Our Grandma’s Memory of VE Day

As many in Britain celebrated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) day on 8th May my lovely sister Holly shared this recount from our Grandma with our family which we thought others may find of interest. I thought it was particularly relevant during this time where many in the world are battling COVID-19 and dreaming of a victory day which will come.

Especially relevant for these times seems King George VI’s radio broadcast which our Grandma shared: ‘We kept our faith with ourselves and with one another; we kept faith and unity with our great allies. That faith and unity have carried us to victory through dangers which at times seemed overwhelming.’

VE Day Recount from Olwen Eddowes –Written by Holly Gray after interviewing our amazing Grandma Olwen who still has such a sharp memory!

The 8th May 1945 was the day peace emerged after nearly six years of war, so the 75th anniversary on 8th May 2020 represents an important milestone in our history.

Grandma blog

This is our remarkable Grandma, Olwen Eddowes, who is 95 years young. She grew up in County Durham and now resides in the county of Shropshire, in a beautiful village named Edgmond.

In 1943, she had been appointed a place at Queen Mary College in the East End. Due to the threat of bombs, the students were evacuated to different, safer places. For Olwen, this meant moving to Cambridge, a city on the River Cam in eastern England, home to the prestigious University of Cambridge. It was a city she grew very fond of over the next two years.

This is her recount of VE Day, 75 years ago. She still remembers the day like it was yesterday, from memory, but also had her diary on hand for additional details.

Monday 7th May 1945

It was a full day. I was playing tennis at Newnham College with my friend Enid. When we returned, we saw news of VE day on the notice board. We cycled crazily round and round Cambridge before heading back to drink lemonade and eat Turkish delight. We then cycled back into town, to the marketplace, where we saw all the revelry. There was a great deal of noise, crowds of people, people climbing the fountains and singing of all sorts. We got back late.

The spirit of celebration is catching and I feel I could join in the excitement to a certain extent. But I do wish the victory in Burma were here so brother John, and Keith could be home.

Tuesday 8th May 1945

VE Day started off with an hour’s canoeing with my friend Ruth. It was so pleasant and everybody we met was friendly. After lunch, we saw people playing classical music and they were playing their musical instruments, while punting along the River Cam. We were helping to punt and it was great, great fun!

At 3pm that day, we heard Churchill from a portable wireless set announcing the end of the war in Europe. After, we came home to have some tea.

After a couple of hours, we went out again to the marketplace, which was an area of greenery in the centre of Cambridge. We went out to hear King George VI’s radio broadcast at 9pm. ‘We kept our faith with ourselves and with one another; we kept faith and unity with our great allies. That faith and unity have carried us to victory through dangers which at times seemed overwhelming.’

In the evening, we went to a church service and after that we went back to the common for a bonfire, search lights and music! Alfred and John were very kind escorts and looked after us.

It’s a very strange end of war!

Wednesday 9th May 1945

We have spent all of the day on the river attempting to punt down to Grantchester, which is a quaint village beside the River Cam. It has been good fun apart from showers and the fact we kept bumping into trees!

And now all the celebration of VE is over. We really must get down to work and the building up of this new world we talked so much about. Let us hope and pray that something can be done this time.

Friday 11th May 1945

Today, we went to a Victory lunch at the British Restaurant. This is a cheaper restaurant where they serve dishes like bangers and mash. I enjoyed playing tennis again before attending a King’s College service.

After the war, Olwen was reluctant to return to London, as were many of her friends. They had grown accustomed to life in Cambridge. She remembers using a Ouija board with her friends to ask “Will we ever have to go back to London?” Unfortunately the answer was yes!

 

 

Getting MatchFit for Work and Life

Since my last blog ‘Keeping the Hope’  I have been grateful and excited to find a new work opportunity with StriveStronger whose purpose is to help clients wake up to a better way of living, working and leading by delivering a range of innovative large-scale digital well being and productivity programs.

I had met the CEO Andrew May around six or seven years ago when I worked at IECL and have always admired his work. Last year Andrew published a book MatchFit culminating over twenty years of his experience as an elite athlete and corporate performance coach.

MatchFit Image

I recently finished reading MatchFit and discovered some great practical life enhancing tips. As part of the book (available on kindle and in paper) you receive a code to do a MatchFit calculator to see how you’re currently tracking across the six domains of MOVE, FUEL, RECHARGE, CONNECT, THINK and PLAY.

The results of my MatchFit calculator were just into striving at 78/100 which is good but definitely some room for improvement too. After reading through my report and feedback I’m focusing on the below areas over the next eight weeks before a re-test:

  • Eat until only 80% full
  • Reduce alcohol to 2 times a week
  • Incorporate three strength training sessions a week
  • Aim for 10,000 steps a day of incidental activity
  • Reduce processed foods and caffeine
  • Find more time for play

One section of the book that really resonated was ‘through the decades’ with the 30s which I’m currently in described as”Muffin Tops” with an exert below:

“People in their 30s listen a lot more closely when I talk about ageing and the need to focus on managing energy. Most people now get tired more easily, aren’t so inclined to bounce out of bed, and show increasing signs of stress and anxiety. Not only that, their bodies start to change – the technical term for this is the muffin top or love handles. In our 30s we have more responsibility at work and come under more pressure. Some of us settle down with a partner and start a family; some might have ageing parents to care for. And because we’re so busy, this is the decade when most of us stop playing sport”.

