I decided to write this note to you whilst on a recent trip to get some spring sunshine* – a week in the sun is always guaranteed to give me much needed thinking space, reflection time and inspiration. It was upon arriving at my home in the sunshine that I was hit (it felt like a slap around the face) by the realisation of how often I lose sight of ‘what’s it all about’.
After arriving in our apartment which has the most beautiful views of a white sand beach, vast blue sea and lush tropical gardens, I found myself in a rush. My husband had agreed to take our son to the local supermarket to buy some food supplies whilst I unpacked our belongings for the week. I took on this task like a mad women working against my own predetermined clock – the manner in which I approached this task would make you think it was a matter of life or death. As I rushed to unpack before my husband and son arrived back I could feel my adrenaline pumping. It was at that point I caught myself in ‘achieve mode’ and had to laugh at myself.
It hit me that whilst I had just arrived in paradise for a relaxing break I hadn’t taken a breath and even acknowledged the amazing view that was right in front of me! I was too busy ‘doing’ that I hadn’t even stopped to ‘be’ An all too familiar state for me unfortunately – I’m not sure if you can relate to that?
It was at that point that I remembered an event just a few weeks before. This event was my friend Lisa’s 40th birthday. Now from the outside Lisa would seem like an average women with an average life. She lives in Wolverhampton, in a beautiful but modest home, she’s a nurse and is married with two boys.
But Lisa is far from an average person. It is not the fact that she has been awarded a George Medal by the Queen for an unbelievable act of bravery that makes her far from average. Nor is it the fact that she set up her own charity, built an orphanage in Romania, written three best-selling books and has dedicated her career to serving others In my eyes what makes Lisa far from average is her approach to life.
If you’d like to learn more about Lisa, what her 40th birthday reminded me of and the lessons for ‘What’s it all about?’ then please read on.
Lisa is one of those people that I just feel better for being in her presence. She loves life, she loves people and radiates these qualities when you are around her. She combines her big heart with a wicked sense of humour and great wit. But things could have been very different for her.
In 1996 when Lisa was 21 years old she was a nursery teacher at a local primary school. On the 8th July that year Lisa was holding a teddy bear’s picnic for the children in her care. During this picnic a mentally disturbed man jumped the school’s perimeter fence and launched a frenzied machete attack on the children. Lisa protected and saved the lives of the children and she suffered horrific injuries in the process.
Now the genuine act of heroism that Lisa demonstrated on that day is amazing enough, but for me it is her attitude towards that day and her life since that I find the most inspirational.
When speaking to Lisa about that event you will find someone that holds no bitterness. Whilst she was very much a victim on that day in 1996 you will find someone that refuses to take a victim mentality. On the contrary, Lisa has used her experience to create a positive meaning and help others; she has used the (unwelcomed) notoriety she received to create a platform to help as many people as she can.
Lisa’s 40th Birthday
Now back to Lisa’s 40th birthday. Whilst sitting in a room celebrating Lisa’s birthday with her family and friends I became so overwhelmed by the love and happiness for her. But what struck me was that she had put on the event for others. She had organised it and put so much effort into making sure everyone had a great time in celebrating, not only her birthday, but her life. During the party I noticed her stand back and literally drink in the atmosphere of the room; it was if she was letting all the love and laughter in the room soak into every pore of her skin and every cell of her body.
In that moment Lisa demonstrated for me the principle of being in the moment; being fully present and embracing life as it happens. What struck me was the fact that if it had been my party I probably would have been running around, probably a little bit stressed and too focussed on the unimportant things to truly experience the beauty of the celebration.
It’s not the first time that Lisa has had this impact on me. Whenever I’m with her she never fails to remind me to lighten up, enjoy the moment and reconnect with ‘What’s is all about’.
And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.” Iain Thomas
For me Lisa lives her life with her hand on her heart – instinctively knowing what is important and giving herself permission to live in accordance with that. A lesson I have to keep reminding myself of and I feel lucky to have someone like Lisa to remind me.
My wish for you
Hopefully you live your life like Lisa. But if you don’t, I hope you find ways to discover and reconnect with ‘What’s it all about’. It might be sharing quality time with your loved ones or perhaps watching Steve Job’s famous commencement speech at Stanford University (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1R-jKKp3NA). Or perhaps it’s investing in a coach to help you to discover your values and live in accordance with them.
My wish for you is that during the daily pull of the busyness of life you find your way of yanking your hand back to your heart and, in the words of Iain Thomas, say “No, This is what’s important!”
This piece was originally written in April 2015