My husband thought I worked for ASIO

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When I first met my husband (Shanton) he thought that I must have secretly worked for ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organisation). He also thought that I stared at him a lot. I didn’t find this out until much later, and at the time he told me, I thought this was hilarious and when I share this story to people in workshops or in life, they also find it funny.

Whenever I talk to friends, family and clients and deliver courses, the topic of conversation inevitably turns to culture – this includes many aspects of cultural differences as well as how to show respect and build rapport, and since meeting Shanton nine years ago these are subjects I have learnt a lot about and continue to learn more about as time goes on.

I have written in a previous post about how we do cross cultural marriage, so if you want to read a bit of a back story of how two very different people met, fell in love and make it work, feel free to check that article out here.

So, back to ASIO. The reason he thought this was because of the fact I asked so many questions. I have always been a curious cat, curious in the extreme really, just ask any of my school teachers since the beginning of time and anyone who knows me. I ask a LOT of questions.

In Shanton’s culture however, questions are considered rude. They can’t ask questions of people who are senior to them, they can’t ask questions such as what a person does for a living, how old someone is (this is particularly important if the person is senior to you) you can’t ask about marital status, and the biggest taboo question of all is when a woman is pregnant to ask when her baby is due. I met countless people who Shanton introduced me to as his wife and I never got the name of most of them either and I didn’t ask. One day I asked Shanton what our neighbour James’ mum’s name was, so I could address her properly, he looked at me curiously and said, ‘It’s James’ mum’.

I could fill a dictionary of all the things you don’t ask, so it’s easier to just summarise by saying – don’t ask. My best advice when dealing with anyone from a culture you aren’t familiar with is to be guided by how the person engages with you. Questions such as ‘how are you?’ ‘how is your family?’ and ‘how is your health?’ are usually ok across most cultures. My Mum often laughs when recalling Shanton coming home to bring a friend to introduce to her and mostly he didn’t know their name, so he would say ‘Mum, this is my good, good friend’.

Somehow, in Ghana they get to know enough about each other to not need to ask questions like we do. It boggles the mind of people like us in Australia, because that’s how we get to know people right? Maybe it gets back to the fact that people mostly live in a community setting and already know enough about each other to not need to ask too much?  I don’t know, even after all these years it puzzles me, but one of the things I learnt about living in another country myself and with a person from another culture is to be guided by them when it comes to relating to other people. Showing respect is paramount and if a person feels disrespected you can forget about building any kind of relationship, no matter the culture.

Now the staring thing. In the West, we show respect by making eye contact when someone is talking to us or we are talking with another person. However, in many cultures direct eye contact is seen as threatening, rude and inappropriate. This has variations from culture to culture and there are subtleties about eye contact that can vary between married to single, junior to senior, male to female etc. When it gets down to it eye contact in developing countries and some of our more traditional cultures is more often than not seen as inappropriate. Shanton really felt I stared at him, I saw it as gazing lovingly into his eyes of course. He initially saw it as strange and rude and didn’t know how to respond. We had an interesting conversation about this just today which has led to this post. After so many years in Australia he now appreciates, and values eye contact and it has become the norm for him.

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When he visits Ghana however, he is now seen as odd, and people often ask him why he is staring at them, one man asked ‘Sorry do I know you? Why are you staring at me like that?’. Today he told me something that he hadn’t shared or perhaps realised before. He recently returned from a visit to Ghana, and he told me that his uncle has been unhappy with him, although he didn’t tell him directly. Shanton was told it was because he no longer showed him the respect he previously had. Other people have also commented that he no longer respects his senior family members. The difference between the past and now is one thing – eye contact.

I found this fascinating. The fact that he was in his newfound way showing respect, was in fact having the opposite and unwanted effect with his family and friendship groups back in Ghana.

These are just two of the myriad of cultural differences that I find so interesting. I could write a book there are so many, but these are particularly important, as showing respect and building rapport are the building blocks of establishing a relationship of any kind. It is even more critical when you are supporting someone in a counselling or therapeutic relationship or informally when checking in to see how they are going, perhaps when offering Mental Health First Aid.

