourselves up to fail. Things don’t exist in a perfect way. It may seem like this when we compare our lives to others on Facebook or celebrity magazines, but what we see is the perfect side of what is always an imperfect life. For everyone, no matter how rich or successful, imperfection is always present. There will be parts of their lives not going to plan, a bit about themselves they’d like to change, something outside of their control that upsets them.

When we meet our soul mate everything seems perfect until the novelty wears off. We get to know each other better and find out that as humans we all have imperfect flaws. We may not always agree and be less tolerant of our differences. New jobs have bits we don’t like, and even our bodies age and change in ways we don’t view as perfect eventually. Adjusting our mind-set on perfection is key to helping us thrive. If you aim to look like an airbrushed picture in a magazine, you’ll be disappointed. If you’re looking for a Mr. Right without any faults, you’ll also be disappointed. If you’re searching for the perfect job, you’ll find there are always downsides; this is true for me, even now with the job of my dreams—I have to spend time doing my accounts and marketing! If you make plans, they won’t always turn out right. It’s not being negative; it’s being realistic! Rather than aiming for an unrealistic goal of perfection, we need to be more realistic and enjoy everything for the good that it brings to our lives. Everything has its perfect and imperfect side—our jobs, our partners, and our lives. Embrace and appreciate both sides!

I spent years striving for perfection in all I did, at work and at home, trying to conform in a bid to please people, and it made me unhappy and unfulfilled. The perfect life always seemed just out of reach, and yet my life on the outside might have looked ideal to everyone else. During my life transformation I learned a lot about myself and learned, from others about how we can live an authentic, perfectly imperfect life:

  • Things won’t always go according to plan.
  • The to-do list will never be complete.
  • You’re doing the best you can with what you’ve got, and that is as perfect as it can be.
  • No one has a perfect life (despite what it may look like on Facebook or in a magazine).
  • Happiness is not a point you arrive at in the distant future when you resolve all your problems and achieve perfection. It’s available all along in those imperfect moments scattered throughout our everyday lives.
  • Often, it’s our quest for perfection that stops us from being happy.

So give yourself permission to make mistakes and stop beating yourself up for being human. Ask for help when you need it, say no from time to time and stop worrying about what people think. It means we’ll take more risks, get more done and accept our life just the way it is – perfectly imperfect.

Lessons learned on a business anniversary

Fear, Authenticity, Self-worth, growth and not giving up

Facebook reminded me this week that 4 years ago today I graduated from my Yoga Teacher training in Byron Bay – I’ve not taught much yoga since but have done so much else and learned so many lessons which I’ve been reflecting on.

I’d quit my corporate career a few months prior and had embarked on a year out to discover my passions and try and find a new career that aligned with my values – and a new life really having just walked away from a seven year relationship too as part of a process that resulted in me come out.

This journey took me to places like Bali, the Kingdom of Bhutan, teaching English to novice monks in Northern Thailand, silent meditation retreats, debuting in public speaking, starting my own business and writing my first book.  A book that was published a year later and contained much more about the inner journey that had unfolded.

4 years on I look back, incidentally on the verge of a holiday back to Byron Bay next month with my wife to be.  I’m now an author of two books with my own business and invited to speak at events and conferences across the world.  I’ve discovered my passions and feel comfortable aligning with my values to be my authentic self – it was a long time coming and hasn’t always been easy but I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Here are some lessons I’d like to share with you following that journey:

Just because you’ve never done it doesn’t mean you can’t do it

When I left my job I had no idea what else I could do.  I’d trained all my life for one career which wasn’t fulfilling me.  I didn’t know what else I wanted to do or if I’d be capable of anything else, I certainly wasn’t qualified.

When it came to running my own business I didn’t know where to start.  There’s been a lot of learning over the last few years, trial and error and a lot of failing too!  I’ve learned to do things like accounts, marketing, social media and more that I’d never had to consider in my former career. 

It’s also pushed me out of my comfort zone in other ways – networking, building a reputation and a brand as well as being the face of my business (having been someone who prefers to be in the background!)

I used to think – I’ve never done this before it’s not in my skill–set, I’ve no experience in this but I’ve learned over the years that just because we’ve not done it doesn’t mean we can’t, it’s just something we haven’t learned to do yet.

It’s so important that whatever we’re doing we make sure we always learn new things, push ourselves and take on challenges so that we learn and grow.  It also leads me nicely onto my next lesson

Get out of your comfort zone – don’t play it too safe

I avoided risks because I didn’t want to fail but taking on my own business, re-inventing my career meant I could no longer avoid this.  I had to take risks and I became familiar with failure as I battled through the trial and error of learning so many new things. 

