The Fight for Happiness is Real

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I’m passionate about living a life you love, about following your passion and being authentic. After my burnout, I took a long time to figure out what my passion was, even though the clues were there all along.

With some recovery and reflection I became a writer. I didn’t wait for my book to be published for me to call myself a writer. My new profession became clear and I didn’t need to wait for external validation to change my job title. In fact, it’s much more than a job title, it’s a calling. I felt compelled to write the book and I’m clear that there are people who can benefit from my message.

fight

I wrote about the unadulterated joy that I’ve started to experience as I get closer to fulfilling a lifelong dream of publishing a book. This joy has been marred by last-minute obstacles as I reach the end of this journey of getting my message into the world. It is a reality that there is a lot of struggle and suffering along the way to success. Living your passion can be rewarding but it’s not all plain sailing. There are challenges and circumstances that get in the way of your dreams and it is imperative that you fight to keep your dreams alive.

It’s possible that people will try to cling to your dreams as their own, or even worse, to sabotage them. When you start to be successful, people may attribute it to luck or their part in the process. In these final challenges I was reminded of Paulo Coelho’s words in The Alchemist:

“The closer he got to the realization of his dream, the more difficult things became.”

There is no-one who truly knows the difficulties I have faced on my way to launching this book. At times it has felt impossible to get my dreams off the ground. But I held the belief and I kept moving towards them. Now I am within weeks of my dreams coming true and I couldn’t be happier.

fight

I’m not going to let anything or anyone stand in my way. This book is happening and it’s going to feel fantastic for me to launch my work into the world. I truly believe that it will help people not to get as sick as I did, to improve their lives and to identify what’s dragging them down. I hope to help people avoid the depth of illness that I reached and I am certain that the book will have this impact on at least a few people in the world. To help people is a key value of mine and it’s so exciting for me to know that I can have an impact in this way.

I don’t know exactly what opportunities lie ahead but this book is a big part of my future. It is the foundation of my new career and of my dreams becoming reality. One thing I have learnt along the way is that it’s very important to focus on the next step. Don’t obsess about how a new career will unfold – just do the next step. And for me the next step is the final proof before printing. How thrilling to know that my work will be out in the world soon and I’m so ready to fight for it if I have to. My dreams are calling me forward and I’m doing my part to make them real.

Are you letting obstacles in the way of living the life you want? Are you fighting for your dreams? Are you focusing on the next step?

Where did the Pure, Unadulterated Joy come from?

In the past week or so I’ve felt such powerful joy, more pronounced than at any other time of my life. It’s hard to say what has triggered this emotion but one thing is for sure, I want more of it!

joy

I think much of it has to do with my book nearing completion and releasing the need for final tweaks. I have also had an idea to make cards as an accompaniment to the book, and another method to reach my audience. The cards give me complete license to be creative and to call it work, which is just glorious in itself. I have designed a few of the cards and am completely thrilled with the way they are taking shape.

My advanced Toastmasters manuals arrived in the post this weekend, allowing me the opportunity to refine my public speaking. I will get the chance to practice story telling and professional speaking in the supportive environment of my club. I’m excited to get going and it is thrilling to know I’ll have the chance to grow my skills and my offering further.

Friends have also encouraged me to resurrect my workshops that I started designing last year. They even offered to be a rent-a-crowd if I have to face the embarrassment of no-one signing up. I must say I am truly blessed to have met the people I have met in the past few years on this recovery journey.

It feels like the floodgates of opportunities and ideas have opened and I am now spoilt for choice as to what to work on in a day. I am the kind of person who truly likes to finish what she starts so I know I wont get myself off track or depleted. I know that this work I do doesn’t deplete me, it energises me. This is the way I can tell that I’m on the right path, doing the right work for my personality.

joy

The way I feel now is that nothing can ruin my day or that nothing can take away my happiness. I have this inner knowing about my career path and the things that I occupy my time with. I don’t need anyone’s approval or for anyone to believe or acknowledge me or my ideas. I know that this is right and that feeling is like hitting the jackpot for me.

