If you’ve lived it, you can learn from it, and someone else can too – irrespective of your or their age, profession, experience and position in life. That’s the ethos of ‘From Forty With Love’.
With that in mind, I have some more words of wisdom to share about following your passion, from an expert on the topic. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Caroline Marsh, the successful property developer, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, spoke at the Women in Business Conference at the London Metropolitan University on Monday. Caroline kindly agreed to do a short video interview after her talk for this site but, to my horror, the video didn’t record! (I confess it was a user error). Thankfully, Caroline found the time to send me some inspiring words by email. I asked her how she would mentor her younger self and what advice she’d give to someone who felt unable to move forward with their dreams. Here are some top tips from the Secret Millionaire:
“I would say to the younger me, and someone who feels stuck, to follow my heart and dream. Stand on the shoulders of giants and learn from them. Success leaves clues, follow the clues. Never stop learning. Continue to be a life learner. You never have enough knowledge. Take action. Don’t procrastinate. Enjoy what you do and have fun while doing it. Do not be afraid to fail – after all, failure is merely an experience where we learn ‘how not to do something’. Develop characteristics of successful entrepreneurs: determination, perseverance, resilience, discipline, persistence, action, orientation. Challenges will always be there. As they say: new level, new Devil!”
I love this advice, and I’ll be adding Caroline’s words to the ‘Love Letter’ section of this site. The final part of it particularly resonates with me. Has anyone else felt more and more resistance – internally or externally – as they get closer to living out their dreams and following their passion? I feel I certainly have, particularly on the inside, in my own head. And sometimes that’s the most difficult voice to silence. I also loved Caroline’s own post about Monday’s event on her blog, called Opportunity of Entrepreneurship. Caroline has some great tips for people who don’t know what their passion is, including a list of questions to help discover it. I particularly loved this question: what are the activities or thoughts that absorb you the most you loose track of time? I guess I loved it because it confirms I’m in the right place with my blog and my writing. Frequently in the past months, as I’ve been blogging or writing on this site, I’ve forgotten to have lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, which, for a compulsive overeater who can be a little obsessive about having three meals a day, is a rarity and something worth noting. But then I have other activities in which I can also lose myself, in a good way: walking in Nature, cycling my mountain bike down a hill and dancing. But I guess writing is probably the best chance I have of making a decent living – hopefully one that’s decent enough to permit me plenty of time off for those other activities. In another post, entitled What’s holding you back?, Caroline describes how four years ago, she was terrified to pick up the phone and speak to an estate agent. She says she was painfully shy. That’s also very encouraging. I hate picking up the phone to pitch stories to editors but, as a freelance journalist who wants to publish more work, it’s just got to be done. Feel the fear and do it anyway, to quote best-selling author Susan Jeffers.
Inspired by Caroline, I thought I’d better get on and write my own love letter to my younger self. I’ll add it to the Love Letter section but I’ve also included it below. No doubt I will write others in the future but I felt it was about time I posted one and encouraged others to send in their letters. It occurred to me that these letters may contain some clichés. But then some clichés are truisms or facts. Parts of my letter are directed at my younger self – perhaps by 20- or 30-year-old – but other parts are just as relevant to me today, at 40.
Always speak your truth. Speak it in love and with respect but always speak your truth. Don’t be afraid of other people’s reactions. If you are staying true to yourself, that’s the best you can do. Don’t worry if people don’t like your truth or if they don’t like you. There’ll be plenty of other people who do. Move on.
Spend plenty of quality time with yourself, in Nature and with God. Cherish this time. It will help you know yourself better, discover your passions and dreams and give you the courage to follow them. It will also help you to find balance.
Seek out a mentor and ask the advice of those who’ve gone before you but don’t do so obsessively. Be selective – too many opinions will leave you confused. The wisdom of mentors, friends, family and peers is valuable but always come back to your heart. What is your heart telling you? If you follow it, you have nothing to lose and at least you’ll know you’ve followed it, even if things don’t turn out the way you’d hoped or planned. And if they don’t turn out the way you planned, accept that was meant to be and that God has something better in store.
Notice what makes your heart sing and do more of it. Believe that you can build a career around it. However, learn discipline and self-control. Be realistic. Live life on life’s terms. If there are bills to be paid, then make sure you do the necessary work but try to find time to pursue your creativity. If you’re soul is dead in a particular job, get out as soon as you can. Life is too short. Other people’s opinions and expectations do not matter if your soul and your heart are speaking clearly to you. Don’t be afraid to take a leap of faith. And once you’ve taken that leap, don’t look back – keep your eyes fixed on today and on what’s ahead. Know your worth, know what you deserve and chase after it.
Observe your behaviours. When you find yourself overeating, under eating, starving, compulsively exercising, binge drinking or over working, take it as a sign that you’re out of kilter. Ask yourself what you’re trying to hide from, what feelings you’re trying to smother. What are you afraid of? The feelings and fears will always be there – it’s better to feel them or walk through them than try to run from them or anaesthetise them with food, alcohol or other behaviours. Share with others and seek help. Value your health and look after it.
If you are putting yourself at risk or in danger, ask yourself why. Thank God every day for keeping you healthy and well and for keeping you out of harm’s way but don’t take that for granted or as a signal to carry on being reckless. So if you’re held up at gunpoint after flagging a Mexican cab off the street, heed the warning – next time, call a licensed taxi. Ask yourself whether the ‘fun’ you think you’re having is actually fun. Are you living life at the extremes? Is it turning into self-harm and what is the cost? Ask for help.
Aim high but practise balance and moderation in all things. Achievement is good but not if it’s only in one area of your life. Ask yourself if your work life is balanced against your social, family, fun, spiritual, creative or romantic life. If not, try to redress the balance. Play is just as important as work and will help you to work more effectively. Place time with family and loved ones above your sense of duty to work or your drive to achieve. Tell those you love that you love them – frequently.
Don’t make rash decisions. Learn not to react. Learn to sit in discomfort and uncertainty. Take time to discover the right course of action instead of responding in a knee-jerk fashion. But then don’t dwell on the past. Learn from your mistakes but don’t ruminate on them. Move on. There are new things to discover and experience. If you fall over, get back up again and start walking.
Listen to the little girl inside you, what does she need? What is she afraid of? Reassure her. Don’t strive for perfection – perfection doesn’t exist, perfection is where you are today.
Cherish each day as an opportunity to grow and to learn. Do something that frightens you a little every day. Reach out to others and offer help and support, particularly when you find yourself spiralling into self-obsession or giving too much importance to trivial things. Maintain a healthy perspective.
And learn to laugh at and with yourself. Hold on to things loosely. Embrace change and practise acceptance. Say No to others to say Yes to yourself. It’s OK to change your mind. Trust your gut, it’s normally pointing you in the right direction. Then ask and pray for the courage to follow it.
From forty, with love.