I definitely could relate to not bouncing out of bed as fresh as I used to in my 20s and teens and also the extra bit of muffin top and love handles squish! Those distant memories of being young and able to party late into the night and bounce up to play a hockey game feeling pretty fresh early the next day! Time to look after yourself more.

So what are the results so far?

Well I’m waking up before my alarm and feeling energised, not getting the mid afternoon energy crash so badly and am starting to feel sharper and focused. I’ve also started playing tennis again which I hadn’t played in probably six years (could tell by the disintegrating grip!) which has been great from a sense of play and fun. I’ve also tried to have even more fun play time with the boys like this active resistance training!

So how does this translate to the corporate world?

In one of our morning team huddles last week, Dr Tom Buckley from the StriveStronger team (who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and co-author of MatchFit with Andrew) shared, there’s never been a more important time to for leaders to be MatchFit along with the following points which I thought may be useful food for thought for the Boardroom.

  • Those with a high bio-age (versus traditional age) are some at the greatest risk of COVID-19 complications
  • There is an opportunity for Executive Teams and Boards to use bio age which is part of the Strive Stronger Matchfit calculator score as a metric to assess the health of their leaders and teams. I thought this could be highly relevant for risk management and another key metric to NPS and others on a Board dashboard to see how physically and mentally fit are your team
  • The StriveStronger team have the digital platform, program and resources to help ensure leaders get MatchFit for the longterm with an opportunity to then benchmark your leaders

Andrew Image

A couple of things I’ve started doing in the work week as a result of how the StriveStronger team work is having more walking meetings which is an easy way to get to the daily goal of 10,000 steps and creating your better week. 

In short, your better week is about prioritisation and stopping reacting to other people’s demands and taking control by locking in the activities that are most important to you. For me this starts with diarising a morning meditation, at least a daily exercise, play time with my little boys, a walk and coffee with my husband and time to reflect, connect and learn. Make your version of non negotiables and then the energy truly starts to flow.

Thank you to Andrew and the StriveStronger team to helping me refocus on the brain and body. I look forward to working with you to help spread the great word!

The thing I love about this approach is that where ever you’re at there are going to be a handful of things to implement that can make a big difference to your overall energy to ensure we bring the best of our ourselves to those we love. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others but in a growth mindset style comparing ourselves to ourselves after making some lifestyle tweaks.

“When you change your mind, you change your life”

Love to hear any insights or how you go on your own version of a MatchFit journey to help you better manage stress, stay connected to what’s important in life and achieve all that you want.

 

Dani

 

 

Keeping the hope

Dear reader friends,

I hope you are keeping well during these unprecedented times. I felt an urge to write a post to you whilst on a solo bike ride this long weekend. What an interesting, almost surreal time it has been during this pandemic including the social distancing / isolation measures. As one friend put it, it feels like we’re in a movie.

I’ve been trying to not digest too much news as find it quite overwhelming especially some of the harrowing stories coming out of highly affected areas such as New York. After reading this piece, ‘Coronavirus in New York: A paramedic’s diary’ on the BBC a couple of days ago I meditated on the sadness and pain it evoked which was helpful to lean into it.

What humbling, such selfless acts of courage being conducted across the globe. Being from the UK, I’ve been particularly touched to see all the great support including regular applauses for the NHS and rainbow paintings to thank them. Also I found the Queen’s messages comforting.

There have been some thoughtful and beautiful pieces of writing I’ve come across including this piece in the Guardian, “The impossible has already happened: what coronavirus can teach us about hope” and this article, “COVID 19 – The Third Side of the Coin” which concludes with:

“COVID-19 is testing us, our world, and our way of life as we know it. Some of us will not make it out, and none of us will be the same on the other side. As life starts to feel more like a gamble, remember that third side of the coin. Look at what we’ve lost, what we’re losing: heads (COVID). Look at what we’ve gained, how we’re growing: tails (CO-VID). These things are not mutually exclusive. Flip the coin around: look at one side, then the other. Trace your finger along the ring joining the two. Feel the weight of that coin in your hand as you toss it from one palm to the other. It’s all there. We are all there. And we will survive this.”

I also found this HBR article on grief insightful sharing practical tips from David Kessler, “The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”.

Personally, I’ve been trying to stay grateful and keep mentally and physically healthy. Here’s a short 8 minute meditation on Insight Timer that I’ve found useful, “Re-centering in times of uncertainty”. 

I had a bit of a hit a couple of weeks ago with my role in Executive Search being made redundant due to COVID-19 and hiring freezes. It was a bit of a whirl of emotions starting with sadness, disappointment, relief, acceptance and now meaning and excitement about my next career chapter.

Speaking with my valued bench of mentors, some questions and reflections I found useful that may be relevant to others in the same situation:

  • What can you do with this time to make it worthwhile?
  • What’s one thing you could do for yourself that you’ve never had time for before?
  • Be kind to yourself.
  • Look at this in two phases, the short term and the long term.
  • What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
  • How can you look at new opportunities in the mindset of ‘yes and’?

Ever an optimist, some positives I’ve taken out of the current situation have been more regular video calls with my mum, dad and sister in the UK, virtual workouts, more regular check ins with friends, quality time with the boys, a greater sense of community, supporting local businesses and valuing kind gestures like a card and gift a friend sent me when my role was made redundant and our uber aunty food deliveries.