This joy overflows onto my family and anyone I encounter in my day. I have so much energy at the moment which is a big deal for me as I recover from burnout. I’m able to tackle things that I didn’t have the energy for, even a few months ago. I am exercising about five days a week, I’m able to look after my children, I am proactively cleaning out cupboards at home, baking and sorting out a lot of undone admin that has been bothering me for a while.

I’m also learning what depletes me and what energises me. I’m more aware of people and situations that I find tiring and I’m scheduling rest afterwards. I’m also steering myself as much as possible towards the things and people that do energise me, so that I can maintain these high levels of energy. I might in fact be operating just like everyone else for the first time in many years. It just feels like I’m on rocket fuel because of the utter collapse of my energy during my illness.

I’m sorry that I can’t offer a recipe for joy to others as the process of getting here has been complicated and convoluted. Perhaps this is a subject of a book or another blog post once I have had some time to digest and to unpack this joy. For now, I’m just reveling in it and doing all the things I know to be right for me at this time.

The Excitement of a New Idea

I haven’t written this blog for a while, and I wish I could say that it’s because I’m so busy working. The truth is that I’ve been quite worried and stuck about my career lately. My book is getting close to completion and it’s in the final layout stages. The lifelong dream I have had about writing a book is very close to being realised.

So why have I felt so stuck? I haven’t managed to secure any speaking opportunities lately. There are many opportunities to speak but very few are paid opportunities. I have felt despondent and that perhaps there are some subconscious blocks to earning income. Am I sabotaging myself? I do know that I’ve been holding back a bit since I’d prefer to have the book complete when I perform speeches. It’s far better to have the book ready and to use the opportunity to promote it. But this waiting is excruciating.

idea

I have also perhaps been a bit scared about what life looks like with a lot of opportunities. Will I jump in head first and forget to care for myself? Will I set my recovery  backwards if I take on too much? How will I say no after all this time of not earning income?

I caught a nasty case of the flu last week from my children. The three of us were sick and it was so difficult to care for them, while I was feeling awful. It reminded me of how far I’ve come with my recovery from burnout. And what things were like when I had no energy to look after them properly.

I love routine. I’ve created a few rituals before I start my day, in order to promote creativity and to help me to feel calm. I love my life and my family and I wouldn’t want things to change much (just the income part). So when I got sick, I just threw the routine out of the window. I abandoned everything and just looked after myself and the kids. I made recovery a priority, much like the past few years.

I actually found it quite liberating. I felt a little more free and I’ve been shaking things up ever since. This idea of making a deck of cards to accompany my book, has emerged from a few sources and I had abandoned it previously. I recently got advice to resurrect the cards. It has given me something to work on while I wait for my book to be ready. It is an opportunity to be creative and to make something that I can sell to earn income.

idea

It’s so great to have direction and to feel excited about something. This morning, I simply could not wait to get to work in my sanctuary. I could not wait to put my ideas down and to figure out how I’m going to bring them to the world. This is how I think work should feel. I didn’t want to come inside last night and cook dinner – I just wanted to keep working on the cards.

As nasty as that flu was, it helped me in a way. I am completely relishing being back at yoga and am super grateful for the ability to exercise. I really missed that when I was very ill. The routine shake up probably created a shift for me and helped me to find direction towards something greatly rewarding.

What could you do to shake things up in your life and break thorugh blocks? Are there ways you could bring more joy into your life that you are not acting on?

Surrender and Acceptance

The concept of acceptance keeps coming up for me. I’m reading Byron Katie’s Loving What Is to learn about greater acceptance and the unhappiness that comes from wishing for things and people to be different.

Acceptance

My experience of burnout and the years I have spent recovering have taught me a lot. One of the things I have learnt is to surrender. I am an A-type personality who has spent my life people-pleasing, worrying about what others think of me and fighting to affect the changes I’d like to see. And I have been unhappy for most of my working life. Certainly, there were very happy times and I have great memories of the experience and the people from my corporate past.

But the things that made me unhappy were bureaucratic hurdles, lack of support and strong leadership, unkind behaviors in the interest of furthering careers etc. My corporate life and that of a business owner were not that different. Although as an owner, I got to make all the decisions, I still encountered toxic people, resistance, sabotage and poor performance. So much struggle and frustration led to a great deal of unhappiness in those years.

