Change

Lessons learned on a business anniversary

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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 corporatecareer a few months prior and had embarked on a year out to discover my passionsand try and find a new career that aligned with my values – and a new lifereally having just walked away from a seven year relationship too as part of aprocess that resulted in me come out.

This journey took meto places like Bali, the Kingdom of Bhutan, teaching English to novice monks inNorthern 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 andcontained much more about the inner journey that had unfolded.

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4 years on I lookback, incidentally on the verge of a holiday back to Byron Bay next month withmy wife to be.  I’m now an author of two books with my ownbusiness and invited to speak at events and conferences across the world.  I’ve discovered my passions and feelcomfortable aligning with my values to be my authentic self – it was a longtime 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 Ihad no idea what else I could do.  I’dtrained all my life for one career which wasn’t fulfilling me.  I didn’t know what else I wanted to do or ifI’d be capable of anything else, I certainly wasn’t qualified.

When it came torunning my own business I didn’t know where to start.  There’s been a lot of learning over the lastfew 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 meout of my comfort zone in other ways – networking, building a reputation and abrand as well as being the face of my business (having been someone who prefersto be in the background!)

I used to think – I’venever done this before it’s not in my skill–set, I’ve no experience in this butI’ve learned over the years that just because we’ve not done it doesn’t mean wecan’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 risksbecause I didn’t want to fail but taking on my own business, re-inventing mycareer meant I could no longer avoid this. I had to take risks and I became familiar with failure as I battledthrough the trial and error of learning so many new things. 

I faced many fears asI embarked on this journey; leaving the certainty of what I knew, a career Itrained 15 years for and knew well, a regular pay check and company car, animage 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 toget out of my comfort zone but sometimes it seemed tempting to stay there –better the devil you know!  As I steppedout of my comfort zone I faced the fears, uncertainty and risk and at times Ialso failed.

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

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

One of the things thatalways kept me going was asking “What has this taught me and what can I doabout it?”  This solutions focusedreflection forced me into action, rather than wallowing in the fact it was hardand I’d failed it immediately turned my mind towards – what am I going to doabout 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 ourabilities, underestimate ourselves or think that our success must have beendown to something other than our ability – luck, a mistake, being liked etc.

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

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

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

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

Late last yeararriving 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 wouldbe 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 putoff leaving the security of my corporate job. I needed a plan first.  If thiswasn’t my career I needed to know what was before I made any changes.  Where I’m at now I could never have foreseenthen.  It’s been a result of the journeyI’ve taken and the things I’ve learned along the way that have helped informedmy next move, developed me and taken me to where I am.

Often we feel we needall the answers, to see the whole stair case before we take the first step andbegin.

There was trial anderror, trying things to know if that worked or not.  Training to teach yoga to see if this couldbe the future me or where else that might take me.  Whilst I had a plan, I had no idea where I’dend 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.

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Align with your values – be yourself

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

As a young leader Ifelt there was a mould to fit.  I had tobe a certain way to pass as a leader and as a result I devalued some of myskills that I didn’t think had a place at work. I used to leave my ‘Jess’ hat at the door to put my ‘Leader’ haton.  I now release these are the samehats and things like kindness, compassion and empathy are major leadershipstrengths rather than character weaknesses – what a relief because we all knowpretending 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 hadsupport around me, cheerleaders, people who believe in me.  Support from my family even though they hadno idea what I was doing and feared my exit from a corporate well paid job toclean composting toilets in a yoga ashram may not be a great career move!

It’s taught e thevalue of those who surround us.  Thepeople I’ve learned from and aspired to be who inspired me to carry on, evenwhen it got hard.  But equally thosewho’ve challenged me to grow and pushed me.

I used to feel jealouswhen I looked at those who’d succeeded, like they’d done it right and I wasdoing it wrong; “why can’t I be on the stage at this event rather than in theaudience?”  It made me feel like I wasn’tas capable rather than just on an earlier stage of my journey.  It’s important we respect these people, learnfrom them but never compare to them or feel their success threatens our ownlearning.

Find people whosupport you but challenge you positively to grow, respect them and be inspiredby 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 methe power of collaboration.  I’ve met somany amazing people doing similar kinds of work and often now when I organizeevents I’ll use it as a platform for other women to inspire my audience too andinvite guest speakers.

I’ve also beenfortunate to join business groups and communities full of supportive peoplewilling to share their knowledge and time with me.

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

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

Why Learning to Let Go and Adapt Is a Shortcut to Happiness

No matter what kind of life we live, we all need to learn to adapt, because everything changes. Good and bad come and go in everybody’s life. It’s one of the reasons resilience is so critical.

We plan our lives expecting good to come our way, to get what we want, and for things to work out how we planned. At the same time we’re chasing the good, we try to avoid the bad.

One of the biggest sources of our unhappiness and discontent is not being able to adapt to change; instead, we cling to things we’ve lost or get upset because things don’t unfold as we want them to.  

