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Living before we die

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I love summer and admit to getting a bit sad once winter descends!  I find myself desperately grasping onto eachsunny day and trying to make the most of it at this time of year, wishing thedays were longer and warmer and wishing I’d made the most of the summer whilstit was here!  Crazy when we know thatsummer and winter come and go each year as the seasons change.  There’s some interesting parallels here onhow 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 weekendyou’d think and not at the top of most people’s list, but it was reallyinteresting which has led to this article on my take aways and how it can helpus.  Those who follow me know I’ve spentyears studying Buddhist practices and philosophies on life and this oneintrigued 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 nogreater certainty and we’ve no idea when really.  Because of this it’s so important we livewhilst we’re alive.  Some of us might getit pointed out in advance if we’re sick or receive a terminal diagnosis butwe’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 panicor depression?  We never think aboutdeath in our western world.  We live likewe’ll be around forever and then when it comes (as it always does) we’recompletely unprepared, scared and desperately hanging on to life, wishing we’dactually 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 ourinteractions become different with people, we do the things that matter, wetreat 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 themidst of an earthquake or natural disaster this may have become clear.  It doesn’t need to take those things thoughfor us to have the perspective and awareness and to live each day with meaningand appreciate more of what we have.  Thescary 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, wemake the most of the fine white sheets, the fluffy bath robe and freeshampoos.  We enjoy it, appreciate it butwe don’t believe we’ll take any of it with us or cry when we leave because weknew right from the start that we’d be checking out.

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

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

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

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

Now I know many coaches who are all very different; business coaches,fitness coaches, life coaches, wellness coaches and the list goes on – whywould these people be competing I thought? Surely this would be a space for collaboration?  It’s like an author who writes kids storiesversus an author of travel guides – the same job but different audiences.  Some of my good friends are coaches who doexactly what I do and collaborating with them on pieces of work has been someof my most enjoyable and successful events – whilst we all share a mission ofempowering 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, thatits every man (and woman) for themselves.

When I put on big events and invite other women to speak on the stagepeople say; ‘but what if they steal your customers?’  The speakers I invite to share the stage aregenerally women who want to empower women, just like me – that’s the wholepoint.  This work enables me to provide aplatform for these women to showcase their work but also helps my audience heardifferent 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 allhonesty it’s because the connection has been made in a way I could not haveachieved.  If I don’t resonate with thatperson they are not my customer and it’s great I’ve been able to help someoneelse in the process and connect them to someone who does – we can’t expect toalways 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.

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

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

It is at odds with the lift asyou climb approach I strongly believe in – where we help and support eachother in a way we can all succeed.  We can only do this though when we feelsecure 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 freelyavailable, do people rip it off?  Ofcourse they do, like most things that are available on line these days it getscopied.  However I’m comfortable andconfident in the message I have, the product I deliver and from that comes aplace of strength and support rather than fearful competition.  Despite who copies my work they will never deliverit the way I do because they are not me and that’s what’s special about us all.

No-one will ever tell your storythe way you do, no-one will ever deliver your content the way you do and thisis what makes each of us powerful and we are so much more powerful togetherthan 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

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We are all on amission 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 ourbucket lists, to make our parents proud, to get promoted, earn more money, andbe successful. Good enough is no longer enough. We live in a world where we areso developed, we can have everything and instant gratification. Normal is whatwe have, but it’s not what we want to settle for—it’s no longer enough. Weexpect to have everything and for the fairy tale to be a reality, and it won’tbe. We set ourselves up to fail; our imperfect lives (which are the best theycan be) are never going to be perfect. We aim for perfection and are thendisappointed because it never arrives.

All this againsta backdrop of not quite feeling good enough those nagging feelings of self-doubt.  According to the International Journal ofbehavioural science 70% of us think we’re not as good as others believe we are,it’s called Imposter Syndrome.  It’sexacerbated 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 givenrise to these superwomen tendencies that so often end up in busyness, burnoutand breakdown.

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

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

We placemassively unfair expectations on ourselves. To work hard at work but notfeel guilty if we can’t be at the school gates at 3pm everyday or to be a goodmother and not feel bad for arriving to work at 9am. Much of this guiltcomes 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 ourselvesworthy.