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Here are a few ideas I have found helpful so far in terms of building the initial relationship with someone if you are unsure of how to engage and to ensure you are showing respect.

  1. Be guided by the way the other person engages with you, and follow suit. For instance if they make brief eye contact and look down or away, don’t take offence. They may be showing you deep respect. This is hard to get used to, as we have been taught the importance of eye contact but it can be quite confronting for some.
  2. Don’t assume physical contact is ok, for instance don’t shake hands if the person doesn’t initiate it. Better to greet warmly without reaching out unless the person reaches out first. For some people shaking hands is just not ok, and especially between men and women.
  3. Be careful with the use of humour, particularly sarcasm. This is a particularly Western way of interacting but it’s usually lost on someone not accustomed to it. Humour varies greatly and it is tricky to navigate, so tread lightly. My husband still doesn’t get my dry sarcastic wit sometimes, although he now proudly states “this – is going straight to the poolroom” when he gets a gift. Over time he has become a huge fan of some of our iconic Aussie comedy films.
  4. Approach sensitive topics gently and gauge the response before probing too deep. Observe the person’s non-verbal reaction to your question or comment before continuing along that line of conversation.
  5. If you inadvertently do something that seems inappropriate, don’t be afraid to apologise, we are all human, and showing vulnerability and genuine concern is always appreciated.
  6. If you do ask questions, consider the motivation behind them. Before he got used to being bombarded with a gazillion questions, Shanton occasionally asked me ‘what are you going to do with this information?’ a response I found intriguing. When you are working in a supporting role, it is always helpful to check yourself before enquiring and consider ‘for whose benefit am I asking this question?’. We often ask questions out of our own personal interest, especially when faced with something different to us, but in fact when helping someone, questions should largely be for the benefit of the client or person you are talking with. Questions should assist an individual to find the answers within themselves, unlock what they already know or assist them to move forward.

Lastly, and most importantly, enjoy living, laughing and learning from the incredibly diverse, wonderfully rich and beautiful blend of cultures we are blessed to call family, friends, colleagues and community in this great big delicious melting pot we call home.

My life is certainly richer for the experience.

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Stop it I don’t like it!

 

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I haven’t always been kind to my body. No, let me honest, I have never been kind to my body, except for the last year and a bit. I have never abused drugs or alcohol but I have abused food. I have written about it many times on this blog and anyone who knows me well knows the battles I have faced and the subsequent torment in my head as a result.

I am happy to say that I have managed to deal with my food addiction and I will write about that soon, I promise. I actually have another blog that I have not shared openly, but in spite of that I have many followers over there where I have shared that story…..however that’s for another day. Back to my body….

Just now as I got into bed, I was applying my magnesium cream to my feet and legs, as I do every night, I make my own, you can see it here, but only for Australian friends at the moment. As I was applying it, I was really paying attention to the process, which as a positive psychology person and mindfulness practitioner I always advocate, but the reality is most nights I do it quite mindlessly while reading or watching something.

What I noticed was my ageing body, the not so bouncy parts and pieces and less than elastic skin that is in all sorts of places I never knew it could possibly be. Seriously there is sagging in places that I never knew existed. Please let me make an important note here – I am absolutely a strong advocate for loving our selves as we are, but at the same time I am also human and every now and then I have my moments. Tonight I am having a moment, so for now in this minute I am mourning the loss of some aspects of my youth.

In my head I am still in my early twenties – but perhaps with a touch more wisdom. In my body however I am approaching 52. That’s where my moments often collide and cause chaos in my heart and mind. I look in the mirror and expect to see my twenty something face and perky body but it lies to me and I see the outer expression of somebody more than twice the age I am feeling. My sister occasionally takes photos of me in what I think are unflattering situations and they make me feel old, like really old.

I remember as a young mum seeing all the ads on TV and feeling that everyone was older than me, the tip top mum (good on ya) the meadow lea mum (turn your bread upside down) and the chicken tonight mums were all much older in my head and in reality they probably were.

I used to ignore all of the anti ageing stuff and things and could not have cared less about things such as retirement plans and the like. The other day I caught myself considering my retirement income and how and where I will be living. But I’m only twenty something!

