This week, courtesy of my membership with the Forward Ladies group, I was privileged to hear a talk from the editor of Psychologies magazine Suzy Greaves.
The frankness and honesty of the matter-of-fact depiction of her life raised goose bumps; not only because of the rawness of her experiences but because they often overlapped with experiences of my own that to this day can leave me feeling raw and exposed. To hear someone discuss the hardships of her life in such an open way left me feeling empowered and more able to view my own challenges as constructive rather than damaging, an attitude that I hope to be able to carry forward from now on.
The thread running through Suzy’s experience sharing was that out of pain and loss, no matter how far down you feel like you have sunk, eventually and bizarrely success will find it’s place in your world again.
Even though the initial response to loss is an all encompassing blackness, as we learn to cope with this we becoming increasingly self aware and learn to face the voids that loss leaves in our lives and the lives of those close to us. It is not the loss itself that gives us strength through adversity but rather, the strategies we choose to utilise to fill these voids that ultimately leads us to success.
Suzy spoke honestly and sometimes painfully about the way that circumstances and events can shape our lives but regardless of the experience she discussed and whatever the effect it had on her life, she always came back around to positivity. She fully believes, and has enabled me to believe again, that finding methods of dealing with often tragic circumstances can lead us down hitherto undiscovered paths of renewal.
My favourite expression that Suzy used was about a shift towards living a “values based life”, something that I have often aspired towards but never been able to fully engage with. What was so reassuring was that she spoke about this as an evolving self -awareness journey, that is, that we are constantly realigning our values and may need to adapt and change our careers so that they enable us to work in a way that is true to these values.
Searching for calm at the beginning of every day gives Suzy the ability to deal with the many challenges of her high profile role but, as she is happy to admit, she is still working through the pain of loss and searching for ways quite simply to be happy.
This was so refreshing to hear as we are constantly bombarded with media content, which seems to promise a panacea for constant happiness. Let’s be honest now, this doesn’t exist and, facing up to this reality will lead us not necessarily to constant happiness but to a deeper sense of satisfaction with an entirely greater sense of longevity.
Another expression Suzy used with rich resonance was about finding a formula for fulfilment.
There are many times when we find ourselves processed down a particular route either in our careers or personal lives. We need to ensure that we understand ourselves sufficiently to know when these choices aren’t the right ones and be brave enough to make the change. Whilst the change itself may take time, recognising the need for differentiation between maintaining an existence and living in contentment is in itself half of the battle.
As someone who has changed direction several times in my own career I am not unfamiliar with this notion but the real strength comes from not being afraid of this and, more importantly, not seeing it as a failing.
Just simply sticking to something for years and years is not success; that means that your entire career can be compared to Velcro. Yes it works functionally and will continue to do so but that doesn’t mean that it is working for you. Working hard on something with clarity about why you are doing it, even if it doesn’t reap the highest financial rewards, will bring you closer to fulfilment and happiness than a Velcro pay-check ever will. You never know, you could end up being one of the lucky few that manages to have both – although my point here is, which I feel that I must reiterate in the consumer driven world that we occupy; happiness must always come first because money can’t buy that.
I will certainly be picking up a copy of Psychologies every month and I look forward with great anticipation to hearing more from this self effacing, powerful, soul-baring and downright impressive woman whom I now come to see as a role model.
Viv Parry is the Managing Director of Exquisite Handmade Cakes Ltd www.exquisitehandmadecakes.co.uk