The past two and a half years recovering, however, feel very different. There was still a great deal of frustration with the length of time it takes to recover and the inability to achieve goals. But I also found a lot more joy. I focused my attention on recovery and that meant that I intentionally found flow. I also include things in my day that contribute to happiness such as creative pursuits.

Acceptance

I learnt to surrender into the time it would take for me to be well enough to work. I learnt to accept that it would be years before I could earn income. That was difficult and it took a long time but it was part of my learning. My view is that as long as I’m aligned with my calling (which I’m sure I am), and I’m showing up to do what I can everyday, then I’m doing well.

I also had to learn self-compassion. I had to stop being so hard on myself and to learn to love and accept myself. I cut myself a considerable amount of slack and just tackled what I could each day. Some setbacks meant that I did very little with my day. And other times, I made great strides on my book, speeches or other networking opportunities. As long as I stay on track and I do my best, the rest will fall into place at the right time.

I’ve learnt to trust in a force greater than myself. I’ve learnt that trying to control things all the time is exhausting and is also not possible. I’ve found the joy in surrender and acceptance of what is happening right now and to sink into it fully. I’ve learnt to feel what I’m feeling and to stop avoiding it. I’ve learnt to be gracious about receiving and I’ve learnt to use gratitude to foster happiness.

My life is not perfect and some days I still get angry and grumpy. But overall I’m a far happier person now than I was before I got sick. I think a large part of that has been the ability to surrender and to be present, soaking up what is occurring around me at this very moment. Not wishing for the future, wanting to change the past or feeling bored. Just enjoying the now.

How I Feel like an Alien

I’m recovering from burnout and changing career paths so some weeks are quiet and some are full. When I do a lot or get very stressed, I need to make time to recover so that I don’t get too depleted. This week I’ve taken some steps towards my future. I’ve done a YouTube video interview to be published soon, a few final edits of my book and I attended a networking function. It’s a busy week by my current standards and situation.

alien

I’m struggling with feelings of inadequacy and being unsure of myself at the moment. Someone told me my dreams are not realistic this week and the networking function was disappointing. I so look forward to these opportunities and often I feel deflated afterwards.

At the networking function, I sat at a table with someone who has already rejected me for a speaking opportunity. I felt uncomfortable in her presence and my confidence was really low. Another woman spoke about how she believes that the only person to see her at her worst must be her. She feels she needs to look beautiful and perfect, even for her immediate family! Considering the path I have followed, I felt like an alien in that conversation.

The burnout I experienced shook me to my core. It stripped me of all delusions of grandeur based on qualifications, job title or appearance. I had terrible hair for months that I ended up cutting myself because I was too exhausted to go out. My medication gave me acne. I put on weight from my thyroid gland being medically slowed down. I dealt with many issues around self-worth, self concept and confidence over the past two years.

I had to learn to love and accept myself despite looking ugly, feeling terrible and worthless. I feel like I have walked through a dark tunnel of flames and out the other side to find everything and everyone is different. I suffered for years approaching burnout and not knowing what was about to happen. I suffered for years in recovery and now as I emerge at the other side, why do I still have to struggle so much? Why does it feel so lonely? When will I get my moment, my time to shine when things just go my way?

alien

To survive all of this I had to develop a strong sense of self belief. I had to turn away from that negativity, look myself in the mirror and learn to love the person there no matter how she looks or what she does for a living. I cannot tell you how hard it has been for me to get to where I am now. And still, I’m shaken by a bit of cynicism. It’s hard to change your entire life, to live your dream, to be honest about what it is and to defend it from critics. The critic in my own head is loud enough, why must there be others?

How much more hustle is required to get to a place of success where others can understand what I’m doing? I look into a future where people say ‘Oh, I see what you were doing and I get it now.’ It feels so uncomfortable for me to be so very different from the people I’m interacting with. Where do I find a tribe of people who also believe that it’s possible to live the life you want? Maybe they’re in some forest somewhere dancing around a cauldron or maybe they live among us and are too scared to speak up for fear of being ridiculed.