I notice now when I use a scroll down box online to find the year of my birth takes a lot  more scrolling and when completing surveys I am in a whole other category. I can’t read without glasses and I get yearly reminders of health check ups that I never used to.

The thing is everyone I speak to says the same thing, they feel a certain age in their head that is much younger than their chronological age. I really didn’t expect that to be the case. I thought it was just me.

The years are now flying by way too quickly. 2015 was insane, 2016 went in a heartbeat and 2017 is flying by in the blink of an eye. The other day I was having a massage in Bali and there was a clock in the room and I could hear it tick with every second that passed. The ‘moment’ part of me was thinking that those seconds were gone forever and taking me every second closer to another year around the sun.

The other side of me was reminded of the importance of living life to the fullest, seizing the day and being sure to carpe the fuck out of every god damn diem.

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Also please let me add, I am not complaining, because let’s be honest – what’s the alternative? I am happy to be here on this spinning ball of madness and mayhem, but every now and then I wish it would just slow down. Will I be 70 plus and still feeling like I am in my twenties? Will my body be playing this game with my mind forever? I hope not but I expect it will based on conversations I have had with many others. I hope to one day feel like a grown up and I hope that I am also fighting fit well into my later years, but the reality is that to be honest it depresses me sometimes. I want to be here to watch my beautiful grand children grow up, to travel, to read and write and spend time with those I love, but I feel like I am always rushing. Time flies by way too fast.

Seriously though where is the time going? I have read some theories that time is moving faster than it used to, I don’t know how much truth there is to them but I certainly feel as if it is the case.

But for now let me say I am grateful. Grateful that I get to live life on my terms. Grateful for my good health, my family, my friends and the choices I have made. Grateful for travel and experiences and wisdom and ageing well and love and tea and Bali and all good things. Grateful that I can write a post like this that really has no point but gives me an outlet to vent and share some of the stuff in my head. Grateful that you took the time to read it.

Grab life by the balls and live it hard with no regrets! You only get one shot, so make it worthwhile!

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Why would you keep a bird in a cage?

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I am in Bali right now for a month, my beloved second home and enjoying taking time out for me, catching up with friends and relaxing. On my own. While I am very happily married, up until meeting my husband 7.5 years ago, I have never enjoyed the freedom I currently have and I love and appreciate every single moment of it.

On the day I was leaving home, I bumped into an old friend, Sandra. Sandra was my first true friend when my family and I relocated from Sydney to Adelaide in 1981. At the tender age of 15 we moved so my family could begin a new life, following my parents separation, it didn’t work but that’s a whole other story, but ultimately we were dumped in Adelaide. Leaving lifelong friends and family behind across the other side of the country I found myself starting in a new high school and in the unfamiliar situation of knowing nobody. Sandra took me under her wing with another beautiful soul Melissa and we soon became close friends and spent all of our spare time together.

Anyway fast forward 36 years – say what??? and we bump into each other putting petrol in our cars. We’ve seen each other only once in the last 20 or so years at a shopping centre and added each other on Facebook so we each had a vague idea of what the other is doing.

Sandra said something to me that I loved while we briefly discussed life, travel, marriage, careers and how the hell we have become 51 years old in the blink of an eye. She said to me with great admiration in her eyes ‘you have really re-invented yourself haven’t you?’. I wholeheartedly agreed with her at the time as yes, I have.

However, the more I thought about this fabulous compliment the more I realised that yes on the outside it may appear to be so and sometimes I feel as if that is the case, but you know what I realised? I haven’t reinvented myself, I have rediscovered myself and maybe I could even go so far as to say I have discovered myself.

You see at the age of 15 I met the person who was to be my first husband. At 15 I thought I knew it all, but in fact I knew nothing. Nada, zip, zero. Rather than continue to blossom and find my own direction, and place, I somehow became melded into one combined entity. I recall a psychologist saying to me once when talking about our family structure, that it was as if one of us breathes in and the other breathes out.

