November 6, 2017 6:00 am
Thursday night last week, saw me and the other Get To KNOW ladies team up with Adidas for an evening of sharing stories, goal setting and getting real specific about what we want out of life, all with the aim of creating our best life by design.
(Only the footnotes… We don’t have all day!)
I left school at 16, stubborn as hell and thinking I knew it all (not much has changed since then!), I had already dragged my mum around agencies in London at the age of 13 and sadly, bar a bit of interest from Storm, nothing really ever came of it. I was determined though, so I bided my time and waited till I could take matters into my own hands. 17 years old and off I went to conquer the world. Or, so I thought.
I spent years modeling, navigating the rough waters and I definitely did not come out unscathed. It was, and probably still is, a fairly damaging environment for a young girl. This was way before the whole body positive movement was ever a ‘thing’. After years of feeling fairly unhealthy and unhappy… extremely unhealthy and unhappy actually. I thought back to that girl who had left home… strong-willed, decisive, ready to grab the world by the horns, where had she gone? I realised that I had actually been living by default the whole time, not really making any decisions about what I wanted out of life, simply reacting to the situations around me. I knew that if I didn’t start making some serious decisions about my life, ones that I felt really good about, who knows where I would have ended up in another 10 years.
It was kind of my first glimpse into living a life by design. Being a total control freak, I just realised that I would hate to look back in 10 years and think, ‘how the hell did I end up here? I didn’t choose this!?’.
Every single decision we make (even the non-decisions) shape our future, even if we can’t quite see it at the time. It’s why making decisions that you feel really good about is so important because, even if some of them turn out to be the wrong decisions, you’ll at least be able to look back and track the journey and it will feel like growth. You’ll know that you made the best decisions you could at that time and you won’t just feel like a victim of circumstance.
So, with this renewed motivation to live a life by design and stop living by default, I moved to Cyprus for a couple of years. Getting away from it all was really the catalyst to turning my life around for the better. I suddenly had the mental space to really take a step back and evaluate the choices I was making. I discovered Muay Thai, I’d done a fair bit of kickboxing years before but this was a whole new obsession, I loved it!! I trained pretty much every day with an awesome coach and was totally hooked. I went vegan for about 6 months, which didn’t last but it did open up a whole new world of health and wellness that was so new to me at the time, this was around 2011. I also started blogging! Growing up I used to tear through books at an alarming rate, constantly asking for more – my Mum actually used to test me because she didn’t believe I had read them so quickly! It was definitely one of my childhood dreams to write books – as well as being a jockey and a fashion designer, of course! Ha! This was way back when, before bloggers were getting book deals left right and centre but it felt like a really positive step towards a goal, even though I wasn’t quite sure of how I would connect all the dots.
I’m still figuring out that one, to be honest!
It was around this time that I was beginning to develop quite the chip on my shoulder about not being viewed as ‘smart’ after 10 years of (supposedly) mindless modeling so, I decided I wanted to be a Dietitian. I knew how much my life had changed for the better and I wanted to help others do the same. So, I went back to school – well, I studied remotely but there were definite back to school vibes. I loved it. It was a decision that I made wholeheartedly and it felt totally right so as usual, I threw myself into it. Jumped through all the hoops necessary to get onto a dietetics degree – hint, it’s not easy. And then to cut a two, almost 3 year, story short – I realised that it definitely wasn’t for me and so going into my third year, I quit. There was so much guilt around this choice… ‘I’ve taken the opportunity away from someone else’, ‘It’s a fully funded NHS degree, there’s only like 30 spots per year at only a couple of Universities in London, am I mad to pass it up?’ etc etc. But, there were still financial implications and I just didn’t have the resources, as well as knowing that I just really, really didn’t want to work in hospitals.
I was also hyper-aware that I had made this decision years earlier to stop living by default and I knew that if I had stayed on the degree, just because it was there and just because people expected me to. I would have definitely been living by default.
It’s my belief that you have to try so many things in life and that not all of them will be a good fit, that’s just fact. There’s no shame in trying something new, only to realise that it’s not for you and then course correcting. Being able to self-assess and course correct is actually an incredibly valuable life (and business) skill. You will get people along the way that judge you for doing this and try to shame you for your choices, this is a reflection on them, not you. (Keep going, you’re doing great!)
So, without this turning into my first book… Here are a few key pointers that have really helped me on my journey to living a life by design.
ONE. Live your life by design. Do not operate by default. Quit saying ‘I should’ or ‘I wish’ Make decisions that you feel good about and then practice discipline. Even if everything falls apart around you, if you still know in your heart that the decision still stands, then stick with it.
TWO. Look at your friendship group, people who live by default, tend to hang around people who live by default and vice versa. There’s that saying that you’re the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. It’s true so think about it.
THREE. There is no better day than today to make a change. Make choices now, with a view to the long term. Hindsight really can be a b****!
FOUR. Finally, I would say, make the decision to be relentless. You’re gonna hear hundreds of no’s to just a handful of yes’s and you’re most certainly not gonna be inspired or motivated every day. You just have to be relentless. It’s a decision and a choice, but probably one of the most powerful decisions you’ll ever make.