What we overlook is that this is a fundamental law of life, the ups and downs, ebbs and flows. Things come and go, nothing stays the same, and we can’t control most of the things we’d like to. Accepting this and learning to adapt and go with the flow brings us one step closer to happiness.

I’ve just come back from a meditation retreat. It sounds relaxing, and it was, but it was also difficult in many ways.I had to adapt to a new routine, which meant a 5:30am alarm, sitting for long periods of meditation, and periods of complete silence and solitude.

And there were lots of other changes: Not having my morning cup of tea or evening chocolate—or any caffeine or dairy—and adjusting to a vegan diet. Being without WiFi and my cell phone, and braving the sub zero temperatures up in the mountains of NZ in winter. Having to do karma yoga work—things like cleaning toilets and stacking wood.Not to mention the kind of emotions, thoughts, and feelings we’re confronted with when we start to disconnect from the world and spend time with ourselves.

I was so pleased to be returning home, but then instantly thrown into the chaos of a busy airport with all flights grounded due to fog. I then realized that I would not be going home, and to attempt that tomorrow meant a bus ride to the next airport and finding some overnight accommodation to wait it out with the hope that the weather would be fit for flying in the morning.

Despite my Zen-like state post-meditation, I was frustrated, upset, and I just wanted to get home to see my partner, sleep in my own bed, and not feel so helpless.I had my plan, my expected outcome, and for reasons beyond everyone’s control, this wasn’t possible. I wasn’t going to get what I wanted.Now, a week later, I find myself having to learn the skill of adaptability once again.Many years ago I played soccer. I wasn’t bad, either. I loved it. It was my passion. As a kid, I’d play all day on my own in the garden, and once I found a team I’d never miss a match. However, my career was cut short in my early twenties after a ruptured cruciate ligament that was surgically repaired, re-ruptured.

I had to give up on my passion and for many years didn’t play soccer. It was as a result of this devastation that I found yoga—my new passion and lifesaver for the past seven years, something I do every day.

I’ve just had a further operation on this ailing knee, and while I’d adapted over the years from the injury, I found myself once again having to adapt to changes: Not being able to walk, being housebound, using crutches and the difficulties this brings. Finding a way of sleeping comfortably and seeing through the fog the painkillers seemed to create. Not being able to do my morning yoga routine and struggling to meditate because I couldn’t adopt my usual cross-legged ‘proper’ meditation position.

Sometimes what is, is good enough. Acceptance is key to helping us adapt. If I can breathe, I can meditate, and I’ve enjoyed some of my lying down meditations (the ones where I’ve managed to stay awake!).And now, as I reduce the meds and ease off the crutches, I can see positive change occurring. I can do a few standing yoga asanas and can take short walks with support.The devastation of leaving my beloved sport morphed into another form of exercise I fell in love with that I may never have otherwise discovered. And my recent operation led me to new ways of enjoying this passion.

These recent lessons caused me to reflect on how life has changed for me over the last year or so and how I’ve been adapting along the way (sometimes kicking and screaming).I’ve gone from a nomad traveling the world to settling down in a city I’d said I’d never live in due to the wind and the earthquakes. I’ve experienced some of the worst winds and biggest earthquakes of my life since being here and learned to love it all the same.

I’ve recognized the positives and come to love the bits that make this city (Wellington, NZ) great: the small town feel, the laid back lifestyle, the friendly residents, the ocean, the beach suburbs and beautiful scenery, the wonderful array of cafes and restaurants, not to mention the abundance of yoga, meditation, and wellness related activities.

I’ve gone from being single and happy to living with someone else and having to think about someone else, taking into account more needs than just my own.

I’ve had to learn to love again, take risks, and face fears while navigating a long-term relationship and our different wants and needs. I’ve had to learn to share a home and build a nest, and think about the future in ways I’d never have thought I could, feeling very blessed if also a little apprehensive and scared at the same time.read the rest of the blog and the full article here on Tiny Buddha

Love Trumps Hate

Love Trumps Hate

I’ve never really been one for politics, not even watched much media at all over the past few months. I don’t enjoy the fear mongering, the sensationalism and certainly not the negativity. I found my life and my mind was just much better off without it, and I still found out when important things happened in the world.

The recent American election was one no-one could escape though and certainly one that would touch everyone in some way due to the nature of the world super power and what it meant.

As I watched it unfold I saw a mixture of shock, disappointment, disbelief, anger, sadness and fear. The following day felt flat and a little uncertain as the world held its breath to see what would unfold now, what did it mean and what impacts would be felt from here on in. Not just for America but for the world. The morning after the night that was seemed a little surreal, almost like the world had sunk into a depression. I felt like I was watching a reality TV show unfold or that I was stuck in a bad dream I was about to wake from. But sadly neither was the case, this was real life, it was happening now, in our modern, ‘developed’ world where so much progress has been made, this was a true story and one our world has created.

