I am a big believer in the universe sending you messages. Call it woo-woo, synchronicity, coincidence or just your mind playing tricks on you, but every now and again, I’ll see something, hear something or smell something that gives me a sharp reality check… just when I need it.
This morning I was training in the park before work. A few days a week I fit in a solid hour of boxing with my trainer, which I love. My dog, Benny, was running around in circles in the sunshine and I was having one of those epic exercise sessions where you feel fit, healthy, strong and the best version of yourself (as opposed to the ones where you feel like your legs are made of lead and you want to scream obscenities at your trainer).
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In between upper cuts, I took a moment to take in my surroundings. It’s amazing how often we walk around with blinkers on, not really ‘seeing’ what is around us. I’d been in that park for 20 minutes but hadn’t noticed until then a group of young guys in hoodies, just metres away, who were drinking beer and, sadly, passing around a needle. At 8am on a Wednesday morning. As I tried to digest this scene, a garbage man strolled past me, stopping to pick up a chip packet on the grass.
When we saw me glance his way, he smiled – a huge, genuine, open grin – and said with total sincerity, “What a beautiful day. How great is life!” He then continued on his way with a spring in his step, as if he was a tourist on holiday, not a labourer at work. I don’t judge the group of young guys who were self-medicating on that beautiful morning – that’s their decision for life even though I am definitely not planning to make it mine. But the reason this reality check made me shiver was because I’ve had dark periods in my own life, where I was drinking to escape, drinking to forget and drinking to numb myself.
In my out-of-control days, that could have been me (although drugs were never my thing), I was lost and alone, living a life of guilt, fear, remorse and shame for a long time. It was interesting to stop and note the juxtapositions at play. Then there’s this garbage man, with the most amazing, vibrant, optimistic energy, reminding everyone he meets how great life is.
The simplest messages at the most unexpected times can give us our greatest learnings. And I don’t believe these reminders are accidental. As often happens with nudges from the universe, for me this one was perfectly timed. A couple of nights before, I’d begun to get the feeling that my ego was not in check and I was not the nicest version of myself. Okay, I’ll call it – I had a braggy, self-absorbed, ‘don’t you know who I am?’ moment. Ugh! I’m not proud of it, but I’m only human. It was quite a momentous time for me in many ways – I was about to celebrate my 10-year non-drinking anniversary and things were really, really taking off with The Collective. I could feel my mind racing away into ‘it’s not enough’ territory. How could we change the world, the universe, infinity and beyond?
That’s why I’m not surprised the universe decided to whack me over the head with a wake-up call this particular morning. It was time to stop and acknowledge my journey, where I was in that moment and the direction my life has taken, as opposed to where it could have gone. To take a moment to thank the universe and be grateful for the position I found myself in and for the lucky escapes, the near misses. And quite frankly, pull my head back in. So I said to my trainer, “I need to stop boxing.” I needed to stop doing, stop fighting and to start feeling, enjoying and ‘being’. I was in a beautiful park, after all, so what better place to stop and smell the roses? That’s why I called the first chapter of one of my books ‘Attitude & Gratitude’. These two words sum up everything that I believe makes me a good entrepreneur, and even bigger than that, a good person to be around.
We are all the directors of our own mindset. We may not be able to control outside factors, we can’t stop bad things happening or ensure our path is pebble-free, but we can choose how we react to the annoying jabs, the pain and discomfort.
A lot of people – friends, colleagues and readers of the magazine – often say something like this when they meet me, “You’re so calm. How do you do it?” The reality is I haven’t always been like this, and like all of us, I still have my moments. I was once the fieriest person, prone to reacting quickly without thinking and flying off the handle. But as The Collective has taken off and life has become busier, even more overstretched and crazy, the calmer and more grounded I’ve become. Being stressed takes energy, arguments take time and these days, I am short of both.
I’ve trained myself to change my attitude to one of gratitude, even when I have seven meetings and three evening events to juggle in the course of one day, when all I want to do is go home and read a trashy novel in the bath. I could get into a grump and stomp my feet (and every so often I do) but that won’t shorten the to-do list in front of me. So I have trained my mind to look for the positive in every situation. Hundreds of time every day, between getting out of bed and falling back into it, we can choose how we react, where we smile or frown, laugh or swear, give a compliment or a criticism that will raise someone up or knock them down.
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