It’s a truly magical time of the year.

I’m not just saying that because it’s coming up to my birthday although obviously you should get thinking of what to buy me. Personally I’d go with gin, it’s always a strong choice.

But truly, it is magical. I’m seeing people get their dream training contracts, make plans and focus for the end of the school year, get clear on what they want from the remaining 6 months of the year.

And then there’s nature. I’m writing this late at night after taking Jasper out for his end of the evening walk. It’s a beautiful temperature outside, warm but not too warm. On our walk this evening we didn’t just see a fox, we saw a whole family of them. Fox cubs plying and lolloping around the open field near our house, shuffling along the hedgerow. One, just sitting out on the pathway, seemingly contemplating the meaning of life.

Can you tell just how relaxed and joyful I feel right now? I grew up in the relative country, surrounded by wooded areas and developed heathland that the animals hadn’t quite given up yet. Coming nose to nose with a fox or sitting at the bottom of the garden watching the bats circle above were all moments of absolute peace and joy in an often-tumultuous childhood. So watching it happen in front of me is a true joy.

I didn’t know there was a fox den opposite my house until two years ago. It was also two years ago that I first noticed the bats; I stood by the church for nearly an hour one summer evening watching them, until Jasper gave up and lay down on the pavement for a nap.

It was also two years ago that I left low; a coincidence perhaps?

For a long time before I left law or launched Searching for Serenity or even thought about changing my career I focused on my mindset.

I didn’t call it mindset back then. I called it depressive hopelessness, the endless circle of I can’t-I’m not-I’ll never thoughts.

Logically I knew about neuroplasticity and confirmation bias; I studied the medical records of the neurologically impaired and regularly got to hang out with some of the brightest psychological minds in the country (perks of the job!).

But when someone told me thoughts become things and that you’ll see what you expect to see I felt defensive and aggrieved.

Did they think I really wanted to see the worst in the world? Did I want to see all the bad things happening to me and around me? Did I somehow make them up out of thin air?

Well, of course not, I’m not completely delusional (honest).

But I did focus on the negatives. On how tired I was rather than the opportunities in front of me. On what had gone wrong instead of what I had learned from it. On everything I didn’t have instead of everything I did.

I also focused almost exclusively on work; my entire persona and ego was drawn from my work, from what that meant I was. ‘Lawyer’ is a brilliant shorthand for lots of things; smart, successful, don’t mess with me, I demand respect. I was so busy trying to live up to the label that I never relaxed into it.

This is the kind of thinking that had us focusing on the one less-than-positive in our appraisals, rather than the hour of glowing feedback. The sort of behaviour that has us thinking we’re broke when there’s money sitting in our account,

Our thoughts rule our actions and behaviour but more importantly they frame the world around us.

So many of my clients and community struggle to see the good in themselves and others, to see what they’ve achieved.

I don’t think it’s because they’re inherently negative or bad people. It’s because they’ve not switched focus.

Once I removed the filter of work, negativity and worry I started to notice so many wonderful things.

Like how my skills and opportunities had multiplied, rather than worrying about a low bank balance.

Like how lucky I was to get to flex my schedule, rather than the 16 hour days I still regularly work on start up mode.

Like watching fox cubs frolic in a field, rather than worrying about everything I still have to do when I get home.

There’s magic all around you… you’ve got to focus to see it clearly though.


Burnout: the user guide is for every professional who has struggled with exhaustion, overwork, overcommitment and under-asking-for-help.  

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