So when you are with someone from the age when you are still figuring out who you are, where you belong, what you love and don’t love, your belief system, your everything,  if you are not strong enough to hold your own, you soon lose that part of who you are and somehow deep inside I buried that little girl. Her hopes, dreams, visions and ideals. I am not saying it was all bad, no not at all. I raised two incredible sons to be amazing men, traveled, and had a wonderful life in many ways. But deep inside I buried the real me. The free peace loving wild crazy hippy woman who wanted to fly and be free.

Getting deeply personal here, cos after all this is my blog, I recall the day I finally decided after years of arguments that at the age of 33 if I wanted to pierce my nose, well fuck me I am hold enough to decide that for myself. So I did. Now this may seem like an insignificant something, but it was something I had wanted to do from about the age of 16, and was forbidden to do so. I won’t repeat the names I was called at that time, but let’s just say nobody deserves to be called them. I had also long wanted a tattoo and made the decision at 40 it was about time I did what I wanted. Divorce was threatened but I finally decided that if I could not express myself outwardly in my physical appearance at that age, then seriously what else was I repressing. So I got my first tattoo. It was tiny and I absolutely loved it.

Fast forward a few years and I started to do things to please me. Little old me. Outward some yes, but mainly internal. Spiritual work, some healing and deep soul searching. I woke one day and decided that I was no longer able to be in the same situation I had been for 28 years, and so it was time. Time for the bird to be let out her beautiful gilded cage and fly wild and free. Without going into too much detail here, it was not an impulsive decision, it took several years of trying and failing and then the realisation came that I needed to fly, for my heart, mind, body, soul and spirit. So much hurt, pain and trauma that cannot be told in a short blog post. Perhaps the details can be left for another story. Please note, I don’t want to bag or talk negatively about anyone else here, but the reality is that my story was so deeply intertwined it is impossible to talk about this without involving the story of another.

So fly I did. And wonderful magic things have happened. I now listen to only one voice, mine. My inner voice. My heart. My intuition. My internal compass. She guides me in every direction, with every step I take and every decision I make. She is wise and she is now wide awake and ready to shout from the rooftops, embrace every moment and squeeze every last single juicy drop out of this one short life.

So, reinvented perhaps.

Rediscovered, uncovered, invigorated and on purpose and free – most definitely.

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It’s either perfect or falling apart

 

d60de5a45ddb39bad1ed471a22a9cbf8While I love social media and consumer created content, I also loathe it at the same time. I love how we can stay in touch and share our stories, experiences and life with people we care about. I’ve been blessed to meet several very special friends solely due to the wonders of Facebook and I spend way too much time on there, but I do enjoy it a lot.

I have only recently started using Instagram and to be honest I’m not sure it’s right for me as I’m active enough on Facebook, but I’m having a play anyway. One thing I notice on there is all of these beautiful, perfectly curated pages, with flatlays and never a thing out of place and seemingly perfect lives – all day every day. Travellers in white bikinis on sun soaked beaches in dream locations, perfect coffees, amazing lunches, stunning landscapes, and models with gorgeous clothes, all so beautiful in their perfection. I have not been at all strategic with my Instagram, I just share photos that reflect my day, if I feel like it. I may go months without posting and other times I may post frequently.

On the other hand we have the recent trend, for want of a better word, of people sharing their vulnerabilities, which I absolutely love and have done so myself on more than one occasion. I think vulnerability is the new black and I’m now proud to stand up and say I’m perfectly imperfect. I believe this has been one of the greatest things to happen to people who felt afraid to admit that their life was anything less than Instagram perfect.

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So we have the perfectly perfect perky lives and the falling apart lives, but what of the in between? What of the every day mundane things that make up our days? The washing, house cleaning, commuting to work, shopping for food and cooking dinner. The getting shit done days. What of the days where it’s just ok? What of the days where I can’t be bothered doing anything but watching Netflix, but I don’t feel like my life is falling apart. What about the middle of the road mediocre, life as it is days? The majority of how it is in fact. normal day .jpg

I’m not advocating for us to share every single moment and the minutiae of our lives, no way, there is enough of that out there, thank you very much. What I’m wondering is how people feel who are just a little down, a little isolated, a little can’t be fucked today? Do they feel that they need to be either perfect or falling apart to accept who they are in that space and time? Do they see others in those opposite ends of the spectrum and feel that they don’t measure up or aren’t vulnerable enough? The reality is not every day is sunshine and unicorns, equally every day is not a crisis. We have much much more of the in between. That’s normal every day life.

