Gratitude, Meditation and Mindfulness

On my journey of ensuring my future job is filled with meaning, I’m going to give myself some homework. I’d like to research what other people have done and to investigate things that interest me. It’s hard to learn if you’re not open to discover things you know very little about. It may mean taking some risks and opening myself up to things that have previously been a bit scary.

I think some of the things people have done to be happier and less stressed in their lives, not necessarily in their work, are things like focusing on gratitude, meditation and mindfulness.

Gratitude is a really obvious one to me. I’ve noticed that grateful people are happy people. I know people who have so very much and have had all the opportunities in the world to be happy, yet their focus is on what they don’t have and what others have instead. I also know people who have very little and are leading lives of contentment. They make do with what they have, and their focus is family and love.

Those of you with small children will know that they are comforted with routine. They feel safe knowing that we do the same steps each night before bedtime. We have started a habit with our three-year-old to say what she calls ‘Thank You For’ every night. Thank You for our family, thank You for our home, thank You for all the fun today. I’m building a culture of gratitude in our home such that they focus on what they have and be glad for it.

Many of you may have seen the 100 Days of Happiness project last year. To focus on even the small things that make us happy, is a commendable initiative and the fact that it was on social media made it spread. I read some scathing article urging people to keep their happiness to themselves. If ever I saw someone who needed to actively focus on happiness!

Meditation has been a tricky one for me. I’m a bit of a fidget and although I love the peace of silence, I do battle to sit or lie for a long time doing ‘nothing’. I may have gotten into bad habits being a mother of small children in that there is always something to do, tidy up or prepare for tomorrow.  I Googled how to meditate and was relieved to hear that I only need to start with two to three minutes each time. So I’m doing that for now and hopefully I’ll get better at it. My condition leads to sleep disturbances, aggravated by the odd nightmare or blankie being lost in the night. Rest is of primary importance at the moment so disturbed sleep is a real issue for me. I have noticed though, on the days I do some solid meditation (albeit for a few minutes), I do tend to sleep better.

What does it mean to be mindful? Wikipedia defines it as “the intentional, accepting and non-judgemental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”, which can be trained by meditational practices derived from Buddhist anapanasati”. Being mindful is so tightly linked with happiness. Let’s stop chasing the next thing, hoping it will lead to happiness. Happiness is enjoying the moment and being grateful for it. Matt Killingsworth investigated how staying in the moment enhances happiness by his interesting research.

Our lives have become so hurried that it is very hard to enjoy the moment. It’s something I’m going to be focussing on in the coming months. Hopefully the meditation and mindfulness go hand in hand. I’m enjoying these amazing years of parenting small children, watching the joy they experience in the small things.My gratitude is mostly around my immediate family and the great blessing of being a parent.

Happiness is hard sometimes

I wasn’t entirely correct when I said I’m not following any blogs. My cousin, Carly, is documenting her journey with Cancer and I found her blog to be really good and gave me a lot of insight as to what that journey is like. I have found some new blogs to follow on being positive and how to ensure a happy life. I found a good post about finding your passion too. I’d also highly recommend following Project Happiness on Facebook, giving regular updates and positive messages.

Gretchen Rubin has been a big inspiration to me. Seeing other people want to grow and improve themselves is so inspiring for me. But it’s clear that not everyone is at the same point in evolving as a person. Some have elected not to evolve at all and I find that to be tragic. I have always had this expectation that the older people get, the wiser they should be. This is most definitely not true. I had neighbour in a complex I used to live in before I got married. She was in her fifties at the time and would constantly lose her temper with neighbours, would lash out racist remarks and be generally critical of everyone. I remember wondering how she had not mastered herself at her age. She’s not open to growth sadly, relationships, being a key ingredient to a happy life, are a constant source of pain for her. Not everyone wants to be a better sister, friend, parent, wife, father in the next five years than they are now. Weird.

I’ve noticed lately that some close family members are not comfortable with the changes I’m making. I’ve been accused of being ‘a bit mad’, ‘ruthless’ and I’m sure a lot of other things. I say it’s a good sign. I say that they’re seeing I’m changing and it’s shaking up their world. Gone is the compliant peace-making mediator of this family. It’s all OK and life will continue, somewhat differently. I now see the world a lot clearer since I’ve taken a step back. I’m now protecting myself and my family from harm. I’m taking action to ensure those around me are supporting me, not hurting me. Sadly sometimes it’s those who you expect the most support from who provide the least.

Just like Taylor Swift, I’m going to ‘Shake it Off’ and continue on my journey to recovery. I haven’t meant to be cryptic about my condition so I’ll just spell it out if anyone’s interested. I have developed Graves’ disease (bad name I know). It is an auto-immune attack on the thyroid, induced by stress. Wikipedia says there is no scientific evidence of environmental factors causing it but in my case it is not hereditary and I’ve been under a great deal of stress for about five years now. The thyroid is indeed the unsung hero of the body. If it’s working properly no-one gives it a second thought. But if it breaks, the proverbial hits the fan.