I faced many fears as I embarked on this journey; leaving the certainty of what I knew, a career I trained 15 years for and knew well, a regular pay check and company car, an image people had of me – what would they think now?  What if I failed?  What if I’m making the wrong choice?

I had no choice but to get out of my comfort zone but sometimes it seemed tempting to stay there – better the devil you know!  As I stepped out of my comfort zone I faced the fears, uncertainty and risk and at times I also failed.

I put on events that no-one showed up to.  For the first couple of years I earned no money from my business.  Most of my speaking was for free and my first royalty cheque was worth less than $5.

After each rejection letter from a publisher I could have decided to give up.  In fact there’s been many times business got hard, I was out of my depth, I wasn’t earning money and it felt like I’d failed, reached the end of the line, I was tempted to give it up.

One of the things that always kept me going was asking “What has this taught me and what can I do about it?”  This solutions focused reflection forced me into action, rather than wallowing in the fact it was hard and I’d failed it immediately turned my mind towards – what am I going to do about it and scanning the options I had.

Failure is how we learn and grow and is often how we learn to succeed, it’s also something that’s unavoidable if you push yourself, take risks and face challenges, I now see how it can be a positive.  But we can see failure as a sign of our lack, a mirror of our self-worth and it encourages us to devalue what we’re capable of.

Don’t under estimate yourself – you’ve earned your place

We often doubt our abilities, underestimate ourselves or think that our success must have been down to something other than our ability – luck, a mistake, being liked etc.

Throughout my career I would wave away success and down play my achievements almost embarrassed by praise.  I can’t say I’m there yet but I have since learned to respond to praise and recognition with ‘thank you’ which is a good start!

For many years in my former career I suffered from Imposter Syndrome.  I didn’t get a degree, I left school at 16 and as I progressed into senior roles (where everyone had a degree) I used to feel like I was less intelligent, not as valuable or worthy – despite my performance and achievements.

Other people’s opinions seem to carry more weight than our own and it’s only the feedback I’ve had from others over the years that now allows me to believe I can do this and that people love what I do.

I remember worrying in my first workshop I’d been asked to do for a big business – am I qualified to do this?  Will they enjoy it?  Will it be good enough?  Who am I to be posing as an expert in this field? – all those questions played on my mind despite having written a book on the subject I was speaking about!

Late last year arriving at parliament to do the same workshop I finally felt like I belonged, that I’d earned my place and that I had something important to share that would be of value to those who’d asked me to come.

If you’re getting praise you’ve earned it.  The success you achieve is because you’re capable and have worked for it.  It doesn’t have to be perfect to be success and you also don’t need to have all the answers.

You don’t have to have all the answers

For many years I’d put off leaving the security of my corporate job.  I needed a plan first.  If this wasn’t my career I needed to know what was before I made any changes.  Where I’m at now I could never have foreseen then.  It’s been a result of the journey I’ve taken and the things I’ve learned along the way that have helped informed my next move, developed me and taken me to where I am.

Often we feel we need all the answers, to see the whole stair case before we take the first step and begin.

There was trial and error, trying things to know if that worked or not.  Training to teach yoga to see if this could be the future me or where else that might take me.  Whilst I had a plan, I had no idea where I’d end up and it was only as I made progress the next steps began to emerge.

Sometimes we have to be comfortable with uncertainty because we don’t know what’s next.  We might have a path set out but end up somewhere different, or sometimes we end up in the same place but take a different path or route to the one we planned, either way it works.  I’m of the opinion now that there are no wrong paths and there are lessons learned and experiences gained even from the tough paths I wish I’d not chosen – I wouldn’t go back and change it.

Align with your values – be yourself

For many of my former years I tried to be who I thought I should be, what the world wanted, to fit in.  I denied my sexuality for many years and took the corporate path of success as my own.  It was only when I realised status and salary were not markers of happiness that I began to look for work that aligned to my values – I had to figure out what those were.

As a young leader I felt there was a mould to fit.  I had to be a certain way to pass as a leader and as a result I devalued some of my skills that I didn’t think had a place at work.  I used to leave my ‘Jess’ hat at the door to put my ‘Leader’ hat on.  I now release these are the same hats and things like kindness, compassion and empathy are major leadership strengths rather than character weaknesses – what a relief because we all know pretending to be something we’re not is exhausting!

Being able to show up as my authentic self both in life and in work makes every day so much more rewarding.  It also allows people to trust us when we’re genuine and relate to us if we’ve walked in their shoes.