I know that I’m different. I know that my ideals are not understood and appreciated by many. I know that my Enneagram results show me to be a disruptor, a reformer. I understand that starting a revolution is hard work but does it have to feel so lonely and isolating? Please can someone stand by my side and tell me that I’m not crazy for wanting to enjoy my life and my work? Please help me to feel less like an alien.

Supporting Loved Ones through Loss

There are some disadvantages to a life-changing experience. My burnout and associated autoimmune disease changed me in many ways and opened my eyes to things I didn’t realise or know before. One of these insights is that current relationships no longer work for us. The reaction of friends and loved ones to my illness showed me the health of my life in general and in particular, my relationships.

The people I thought were close friends were not there for me when I needed help. The people we see often and share special occasions with, completely misunderstood my illness and ignored it. Often people don’t know what to say or how to help when a friend or loved one becomes chronically ill. At first they ask questions and seem interested but as the years pass they stop asking and make their own assumptions about recovery and what’s happening.

Loss

I’ve just finished reading Brené Brown’s book I Thought it was Just Me. The book contains outcomes of her research studies into women and shame. She identified twelve categories of shame, which are: appearance and body image, motherhood, family, parenting, money and work, mental and physical health, sex, aging, religion, being stereotyped and labelled, speaking out and surviving trauma.

The most interesting for me was surviving trauma. She found that survivors of rape and assault felt that people treated them differently and it was difficult for them to just have a normal life. The reasons for people moving away were that they didn’t want to accept that bad things happen to people they know or people like them.

“Just by associating with them, we could either end up in the same “other” pile or be forced to acknowledge that bad things happen to people like us.” ~ Brene Brown

I’ve experienced something similar with burnout. I always thought burnout happens to other people, you know, weak people and people who can’t handle stress. Not me. And then it did. I know that I’m not weak. I have run 89km in one day so I can’t be that weak.

Sheryl Sandberg, the author of Lean In lost her husband Dave in 2015. She learnt a lot from the experience of profound grief and shared these lessons in her book Option B.  Many people feel uncomfortable around those suffering from loss and grief. They don’t know what to say or do, and they ask what they can do to help. Sandberg advises us to rather do something instead of putting the burden on the griever.

I think that’s an excellent suggestion and I was at the receiving end of a kindness like that when I was really sick. I have a friend who arrived on a weekend when my husband was away to look after my kids while I slept. That was a really kind thing to do and it helped me a lot at a time when I was really struggling. Some people I saw as an acquaintance were eager to help while those who I thought were close friends just avoided my illness altogether.

It was helpful to see the true value of friendships in this way. Those who supported me and continued to offer help and an ear, are the people I’d like in my life. Those who failed to ask how I’m managing or how I’m coping are not close to me. I understand that they might just not have known what to do or how to help but I can’t help feeling disconnected from them now.

For me, burnout was filled with loss and I had to grieve the life and person I was before. I lost my ability to work and earn income for a few years. My identity was tightly coupled with my work and when I lost that, my self image took a knock too. I lost the ability to run ultra-marathons, a significant part of my life. I lost my health as I will have a disease for the rest of my life. I terminated some relationships in order to survive and I also grieve those, along with all the other things I lost in the process. That’s a lot to deal with and some empathy from those close to me would have gone a long way.

Loss

As we recover, people also expect us to resume life as it once was. But for me, everything has changed. My outlook on life has changed. The way I feel about myself and the people I love has changed. I’m not the Kathy I was three years ago. I’m transformed into a person who has much more knowledge and understanding about illness, compassion and recovery. An experience so profound that it rocks your very identity does not leave you unchanged.

I spend a lot of time public speaking about my burnout experience. It’s difficult for me to know that my audience are potentially seeing me as weak, flawed and not like them. This is my challenge. To connect with them in a way that shows them that I’m not that different and it could happen to anyone. Moving away from people who have suffered won’t protect you from it. Burnout is not contagious, I promise. Showing empathy and listening to what they’re going through while suspending judgment will help in cementing the relationship and bringing you closer.