My symptoms have been headaches (probably from stress), tremors, irregular heartbeat, sleep disturbance and most notably fatigue. This is the reason I’m not able to work a full day as I get too exhausted. Unfortunately I don’t look sick and many people are under the impression that I’m perfectly fine. That might make me have to fight a bit harder for my recovery than if I had red spots or no hair.

So I need to surround myself in a cozy little cocoon of my immediate family and those friends who love and support me. I’ll be doing very little socialising over the next few months but do have a few important commitments to keep and will do so gladly, for the sake of the relationships that count.

You certainly have to work for your own happiness. Even if it means putting up boundaries and rules to secure your place, research and testing out techniques. I’m making a concerted effort to get it right and sometimes it’s painful and sometimes it’s wonderful. The end state is what counts really.

Learning the Ropes

To be perfectly honest, I am learning the ropes of blogging. I’m no expert and I don’t even follow other blogs. That is my upfront disclaimer if I happen to break any written or unwritten rule of blogging etiquette.

Those of you who first saw my blog might have noticed that I’ve refined the layout somewhat. I think it fits my style and for those who need the tip, be sure to take a look at the gadgets on the right that tuck away neatly. I thought I created the capability to follow by email but I’m not sure if I got that right. And yes, the bullets of my last blog post are ugly. I’ve recently read that learning and growing is a key ingredient to happiness so bring on the learning!

I’m also curious to know what readers think of AdSense. I’m not a big fan of ads, and their assault on the senses – especially anything that throbs. Earning money while writing sounds quite appealing to me though.

I struggle to achieve things without a goal. If I can’t run an ultra-marathon this year, I’ll have to find goals associated with getting better or learning. So I’ve decided to follow three blogs as my first goal and hopefully I’ll pick up some tips.

Over a year ago I started an electronic journal that I called a ‘God blog’ due to my fear of public humiliation. In writing, identifying the target audience is one of the first important things to decide as it shapes the style substantially. She already knows me and wouldn’t judge me too harshly so that’s what I called it. It is lonely being a business owner as you have no-one to talk to about your challenges. You can’t talk to your staff about your worries of being able to pay salaries or whether you’re leading this thing in the right direction. You need to appear confident and calm in knowing what you’re doing. So writing was my outlet and my tool in crystallising my thinking about the future of the business. I continue to use it in the path to my new career trusting that the same enlightenment is on its way.

So I think my journey will go something like this: acceptance then understanding, then healing and finally action. Since my diagnosis three weeks ago, I have most certainly accepted that my life needs to change. I think I’m still trying to understand why, although I’m most of the way through that phase. The next phase of healing will most likely be quite long as I let my body recover from years of going against the flow and suppressing my fatigue. That may take a good few months but I can say that I’m already starting to feel better.

I’m not known for my patience and I do find it very irritating that I can only have one outing a day. More than that and I find I’m pretty tired by the evening. Through regularly testing my patience, I think my children have helped me become more patient. Watching a toddler ram a round peg into a square hole (literally) over and over can be most frustrating. I think I’ve told them  hundreds of times that you don’t need to tip a cup with a straw. I’ve learned to accept and even marvel at the pure volume of what human beings have to learn. My six-year-old asked me the other day ‘What is a test?’ and my first reaction was ‘Oh boy, does she have a long way to go.’ But seeing how excited she is to learn to read without being overwhelmed by how far she has to go, is inspiring to me. She tackles learning with the same gusto as she does playing.

Our society really seems to value being busy. When people ask about my well-being I’m not sure I want my response to always be ‘Oh I’m so busy I can barely cope’. Since I’ve taken a step back from the hamster wheel, I’ve started to notice the small things around me. Since my condition makes me overheat a lot, the rain is absolutely glorious! I’m a lot less abrupt with my kids now too and I’m taking the time to tickle them; to give them frights and really listen to what they’re saying.  I want a life that contains living on purpose, stopping to enjoy each important moment; and filled with activities that are fulfilling (not just time-consuming).

I’ve secured myself a four month sabbatical from the business. I’m a very determined person and when I focus on something I can get it right. So now my major commitment is to get kids to school and to recover. Resting on purpose is very weird to me but perhaps it’s one of the lessons I have to learn.

Adequate recovery will mean that I’ll be ready to take action when the time comes. The action will be to ensure that my job is fulfilling, I have enough space to recover from all the things that drain my reserves during the day and I will have time to be a good parent too. As much as I have a need to achieve professionally, I’d rather be remembered for being a good parent because the impact is far more meaningful.

So I’m learning the ropes with blogging, but also with how far I can push myself currently. I am trying to really listen to my body to make sure I’m picking up early cues. It’s not forever but it is an important part of the process to ensure the future is designed right.

Analysing the Problem

Firstly, I must confess I am overwhelmed by the support and compassion shown by the readers thus far. In less than 24 hours I have had over 300 page views which I’m astounded at. I’ve always been very cautious to share my views and feelings publicly but I must say I’m really excited about sharing this journey and perhaps having it resonate with some of you. Thank you for your interest and the well-needed support you’ve offered me.