As people tried to make sense of what had happened I watched different reactions unfold. Those who got angry, shouted, blamed. Those who got upset and shed tears and those who didn’t know what to do such was the shock. I reacted in my usual manner and turned inwards, I went quiet, I internalised all I was seeing and hearing in a bid to make sense of it all and here’s what I came up with.After many years of learning the hard way I believe that getting angry or upset doesn’t change what’s happened it only makes us feel worse inside. Or as Buddhists put it, anger is like holding a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else, you’re the one who gets burned. But then what if we don’t get angry, isn’t the passion behind the anger what evokes change, what makes the world listen, what starts a revolution?

Regardless of what we do next and I think we still have many options all I know I can control right now is how I feel and the only person I can impact or change right now is me, it all starts with me. Rather than running all over the world trying to evoke change in those who do not wish to see it, all I can do is be the change I wish to see. Lighthouses don’t run all over the coast trying to find ships to save, they just stand there shining. This empowers us to be the best version of ourselves. It also allows us to do the many good things that still exist even in a world that seems to be turning sour.I remember all the things I’m grateful to have. I’m heart warmed to see so many other messages from American’s and other world citizens that seem to share my hope, my optimism and those who, despite the situation we find ourselves in, have chosen love over hate.

Things happen that we never believed possible, that we thought we were beyond, knew better, wanted better. Things don’t turn out the way we planned. There’s so much we don’t have control over, this is one of the main sources of our unhappiness, trying to control outcomes, meet our own, or others, expectations. But the one thing we do control, every day is our reaction, who we want to be, what we’re going to do about it? Whilst what’s happened is done, there’s a whole future ahead of us waiting to be shaped and whilst it may seem a little harder now, there are still so many good people in the world, good things happening and things to give us hope and what’s more. We all have a role in shaping that future, what role do we want to play?Whilst we have so much to be angry about and many we could hate, where does that lead us? In fact it may be what got us here in the first place. I’ve decided to choose love, hate is too big a burden to bear.

Don’t confuse my acceptance for apathy, that I don’t care, that this doesn’t hurt me or sadden my feelings about our society. Trust me I’ve considered opting out and going to live on a hilltop in the middle of nowhere. Don’t think that by choosing love I’m giving up, I just don’t think fighting it the answer, in fact I think it’s contributed to the problem. “I am right, you are wrong” we have to put our own views and opinions at the top of the pile – isn’t that how we got here in the first place?I have simply decided for my own sanity to accept the things I can not change, what I do have control over is how I react. How I support myself and those I care about through a sad situation. To retain my inner peace despite the craziness of the world unfolding around me – the skill that is equanimity.

To see compassion for those who are so disillusioned with society and scared for the future that they see this as a way out, see this option as their ticket to a better life. Those who feel that for them to succeed it needs to be at the expense of others. Instead of building a bigger fence, why can’t we build a longer table? We are all human at the end of the day, one race, with one planet to call home in one moment which is now, let’s make the most of that and celebrate all that we are and all that we have.

Without hope we have nothing, without love what’s the point.

Perspective in the face of disaster

My 10th floor CBD apartment following the 7.8 magnitude earthquakeThis 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 belowhttps://youtu.be/4SJ2OAGEeXE 

6 life lessons learned from writing a book

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It’s on most people’s bucket lists—everyone has a book inside them, waiting to be written.

It’s such a big task though, where do we start? That’s why so many great books just stay inside people’s heads, unwritten.I loved writing poetry as a kid, but these days, my writing skills are utilized more in the form of reports, emails and letters to staff. I was just about to quit my corporate job because I was unhappy, but I wasn’t sure what else I was going to do. I decided to take a year off to fix a life that had recently fallen apart and rebuild it into something that vaguely resembled happiness.I set off around the world to live my dreams, to do all the things that made my heart sing and discover my passion. I trained to be a yoga teacher, visited many countries and experienced different cultures. I studied mindfulness and meditation and I volunteered, teaching English to Buddhist monks. I learned a lot about life and so much about myself and what it takes to create our own happiness.Along the way I wrote—more for my own needs than anything else. I loved what I was learning and took notes as I went. This newly found wisdom, plus my own personal transformation, became a powerful message I wanted to share with others—and by the end of that year I was a blogger.But a full-fledged author? That was another step—maybe one too far. I’d never really thought about it before, but as the notes piled up, I almost felt like there could be a book there. For a few months, I wrote in secret, before I was comfortable telling people about my dream. I’d never considered myself an author before, but here it was an actual book that I had written.I overhauled my life and learned so much in the transformation, I wanted to share my story. What started off as my own personal writing therapy became something that now inspires others on similar journeys of self discovery. But as I wrote a book to share lessons I’d learned, the process itself taught me a host of other lessons too.https://youtu.be/L-nGXE33LesAdvice for life and how to make the best of it from a writer.  Read the full post here

How to live your dreams, even when it's not easy

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We all have an ideal life we dream of, but often there’s such a big gap between where we are and where we want to be it’s hard to know where to start, add to that the challenges of our busy lives and current commitments and that dream can soon seem impossible.