What have you taken out of the situation so far? How can we each become a better version of our self during this challenging times?

To finish in the words of James Lane Allen:

“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”

Sending lots of love, safe and well wishes

Dani

 

 

 

 

New Year Reflections – Community, Gratitude, Philosophy, No Guilt, Fun, Listening to your Body and Reading to Learn

As 2019 has drawn to a close and 2020 has begun I felt inspired to jot some reflections in our parked car whilst the boys took a nap!

The Power of Community– I can’t start my reflections by not acknowledging the terrible fires that have been raging throughout Australia this summer. Seeing and hearing stories break your heart but also remind you of the power of community when hearing wonderful tales of individuals supporting each other, for example one lady coming back early from her holidays to open her dog shelter for all the affected dogs in a local area.

Our annual pilgrimage to Jindabyne was cancelled with fires in the area and our thoughts go to all the residents and animals affected. The Energylink group of coaches and athletes got together on the day it was decided to cancel the triathlon camp and it was nice to feel part of a community and have conversations on how to help support the crisis. For ways to support some tips can be found here collated by SMH: https://www.smh.com.au/national/here-s-how-you-can-help-australia-s-bushfire-victims-20200104-p53ot2.html

Celeste Barber has also instigated a Facebook fundraiser and is getting close to her awesome $25 million target. Every little helps.

Gratitude – In 2019 I discovered the five minute journal which has been a wonderful way to start and finish the day. Each page starts with an insightful quote and then you scribe:

  • Three things you’re grateful for
  • Three things that would make today great
  • Two daily affirmations
  • Three amazing things that happened today
  • How could I have made today better

There’s lots of science now supporting the benefits of regular gratitude practice and I find revisiting moments of gratitude throughout the day really help when things can seem overwhelming and look forward to continuing the ritual in 2020.

Power of Philosophy – I was referred to the Daily Stoic in 2019, 365 meditations on wisdom, perseverance and the art of living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman and have found the daily wisdom snippets very thought provoking. It opened me up further to philosophical principles as a useful way to frame life including three of the most essential parts of Stoic philosophy shared a couple of days ago:

⁃ Control your perceptions

⁃ Direct your actions properly

⁃ Willingly accept what is outside your control

Guilt as a wasted emotion – As a mum of two young boys it’s easy to fall into the guilt trap, feeling guilty for working/training, giving in to that extra treat demand, having that third glass of wine! As I wrote about previously (5 years ago now!) in ‘Choosing Not to Feel Guilty’ I try to consciously flip out of guilt, as see it as a pointless emotion. This was discussed in this recent Oprah SuperSoul episode. We can either accept the situation / action or look to redeem / change it. Feeling guilty and not being present to what we’re doing doesn’t really do anyone any favours. Easier said than done but something to keep striving for in 2020!

The power of having fun and seeking joy One of my intentions for 2019 was to laugh more – as Gabrielle Bernstein talks about we achieve more when we have fun too! I find being around young children is a great way to add more fun into life and for the last two weeks on our summer holiday my four year old and I made a pact to do something fun everyday which has given us a purpose for the holidays. This has included trips to the zoo, theme park, inside play centre and pool plays at Aunty Julie’s. A simple goal a day which has created lasting memories.

Listen to your body – Last year, I tried to listen to my body more and rest when I felt I needed it and have found regular meditation helps cultivate this. After training for a half ironman last November I felt that I needed recovery and enjoyed some yoga sessions, meditations and naps over more intense training for a good few weeks! Think listening to our body can easily be applied to food too. Whilst at the Billabong Health Retreat for a couple of days of R&R recently, our lovely chef Tash asked us to close our eyes and listen to what food we were craving and then to research that food. For me sweet potato came up which I researched is a root vegetable being a great source of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants good for gut and potentially immune health. Fortuitously, lunch that day contained sweet potato 🙂

Reading as one of the cheapest forms of personal development – In 2019 a friend and I decided to adopt a book a week challenge to encourage us to read more. I really enjoyed reading and learning more and would get an endorphin kick whenever a new book arrived from amazon prime in the post, although my husband would say “not another book!” – with our bookshelf and my bedside table overflowing. Note to self in 2020 to join the library! I’m currently switching between three books which are keeping my mind buzzing:

⁃ Winging it – by Emma Isaacs

⁃ The Alchemist by Paula Coelho

⁃ The Opposite of Me – Sarah Pekkanen – our book club book of the month

Now looking forward to 2020, I’m excited for some of our UK friends to visit in April for a week on Bondi Beach (#aus2020) coffees whilst the boys have karate and nippers, learning more about the world of talent and Executive Search and husband and wife team Triathlon goals with the Taupo world age group champs at the end of the year.

Also to learning, failing and succeeding in this life journey we have been granted!

Sending love and prayers to all those affected by the bush fires and a reminder to be grateful and seize the day, in the words of my dad and one of his favourite sayings, Carpe Diem!

I wish you a year of health, happiness, presence and all the best with your goals

Conquering 70.3 miles

Last Sunday I returned to longcourse triathlon racing and completed Western Sydney 70.3 (for those not connected to the triathlon world, this involves a 1.9km swim, 90km bike ride and a 21km run). 70.3 miles in total – which I hadn’t initially made the connection to the event name 😂😂.