Choose your people wisely

I’m lucky to have had support around me, cheerleaders, people who believe in me.  Support from my family even though they had no idea what I was doing and feared my exit from a corporate well paid job to clean composting toilets in a yoga ashram may not be a great career move!

It’s taught e the value of those who surround us.  The people I’ve learned from and aspired to be who inspired me to carry on, even when it got hard.  But equally those who’ve challenged me to grow and pushed me.

I used to feel jealous when I looked at those who’d succeeded, like they’d done it right and I was doing it wrong; “why can’t I be on the stage at this event rather than in the audience?”  It made me feel like I wasn’t as capable rather than just on an earlier stage of my journey.  It’s important we respect these people, learn from them but never compare to them or feel their success threatens our own learning.

Find people who support you but challenge you positively to grow, respect them and be inspired by them but don’t compare yourself to them or feel jealous.  Avoid negative people who hold you back – surround yourself with those who’ll nourish you.

It’s also taught me the power of collaboration.  I’ve met so many amazing people doing similar kinds of work and often now when I organize events I’ll use it as a platform for other women to inspire my audience too and invite guest speakers.

I’ve also been fortunate to join business groups and communities full of supportive people willing to share their knowledge and time with me.

Often we’re taught to compete, that our success needs to be at the expense of someone elses.  I’ve learned that we are much stronger together than we are apart.

Find out more about Jess on her website www.jessstuart.co.nz  and visit the blog at www.inspireyourlife.org/blog

Perspective in the face of disaster

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My 10th floor CBD apartment following the 7.8 magnitude earthquake

This week has been particularly unsettling in New Zealand following the recent 7.8 earthquake, one of the largest in NZ in 150 years. It struck in the middle of the night, was followed by damage, loss of life and tsunami evacuations.

We’d gone about the usual Sunday night routine that consisted of thoughts of work Monday and the week ahead.  Things that seemed like issues and problems upon going to sleep suddenly paled into insignificance.  When something like this happens this all changes, you think about only what is important and it’s a stark reminder of what that is.  We went to bed saying we’d rather not have to get up and go to the office tomorrow, the Monday morning feeling, but had not quite imagined this.

As what happened sunk in we reflected on lucky escapes – thank god we stayed at yours not my 10th floor apartment (pictured).  Concern for family overseas watching it unfolding on the news and worrying for our safety.  Realising just how much those we love mean to us.  Loved ones headed out of the door to work, with long shifts ahead and without much sleep, like so many who keep the country going in times like this and put the safety of others before their own.

Our Monday morning conversations usually about plans for the evening, what the work day looks like became emergency plans, arranging where to meet should there be a significant aftershock and phones be out.  Events like this truly put perspective about what’s important in life.  How lucky we are, how everything can change in a moment and how important it is that those we care about know and are our priority.

My 10am meeting now doesn’t seem so important, in fact it can’t have been because it won’t be happening now, nor will any other the other ‘important’ events of the day.  The conversations that were ‘what’s for tea?’ ‘have you put the bins out?’ now become ‘stay safe, I love you’ and discussions about how we’ll know each other are safe.

The work to do list that occupied my mind and seemed so important last night is now nothing more than a distant memory so the question is, was it really that important in the scheme of things?  No-one is missing it now, the world still continues to turn and the sun will come up tomorrow.  So often our worries, our concerns, our priorities are not a reflection of what really matters and events like this put perspective around this.  It also highlights all we have to be grateful for, even when that’s no power and no way of leaving the house.  I am unable to return to CBD to check on my apartment but really there’s nothing in there I couldn’t lose, not compared to my life and those I love.

But why does it take a significant event like this to underline the things we already know.  To remind us of what’s important?  Maybe we get too carried away with the busyness of life we lose touch with our perspective.  Beyond life and death there are too many things to worry about these days and it’s this that takes our thoughts, our energy, our significance.  Often at the expense of what really matters.  Maybe it’s the brush with death that brings the realisation of how small we really are and how little we do have control over a life that we try to plan down to the last detail.

The ‘what ifs’ start to circle.  What if this had been in the day time not the middle of the night, the Capital city which was deserted would have been full of people, traffic, life.  But in a few weeks we’ll have forgotten about this, buildings will be fixed up, roads cleared and life will return to normal.  Our to do lists will fill up, life will become busy and the perspective will fade.

Each aftershock a stark reminder that life can change in a moments notice and no-one is immune to that.  They are also a reminder of everything this event has brought to mind, everything we should try and remind ourselves at every opportunity not just in the face of disaster.

Material things can be replaced – every single item in every cupboard fell out, the only thing that didn’t smash was one solitary wine glass.  But the things I hold dear, the things that are irreplaceable all survived and they aren’t actually things at all.