It’s no wonderwe’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 lesstime. We have this superwoman complex where we try to juggle multipleroles in life all masterfully - with overflowing to do lists and excessivedemands on our time – there’s never enough hours in the day.

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

Often its our ownhigh expectations that drive this behaviour – especially if we’reperfectionists.  So what can we do aboutit?

Top Tips

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

  • Give yourself permissionto make mistakes – we are human

  • Knowing that we don’t have to be superwomen to be enough and to beworthy

  • Stop comparing to others

  • Putting ourselves first for a change

  • Making time for self-care – balance the busyness and buildresilience

  • Leverage your strengths rather than trying to be good ateverything

  • Asking for help when you need it and delegating tasks (both atwork and at home)

  • The to-dolist will never be complete.

  • You’re doing thebest you can with what you’ve got, and that is enough

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

Top tips to help women thrive #IWD2019

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

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

I'veheard many awesome successful women as well as mentioning abhorrent stories ofbullying, sexual harassment and gender bias also talk about men who have beentheir sponsors & cheerleaders. I’ve also been privileged to work with somegreat men. We often forget this bit.  Itmay be true that some men (& women) are part of the problem but many moreare also part of the solution.  Men are a key part of us making changetowards a more equal society, they still make up the majority of our positionsof authority, not to mention important parts of our family too, so it’scritical we bring them along on the journey with us.

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

Quitesimply if you walk in a woman’s shoes life is different than if you were a malewearing those same shoes.

Oftenthough some of these issues are with us; who are the people who have thehighest expectation of us, those who judge us most harshly, those who thinkit’s not ok to ask for help or say no – most often, as women that person isourselves!  So what can we do in light ofIWD2019 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’realways 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 athome.  It can leave us feeling like anexpat living in a foreign country far from who we truly are and adrift fromwhat matters to us, and it’s exhausting trying to ‘be someone’.  We live in a society though that putspressure on us to fit in, to be liked, to follow the norm.  At work we have to tread the careful linebetween being more assertive but not labelled a bully, or be more vulnerablewithout being labelled as weak – it’s no wonder authenticity is so hard!

Knowingwho you are, what you want and what matters most is key.  Making decisions in line with our values anddoing things that align with our passions ensures that our schedule matches ourpriorities.

Speak up, lean in, take risks, backyourself

We canbe guilty of standing back, waiting for permission, waiting for that idea to be100% before sharing or waiting for someone else to speak before we ask thequestion, not speaking up at meetings or apologising too often before we speakor ask a question and waiting for a bit more experience before we apply for thepromotion.  When we do this we can missout.  If we lean back rather than lean inthe 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’swhy:

Face your fear, challenge yourself andhave permission to fail

Generallyfear is what stops us!  Fear of whatpeople think, the unknown, leaving a familiar space, what if we make the wrongchoice, what if fail.  We can be guiltyof playing it safe to avoid failure, our fear of rejection sometimes mean wedon’t even ask.

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

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

It’seasy to look at those we admire and think they’re doing it right and we’redoing 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 whythey succeed.

Sogive yourself permission to fail and know that it’s often how we learn tosucceed.

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.

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

Navigatingperfectionism isn’t about not doing a great job, it’s about resetting the barto a realistic level and understanding that sometimes done is better thanperfect and being in touch with the imperfect reality that exists.

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

Balancing busyness and avoiding overwhelm

We dohave a tendency to be superwoman!  To doeverything and do it perfectly.  We takeon too much, over schedule ourselves and then feel like we’re failing when weapproach burn out.  Saying no anddelegating is a key part of avoiding this overwhelm and manging the busyness.

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

Wealso have an attachment to being busy though. We wear it like a badge of honour, it makes us feel valued and attachesto our self-worth.  This leads us intothe trap of not taking time out or feeling like down time is lazy, selfish orunproductive.  However this stuff is thefoundation we build on, to enable us to be superwoman, without it we’re alwaysfending off burnout and exhaustion.

Celebrate success and own it, get comfortableaccepting praise

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

Ifyou’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 ithelps address the negativity bias in our brains as well as doing wonders forour brand!