It had been over 5 years since I raced over this distance before my two little boys were born. The build up involved a three month training program, designed by my husband coach which was a highly time efficient schedule to allow for his training too and all the kids activities. There was a copy etched onto the fridge and if we missed a slot there was no catching up!

I had a few build up events to keep me motivated before the big day, the Sydney half marathon, gears and beers ride (highly recommend!) and Nepean triathlon which all went well.

Race Day

Fast forward to race day and family Matthews decided last minute to stay over in Western Sydney the night before so it wasn’t such an early start on race day. Pretty much all of the good accomodation was taken and we managed to find a motel 16km away. There was no family room available so we all had to share a king size bed! Owain ended up down the other end after being kicked lots! In a funny way, it was actually quite a special moment all being together before the race and it’s interesting what kids remember, after the race Ethan wanted to go back to the holiday home as he’d had a great time 😂😂

On the race day I was grateful that everything came together as planned and I really enjoyed the experience. I finished 14th in my age group in a time of 5 hours and 10 minutes (approx a 43 min swim, 2 hour 38min bike and a 1hour 46min run plus transitions) which was 10 minutes faster than my projected time.

In brief summary, the swim was a rolling start and with this being my most challenging leg I was happy to start in the third group back and not be caught in the white wash. Wetsuits were allowed which helped things with a freshwater swim and I quite enjoyed the straight course, especially swimming under the bridge and seeing the Olympic Rings (the International Regatta Centre venue hosted the Olympic rowing back in 2000). Then onto the bike which I was looking forward to and just get my head down and play catch up. I felt strong and held my power at slightly above what was planned and even managed a few mindful moments to take in the countryside.

Then off the bike and onto the 21km run and my legs felt incredibly stiff for those first few hundred metres! I then settled into a rhythm and it was great to see some of my club mates racing and the awesome support crew, a highlight being giving Ethan a high five. I found the last few kms a punish and had to dig deep, you could see the finish line and it just seemed to keep stretching out! I enjoyed the finish shoot however and it was great to see the boys although Ethan was most interested in my medal (which he then dropped somewhere! I had to practice non-attachment!) and the ice pops I got for them in recovery. It was then great to cheer in a few friends and sit down on the grass!!

The Roll Down

Before having the boys I had set a goal to try and qualify for the 70.3 age group world champs event within the next few years. With having the boys this was pushed to the back of my mind but with the intention out there to Universe I was hopeful one day this would be achieved. For this race there were 8 qualification spots available for my age group.

I was in two minds about whether to go to the roll down awards ceremony. One because it wasn’t for another four hours after I finished and the boys were tired from supporting and two because with 8 spots available in my age group I didn’t think it would roll down to 14th. Then two things happened, my lovely friends Margie and Tom said they would give me a lift home if Owain wanted to take the boys home and when I took Ethan to pick up my bike in transition I explained the situation to him and asked him what he thought. He said go and try mummy and that he wanted to go to New Zealand 😂

Decision made, I stayed for the roll down and met some lovely people there. The first four ladies in my age group took their spots and I thought there was not much hope. Margie and I were laughing how roll downs could just prolong the disappointment! Then it got to the four women for tri spots and a few ladies had already qualified at the Sunshine Coast event previously and a couple weren’t there. Some hope building. I couldn’t believe it got to number 12 and there were still two spots left. Myself and number 16 place got them and I was in a bit of shock. My hands were shaking when filling in the paperwork (and handing over the entry fee!) and it was a special moment messaging my husband to share the good news who was very happy. Margie and Tom were there for a big hug too.

In the worlds of Ironman, anything is really possible!

Some people have asked how did I do it with young kids and a full time job. The real answer is, it definitely wasn’t easy and there were days where it all seemed too much. I recall a couple of times I really didn’t want to jump on the turbo after a big day at work (having started a new job at the same time as training began) but Owain would give me some tough love and I’d feel better after.

During one of the low points we had a girls’ book club dinner to debrief Mark Manson’s ‘The subtle art of not giving a f**k’. This was the perfect timing from the universe with some of his messages including:

• What kind of pain do I want? What you are willing to struggle for is a greater determinant of how our lives turn out

• If you are able to not give a f*** about the pain your goals require, then you become unstoppable.

After this I got my head down for the last couple of weeks and just got on with the job at hand and tried to enjoy the last part of the journey.

I try to live by not being too fixated on the destination and enjoying the journey to get there. In those last couple of weeks some highlights included finishing Workin Moms on Netflix and starting the Crown whilst on my bike turbo sessions, having a few ocean swims with the Elink girls and my last long ride / coffee with the wonderful Tim Tam who was also training for the event.

So where to from here? Well the next couple of nights there were some Prosecco and Aperol Spritz catch ups with friends and now it’s definitely time to have a rest, enjoy silly season and do some yoga and swimming in December. And how could I forget the BTC beer mile in December, being British I think this may be my calling 😂🍻 We’ll then head to Jindabyne with the Elink crew in January to kick start the New Year.

With the world champs not until late November next year I plan to focus on shorter racing for the first half of the year before building up again for long course after winter (good timing!).

We’ve also tag teamed with Owain now in New Zealand for his Pioneer mountain bike challenge (Good luck team SquareOne!) and then his own 70.3 goals.