Out of tragedy comes kindness.  Seeing the events unfold and the media coverage of the worst hit areas, towns at the epicentre cut off and houses crumbling to the ground.  Out of these stories of devastation came acts of kindness; yoga studios opening with free classes, people welcoming displaced strangers into their homes, volunteers cleaning up and providing food and supplies to those who needed it.  After a few days of walking around shell shocked, on edge, with a lack of sleep and a nervous disposition life began to return to normal, people got on with it.  Buildings were fixed, the CBD cleaned up and we built a little more resilience.  We learned that we may bend but we don’t break, we get knocked down but we get up again and whilst the earth moves often in New Zealand, it always continues to turn as well.

As aftershocks continue and those with lucky escapes wonder if they’ll ever be able to live in a high-rise apartment again we allow ourselves to come together. To discuss near misses, our stories and the ‘what ifs’.  Feeling the connection of a shared experience, we comfort each other, reassure and understand that it’s ok not to be ok.  Often the emotional impacts of such an event can be felt long after the structural damage is repaired. The frayed nerves, the sea sick feeling of constantly moving ground, the fear of what’s coming next, the probability of further quakes.  This all adds to the unsettled feeling that comes naturally when the solid ground you live on, your bedrock, your earth becomes so unstable.

It’s all a stark reminder that life is too short, we never know what’s around the corner and we are rarely in control no matter how many plans we have in place.  But like a glimmer of light on the horizon and the dust clears, we have so much to be grateful for.  Being alive for a start, the safety of those we love and a whole life ahead of us and whilst it may be uncertain it’s also ours to live.

Ignite your life; live your passion

Live your dreams, find your passion and light your fire
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So many of us end up in jobs just for money—jobs that suffocate our soul but pay the bills.

I did.

I went through the motions of life without meaning and purpose. These are such a fundamental part of our happiness, but often we believe we can’t have both.

Meaning and purpose don’t have to come from our job; they can come out of our hobby (as for many artists) or the sense of satisfaction we get from helping others through volunteering. I felt more purpose in my voluntary jobs than in any paid job.

We may also find ways to incorporate our values and beliefs into our day jobs to make them more bearable—teaching others, solving problems, being a listening ear, or creating something unique. As we spend so much time at work, though, it makes sense to try to make money doing something we enjoy. Purpose is so much more than money can buy.

As I progressed up the corporate ladder, I found I became less fulfilled, despite the increased salary, the company car, posh hotels and holidays around the world.

My life still lacked meaning and purpose.  Find out how I found my passion and turned it into my career.  Read the full article here or watch the video blog below

 

Exciting developments

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Exciting updates I just have to tell you about.  I have taken a winter break from events to concentrate on producing my online course material and it’s coming along so hope to be launching this towards the end of the year.

In the meantime sample some of the material over on my Youtube channel, heaps of free short video blogs designed to help you live a life you love and all for free, subscribe for the latest updates

Talking of subscribing, if you’re not on my mailing list, click here to sign up.  Be the first to hear of latest events and developments and heaps of free inspiration direct to your inbox (I won’t spam you either!)  You’ll also get a free copy of the guide to happiness when you join.

I’m delighted to announce my coaching packages just launched and available for booking now. Head over to the website for more details, pick the package that suits you and book now to secure your place.  Places are limited and this is available all over the world through the power of Skype & Zoom!

Local events in Wellington resuming soon including; finding meaning and purpose in life, doing what you love, living authentically and building a life around your passions.

If you’ve not got a copy of the book, these are available through the website or as ebook from amazon.  If you’ve read it please let us know what you thought and leave a review here.

As a special offer and thanks to all those who’ve shared my journey so far I’m giving some free copies away. Simply reply to this message direct by email or on social media and tell me what’s the one thing about life you’d like to change and what’s the first action you’re going to take as a result.  Winners will be selected at random and we’ll be in touch to arrange delivery of your prize.

Sending you best wishes and every happiness

Jess

What stops us being happy?

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It’s the one thing everyone wants and we spend our lives pursuing it, but in this day and age it seems to becoming more elusive. The word ‘happiness’ is banded about a lot these days, it appears in advertising campaigns around the world in a bid to sell us more of what we so desperately seek. In an age when we have all the conditions to be happy why does it feel like we are actually becoming more unhappy?

There are many barriers that prevent us from being happy but the good news is they are all within our control. Here’s a look at what could be holding us back from happiness and what to do about it:

http://www.projecthappiness.org/what-stops-us-from-being-happy/