I have often had some really interesting discussions around the concept of a career passion. I’ve been amazed at how many people have revealed that their life passion is not what they are currently doing for a living. What surprises me is that it’s mostly people who I already perceive to be experts in their field. How many of us are walking around with hidden passions and incredible talents that are not being used? This blog is about my journey from where I am now to a future career that is designed on purpose to make the most of my talents and abilities. I’m hoping that it inspires some of you to take steps towards making your life more enjoyable too.

Medication is all good and well. But I don’t believe I’ll get a lot better by medication alone. The source of the problem needs to be uncovered and addressed in order to get fully well and avoid a relapse. So being the problem-solver that I am, I’ve spent a lot of time analysing what caused me to get so sick from stress. Why doesn’t this happen to other people? Am I not strong enough to withstand the stress when others can? And yes, I even drew a diagram. To protect the names of the not-so-innocent, I’ve sanitized it a bit.


There’s a lot in there to digest so I’ll just keep it high-level. My sources of stress are the following:

  • Sense of obligation to deliver on my promises – to various life stakeholders
  • Being behind in technology by about 20 years, the need to catch-up and meet with regulation, led to no opportunity to innovate. Life without innovation is boring to me.
  • Without a modern system, I could not fulfill my vision for the company.
  • I need to work with people who can be inspired, who want me as their leader and who want to improve.
  • As an introvert, I spent the whole day meeting the needs of others. After work, the onslaught of little children and meeting their needs meant no respite for me to  recover.
  • As someone who is right brained, my day was filled with admin, accounting and compliance. No room to create the new, and have some fun.

If I had known myself better at the outset, I could have rearranged things to ensure my environment met my needs. Susan Cain’s book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, has helped me a great deal in knowing myself better and accepting myself. Introverts are not dysfunctional, they can be spectacular. Albert Einstein, Steve Wozniak, Gandhi, Dr Seuss are examples of famous introverts. But now I know. I must consciously design my future to meet my own needs, not only the needs of others.

And to think this is only the start of the journey – very exciting. Pity it took a serious illness to trigger it, but perhaps many of us are not listening to the cues around us or our own bodies telling us that it’s not sustainable. Hopefully some of you can learn from my mistake and change direction before you become ill.A quote from Petrus, the guide in Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgrimage “The person who does not know how to listen will never hear the advice that life offers us all the time.”


I’ve recently been diagnosed with a stress-induced life-long condition. This has caused me to re-evaluate my life and ensure that I make the rest of it meaningful and intention-filled. I’ve also just turned 40 so I figure the Universe is telling me to take stock.

To me, being happy is the most important thing in life. Happiness is not wealth, or stuff, but people and being the best person I can be. I read an article recently about the regrets people have when they’re close to death. The underlying theme is relationships and this is something
that has come up a lot in my life.

I’m not particularly a people’s person but I am a people-pleaser (or an Obliger as Gretchen Rubin would say). I’m an introvert and get very tired being around people a lot. Taking time to recharge can be very difficult in a house where the little people follow me to the toilet. That being said, I do love people and need them in my day.

I’m blessed to have a wonderful husband and two amazing little girls who are the source of great joy for me. They drive me nuts too, don’t get me wrong. We live in a great home with fun, noise and laughter. I value my friends a lot, although I’m not a very good friend. Perhaps once I’ve finished my journey I’ll be a better friend.

The primary source of stress in my life has always been work. Since I’ve started working, I’ve tried really hard to give it my best and with reasonable success. The last five years of my career have been the hardest by far. I’ve been managing a business I took over from my father. I learned a great deal but I have discovered over the past few months that it is not my passion and never will be. Living someone else’s dream is not the path to happiness.

I’ve subscribed to many newsletters and have been watching TED talks and reading numerous books on the search for happiness. I’ve learned some wonderful things and I don’t remember a time when I’ve grown so much inside. And maybe outside from not being allowed to exercise!

I believe that meaning is the most important aspect of making our work-lives happy. That’s why I left the corporate world – I didn’t have meaning. And after just having had a child, my world was full of meaning at home. The stark contrast at work was too much to bear. I jumped into the family business head first and started learning and learning and learning. I made mistakes but I also had successes and loved the ability to steer the ship myself into a direction that I decided. I made sure I measured the results and that was really fulfilling, when I got it right.

What was fundamentally missing from this equation was that I was not being true to my self. I think that relationships with people are important but the one with yourself is a non-negotiable! I’m a right-brained person doing admin and accounting for most of my day. I’m an introvert, trying to sell. I have a lot of things to offer but they won’t be found when I’m in the foetal position trying to recover from doing things I hate, and being who I’m not. I need to know myself well enough and be kind to myself to make sure I’m ok too. Something mothers sometimes don’t get right.

I strongly believe that we can engineer our own lives to be happy. I’m always going on about how happiness is a choice. There are too many miserable people in the world, not doing a thing to change their circumstances. And now I find myself with a serious illness that is keeping me from any kind of exercise. The same person who runs ultra-marathons for fun. What I am forced into now is rest and recovery. It’s boring, very boring.

But this is my journey and there is something important to learn from this experience. This may just be the catalyst that my life needed to be overflowing with joy – not only from my family but from my work too.

So if you’re interested, please follow me on my journey to design
a new career, based on what I truly love.