The boys have plenty to keep us busy with too with a Sunday filled with Nippers, a city Christmas lights visit and unicorn party today. Never a dull moment 😂

Well done to everyone out racing in Busselton today and wishing you all a great festive period and all the best for any goals you are pursuing. Anything is possible!

The Universe has your back

I’ve just been introduced to spiritual guru Gabrielle (Gabby) Bernstein (Thanks Myz!) and have been devouring one of her books, ‘The Universe has your back’ -Transform Fear to Faith.

It has been a great reminder to love and help spread love everyday and feel what we want to manifest and then not try and control the outcome but let the universe deliver in its own way, trusting the process and having fun on the way!

In the chapter ‘The Universe Works Fast When You’re Having Fun’, Gabby describes the pain her and her husband were having when trying to find a home to buy in New York City. This may resonate with some Sydney Siders with the tight property market here! Gabby shared how stressed they were getting.

They then flipped things and started to think more creativity and remembered they had previously talked about owning a home in the country / mountains. They then broadened their search and found a wonderful mountain pad.

Gabby asked the universe for a sign that this was for them in the form of an owl and after a viewing she saw an owl sticker on the bumper of a car, a sign the universe had their back. Their offer got accepted and she was writing this book from her new home!

I thought this was a powerful reflection as we can get so caught up in a goal whether that be buying a house, planning a dream trip, plotting our next career move, having / extending a family that the fun can get taken out of it and the result shaped.

Stepping back and looking at things differently and being creative can alleviate stress and open up the universe to support possibilities we didn’t imagine. For instance, I had manifested and visualised us living in a spacious, open white house by the ocean rather than our small top floor apartment. Given Sydney rental prices I wasn’t having much luck searching. Once I surrendered, the universe kicked in and a lovely friend recommended the semi house next to them. It was white (well cream), open and more spacious than our previous apartment. It wasn’t right by the ocean but close enough and the distance away meant there was space fora big shared garden at the back which is wonderful for the boys to let out steam. If I would have been too stuck on the idea that it had to be right by the ocean we wouldn’t have grasped the opportunity and who knows how long we would have been in our old environment.

In chapter 6, “Obstacles are detours in the right direction” there is a powerful story about Gabby’s friend Sarah who was desperate to find a man to settle down with. Her criteria of a good looking, catholic, financially secure male who could provide for her didn’t seem to be working with relationships that were abruptly ended. Through coaching with Gabby she realised these were the characteristics instilled to her by her mother of what the “right” kind of man must be like. Sarah’s aha moment and reflection to Gabby was – “Gabby, I agree. For my entire life I’ve been trying to attract the man my mother always wanted me to be with. My father was absent in my life, and my mother taught me that I would be happy only with a successful Catholic man who made a lot of money and provide for me. So I’ve been obsessed with finding the man of my mother’s dreams.”

Once Sarah then released her needs and expectations and used a prayer the universe delivered – “Thank you, Universe, for helping me see beyond my limitations. Thank you for expanding my perceptions so I can attract genuine love.”

For more than a month Sarah recited this prayer daily and started being a superattractor attracting lots of male attention. One persistent guy Michael made no sense to her with no financial security and struggles in his career (also not Catholic!). A few months into dating him however she told Gabby she had never been happier in her life, ten months later they were engaged!

Letting go on what we’re holding onto can unblock and lead us to the result. Gabby says “Whether it’s a romantic partner, a career transition, a health choice, or a cross-country move, how are you controlling your experiences and misaligning the flow of the universe?

Gabby then shared her journey to finding her husband which included declaring her readiness and using creative visualisation and meditation to feel the feelings of romance that she longed for – desire, love, romance and excitement. This helped her become a superattractor. She powerfully writes “If you walk around feeling deflated, doubtful, and sad, the universe can’t supply you with high vibe positivity.

I reflect back to when I met my husband Owain, I wasn’t looking for a relationship and was carefree and happy in myself about to go travelling with some friends. Whilst radiating positive energy, the universe then delivered the wonderful man I would then later marry and have two little Aussie boys with.

What’s something you’re holding onto that you can let go of and put out to the universe?

Some may be thinking it’s easy to accept this approach for the good stuff in life but what about the obstacles? Gabby writes, “What about when you’re fired out of the blue, or when an unexpected health condition shows up? How are we co-creating these difficult circumstances in our lives? The bad times, just like the good, are a reflection of what we believe to be true about ourselves and our relationship to the Universe. Oftentimes our difficult circumstances reflect the stress, fear, and separation that we carry. It’s important to witness the difficult situations in your life through the lens of love. Choose to see them as an opportunity to surrender to your spiritual practice even more. The amount of flow and synchronicity we experience can be measured by the depth of our spiritual connection.”

On this note, I was having a conversation with a friend’s dad this morning who has just recovered from stage four colon cancer. He said many health professionals were ready to give up on him as he also has heart disease. One guy said I’m backing you as you have the will and motivation to succeed. The cancer was cut out and he has made an amazing recovery. I said wow the universe had your back and he said he it was even more than this, he truly believed he could pull through and with the love of his family he did. He has more to offer the world and isn’t done in this life form yet!

