Almost 4 years ago now I found myself heading into a downwards spiral. I was working in a job I loved in an environment that had become stressful and toxic. As an organisation we had delivered a large, complex national project under very difficult circumstances and the stress was unrelenting. It affected everyone in different ways and was compounded by a previous failure and so the stakes were high.
I found myself as senior leader in this organisation struggling to cope even at the conclusion of this project. I went searching for information and support on how to deal with this and came up short. I was looking for other people’s stories as a way to process what was happening and work out what the very next step should be. I was not sleeping well, drinking too much and in a constant state of fight or flight. My saving grace was that I was in training for a trip I was to take with friends following the Tour de France. As a non-bike rider, I had a lot of catching up to do if I was going to confidently take this trip and ride with them. That physically demanding exercise every single day was the release I that I needed (that I didn’t know I needed at the time!).
So, after google let me down, I headed to my bookcase and picked up a selection of motivational, self help books. Books that I’ve read and had lying around for years. I’ve always been interested in behaviour and performance but this time I was reading them through a very different lens. This time I was highly motivated to take action and find a solution as what I was experiencing was unbearable. As I read the books and started to integrate some of the practices into my daily life, I started to feel a sense of release. My body started to relax and my mind opened to new possibilities. I was still in a toxic work environment, and still under enormous stress but I found the strength to turn up every day and work in a way that aligned with my values and the standards I set for myself.
Those first small acts of taking action, opened me up to the life I now live which is beyond anything I have ever experienced, or thought was in my realm of possibility. This all started with a simple incantation that I would use as I rode my bike every day. It evolved from one that just got me to the top of the hill (!), to others which framed my day and the possibilities that were waiting for me. I would use this time and the time I had driving to work to get myself in the right headspace for the day ahead and get clarity on who I was, how I wanted to live my life and who I needed to become to make that a reality. On the way home I would listen to podcasts and at night read more books. I immersed myself in this world that didn’t exist as way of escaping the one that did.
I left that job and my professional career and, as I was about to find out, many women at this stage do. There seems to be a common point for some where the sacrifice and the ask is no longer tenable to sustain a career and life a life that is balanced and aligned. In fact, there are more women starting up new businesses than men and this is said to be a reflection of the desire of women to live and work more flexibly and on their own terms.
I understand first hand now how easy it is to become a victim of life's circumstances when in fact life is just dance between fate and free will. We are born into certain circumstances which shape our beliefs and the way in which we see things. Our life's work then becomes challenging these beliefs and becoming curious about the alternatives. This is an active practice of returning within, asking the hard questions and often taking the difficult road. The payoff however is greater than the cost. Fear is just a dance partner. The question is who is in the lead role?
Since leaving that workplace I have continued to build on the habits and routines and live life with more intention. I have stripped away the social expectations I grew up in by peeling away the layers of fear and the limiting beliefs around the way I was supposed to live and supposed to be. I have removed the complexity in my life and even though I now own and run multiple businesses which I am navigating through the uncertainty of corona virus, I am not stressed, overwhelmed or overworked. Instead of being driven by a lifestyle others told me I should want, I am driven by my passion to teach others what I have learnt and give women in leadership positions the confidence I didn't have so they can stay in their workplace and influence the change that is so desperately needed. Instead of working to pay a mortgage, have the things I'm meant to have and take the holidays I'm meant to go on, I work to serve others and make the world a little kinder and a little more compassionate. By changing my focus and looking inwards instead of outwards for the answers to my questions I live a richer and more meaningful life.
As a consequence I now have the confidence and the insight to understand that I have the resources and the know-how to handle anything that is thrown my way and that regardless what of what is going on around me I understand deeply that everything is exactly as it should be.
And this is the peace of mind that I want for you.
If you would like to learn the process I followed and continue to follow every day, so you too can live on your terms and create a life you love then please join me in my upcoming course Life. Done By Design. Starting Monday, I’ll guide you through everything I have learnt so you too can return within and reclaim the confidence that comes when you take the lead role.
I can’t wait to see you there.