At age 30 I found myself trapped in a long-term relationship I’d outgrown, stuck in a corporate job I hated and trying to fit in and be what I thought the world wanted of me, not who I truly was. In fact I didn’t even know who I truly was and as a result I was unhappy and unfulfilled. But I was lucky enough to put myself on the path to transform my life into one I loved.Fast forward three years and those dreams are a reality. I changed my career from head of HR to author and yoga teacher, I figured out my passions and I walked away from everything that wasn’t working and rebuilt my life around what would. My 9-5 was replaced with world travel, days on the beach filming video blogs, writing in cafés and interviewing people I’d long admired and wanted to learn from.  I trained to be a yoga teacher and lived in ashrams across the world. I volunteered teaching English to Buddhist monks and learned to meditate and I blogged about my story and wrote my first book.But it hasn’t all been a bed of roses and whilst I have never regretted my decision there are times when I miss the familiarity and ease of my former life. It’s strange going from living with a partner of seven years to suddenly being alone, missing the security of a regular income, holiday and sick pay. The familiarity of knowing what each day would hold, even if it wasn’t what I wanted. I was gripped with fear about the unknown: What if I failed? What if I’d made the wrong choice and what were people thinking of me? Many of even my closest friends thought I was crazy for turning my back on what looked like a “successful” life.click here to read the full article

Take the risk, face your fears

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I’ve always had a tendency to play it safe. For many years, there were lots of things I liked the idea of doing, but the effort required go outside my comfort zone stopped me.

When I sat and thought about the risks involved and all the what-ifs associated, I always wimped out.So this left me conforming to the norm, living a life others expected of me and generally putting my dreams on hold so that I could remain safe and comfortable. Except it wasn’t comfortable, I was unhappy and deeply unfulfilled and only when the cost of standing still exceed the cost of change did I finally get more comfortable with the idea of taking the risk and heading into the unknown.I left a long-term relationship that I’d outgrown, I quit my soul-crushing corporate job and I traveled overseas on my own to see the world and learn about facing risks.The risk of leaving a secure relationship and being on my own for the first time in many years filled me with doubt—what if this was as good as it got? What if I end up single forever? I’m getting older now, all my friends have settled down and started families, maybe I’ll get left on the shelf?One of the most difficult things was the risk I took turning my back on an 11-year career, a well-paying job without any qualifications to do anything else. I ran the risk of running out of money, being unemployed and becoming homeless. It had been the security of my 9 to 5 pay check that kept me stuck in a job I didn’t enjoy for many years, scared of exactly these risks.But I took the risk, I spent a year doing what I loved, I trained to be a yoga teacher, travelled, wrote a book and fueled my passions. I created a life I loved and whilst it wasn’t always rosy, I wouldn’t go back and change it.So now, a couple of years down the track, you’d think I’d be used to taking risks, having faced the music, navigated the tough times and still remained happy. Surely risk taking is now within my comfort zone? Not so much.Click here to read the full article and my top tips on how we face our fears and take the risk

Happiness Life Hacks

12661808_965565320158288_1820903136093652989_nLife seems complicated these days.  We’re all busy pursuing happiness, yet how many of us ever reach that goal?Success, money, and busyness are top of our priority list, yet deep in our hearts we’d prefer time, love, and security.It’s the age of making a living, but perhaps at the cost of making a life.  What really makes us happy, and how do we find it?Read the full article; here and watch the video blog here

Why we must fail to learn to succeed

12814655_10156562328785612_2379094204520384236_n“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career, I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” ~ Michael JordanI am imperfect, I am human, and this is something I am finally comfortable with, because it’s through our vulnerability that we demonstrate our true strength, and this means accepting our imperfections and loving ourselves anyway. We can fall, and we can fail, but it’s about how we learn to get back up, carry on and grow into the people we are capable of being.I’ve learned that succeeding is less about being perfect and avoiding failure, and more about how we embrace it and use it to shape our future and grow into the people we’re capable of being. In the same way that happiness is not about avoiding suffering, it is in fact these things that enable us to succeed and be happy.The turning point for me came when I realised that success wasn’t about avoiding failure, and that in fact, I needed to expect it and embrace it as it was part of the path to success.Realise that failure is always possible—expect it, embrace it, and know that this is how we learn. Every failure takes us a step closer to success. Ask yourself—what is this trying to teach me, what can I learn?Click here to read the full article or watch the video blog click here

Success: reach your potential

Click here to see the newsletter in full; Newsletter April 2016We’re capable of more than we thinkI hope you’ve been able to enjoy some rest over the Easter break. Life always seems so busy and we achieve so much yet so often we under estimate our abilities and this stops us reaching our potential.We feel we might just be too ordinary to achieve great things yet those who succeed begin as ordinary people, the difference is they realise their potential, the potential that is within all of us because nobody is really just ordinaryI was stuck in a life I needed to change but frozen by fear; of the unknown, of failure. What if I’m just not good enough to realise these crazy dreams that live inside my head? But by taking small steps towards my goals and changing my life to revolve around my passions and authenticity, I discovered extra ordinary things I’d never thought I was capable of.Never stop dreaming and don’t put limits on what we can achieve. “Inside every ordinary person there is extraordinary potential”Quote2Recent InspirationUnleash your hero within [click to view] No-body is just an ordinary person, realise your potential [read now]5 ways to tap into your inner wisdom [read now]When it gets tough, how not to give up on your dreams [read now] Disconnecting to reconnect [click to view] How to stay sane in a crazy world [read now] Be in with a chance to win a free e-copy of my book to gift to a friend by leaving a review on Amazon http://amzn.com/1504343816book stubs  