The True Cost of Fitting In

A sense of belonging is fundamental to our existence. We all desire love and belonging, and are all striving to be accepted by loved ones. Brené Brown, in The Gifts of Imperfection says this “fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

Isn’t that tragic? We try so hard to be accepted and to fit in amongst our peers, friends and family and in doing so, we betray our authenticity. With my journey of recovery from burnout, I have spent a lot of time thinking about who I really am and who I want to be. I’ve changed careers, ended relationships and made radical changes to my lifestyle. I’m working hard to align my life to my authentic self.

I’m also teaching my children to be true to themselves. They are still young and finding their own identities but we have discussions about not needing to be the same as someone else. It is difficult to encourage them to be themselves, knowing that they will be judged and influenced by peers, teachers, employers etc. Our instinct to protect them from being ostracized interferes with this ideal of being authentic.

Through my recovery, I’ve changed a lot as a person and I don’t value the same things anymore. I used to be an ultra marathon runner and I can’t run anymore. I don’t belong in that circle any longer. I have broken out of the corporate rat race so I struggle to connect when people are badmouthing their bosses and companies. I don’t listen to the news because it is so negative and I don’t want to be caught up in the panic that our country and world is doomed. I believe that things will be how they will be, and we will all survive. There’s no point dwelling in the misery and spreading the fear.

I am interested in living on purpose, in following your dreams and making the most of your life. I’m interested in how creativity heals and creates a channel of unique expression for all of us. I’m interested in learning and growing as a person. Not many people want to talk about this however. I appear naive and foolish for wanting to live a good life. I’m apparently supposed to face reality and be in a cubicle earning money to pay bills. I really believe that life can be more fulfilling than a job, bills, chores and death.

So in my discussions with old friends, I don’t fit in. But my alternative is to alter myself and my behaviour to be part of the greater group. I’m not prepared to betray my authenticity in that way. I want to be me and I’m interested in different things now. I guess I need some new friends, with similar interests and aspirations.

Many people struggle to understand what I’m doing. I’ve been called a housewife by a few people lately, and I’m trying not to be offended. I’m building a new career in my forties, on limited energy while recovering from burnout. Being at home is not by choice. I wonder what they would call me if I was a man. I think the main issue people have is that I don’t fit into the correct box. Corporate worker, no. Entrepreneur, no. Writer, well there’s nothing published so, no.

Fitting in

I’ve done the best I could do to recover quickly so that I can get my life rebooted. I’ve worked hard on my book and I’m happy with the outcome. I’m not the kind of person who just slaps it together and pushes it out into the world. It must be good, it must have meaning and it must be able to help people. I’ve also taken a long time because I’ve been really sick. Fatigue is a hard thing for people to understand and often it is attributed to laziness or psychosomatic illness.

I’m making my own box, and that makes people uncomfortable. But I’m okay with not being in a traditional career box. I think that’s what the future looks like. My children will have jobs and careers that do not currently exist. Everyone has something so unique to offer that it seems strange to me to categorise our talents in the way we do. Let’s stop worrying about fitting in, and rather focus on being authentic. It is through the expression of our unique strengths and talents that we truly shine and connect with our life path more deeply.

Processing Unexpected Grief

In the past few weeks I’ve been working on my book again. It is nearing completion now and that’s an exciting prospect for me. The editing process took a long time, as my editor was deeply affected by the book and it unearthed things that required healing in her. As frustrating as the delay has been, I’m encouraged by the fact that the book has had an impact.

It is my desire to bring the topic of burnout into the light. I want people who have suffered from burnout not to feel shame any longer, to understand that they are not flawed or weak. The book is meant to act as a catalyst for healing, even for those who have not experienced burnout.

Grief

For a few nights in a row, I kept waking up at 4:30 am. Through my journey of healing I have become aware of the link between emotions and the body. Louise Hay‘s work and many other fields such as Chinese medicine show links between emotions and specific areas of the body. Even scientific studies show that different parts of the brain light up when specific emotions are felt.

I remembered an article I read on how the Chinese body clock shows which parts of the body are being regenerated at various times in the day and night. The lungs are processed at the time of day when I kept waking, and are associated with the emotion of grief. That confused me and I wondered what grief could be applicable in my life. I dismissed it.

