Creating a braver new life
What would you do with a blank canvas?
I don’t often write about my very personal life in this blog because I like to keep my loved ones well out of the spotlight. But the times in life that are traumatic, weighted with painful emotion and that we think at the time are going to be the hardest to recover from – these are often the events that shape us.
Most of us will have heard these words many times before, but looking back over my own life, I can see there is some truth here. It won’t be true for everyone and of course it depends on the type of challenging circumstances you’ve experienced. But looking at these most difficult of times – as well as those we really want to celebrate – offers rich material to explore.
I was recently asked by Elizabeth Cairns, author of The Empowered Entrepreneur to reflect on events that have shaped me.
This was my almost spontaneous answer:
‘When my Mum died suddenly, I was 17 and studying for my A levels. I found it hard to believe that her life was over and that she would never know my children, celebrate my achievements and I would never know her as an adult knows another adult. I understand so much more about her life now as a parent myself than I ever did as a child and teenager. But I felt her love, I shared her love for life and I knew instinctively (then more consciously) that I had to make the most of every day. I learnt to prize my life and my desire to grow, to learn and to live as fully as I possibly can. I owe her that.
I was bullied at my first primary school because of my pink National Health specs and at my second for being an outsider – my Dad from Australia and my Mum with a cut glass accent – we just didn’t fit the small rural community we found ourselves in. But while I remember the dread of the bullying, being ostracized by other girls (yes, it was always girls), ultimately this made me resourceful. I fought back on the netball court and in the classroom – and I slowly grew resilient. I learnt to rely on myself, to know that I was strong and could survive. This was way before online bullying so when I went home after school, I was safe.
The landscape – physical and cultural – has certainly played its part in shaping me. I never felt at home in the flat fenland landscape where I grew up and chose a university in the beautiful southwest of England – where I flourished. Mobility was in my DNA and when I headed north for teacher training, to the Midlands for my first job, then overseas for 24 rich years of challenge to learn, respect and accommodate, I grew in so many ways. I know I can thrive in many places, that I can choose where I live – and that’s empowering.’
I chose 3 clear significant episodes and factors that had shaped me – they were the first things that came to mind. There are many, many others I could have chosen, some painful, others more obviously worthy of celebration.
Creating a braver new world
But coincidentally, I was also invited this week to write an article for a community that has been created by Alison March to support people going through divorce. The Group Hug offered me the perfect opportunity to dive deeper into Elizabeth’s question and bring my response up to date.
What I wrote about in 'After the earthquake - how can I create a better life?' was my road out of the pain and chaos of divorce. At the time of course it was very much about putting the building blocks of my new life in place – new country, new home, new job, new friends. But after a couple of years, when the shock waves had subsided, I was ready to grasp the opportunity to build a life that was authentically and intentionally mine.
My key to this brave new world was understanding what truly matters most to me and the kind of life I want to live. You can read how I used VALUES to pave the way to a life I now love in The Group Hug article here.
I have no doubt at all that my divorce has ultimately made me stronger, but it has also done so much more. I now have clarity about what kind of life I want to lead and how I can share that vision and process with my career change clients.
It’s also spilled over into my book project – Freestyle 61 – which will reveal the system I developed to re-create a full and vibrant life. If this piques your interest, please do sign up to hear news of publication – I’m still undecided whether this should be a physical book, an e-book or an online course. Or perhaps all three, so do let me know if you have any preferences.
I am hugely grateful to two inspiring women this week – Elizabeth Cairns and Alison March – both of whom asked me to stop and reflect, then share what I have learnt in the simple hope that my experience will inspire someone else on a sometimes difficult journey to create a life that’s true.
My final question (thanks to Elizabeth) is:
What has shaped you?
Take a few moments to stop. Pick up your journal and write your answer.
If you’d like to share what you discover, just drop your answer in the comments, or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can read more about Values and understanding how you can create a future rooted in what matters most to you here