Unleash your hero within and be extraordinary

Capture“Inside every ordinary person there is extraordinary potential”Many of us struggle to reach our true potential, largely due to the fact we under estimate just what that is. We feel we might just be too ordinary to achieve great things yet even those that reach great heights begin as just ordinary people, the difference is they realise their potential, the potential that is within all of us because nobody is really just ordinary.I speak to many beautiful, talented, special people who have no idea how great they can be. This is hardly surprising when we look at the expectations placed on us and the ideals we are presented at just about every turn. The media in particular can leave us feeling like we’re falling short. But we also have a role to play! Many of us are guilty of falling short of our own unrealistic expectations of ourselves or lacking the self belief that allows us to fulfil this potential.So how can we reach our true potential, and how do we even convince ourselves that we’re capable of not falling short in the first place or just being ordinary?First, we need to know what we want and then don’t ever let anyone tell us that we won’t make it. Know that there is an infinite power that lies within that makes anything possible. Every ordinary person has extra ordinary potential, especially you!Yes things can get tough and sometimes we fail, but we also achieve so much, never forget this. We are capable of more than we know but to tap into this we must believe it is possible and back ourselves.Don’t be disheartened if life is not perfect in every area, we are human, no-one’s is. No-one is perfect, so stop trying to be. Someone loves us just the way we are, so stop trying to be someone else. Remember beauty does not lie in what can be seen, it is in our vulnerability, our courage and our authenticity. When we are comfortable in our own skin, our beauty radiates.Read the full article at elephant journal here and watch the video blog here

Uncover your inner wisdom & live a life that feels great

20160210_143542_resized5 ways to hear what your heart’s sayingFor a long time I never even knew my heart had a voice. I’d make logical ‘head’ decisions but was always wondering why I never felt fulfilled. I would pursue promotions up the corporate ladder even though my true passion was in health and wellness. I thought earning more money would make up for the lack of life I was able to lead. I chose to work late in stead of go to the gym, I slept in at weekends in stead of spending time with my partner and I worried about what people would think if for one minute I doubted that this norm was in fact anything but!I was too busy to spend time in stillness and life was too noisy for me to be able to hear and if I could hear I was sure I’d have listened. I preferred distracts, entertainment and anything really that kept me from being alone with my thoughts. The way my thoughts would haunt me when I paid them any attention made me think this was not a nice place to be, so for a long time I avoided it.It’s only since a regular meditation practice and many retreats later that I’ve adjusted to stillness, silence and being alone with myself and it’s now I can see the benefits this has brought. In the stillness I began to hear things, either I was going mad or I’d found my inner voice!I guess it’d been there the whole time, probably saying the same stuff, it’s just that I’d never given myself the opportunity to hear it, much less listen to its wisdom. Our inner voice, our intuition, it knows stuff. Decisions that come from the heart and the very core of who you are and what you want rather than the logic and expectation that can preside in our heads; what will people think, what if it’s wrong, what if I can’t do it? All those lenses that we so often put across our thoughts suddenly are replaced with an inner knowing, beyond thought, beyond logic. It feels so right it can’t be wrong and if it’s in sync with our deepest desires and comes from our hearts then generally it’s not wrong.Read the rest of the article and the top 5 tips hereHow life feels is more important than how it looksI’d built a life around what success should look like and I’d got my house by the beach, the promotion and settled down with my partner but whilst life looked great from the outside inside was a different story. I wanted more from life so I let go of everything that didn’t make me happy and went in search of what would.It takes courage to make sweeping changes and transform our life and often it’s not until things get too bad to bare that we’re forced into the required transformational steps. Whilst I’d put myself on the right track, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. Sometimes it has to get worse before it can get better.Within a year I was single, jobless and homeless at 32, life couldn’t have been more different but for the first time it felt good. It probably looked like a complete disaster from the outside though! Queuing up at the job centre, cleaning toilets in an ashram, house sitting because I couldn’t afford rent. But at the same time teaching yoga, spending time with family, taking walks on the beach, writing a book and getting to do what I loved everyday.I thought once you followed your calling the universe had it covered, wasn’t this supposed to be easy. I was doing what I loved but it felt like such hard work. I didn’t get much support because most people thought I was crazy, I sometimes wondered myself! Some days I’d be consumed by fear and self doubt, this was new territory, the unknown and I wasn’t sure if I was really up to it.Then came by biggest lesson; it’s not about how life looks, it about how it feels. Everything happens for our greater good and where we are is where we’re meant to be, the tough times were my lessons. Without failure I could never have learned what I needed to know for success. I learned a lot of lessons from that time.So often in todays society our focus is on how life looks. What car we drive, what street we live in, our job title, if we can get a promotion, sending our kids to the right school or just simply the clothes we wear and the supermarket we shop at. And this is further fuelled by comparison to what other people’s lives look like, when we try and keep up with the Joneses. It’s too easy to get carried away living a life according to what looks good, but what use is this unless it also feels good. If we are working more hours so that we can take five star holidays and shop at the designers stores but we’d rather be finishing work early to spend time with our kids aren’t we missing the point?Read the full article hereAnd for when times do get tough, how do we continue to strive and not give up on our dreams?  Read the latest blog the answers that here