Recently I’ve developed a pain in my right foot. I was confused as to where this came from as I haven’t taken on any different sports or done anything to cause it. I looked up what the foot represents and saw unprocessed grief included in the write up. Again, the grief. I remembered that the right side of the body is usually associated with the masculine. Which male am I grieving?

When preparing for a speech last Thursday night I looked through my notes on the positive psychology books I’ve read. I read a line that said “You cannot grieve until you forgive.” It occurred to me that perhaps I have finally forgiven my father for the ways in which he let my down in my life. Forgiveness is hard and I have been working on forgiveness for about two years now. Perhaps working on my book unwrapped another layer of forgiveness, and triggered the grief.

My father gave me a medal in the form of a coin he got for a special marathon he did in the past. He gave it to me in the car on the way to my wedding ceremony. He told me that it was his lucky coin and he wished for me to have it. In a symbolic gesture, I released the coin to a spot that was significant in our childhood. I spoke a few words and thanked him for his impact on my life, my path and for everything he taught me – even for the pain.

From my experience, grief comes in waves. We feel fine for a while and then it hits us again unexpectedly. After cutting my father out of my life, I was upset but I used many techniques to forgive him and to release myself from his reach. Each wave of grief gets less painful and each exercise feels less emotive than the time before. Perhaps this is the final stretch where he no longer affects me, and I can be free to live a happy life.

From the reading I’ve done, the best way to process emotions is to truly feel them. Ignoring them or suppressing them just delays the inevitable. They will surface at some point and will have to be processed eventually. I have been feeling down lately and I really wish to shake this feeling so that I can get on with my life. I want to return to my more positive self.

I’ve been listening to sad break-up songs to immerse myself in the emotion of grief. It feels like a break-up for me. I’m remembering the past and the fun times from our childhood. I’m remembering the pain of disappointment and unmet expectations. I’m wondering if he thinks about me and feels sad that I’m not in his life anymore. There’s no replacing a father. He’s gone from my life. And I grieve for all that could have been.

Grief

It’s clear to me that I am who I am from the experiences of my life, good and bad. I had to endure suffering in order to grow. I had to experience burnout to speak from a place of credibility. And I wouldn’t have burnt out without my experiences with my father and his business. It was necessary suffering to take me through growth and into a happier future.

Positive Lifestyle Change is Possible

The few talks I’ve done recently led me to revisit the thoughts I had when I was struggling a lot with my health, and the changes to my diet. When I had to give up gluten, I sulked and complained and I felt sorry for myself. I struggled to ask people to cater for my unique and difficult dietary requirements. I was even more miserable when I had to eliminate sugar and most dairy from my diet too. I felt it was so unfair. How come other people don’t have to change their diets so much?

Now, I feel completely different about the subject. I have recovered my leaky gut to the point where I can reintroduce almost all of the foods but the funny thing is that I don’t really want to. I don’t mind the occasional dessert or a cappuccino now and then but I don’t NEED it like I used to. Food has become pretty irrelevant for me. At one point in my life it became a crutch and something I leaned on for comfort. Now, I eat to survive. I relish the occasional gluten-free apple pie but I can really live without it. I can’t believe how much things can change in less than a year.

Possible

I’m trying to focus less on my health, and more on my career now. I am pursuing opportunities to speak, polishing my skills and trying to learn from each speech I give. I’m also working on my book again now that my editor has returned the latest version. It’s a lot of work and I have many new insights to add. I also have to change a few sections due to this change of perspective I have now. Hopefully, it will come across less whiny and more interesting.

The way I feel about ‘work’ now is probably not the way most people feel about it. When people ask me if I’m on holiday I want to answer that I’m always on holiday because this doesn’t feel like work used to feel for me. It feels like fun, recreation and enjoyment. Of course there are times when I have to work very hard on a speech and on my book. But it feels different from my previous jobs. Those felt like an uphill battle, swimming against the current. Obstacles, frustrations, struggle. This feels like I don’t want to stop doing it. I sometimes run over and collect my girls later than I had planned because I’m so enjoying what I’m doing.