We are more powerful together than we areapart

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

IWD2019 recommended viewing for moreinspiration

Brene Brown onthe power of vulnerability

SherylSandberg - Why we have too few women leaders

InspiringTED Talk - why do ambitious women have flat heads?

Genderbias, equality and why its still harder for women

Navigatingperfectionism blog

Impostersyndrome resources page

Navigating Perfectionism

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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.

https://youtu.be/p_wq1FE15x0

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

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 

Exciting developments

12661808_965565320158288_1820903136093652989_nExciting 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 updatesTalking 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 happinessJess

What stops us being happy?

IMG_4919-1It’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/

7 Steps to Happiness

100_2326View this 7 minute clip on my You Tube Channel; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPbNK1TVuRgFind out in 7 easy steps how to bring happiness into your life, filmed on a beautiful Indonesian island, worth watching for the view alone!

Gaining perspective in Bali & Lombok

100_2243I recently set off on the trip of a lifetime, a month in Asia spending time in Bali, Kathmandu and Bhutan. As I sat at the airport waiting to leave I heard about the earthquake in Nepal. I managed to get to Bali although a day late but couldn’t get much further.I like to have everything planned and this trip was no exception, the disruption made me uncomfortable and darkened my mood, as well as being told all my air tickets were non refundable and the insurance would not cover anything. I knew I should be grateful I was not in Nepal, I should also be putting this into perspective, my dramas are nothing compared to what these people are going through. I reasoned with myself that feeling this way was ridiculous, I was a glass half full kind of person but I’d lost perspective and I’d lost the value of the present moment.I knew all this stuff inside out, I’ve written a book on it yet here I was given the ideal opportunity to practice it and failing miserably. It got me thinking about the difference between intellectually understanding something and then actually putting it into practice. It’s like dieting, we know we shouldn’t eat cake and take aways but sometimes we do anyway.I had to have a very stern word with myself, followed by a long walk and some meditation a massage and a slice of cake! I began to gain perspective and like a fog lifting I realised I was lucky not just to be alive but to be on holiday in Bali. I felt grateful for what I had, that so many others do not have, particularly those in Nepal. I no longer felt uncomfortable with not knowing, I knew it could be worse and I also knew it would turn out ok in the end, whatever was meant to be will be.We may not always get what we want, but we always get what we need and for me that was this lesson. This has taught me about perspective, positive thinking and not to be so hard on myself, we are all human after all. But the biggest lesson I take is about putting what we know into practice. With so much information available to us we can know so much but what do we practice and experience? It’s this that makes the difference.And now for the travel bit……………………….Bali reminds me a lot of the Thai islands which I love, the people are happy and smiling, they have little but seem to make the best of it, the local food is fabulous, sunny days, rainy nights and laid back beaches. It also has the same annoyances; litter, hawkers, stray dogs and drunk backpackers. However Bali is not new to the tourist scene, they are more savvy and as a result have made much more money, prices are higher (although still very cheap compared to dollars) and flash resorts and glass fronted shops are around every corner. It is much more westernised, they speak very good English and have a great sense of humour.As I ventured away from the main tourist spots I started to see local life unfold around me and particularly once I left Bali I noticed things like the 4:30am call to prayer from the local mosque in Lombok.I spent my first few days in Ubud, yes, mainly because I watched eat pray love! I went to yoga barn, stocked up on cheap clothes from the market, visited the monkey forest and was asked 100 times per day if I wanted a taxi. In fact I got so used to saying ‘no, thanks’ as I walked down the street that I pre empted one guy and said it before he’d finished his sentence. Turns out he wanted to ask me how I was. I felt rude so apologised, said “I am fine thanks, how are you?” He said “I’m fine, you want taxi?”After dealing with the initial travel disruptions and finding I had more time on my hands I decided I needed to head to my happy place and be by the beach. Ubud is good to see but I miss wide open spaces and being able to walk in places that are not crowded with motor vehicles, pollution and people so I headed to Lombok.Spending time in Lombok, which is not as busy as Bali and newer to tourism I found the people to be friendly and after a few days calling out my name as I walked down the street. They took a particular shine to my greenstone and some new about Maori and were fascinated to talk about NZ. The kids either wanted to hi-five me or have their photo taken with me, either way I felt like a bit of a film star walking down the street.After spending a few days in Lombok I am ready to venture to the Gilli islands just off the coast. They say there is a gilli island for everyone so I looked at which may suit me;