Gabby’s powerful commitment in writing this book “is to wake up as many people as possible to their connection to faith and joy. In that connection, we can be guided to our true purpose: to love and spread love. These words can no longer be cute buzz phrases that we merely post on social media. Rather, these woes must be our mission. The happiness, safety, and security we long for lies in our commitment to love.”

Gabby’s new book “Super Attractor, Methods for Manifesting a Life beyond Your Wildest Dreams” is out now which I look forward to reading along with ‘Judgement Detox’ which my great friend Myz has also recommended.

If you enjoyed this post sharing some of Gabby’s wisdom I recommend following her on Instagram (gabriellebernstein) for more regular inspiration like the below.

Too much Mastery = Burnout – Too much Pleasure = No Purpose

The title of this blog was inspired by a quote a friend shared with me during a recent catch up after realising she may have reached corporate burnout.

We ended up having quite a deep discussion and I thought some of the learning may be useful to others.

We discussed how we both had grown up pretty focused in school and mastering good grades and were now doing the same in our careers. We reflected that we spend a lot of our free time on mastery and learning, whether that be listening to podcasts, reading business books or studying.

You can see my quest for mastery from a young age via this year 10 journal entry my mum found!

Whilst this is productive and healthy up to a point, we also reflected on how you can be too focused on mastery and lose the focus on pure pleasure in life. For us that includes being in or around the ocean, reading or listening to fiction, watching some light TV, spending time laughing with friends, playing with little ones or just hanging out with our partners in the moment.

It was an interesting reflection for me. The next night, I had planned to jump on the bike turbo and study a cyber security module (fun sat night!) whilst the husband was away. Instead a friend messaged and asked if I was around. She came over and we watched Wimbledon and ate ice cream, pure pleasure, which is more what I needed.

On the flip side, too much pleasure can be not productive. This article in Psychology Today is an interesting read, “Too much pleasure, not enough happiness.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/longing-nostalgia/201903/too-much-pleasure-not-enough-happiness

The takeaway I distilled was to make our pleasure meaningful. I’ve found that a daily pleasure practice of gratitude and meditation helps give my life meaning.

I think too much pleasure as the title quote suggests could equal no purpose and it’s great to strike a balance being the two which will vary depending on your circumstance.

Also, I do think that there is a sweet spot where mastery can become pleasure when you’re so accomplished and enter a flow state.

With my balance recently being more tilted to mastery than pleasure, I’m looking forward to a pleasure trip at the end of next week to visit our family in Cyprus and to England for my sister’s wedding.

What would you say your current balance is of mastery versus pleasure?

After this conversation I was reading a Peter Cook Thought Leader’s blog which I always find insightful and came across the notion of extreme self care. Whilst I am a big fan of self care and help balance my mastery tendency with meditation, massage, manicures and facials / blow drys I hadn’t heard the notion of extreme self care.

Pete shared this term was coined by Thomas Leonard who came up with an extreme self care checklist. Whilst every item on the 100 point checklist may not relate to everyone, I found this a useful exercise to go through. Interestingly, one of the 10 focus areas is pleasure!

A handful of the actions that stemmed for me were to:

⁃ Book in a nutrition session before I start IM 70.3 training

⁃ Book in annual health retreat date

⁃ Have another massage before our long flight to Europe

⁃ Floss twice daily, versus once a day

⁃ Stretch more regularly

On reflection, I think you could go into mastery mode with extreme self care and get too focused, which might defeat the point, but I think it is useful to think about what time and energy we’re devoting to ourselves to then be our best for others. The classic aeroplane oxygen analogy, putting your own mask on before helping others.

I hope by sharing this at least one person may have an insight and action emerge which was always the purpose of starting to write this blog and sharing some thoughts.

Love to hear any comments / reflections.

(I picked the blog title image as felt it represented my two year old Huw in pure pleasure! I think young kids generally have a good balance of pleasure and living in the moment :-))

The ‘aha moment’- Five tips to increase your moments of insight

I have been fascinated with the ‘aha moment’ ever since learning about the coaching process whilst working in this space previously.

How great’s that feeling you get when a flash of insight emerges and you get a breakthrough in your thinking?!

I have wondered what happens in the brain when an insight occurs.

In his book ‘Your Brain at Work’ (which I highly recommend), David Rock summarises the science of the aha moment citing researchers including Beeman and Ohlsson . A few quotes below:

When insights occur, they seem to involve unconscious processing. That makes sense from experience – insights often come from nowhere and at the most unusual time, when you are putting in no conscious effort to solve a problem – such as in the shower, at the gym, or driving on the freeway. This knowledge about insights provides a possible strategy for increasing creativity: let your subconscious brain solve the problem. And when you take a walk in the middle of your workday, you now have hard science to explain this when your boss looks at your funny.”

“Ohlsson’s principle of inhibition explains why insights come in the shower or the swimming pool. It’s nothing to do with the water. When you take a break from a problem, your active ways of thinking diminish. This seems to work even at the level for a few moments. Try an experiment: next time you’re working on a crossword or other word game, when you get stuck, do something totally different for a few seconds (anything as simple as tying your shoes or stretching; the main thing is not to think about the problem). Then come back to the problem and see what happens. I predict you may notice how sometimes the prefrontal cortex, your conscious processing capacity, is itself the problem. Get it out of the way, and the solution appears.”

