I was sexually assaulted by a trusted advisor and as I fell apart in shock, also realised that person had a dangerous influence on my business planning that had put me in a real bind.
The fallout was terrible, not just for me, but for other people affected - my staff, my partner and mutual friends. I made some swift and significant business decisions to stem the bleeding, letting down clients and staff as I wound down my growing business into a lean practice while I recovered.
The most useful takeout from this experience so far has been a re-examination of what matters. Like many of you, I live my life and work from a foundation of purpose. With my business dreams taking on a new shape for the immediate term, I've been forced to take another look at what that purpose is at this stage in my life, and how I can best work toward it.
When I shared this story, I invited my followers to come on a journey of introspection with me. Each day, I've been sending out a reflection question in the morning for willing participants to engage with for themselves. The response has been incredible.
Today, I sent out the first "reflection update" because Sunday feels like the right way to do that. I recapped the questions we'd faced this week, provided some guidance about how to bring the seeds of those early thoughts together and shared a brief summary of how my own journey was going.
Here's what I wrote:
If you joined us partway through, or you're behind, here are the questions we've covered so far...
1. What's currently missing from your life?
2. When was the last time you felt fully alive? What were you doing?
3. What would your worst life look like? What would it involve? Why would you hate it?
4. What do you feel guilty about not having more time and space for? What is that guilt about?
Your Challenge Today
Read back on what you've jotted down so far, adding extra things as you think of them, and catch up on any of the questions you've missed.
Then, challenge yourself with these prompts:
What common themes keep coming up? What are you seeking or looking for more of so far?
Why do you think you've lost these things in your life?
When did you last have them more often?
What was different then?
What has happened in between that might explain it?
My Find Your Why Journey
If you're interested in finding out how my journey is going, here's a brief summary of the thinking I've done so far.
Day One - What's missing
I got off to a slow start, and found myself going back to add more thoughts yesterday.
I realised I'd lost a lot ofenthusiasm. I've always had a sense of adventure and loved going new places, doing new things and making fun a priority.
Over the last couple of years, I've lost a lot of that - and many of thehealthy coping mechanismsthat kept me balanced. Fun, sure, but also: connection with others, exercise and time outdoors. A severe depressive episode last February wiped out my coping skills, leaving me with just my basic survival kit: working my ass off, and completely falling apart. Eesh.
Day Two: Alive moments
I had a range here - work ones, and personal ones. Work-wise, I felt totally on my game at the ALGA conference in June. I was confident in my expertise, loved the pace and being off-the-cuff and knew I washelping people.
I get daily spurts of it in small moments - walking outside with the dog, brief interactions with strangers, feeling connected to the world.
I thought back to some of the fun and unscheduled adventures I've taken and loved over the years - a weekend in Auckland with a good friend, a solo trip to Stewart Island to run in the rain with the birds.
In all of those times, there wasfun, creativity,andspontaneity.
Day Three: Worst life
I initially found this hard to be specific about. There was some obvious variations on the themes of the first two days: no variety, nothing on the horizon, no autonomy, feeling stuck... but no worst day I could imagine living.
At work, I would hate to feel like I was ever exploiting, manipulating or ripping people off. I've left jobs when I've had that feeling, and it contributes to my love/hate relationship with being published and having online influence. I have a sensitive bullsh*t radar.
After thinking for a while, I felt a sudden punch to the stomach. I realised that the worst life I could imagine would be one where my children don't want to know me. The intensity of that fear and feeling took me by surprise - but it probably shouldn't have. I come from a dysfunctional and fractured family. I don't speak to my mother, who placed me in foster care at 13, and she hasn't spoken to her mother for almost all of the last 20 years.
I had no idea how powerful that unacknowledged pressure was until I named it yesterday, and it makes me wonder: how is that fear showing up in my choices? If I'm not aware of it, how has it been counterproductive in my life? Hmm...
Day Four: Guilt & procrastination
I don't know about you, but this one was far too easy to start listing off.
My main ones were:
Writing - the non-work stuff. I write a lot, but I have a burning desire to edge more into creative non-fiction, fiction and possibly memoir. I'm afraid I'll be no good, so I put it last on the list, and then feel bad about it.
Music - I miss playing the guitar all the time, for the joy of it. I used to have a singalong with my kids every morning with breakfast, and I haven't done that for over a year.
Outdoors - spending time in nature, moving my arms and legs around. I lost the habit, and now I beat myself up instead.
Exercise - especially weights and running. I love those things, but I keep getting sick, injured and out of routine. I'm not nice to myself about that.
Connection with friends and family - I don't pick up phone calls. I isolated intensely when I fell apart early last year, and I've never really picked it back up. I feel terrible about this.
In short, all of the healthy coping mechanisms that I recognised were missing in day one. Ah.
There's lots of useful themes and thoughts for me to pick over here, from my journal entries, and I'll be tackling the reflection exercise alongside you all today. I hope you take the space to do that too.
An early observation for me, that may not come through in the above summary, is that I lost the joy of the doing. It's one thing to be a future-focused strategist, but infinitely delaying celebration for some brighter, better future is a fools game. I am happiest when I find my joy in doing the work, not reaping the rewards. That realisation has already triggered a useful and fulfilling change in my approach this week.
It's also clear to me that my answers are inherently more self-critical than they are purpose-exploratory. I'm wondering how much of that is about a) the questions I've asked, b) internalised expectations of patriarchal capitalism about doing and juggling it all, or c) how I'm naturally wired. The answer is probably "yes."
I'll be thinking about this today and using my thinking to inform the next batch of questions that come through over the next week.