    1. Gilli Trawangan – ‘party hard, backpacker heaven’ – no way, too old for this shit
    2. Gilli Meno – ‘not much here, perfect for getting away from it but don’t expect wifi and restaurants’ – what no food, no way!
    3. Gilli Air – ‘somewhere in between the 2, a laid back place, snorkelling, eateries, but not as crazy as Gilli T’perfect, this has my name written all over it

So next stop Gilli Air, for beach, yoga and snorkelling and if I’m feeling energetic there’s a 5km walk around the island. I’ve gained my perspective, I’ve learned a lot (mostly about myself) and I’ve gained a sun tan and perhaps a few extra pounds in weight but have been lucky to see more of Bali, it’s not a bad place to be stranded and despite using up huge chunks of my savings I’ve rebooked to go to Bhutan from Bangkok and hope to still be able to do that part of the trip before leaving Asia, but whatever’s meant to be will be, where we are is where we’re meant to be.

Pet Therapy

dogWe are living more separately now days than we did 30 years ago when social connection was a lot more common and science is now proving the impacts this has on our heath. Loneliness is one of the top reasons people see a therapist in the US now and a recent study suggests that over 25% of Americans feel they don’t have any close friends with which they’d share a problem. In the age of social media when we may have hundreds of friends on facebook we are actually getting increasingly lonely. Studies are now suggesting that social connection is as important to our health as diet and exercise and that social isolation is having a detrimental impact on our health.Anyone who has owned a much loved pet will attest to the benefits, the smiles they bring to us, the comfort and companionship. Pets can ease loneliness, reduce stress, encourage exercise and studies now show they may even help you live longer. Most notably;• Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression.• People with pets have lower blood pressure in stressful situations.• Playing with a pet can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine, which calm and relax.• Heart attack patients with pets survive longer than those without.• Pet owners over age 65 make 30% fewer visits to their doctors.The use of pet therapy is becoming increasingly popular for the sick and elderly, this involves organisations bringing specially trained animals to visit those who are sick, depressed and lonely by bringing a smile to their face, providing companionship and calming anxiety to aid recovery.But what if you are not able to have pets of your own? The Japanese have found the answer to this in Paro the therapeutic robot seal being used to help treat the sick and elderly. Designed to look and move like a real pet and respond to interaction, it is thought to help combat loneliness, make people smile, help keep them calm and is also used to help dementia sufferers. Paro has already been a real hit in nursing homes across the globe.The studies seem to show more health benefits with dogs rather than cats probably due to the fact that a cat couldn’t care less about your health, aslong as you feed her, let her out and let her sit on your knee, bed, book, coat, desk, sofa and whenever else she wants. My family have had dogs and cats for as long as I can remember and the love, affection and company they have provided over the years for anyone who has visited the house has been immeasurable.I have always admired the unconditional love you get from a dog, partly due to having less brain cells as cats will testify, cats will only love you when it suits and usually if there’s something in it for them. But what dogs lack in brains they make up for in heart (and appetite if they are Labradors)! I love both cats and dogs and animals in general but have noted that cats will tolerate us whereas dogs worship us but both bring benefits far beyond their company;• The dog makes me feel safe when I am sleeping alone in the house• He immediately cleans up any food I may have spilled on the floor• The cat keeps me warm when she’s curled up on my bed• She also keeps the mice population down in the garden shed• The dog makes me exercise, even on the coldest days when he needs his walk• When I am sick or sad they seem to know and come and curl up bedside me• They have replaced the alarm clock as my morning wake up call• They think it’s ok to go to sleep in the afternoon, in fact they encourage it• They listen to you, even when you say the craziest things, and they never argue• When I come home from shopping they great me as if I’ve returned from a six month expedition across the dessert.I have grown up with animals around and I think it’s great for kids to learn how to look after something from a young age, even if it is a goldfish or a hamster, it also teaches kids lessons about life and death but the impact of pets goes much further than that. For me I am happier when animals are around and I always feel special when I come home to pets.