“This quirk of the brain also explains why other people can often see answers to your problem that you can’t. Others are not locked into your way of thinking. Knowing a problem too well can be the reason you can’t find a solution. Sometimes we need a fresh perspective. This is an unusual concept, as normally we think the best person to solve a problem is the one who knows everything about it. With so many impasses* each day at work, perhaps what’s needed are more thinking partnerships, where one person has a lot of detail and the other very little. Together they can come up with solutions faster than either can his own.”

*Impasse = a roadblock to a desired mental path. It’s a connection you want to make but can’t.

For those interested in learning more, David Rock has developed the ARIA model, which stands for Awareness, Reflection, Insight and Action which describes the stages of an insight and practical techniques for increasing their likelihood.

So how can we increase our number of aha moments? Five tips below:

  1. Take a break and change your environment / activity
  2. Create a fun environment – there’s a reason why organisations including google look to create a fun environment to heighten creativity
  3. Engage with a coach / thinking partner to help shift your thinking
  4. Meditate to help quieten your mind
  5. Journal and map out the big picture including any patterns instead of focusing on the problem details

From my own experience, I know that I have more moments of insight at work when I take an exercise or meditation break, move floors to a new space or speak to someone on something completely unrelated.

So why is this important?

I think, our ability to think is going to continue to be a career differentiater, especially in light of artificial intelligence.

I realise a common thread in the Leaders / Coaches / Entrepreneurs I most admire is the way they think. I remember Steve Vamos (now CEO of Xero) saying ‘Think about how you think.’

As David Rock says ‘Insights are the engine of the economy.’

Here’s to us all creating the space to have more insights 🙂

Have space in your togetherness

For those who know me or follow me on social media you may have seen I’ve been on a few adventures in April (without the kids!).

First there was a work rewards trip to Sanya in China and then to the UK via Singapore for my cousin’s wedding.

It has been nice to take some time out for me and have quality time with family and friends without the distraction of kids and for my husband Owain to have some quality time with our little boys Ethan and Huw.

I’ve found it interesting to see how this situation is viewed by our network. Responses range from “Good for you, enjoy the well deserved time out”, “Don’t feel guilty” to “ I feel bad for Owain”, “Will the boys remember you” and “You’re away again??”.

Not judging these comments as everyone’s entitled to their opinion but it was interesting to reflect…

Did I feel bad for Owain? Not really. He’s a highly capable world champion athlete who is more organised than me. He would have had the household like clockwork. I feel empathy however as I know single parenting can be hard and it has a lot of logistics. It was nice to relieve him when I got back, especially as he’d come down with a virus, 10 days straight with the kids will do that!

Will the boys remember me? I should hope so after seeing them almost everyday of their lives so far 😀 With messenger chats it was easy to keep in touch when overseas and Ethan was counting the sleeps until I came home. I thought it was good for them to see me with their other family and having new experiences.

Did I feel guilty for leaving our boys with Owain? Hell no- he’s their dad! He’s not babysitting, he’s their father. Of course I missed them when away but I do think it’s good for them to have some time together when the boys can be attached to mummy. For example, I loved seeing these pictures from an Easter breakfast he went to whilst I was away.

When Owain went away for a similar period last year for a wedding and a race later on in the year no one commented on anything, funny the stereotypes which are still embedded in society.

Watching the movie “On the basis of sex” recently it made me reflect on how unfair society can be to women and that we all need to call it when we see opportunities to. I think it’s great to see movements like equal pay to champion equal pay for equal roles regardless of gender.

Being a working mum who also competes in triathlon is tough, it takes commitment, patience, selflessness and resilience. It’s also incredibly rewarding and I wouldn’t change it (on a good day!). However, I definitely think mums (and dads / partners) all deserve some time out.

Chemmy Alcott the former Olympic skier has a refreshing podcast sharing her journey with motherhood and life with two little ones https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/chemmys-chair-lift-chats/id1445155023

Some quotes from a recent interview with Chemmy which say it well – “Of course, we do have a wonderful life together. We share a passion for skiing and know how lucky we are to have two beautiful, healthy sons, and I’m totally fulfilled by my kids. But I’m happy to admit I’ve found motherhood is 100% tougher than skiing!” says Alcott.

When you’re skiing or an athlete, it’s all about you – your aim is to make yourself stronger, faster, and reach your goals. It’s a very selfish existence. But when you’re a mother, it’s all about the responsibility of someone else who’s completely unknown to the world, so fragile, so new. It’s really challenging, scary and lovely all at the same time.

Dougie and I totally co-parent, he’s devoted and hands-on. But I was on my own with the boys – Cooper was only three weeks – when he had to go away on a job. Lockie was teething, Cooper was struggling to feed as he had tongue tie, I was exhausted and almost at breaking point, and it’s the first time in my life that I reached out and said, ‘I need help’,” recalls Alcott. “I even went on Facebook and asked, ‘Can anyone hold a baby for a couple of hours!’

“I don’t want to come across like this perfect celebrity mum, who snapped back into shape instantly and took coping with two little ones in my stride,” she adds. “Just like any other mum, as well as experiencing the amazing highs at a few points, at others I’ve relied on TV to entertain the two-year-old and reached for the biscuits to give me fast energy.

“Dealing with an energetic toddler and a new baby and a career is full-on. It can be just as fun and also as scary, exciting and demanding as any ski challenge.”