While I do my best to be upbeat and positive most of the time, I have my in between days too and some crappy yet not falling apart days too. Days where I eat peanut butter on toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner, where I watch too many episodes of nonsense on Netflix, where I lie on my lounge and absolutely nothing gets done.

And that’s ok. It’s perfectly ok.

We are all perfect just as we are.

No matter what Instagram or Facebook says.

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Only the Good Die Young

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Megan – the embodiment of joy, love and light.

I’ve lost too many wonderful people in my relatively short life. Amazing souls taken much too soon. They are always the bright ones, the shiny ones, the ones that light up the world.

The ones that make us better people for having known them.

Cancer, suicide, accidents and illness have stolen them from those who need them the most.

They are the true earth angels, brought here to show us the way, guide and teach us what we need to know.

Today I am feeling so sad at the loss of yet another beautiful soul who truly lit up the world. From the moment we met, Megan and I connected, and as we were on a personal development course, we shared some deep truths, pains and growth with each other. I felt privileged to have been able to share that space, time and healing experience with her and from then we had a beautiful heart felt connection.

As I was reading and processing this devastating news, through my tears I found myself reading that yet another beautiful earth angel I’ve been inspired by is soon to make her departure from this earthly plane.

It’s unfair and it makes me sad, angry and so many other emotions I am unable to adequately express.

Losing earth angels is always devastating and hard to recover from. We grieve, cry and talk of the unfairness of it all. We feel the deep pain that grief gouges into our hearts and souls, leaving scars, deep wounds and gentle reminders of love, life and lessons never to be forgotten.

We use platitudes such as “life is short” “do what you love” “live each day as if it’s your last”. I use them myself, but how many of us truly live this way?

Whenever I’ve lost someone, and as I said it’s happened too many times in my life, I take the opportunity to pause and reflect and ask myself some questions. What am I doing to make a difference? Does what I do every day help others? Does the way I live my life adequately serve others? What impact can I have in the short time I’m here? Does everyone in my life know how much they mean to me? What else can I do? What else can I learn? Who else can I help?

So today, while I am incredibly sad and feeling the loss of yet another earth angel, when my heart is ready, I will ask myself these questions and see what it is I need to do next.

As Mahatma Ghandi so wisely said; ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow, Learn as if you were to live forever’. Because you just never know.

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Life is a funny thing

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During my recent sucky couple of days, which thankfully have passed, I took some time to reflect, as I like to do when the opportunity presents.  After much contemplation, one thing I realised is just how grateful I am for every experience I have ever had, whether at the time I considered them to be “good” or “bad”. Yes all of them. I have had some pretty damn amazingly wonderful good experiences and some equally shitful distressing horrible ones. I feel incredibly blessed to have had all of them.

Why on earth would I be grateful for all of these, shouldn’t I just be happy to have had the good ones? I can’t say at the time that I was happy about the ones I considered to be in the negative category, but on reflection, with hindsight, things look a whole lot different.

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You see the thing with all of our life experiences is that every single one of them makes us who we are, yes I know that sounds like a cliche and something that should be on a motivational meme, but it’s the truth. In order to know what we want, we sometimes have to bump up against what makes us uncomfortable and pushes us outside of our comfort zone into places we may not have been brave enough to tread. We need to experience both highs and lows in order to fully appreciate the highs, but also to know what we need to do in order to minimise the lows and have more of the highs.

Without having the experience of some of the things that felt less than wonderful (at the time) such as marriage, friendships, relationships, jobs, businesses, bullying, weight, physical and mental health issues, how would I possibly know what I know now? How would I have learnt how to create healthy boundaries for myself, how to prioritise self care, how to love again, have a happy marriage, supportive friends and work that I love? How would I have had the opportunity to “declutter” physical stuff, commitments and people that don’t add value to my life or bring me joy? Decluttering and simplifying has allowed me to bring in and attract everything I need and more, giving me a life of great abundance. Who would I be without my pain and suffering, the valuable lessons I’ve learnt on how to look after myself and how to prioritise what’s important in my life? I simply would not be the same person I am.

