Walking your why

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Today would have been my lovely mum’s birthday.  It’s been 13 years since I got to celebrate her birthday with her and today I’d like to honour her by sharing with you my ‘WHY’

 

My mum is why I do what I do and why I am who I am.

13 years ago I was in a high flying corporate job with all the trappings of success…. but I was burning out.  I was money rich but time poor.  I had a great standard of living but a very poor quality of life.  I had begun to feel that my soul was being sucked out of me but I didn’t know what to do about it.  I felt trapped by my big salary and the benefits of my high powered job.

So in an attempt to destress and sort my life out I booked a holiday of a lifetime to the Maldives.

And I didn’t realise how life changing that holiday was going to be.  Whilst sitting in paradise I got a call to say my mum had suddenly and completely unexpectedly died.  In the 24 hours it took me to get home EVERYTHING changed.  My world literally shifted on its axis.

And I made my mum (and myself) a promise that I would start to live my life in a way that would make her proud.  That would make her death stand for something positive.  That would mean she hadn’t died in vain.  That I would start to make choices that would allow me to ‘walk my why’.

As Susan David states in her brilliant book ‘Emotional Agility – Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life”:

 
“Walking your why is the art of living by your own personal set of values – the beliefs and behaviours you hold dear and give you a sense of meaning and satisfaction.  Identifying and acting on the values that are truly your own – not those imposed on you by others, not what you think you ‘should’ care about, but what you genuinely do care about.”
 

I have never had so much clarity on who I was, who I wanted to be and what I was meant to do.  I made a commitment to start to live my life  This was the catalyst for me leaving my corporate job and taking a year out to retrain as an executive coach. 

As Hugh Jackman sings so wonderfully in The Greatest Showman ( I love that film and there are so many powerful messages in all the lyrics):

“A crazy speed of always needing more

And when I stop and see you here

I remember who all this was for

And from now on

What’s waited ’til tomorrow

Starts tonight

It starts tonight

And let this promise in me start

Like an anthem in my heart

From now on”

From that moment on I promised  my mum that I would honour her memory by living my life in a way that would make her proud and made me happy.  That I would cherish everyday, as you just never know when life is going to end.

It’s why I started Wisdom For Working Mums.  You see my mum was the best mum she could possibly have been to me and my brother.  Yes, I know I’m biased.  But truly she was.

I think she had spent her whole life preparing for motherhood.  This was partly fuelled by her own mum leaving home when she was 13 years old, which was deeply traumatic for her.  It led her to become a nanny for young children and she travelled the world working for families as their nanny.  She worked for a family in Chicago.  She was a nanny for children of a Brigadier in the British Army in Germany (where she met my dad).  She honed her craft looking after other people’s children until she had her own.  She then literally dedicated her life to me and my brother.

So I had big shoes to fill when I became a mum myself.  And without her around (she died 8 years before I became a mum myself) I wasn’t able to lean on her for her support and expertise.

I also had some pretty limiting beliefs of what it took to become a great mum.  My mum gave up her work to raise me and my brother.  She embodied the ‘self-sacrifice’ approach to motherhood.  And when I tried to model my approach to motherhood on hers, it just didn’t work for me.  So I felt like I was failing and left me feeling burnt-out.

But the reality was I wasn’t living my life and my approach to motherhood in a way that was aligned with who I was and my values.  I wanted to work AND be a good mum.

So that’s when I dedicated myself to learning how the two could work together in a way that me, my family and my work could thrive.  As up until this point I had held a belief that being a good mum and doing work I love were mutually exclusive.  But they don’t have to be.

So I had to start walking my why.  That’s when I decided to set up Wisdom For Working Mums.  So I could help others (and myself as we tend to teach what we need to learn most!) combine their work and motherhood in a way that works for them.

So our children feel that we are literally the best mums in the world AND feel proud that we’re doing work that we love.

Knowing our why is so important.  It allows us to make decisions that match up with the way we hope to live.  But we have to be in touch with the things that matter most to us so we can be guided by them.   As our lives will always pull us in so many different directions.   We have to be able to put our hands on our heart and say ‘this is what matters’.

So today I am putting my hand on my heart and acknowledging my mum on her birthday and saying a big thank you for helping me to realise what matters most.

Here’s to us all walking our whys.  Have a wonderful weekend.

 

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