My aim for writing this post is that even if it just inspires one other mother to not give up on her own goals and take some well deserved time away it will be worth it. You deserve it and your other half will survive!

Keeping a sense of our own identity is important, especially as our children will one day not be dependent on us.

Now back to reality with refereeing two energetic boys and Huw’s terrible two tantrums. Remembering to breathe, be grateful and smell the roses. Optimism is a daily spiritual practice and happiness a choice as Shawn Achor shares in this Oprah Supersoul conversation exploring “The Life Altering Power of a Positive Mind”.

Our next adventure (this time as a family) is up to beautiful Port Macquarie next weekend to cheer Owain on in the 70.3 triathlon and friends on in the Ironman and to celebrate Ethan turning 4 (how that time has flown!).

To finish, I’ll end with a piece of marriage advice my Grandma gave to my little sister recently who is getting married in August which seems to theme well with this post:

“Have space in your togetherness”.

Having celebrated their Ruby wedding anniversary before my Grandpa passed away there must be something in this 🙂

Training our minds

As a believer and a practitioner of training our minds as well as our bodies, I was curious to take a Vedic meditation course last week with Cathy Rolfe to deepen my practice and learn a new technique.

Cathy comes from the corporate world, which appealed to me with the program described as ‘an easy 4-step management program designed for busy professionals’.

This involved four morning sessions before work to learn the technique, practice and reflect in an iterative learning process.

The mantra based practice involves practicing for two 20 minute periods a day ongoing. Part of the idea through practicing this is to be able to tap into our being more regularly than our automatic thought, action, achievement orientation.

Deepak Chropra has some insightful thoughts on the benefits of meditation in this in a Super Soul interview with Oprah Winfrey. When we tap more into our being and accept each moment we accomplish more with less effort (law of least effort) as we’re being true to ourselves and are on our spiritual path. It makes authentic decision making easier.

As an example of acceptance on my own journey, on day three of the program I was getting the boys ready for daycare before the session with Cathy and managed to misplace my phone. This was an interesting exercise of acceptance in this digitally connected world. I realised:

– I didn’t have the address for my client meeting in North Sydney later that morning

– I couldn’t order an Uber myself between meetings or call a cab

– I didn’t have access to google maps to find a city meeting location later that day

– I didn’t have on the go communication to communicate with colleagues between meetings

– I didn’t have access to my wifi hotspot to connect in a cafe without wifi during a online session

– I couldn’t access my meeting notes saved in draft on my phone not in the cloud

It was a good chance to meditate on my mantra against these thoughts and settle the busy thought patterns down.

By good old fashioned communication and problem solving I found my way through the day but it was interesting to reflect on how much of my day to day life is now managed by this device.

By my second meditation later that afternoon I was quite relaxed about now not having my phone and wasn’t in any rush to find it. In fact, I had a very clear idea arise after the meditation which helped me solve a work problem. The phone did eventually turn up at 9pm when I had a look, finding it wedged behind the ottoman.

As my friend Tricky said this could be a great Executive Education exercise to randomly take an executive’s phone for the day and allow them to problem solve!

What did I learn?

One of the stand out concepts during the program for me was the notion of adaptation energy. My interpretation of this was the more we fill our energy bucket by things like good sleep, nourishing food, healthy relationships and rest time the more energy we have to adapt to unforeseen change and circumstances. When we are tired, we can be more irritable and react to things rather than respond. Vedic Meditation helps us get into a deep rest state (deeper than sleep) to help us recover and build our adaptation energy.

Interestingly, I hadn’t really reflected before how intense physical exercise is on the body as a stressor. If we keep pounding the body but aren’t adequately recovering we’re not tapping into the healing parasympathetic nervous system.

On Saturday I had a window to run after Owain’s training. I tapped into what my body needed and it wasn’t a run so I went and got a relaxing pedicure instead.

In a yoga essentials book I’m reading currently it says the more we tap into our being, the more we know what the body and mind needs and adapt our daily habits to suit this. Rather than being so regimented that we power through regardless. Good food for thought.

So what else have I noticed so far?

Yesterday when playing in the garden with the boys I felt my senses super heightened to the beauties of nature and was tuning in more than usual to the beautiful flowers, trees and sky. I also noticed a lot of ants carrying food which the boys then enjoyed watching too.

I really enjoyed watching them play together too with a new found appreciation for their relationship.

This morning on a Liv community ride I felt very present and grateful to my surroundings and enjoyed taking in the magical views.

This afternoon I tuned into my body and realised I needed a nap and slept with Huw for three hours, it was beautiful and I didn’t feel guilty that I didn’t make it to the shops! Online shopping here we come 🙂

As it says in the trust life daily inspiration book I’m reading there’s power in dropping ‘should’ for ‘could’.

It will be interesting to see how this unfolds over the next few months with work, travel, family life etc. I am committed to getting into a regular habit of twice daily practice as know based on the science this is what gets results. Like with physical training, consistency counts.

I’m sure some adaptability will be needed along the way. For instance yesterday I woke up before the boys and was all poised to go with my first 20 minutes of the day and Huwey woke up. I smiled, accepted the situation and took him onto the couch, put on Kung Fu panda and meditated next to him. Not ideal but practical.

Thanks Cathy for the great training and I look forward to the journey ahead!