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I was talking with my bestie yesterday and we were reflecting on how much my life has changed. During our chat I realised that if I was to think back to six months ago, a year ago, not to mention a few years, I just don’t feel like I’m the same person. I’m much wiser, I’ve grown in uncountable ways, I’m stronger and more resilient than I’ve ever been and can honestly say I’ve never been healthier or happier.

Would this growth have happened if I hadn’t have faced challenges? I doubt it, in fact I think I’d have to say it wouldn’t. Just like the giant redwood or sequoia trees that need fires in order to survive and grow, life gives us our own fires, in the form of trials and tribulations that often leave us reeling and full of despair and wondering how much more we can take. It takes time, but with the benefit of hindsight, there is a lesson in everything.

So I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart, for all that has come my way.

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What do you really want?

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What do you want?

I mean, what is it that you really really want?

What’s your greatest desire? Your one big thing, your “if only” goal?

Have you ever asked yourself this question?

Many haven’t.

Many people aren’t aware that in fact, anything that you want, need or desire is possible.

Let me say that again. Anything that you want, need or desire IS possible.

I remember the first time I sat down with a coach who asked me to consider what I really wanted, without any of the limiting beliefs I might attach to my desires. Blue sky dreaming – without getting bogged down in the how and when, what did I really want for my life?

I’m delighted to say that I now have everything I wanted to have and achieved all that I wanted to at that time, and much more. It doesn’t mean I don’t continue to have dreams and set goals, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The more I realise I am in fact limitless, the more I set goals, the more I take action, the more I make my dreams come true. I’d like to add here that this is not just about money, it’s about anything you want in your life, be it health, happiness, relationships, career, income, fill in the blank.

Today I’d like to set you a challenge. I’d like you to ask yourself what it is that you really want. 

Here is a very simple exercise to get you going.

  1. Grab a journal and pen.
  2. Find a place you can sit quietly without any interruptions or distractions.
  3. Close your eyes and take a few gentle cleansing breaths. Clear your mind of the days thoughts, the to do lists, what you are cooking for dinner,  just for a few minutes, it will all still be there after, I promise.
  4. Ask yourself what would you do, have or be, now that you know that anything is possible. Don’t filter it, analyse it or judge anything that comes up, just go with it.
  5. Open your eyes and start writing. Write it all down, every single thing, the more the better. Once you get past your usual responses and get into true blue sky dreaming, into your sub conscious and your heart, you will uncover what your greatest wishes and desires are. Don’t stop until you have gotten to the end of the ideas that came up, and in fact as you write, you will find more coming. Once you scrape off the surface, past the usual and expected goals, ideas will begin to flow. Don’t judge them, get them on paper.

What did you find? You may be surprised to see that none of your hearts greatest wishes are that difficult or far away. You may also be surprised that some of your greatest goals are those that you buried years ago, or those you may never have considered before. You may also find that now you have started downloading them that more come in the next hours or days. Great, keep them coming.

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A coaching colleague of mine shared a wonderful story of a client who was highly successful by our usual definition, in terms of income and position in her field in the finance industry. My colleague sensed a dissatisfaction and started gently probing and asked her to consider, if she could do anything at all, what it would be. Guess what – her heart’s greatest desire was to sew. That seemed so far away from what she was doing and she’d long pushed it to the back of her mind as it didn’t seem feasible for her to even consider, and with her busy position she didn’t have the time anyway. Fast forward to today, with a whole lot of action taken in between, and she now sews costumes full time for a movie production company and is happier than she’s ever been. It might have seemed like a big stretch at that time, but she did it!

Now, keep that journal handy, and as more ideas come in, over the coming days write them down. Next I will tell you what to do with them.

Never forget that you have the potential to be, do or have anything your heart desires! You really do have unlimited potential, sometimes we just need a little reminder.

If you would like to explore your potential and uncover your greatest desires, please get in touch with me for an introductory coaching session. Tell me what you really really want and let’s get you creating and thriving in the life you deserve!

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