Guest Blog: How I Designed a Life I Love And You Can Too
I am really pleased to share this guest blog post written by artist Lianne Williams. It is a frank and open account of how taking part in my Design a Life You Love programme changed her life...
It wasn't that I was unhappy. It was just that I couldn’t remember being happy.
It was like no matter how much I had, or did, or how many friends I had, or how beautiful my children's baby photos were, something just wasn't right. I should have been happy. But my life didn't feel that way.
It wasn't postnatal depression.
It wasn't fatigue.
It was just Me. I'd always felt that way.
Most days I could ignore it. It wasn't a bad feeling. I just felt... indifferent. Numb, I guess. But when things did get worse, a lot worse, living with so little integrity and satisfaction nearly destroyed me.
When my health was suddenly pulled sharply into focus, and then the melt down of my personal life that followed as a result, to the subsequent self implosion I inflicted on myself, my career, my marriage, and finally even my own family, as I ripped apart everything I knew trying to find what was ACTUALLY real, I couldn’t find peace anywhere, anymore. My life, as I saw it, was an empty barrel. I had manifested a world of smoke and mirrors, in genuine good faith, thinking this is what makes a happy person, which collapsed stupendously the moment I really needed it.
I can't describe the months of loneliness, breath taking fear and genuine physical pain I went through. I was medicated and counselled for post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression and I saw no way out. I hurt too much. I saw no value in what I did or who I was. Numb was good. But numb was boring too. Numb didn’t fix anything. Numb just allowed me to exist. Every few months or so there would be a good week, and the clouds would part and I’d be me again, I would feel happier, safer... but there was always one problem I struggled to overcome. Every time I felt better, life didn’t feel the same anymore. Everything had changed. I’d be hit hard with the reality of my existence and slammed right back down to the floor again.
I realised I couldn’t keep living my old life. The depression was a symptom of a greater problem. My life needed changing. My life, the way I was living it, was the problem.
When Hazel introduced her course, ‘Design a Life You Love’, around about the same time I completed therapy, I didn't even need to think about signing up. I knew I needed to do something practical with my recovery and my therapist was completely behind me on it. Therapy could only answer so much, I needed to put what I learnt into action, and coaching seemed the perfect step forward to help me answer those big curious questions like ‘what actually makes me happy?’ My career as an artist had been put on hold, mainly because I was too afraid of the future, and I really hoped the programme would push me on with finding my self confidence and inner compass again.
How naïve of me to think it would only affect my career.
I was afraid of course. Socially I was surrounded by others who were just as hurt and numb as me… with their own broken dreams and unfulfilled goals, suffering from addictions, stressed to the point of making themselves sick, denying and destroying parts of their soul to fit in with other people's requirements of them. It was natural to be just like them. That’s life right? But being like that was hurting me and I needed to get out. I asked myself, but how?
How do you stand up and reject people who you love and who swear they have your best interests at heart even when it makes you cold inside?
How do you say NO, today I’m becoming the best version of me, not the version you want me to be?
How do you do what actually makes you happy, when society tells you something else will make you happy?
How do you break free and become your perfect version of yourself?
This is where DALYL made things a bit easier. This is where coaching slapped me squarely round the face and exposed the real problems in my life- that I was always so eager to listen to other people's needs and requirements of me, before my own.
Structured over several weeks with the aid of Hazel and with the companionship of other Designers who are on their own journeys, you work through a series of exercises that help identify what your key motivations in life are. Whether or not they make you happy, whether or not you're avoiding things that do make you happy, and by examining these boundaries and values you gain a perspective on your life that you can construct deliberate plans and goals from. You design your life around what makes you happy. These may be things you’re not even aware of yet, or things you’re too fearful of reaching for, but as a result of acknowledging these truths about yourself, things will suddenly start making sense again.
So many little tiny changes occurred. One that springs to mind, because it seems so trivial, was that I stopped wearing high heels at inappropriate times, like if I needed to be on my feet for hours or walk anywhere. They hurt!!! Yes, they’re beautiful and I’ll still wear them when it’s appropriate, but I REFUSED to be in pain any more. I acted in self-love.
Those little changes changed ME.
Me, listening to Me, and going ‘Gosh Lianne, you’re really in a lot of pain at the moment, would you prefer to wear these comfy trainers?’ and allowing myself the opportunity to actually feel good for the first time in maybe years, is what the real lesson was. It had nothing to do with the shoes, it was about me listening to myself again and learning how to put that guidance into action, so I could fulfil my hearts true desires.
So that’s when things got FUN.
Hazel stresses the importance of motivation. We either move away from things that are painful, or we move towards things that are pleasure. Moving from pain is less rewarding then moving towards pleasure. And one extra high five for happiness- when you move towards something that makes you happy, you’re more likely to succeed at it…
Newsflash. Life doesn't have to be uncomfortable.
It can be. We can choose to focus on the bits that hurt. We can ignore the bits that are fun/exciting/relaxing/helpful because y’know, pain hurts, pain is loud and distracting and consuming and intense. But a strange thing occurs when you focus on the positives in your life too... Everything becomes balanced and to get anywhere HAPPILY in life, you need to view both sides of the coin.
Goal setting became easy then. I could choose either the positive or the negative. My new found sense of happiness drew me naturally towards the positive because feeling good and enjoying my life became natural. It was actually pretty addictive.
Everyone on the course came from a different place with different needs in mind. However we all went along a similar journey of self discovery and decision making. Personally, my focus swung violently between addressing my personal life and my professional life because I began to realise how different I felt to most people I knew. I didn’t want a 9-5 job. I didn’t want to give up on my art. I didn’t want to leave my marriage and travel the world and ‘find myself’. I didn’t want to lose weight, get a tattoo or start volunteering. I wanted to wear skirts, hot pink lipstick and perfume. I wanted to get paid to make art and teach and inspire others. I wanted to spend a huge amount of time adoring my family and being a role model to them. I wanted to bake bread not cakes. I wanted to grow things in my garden and keep them alive for more than a week. I wanted to organise myself. I wanted to choose who I spent my time with. I wanted to write (!)- Yup, still a bit shocked by that one.
Before long I became passionate. Passionate about saying Yes and No with conviction. Passionate about collecting happy thoughts and dreaming and list making. I became passionate about The First Little Step that pushes me closer to my goals. Set-backs happened, I’m sure, but I don’t remember much about it because I was so drawn to the positives and finding things that made me happy that when things didn’t go to plan, they just weren’t that significant to the bigger picture. The rewards were far greater. My life was actually GOOD and getting better each day.
Designing my life involved having an honest conversation with myself about what I want, why, and then being enough of a loving adult to guide myself to find those things. It's so easy to be mean to yourself. To sabotage yourself. To deny yourself. And why?
My life has integrity again. That’s what I take away from Design a Life You Love.
My life is not perfect. I'm still learning, but I’m not numb anymore. And my shoes are comfy.
I would like to offer a big thank you to Lianne for sharing her experience of designing a life she loves whilst working with me. Hearing Lianne's account of such deep and profound transformation whilst working together and reminds me of why I love doing the work I do.
If you would like to find out more about the Design a Life You Love programme and see if it is a fit for you where you are at right now, lets talk. Message me here to arrange a call. ~ Hazel