I want to share this message to let people know that it’s really possible to love your work. It’s possible to find flow in what brings in money. It’s possible to live a life that is not a constant battle. I’m not just a naive Pollyanna. I’m also not just preaching – I’m doing it myself. I’m following the opportunities that emerge and that feel part of my calling. Of course I have doubts but I keep returning to this path as the right path for me right now.

In my speeches and my writing, I speak about changing my life. Not everyone who hears my message is ready or willing to make changes to their lives, even though they’re unhappy. I know that many people might feel that it’s impossible or it’s not for them. They might even get irritated or angry at me hammering on about how I’ve designed my life. When emotions are so strong, it’s usually telling us something. My message is that it is possible to change your life for the better. It is difficult but it’s also worth it. Who’s life are we living if it’s not the one we want?

Possible

If changing my diet felt so impossible a few months back and now feels part of life, then surely it’s possible for other people to feel that too. Changes to relationships, jobs and habits can also be done, and appear simple a year later although near impossible at the time. I changed a lot all at once because my health collapse demanded it. But it’s not necessary for everyone to do that. It’s possible to tackle one aspect of our lives and to change that. Once it becomes the new normal, we can tackle the next aspect and so on, until we feel we have the life we desire.

At times I feel like this burnout and recovery have taken such a chunk out of my life. But in the greater scheme of things, over a lifetime of hopefully over eighty years, an investment of two or three years of change can yield decades of happiness. That’s well worth the short-term struggle to change, and something that is viable for everyone. I’m not special or different from anyone. I’m just a person who got sick and was forced to change. If I can do it, so you can you.

If the alternative is living an unhappy life, it’s hard to understand why people struggle with change. Isn’t a happy life what everyone wants? What would happen if you slowly started working towards your perfect life every day?

Find the Joy

I delivered two 40-minute talks in the last two days. I also competed in my Toastmasters club contest on Thursday. It has been quite tough for me to practice and remember everything for all three speeches within a few days. I tried hard to balance the tailored audience message and to reuse material from a speech I did last year. It was very difficult not to get the two big talks confused. In the end I made them identical to ease the burden on me.

Joy

Monday’s talk was okay but not spectacular. I was tired and stressed and worried about my health. I was letting the worry drain my reserves and I didn’t relish the delivery of the speech as I experienced last year. What was wrong, I wondered? Why am I not having fun? It was a small audience and yet I was so nervous. I felt that I didn’t want to talk about my illness and suffering so much anymore. It was bringing me down.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling glum that I’d have to spend the day practicing the same old speech. So I did something crazy and impulsive. I changed it. Yes, I changed a 40-minute speech on the day! In the past I would never have taken such a risk, but my intuition was telling me to find the joy. The whole point of building this new life is to make it happy, and to have enjoyment in my work. I wasn’t going to let it become a grind.

I pieced together bits from last year’s speech, some snippets from recent Toastmasters speeches and the one I delivered on Monday. I deleted some slides, imported others and left some alone. Yesterday, as well as practicing the new speech, I even did a yoga class, watched a TV show, took a nap and did some colouring. I wanted to follow the joy – to do what I enjoy doing. Not to spend the day sacrificing what I enjoy so that I can work.

Are you wondering how the talk went? It was great fun. I enjoyed it, the audience was receptive and engaged and I got great feedback. I’ve learnt an interesting lesson from this experience. When the joy shines through, it’s a happy experience for me and my audience.

Joy

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how we define success. I think it’s much like happiness – we can spend our lives looking for it outside ourselves but both originate from within. Both are highly subjective. Even the term to measure happiness in positive psychology is ‘subjective well-being‘. I got caught in the trap of working so hard on my success that the happiness was suffering. Part of what I talk about is that success follows happiness and I experienced that first hand yesterday.

I received good feedback from the Monday talk and I know I can be hard in myself. The major difference in the two talks, however, was how I felt about it. Joy was present in the second one and that made all the difference. I felt successful in the second one and I’m really happy I listened to my inner voice and followed the joy.

Do you have a clear picture of what success and happiness look like in your life?