A masterpiece or a work in progress? Inspiration for March

March's newsletter is now available to view here; Newsletter March 2016March 2016 - A Work in ProgressI talk a lot about creating a life we love and having to make changes, facing our fears and growing into the people we are capable of being. But I also talk about authenticity, about being true to ourselves and not trying to change who we are to please others or fit in. I was recently asked how these things fit together? Change is necessary if we want something different and is a part of life as we learn and grow, this is part of becoming who we are, a work in progress. Yet throughout this there is our essence, our authenticity and this is something to be proud of, that makes us all a masterpiece.I am happy to be back in New Zealand and for the next year will be based in the coolest little capital, Wellington.  Thanks for all the feedback about the book. It’d be great to get some reviews on amazon click hereHave an amazing March.CaptureRecent InspirationTop 5 inspirational vlogs playlist [watch now]It’s not about how life looks, it’s about how it feels [read now]6 things to remember to help recover from a breakup [read now]Video blog: Finding meaning and purpose [click to view]The Zen of colouring: 7 lessons on living a happy, mindful life [read now]AkaroaLearn how to create a life you love with my first book: http://amzn.com/1504343816

Video blogs designed to inspire

Snapshot_20160210_1Some of us prefer to read, others would rather watch something so I try and mix it up with articles and video blogs and love to share with you some of the beautiful places I visit.This week I've been in Raglan, New Zealand, a tiny surf town on the west coast.  Check out the video blog just filmed on meaning and purpose, how do we find it and how to avoid getting lost in the 'search' at the expense of living our life. Watch it hereI've also created a playlist of my top 5 video blogs, all under 8 minutes long and designed to help you create a life you love.  Including 7 steps to happiness, the power of positive thinking, how to achieve your potential and finding joy in every day  PlaylistEnjoy and if it resonates with you, please share it for others to benefit.Have a great day :-)

Motivation & Inspiration for February 2016

View the full newsletter as PDF here Time FliesSo we are one month into 2016, it goes so fast doesn’t it. It only feels like 5 minutes since we were setting our intentions and considering what this clean slate, New Year will hold.  How are those resolutions going?Time can go so quick it’s easy to get side tracked with the busyness of daily life and forget about our goals and dreams (until the next New Year comes around). Life can happen whilst we’re busy making other plans, but only if we let it. Check out my video blog to help keep us on track and ensure we’re always taking steps to create a life we love despite the busyness of daily life.It’s hard to believe that my six months in England has passed in the blink of an eye. I had a lovely time with family and friends and even managed to see some snow before leaving. I am now back in my resident New Zealand and enjoying catching up on all the things I missed.Best wishes for a fabulous February!Jessquote52Recent InspirationNEW! 5 things you can do to make life better [read full blog here]Life is our greatest teacher [read full blog here]Video blog: Equanimity: How to stay sane in a crazy world [click to view]If you’ve not picked up a copy of the book yet, click here to find paperback and e-book versionsInfo & EventsThanks to all those who came out to support the launch of the book last month.For anyone who missed the events. A special online launch was recorded and can be viewed hereI was recently interviewed by BBC radio on the journey that lead to me writing the book, for those who missed it listen again herebook tour4

