2016 came with a challenging start for me.
I had recently quit my fairly well paying position as a personal trainer in a corporate health club to follow my dream of running an online nutrition coaching business. I invested a lot of time and money into starting my business, and three months in, it wasn’t going well. I was working longer hours than I did in my personal trainer job, only this time I wasn’t making money, and I had a lot going out for various business courses.
One cold, dark January evening In Bristol, I had just finished a 12 hour stint of selling my nutritional coaching services over the phone, had another day of no real progress and I was fed up.
The stress was starting to build, and I was having regrets about leaving my secure personal training job to start up online.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but the problem was that I lacked self-awareness.
To distract myself from misery, I reached out to a friend of mine who also worked online. He told me he’d recently moved to Chiang Mai, Thailand, and it was the best decision he’d ever made. He assured me it was a much better (and cheaper) environment to grow a business from, as he was surrounded by freelancers, and business owners every day. He’d taken himself away from the negativity he’d experienced back home, and created a successful network where he could thrive.
Without a second thought, I said “f*ck it, I’m coming over”. I hung up the call, checked Skyscanner, and booked a one-way flight.
I decided that once gone, I didn’t want any ties back home, so I sold everything I owned, bar from a rucksack of clothes, my laptop, phone, iPad, and passport.
When I arrived in the chaotic Thailand I was greeted by a overwhelming familiar feeling. The heat, humidity, traffic, noise and smell of Bangkok hit hard.That and being sleep deprived, jet lagged, and fearing the unknown, I started to feel that I had made a terrible mistake as I sat eating my first Pad Thai of many.
What I didn’t know at that time was that my entire life and sense of self awareness would completely change from this day onward.
Over the six months of living in Thailand, I made some incredible new friends, learned to really tackle my inner demons (instead of bottling them up), and I found calm in the chaos of my mind.
Within my business, I failed, reassessed, re-branded, launched a podcast, and have been building out my coaching courses with a new direction, taking a much heavier emphasis on behavior and psychology. Having struggled with depression, anxiety, and a huge lack of self-confidence for most of my life, I realized that my clients needed more than just nutritional strategies to achieve their goals. This is where I would differentiate myself from most of the fitness industry, and make my stamp.
It took a long time, but I reached a point of self-awareness which allowed me to really excel in myself. Being able to create more focus, a better mood, and increased energy really helped me with my mental and physical health.
These are the 5 things I did in my life that enable me to become more self-aware and allowed me to create much more focus in my overactive mind.
1. I accepted what is (and what I can control).
One thing I struggled to do for a very long time was focus on the present. I was always worrying about what could happen in the future (especially as an entrepreneur). I would worry about what others thought of me, and I was too involved with social media, so much so that it would often consume me, and I would become completely distracted from myself.
A book that really transformed the way I thought and acted in these regards was ‘Loving What Is’ by Byron Katie.
It taught me that the only thing in my control was my own mind, and what was going on right in the moment.
If others were going to judge me… then it wasn’t my business, it was theirs.
The future was a fantasy, and what I do in the moment is all that matters. If I focused on the negative, I was much more likely to attract negative situations into my life. If I focused on things only in my control, I could have a much more productive outcome.
2. I learned to forgive.
In addition to worrying about the future, I also had a lot of previous trauma that I often reviewed in my mind. It often took me to the depths of depression, and I would struggle to break out of ruts for weeks on end.
Eventually, I learned to forgive those who had harmed me previously, and more importantly I learned to forgive myself for the years of emotional and mental abuse I’d put myself through, especially after losing my father.
By forgiving myself, I felt unchained, and it allowed me to focus on building a positive future.
3. I started daily meditation and visualization.
For me, a huge aspect of being present throughout the day is practicing meditation. I usually spend 10-15 minutes every morning and evening meditating on my thoughts, bringing awareness from the external to myself.
I use my morning meditation as a way to visualize my long term goals, and then break down my day ahead, mentally rehearsing my actions.
This allows me to stay on target, and not get distracted by ‘shiny object syndrome’ that many entrepreneurs (myself included) struggle with on a daily basis.
4. I started journaling and goal reviewing.
To build on my meditation practices, I also use a journal to keep track of my goals, my intentions, my wins, and where I can improve.
The entrepreneurs I speak with are often very self-critical, but not in a constructive format. Journaling allows you to look at yourself from a purely analytical sense and realize where you have room for improvement. Previously, if I messed up, I would internalize these slip ups as a part of my story, telling myself why that I would never be successful.
A part of this practice is to keep a gratitude log – a proven method to increase feelings of happiness. Every morning and evening I write three things I am grateful for in my journal, and it instantly makes me feel better if I’m in a bit of a slump.
5. I embraced consistent discomfort.
As entrepreneurs, we are not in the game of settling. We are always building and expanding. As such, I believe it’s vital to put yourself out of your comfort zone on a daily basis.
Sometimes I get extremely vulnerable and make huge steps (such as moving to the other side of the world), or sometimes I set smaller tasks for myself, such as starting a conversation with a stranger.
By doing this, I am constantly reinforcing myself that, by facing my fear head on, I will grow and develop.
After living in Thailand, I moved to Bali for two months, which expanded on this personal growth even more. I then stepped back into Western civilization when I made the move to Melbourne, where I plan on staying indefinitely.