5 things to do to create a life you love

NEw Year1Have you ever thought “it shouldn’t be this hard” or “there must be more to life than this”? What do those who are happy and fulfilled do differently and how can we get a piece of the action?Start by asking yourself these questions; When do you feel most alive, what inspires you and makes your heart sing?Life often feels harder than it should be, we’re left thinking, what’s it about, how do I change things and how can I find a way off this wheel? It doesn’t have to be this way, we should not be so busy making a living that we forget to make a life.We can be rich and ‘successful’ (and many of us would like to be) but this does not necessarily leave us feeling fulfilled. Being happy and living with purpose is very different from society’s model of ‘success’ we’ve been led to believe holds the key to our happiness.Try these 5 simple tips to create a life you deserve; 1.  Learn something newContinuous growth is important, we all like to have something to aim for. Our ambitions and goals gives us a sense of direction and satisfaction when we achieve what we set out to do. Whether it’s a dance class you’ve wanted to start, learning to draw or a language you want to learn it stimulates your mind and soul and stretches you to challenge yourself and achieve.2.  Let go  Lao Tzu said “To become learned each day add something, to become enlightened each day drop something”. Clearing clutter, removing blocks makes room in your life for the things that matter. When you clean your house it feels more orderly and balanced, in the same way, letting go of what no longer serves you makes room for things that do.We live in a world where we feel we have to have things to be happy, it leads us on an endless pursuit of material possessions, upgrading the car, extending the house, buying more accessories. We feel we have to ‘have’ things to be free when it’s the opposite, our struggle to hold onto things brings the very pain we are trying to avoid, we are terrified of letting go for fear we’ll have nothing but this is the true path to living.If you have been hurt by someone and you still hold anger and resentment because of it, you are letting them hurt you again. Forgiveness sets you free, let go of resentment. “Holding onto anger is like holding a hot coal with the intention of throwing it at someone else, you are the one that gets burned” Buddhist saying.3.  Give  It gives us a sense of purpose and that warm feeling that we’ve helped someone in need. It doesn’t have to be big money donations to charity, helping an old lady across the road with her shopping or letting a car in front of you in a traffic queue and other small random acts of kindness are equally importantThe root of all happiness comes from giving to others and wanting them to be happy. Studies show that giving to others makes us happier, when groups of people were given the same amount of money to spend on themselves or on others it was those who spent it on others that reported feeling happier. Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School analysed data from 40 published studies and found evidence that volunteers had a 20 percent lower risk of death than their peers who do not volunteer.4.  Find your purposeFinding your purpose, why are you here, what’s it all about, what makes your life worth living. What’s important to you, what would you do and who would you be if money and other barriers were no object, what sort of person would you be, how would you like to be remembered?We often get our sense of self from what we do (eg. I’m a mother, a lawyer, a widow). You are more than your job title or your social status, this should not define you or be who you are, it is just what you do.Work is something we spend so much of our time doing we should ensure for a happy life that we enjoy it and it brings us a sense of purpose and satisfaction. Yet so many of us leave our souls behind when we go to work. Don’t ask ‘what do I want to do’ ask ‘what kind of life do I want to have?’5.  Do what you loveIt can be the small things like a walk along the beach, playing with the dog, visiting your favourite coffee shop, sitting down to read a good book or bigger things like travelling the world, skydiving or simply a night in with the family. Think about what makes your heart sing and incorporate things you love into every day. If you do what you love you will be successful.Read more in my new book; A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life

Happy New Year: What's your goal for 2016?

NEw Year1View the full newsletter as a PDF by clicking here; Newsletter January 2016I have been reflecting on my first year in business, as we tend to do at this time of year. This time a year ago I was teaching myself how to build a website and writing my first blog. I’ve achieved a lot since then but it’s easy to forget.There’s still part of me that looks at the success of those who’ve been before and I think; why don’t I have thousands of followers or media appearances yet! We often feel we should be further along than we are. It stops us realising how far we’ve come and celebrating the successes along the way.We are often left thinking, why can’t tomorrow be today! The impatience of wanting it all now and feeling we should be more successful than we are. I am often reminding myself it’s not an overnight thing. It’s important that we celebrate small successes along the way and appreciate the journey.Remember your successes from 2015 and have a great start to 2016 Recent InspirationMeaning and Purpose: Call off the search [read blog here] Redefining success based on what matters [read blog here]Video blog; 10 ways to make 2016 great [click to view] Tis the season to be grateful, guest blog [read] Video blog: Celebrating Success [click to view]If you’ve not yet accessed the free resource on making 2016 great [click here]book cover finalBook Launch Info & EventsView the official book trailer here and find out how you can support the launch [click here]There are a series of events to celebrate the launch of my first book, including an online event on launch day accessible all over the worldTuesday 5th January 2016 - Latest Music Bar, Brighton, UKWednesday 6th January 2016 - Launch Day Event - ONLINETuesday 12th January 2016 - Bottesford Library, LeicestershireThursday 14th January 2016 - Guildhall, Grantham, UK Download the event flyerSupport the launch with a thunderclap here#RoughGuideSmoothLife  

A Rough Guide to a Smooth Life

CaptureAs we approach the end of the year the last 12 months I've spent trying to get my book published finally pays off and it is now available to buy!You can click on the link to view the official trailer.  Full details are here; www.inspireyourlife.org/bookA practical self improvement guide on surviving modern life. Rediscover the art of happiness, find meaning and purpose and create a life you love. Jess uncovers the key to creating a happier life and leads by example. Her perspective shines a bright light at a much needed time. Let her guide you this book will help.  Shannon Kaiser, Coach & Best Selling Author of Find your Happy & Adventures for your SoulFor those who read the book, please leave a review on amazon and I'd love to hear your thoughts.  You can use the hashtag #RoughGuideSmoothLife when posting about the book.To see how you can get involved and help support the launch click the link; How you can help or click here to support the launch through thunderclapWishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Don't forget to check out the new resources section on the website for free stuff I've posted for you.Keep an eye out for events and give aways as I launch the book officially in the New Year.All the best for 2016Jess :-)

Breaking down or breaking through?

100_2321When it feels like things are falling apart, sometimes they're actually falling into placeMy life has changed dramatically over the last year. I began to wake up and get in touch with my true self, who I was and what I wanted. The problem was that it was none of the things I’d spent years building my life around. My corporate career, my partner of 7 years, my house by the beach and my lavish lifestyle. Within the space of 12 months I replaced all of these things as I went on my journey of waking up to what’s important in life. Let me tell you about what I now refer to as my breakdown breakthrough!I was blessed with a life that had all the hallmarks of success from the outside but inside it felt like there was a hole in my soul. I had ‘everything’ except what really mattered and I was unhappy when I was told I had all the conditions necessary for happiness. It was through this process that I began to figure out how and why.I had been unhappy for a long time but I was chasing all the things society told me would bring success and happiness so I couldn’t understand why I was left thinking “there must be more to life than this”. I began meditating, I studied Buddhism and trained to be a yoga teacher. The things I was learning really struck a chord and made sense to me. It was like a philosophy to life that I’d missed out on in my education. As I began to put it into practice I could see how it brought happiness. I could also see why I’d been unsatisfied for so long walking a different path. This new knowledge transformed my life.Since then, I have become so much more aware. I feel more connected to nature, the seasons, my food and myself, I know who I am and have made peace with the imperfections. I am aware of how my body feels and know instantly when things are not right. I notice more colours and smells around me and I seem to have developed an intuition I never realised was there. I guess you could call it a spiritual awakening although without the brightly light, earth moving, epiphany I suppose I would have classed as a ‘proper’ spiritual awakening. For me it was more gradual over time and I never noticed it happening. It’s only now when I look back and put the pieces together that I understand my transformation.I got perspective around what matters and this wasn’t my KPIs, job title or annual bonus. I’d rather have the time to spend with those I cared about, do the things I love, take care of myself. It wasn’t that I’d lost my ambition as some thought, it was that my ambitions changed. My version of success became how happy I was, not how much I earned. It also gave me the courage to try all the things I’d wanted to do but was often too scared. Where previously my insecurities had held me back I had found a new confidence to live my dreams; I travelled, I wrote book and I began teaching all things that had been on my bucket list for a while but locked away in a dusty corner of the room, breaking through allowed me to bring this to life.I suddenly realised all that was possible and I saw things differently. In my mind I had discovered a new way of living and a path laden with happiness. For years I thought there must be more to life than this and now finally I was waking up to what that meant. Buddhists liken an awakening to a lotus flower growing out of the mud to bloom into a beautiful flower above the water line.If you’ve been through this sort of transformation yourself you’ll know it’s something of a break through in life, but can so often be mistaken for a breakdown. The symptoms are very similar!Years spent living according to the norms and expectations had left me drained, I got sick a lot, I had no energy and I was unhappy. My authenticity had been buried for so long I wasn’t sure what it really was anymore. I wanted to find meaning and purpose in my life and live according to what was in my heart, but I had to find it first and this was part of waking up.As I went through the process of my breakdown breakthrough I experienced confusion, sadness, fear. I doubted myself and began asking questions that made others feel uncomfortable. I sought out like minded people which meant moving in different circles and making new friends. Those around me could see I was changing and going through a struggle and for many it was so far from what they deemed to be normal that mental instability must have been the only logical conclusion. I started to do things they thought were strange; living in Ashrams, stepping off the career ladder and meditating with monks. They needed to find a reason for the change in me and for many a breakdown seemed to fit the symptoms.I don’t blame them for thinking this and I can see how fine the line is between a breakdown and a breakthrough. I also know that their reactions were out of worry and concern for me and what I was going through.There were days I felt like it was all too hard and didn’t want to get out of bed. There were days it all seemed to be going well and then days I’d wonder what on earth I was doing and felt like I was on the brink of failure. But often it’s not until the pain of where we are exceeds the promise of where we want to be that we are forced into action and these feelings were my catalyst for change.I think in some ways a breakthrough can start with a breakdown. It’s when things sink to their lowest we find the motivation for change. It is often our darkest times from which we learn and growth. As Thich Nhat Hanh says “Without the mud there can be no lotus”In order to experience life’s greatest joys we must also experience its deepest sorrows. Many happy people have grown from their darkest times and are a product of the experiences they’ve learned from. “It’s through the cracks that the light gets in.” As we wake up it gets lighter and it becomes possible that we are breaking through.After going through my breakdown breakthrough hopefully now those who were concerned can see the difference it has made. I can certainly feel it. For me it was a true awakening to how good life can be and how we achieve happiness. I awoke to what’s important in life, to the joy in everyday, the power within us all and the infinite potential of life. It felt like I’d finally been set free and was a true break through to my authentic self. After years spent wondering if this is all there is to life and I’m now living life.