Do you make New Years’ resolutions? I recently heard some great advice that a more effective way to achieve goals is to choose a theme for the year. Instead of setting a New Year’s resolution to go to the gym every day, (and inevitably feeling guilty when you miss your first session), commit to “A Year of Health” and apply that lens to multiple areas of your life. It is transformational to go from a deficit focus to one of abundance and gratitude, where you celebrate every little thing you do which contributes to the theme you have chosen.
If I were to brand the last twelve months of my life, I would call them “The Year of Getting Out Of My Comfort Zone and Challenging Myself” or, “Doing Things That Scare Me”. Almost exactly a year ago I quit my full-time job and traveled to Europe for six months with my boyfriend. On my final day in the office I felt the significance of my decision. I was standing at the base of a huge mountain, and had no idea what I would find on the other side.
I was standing at the base of a huge mountain, and had no idea what I would find on the other side.
It isn’t easy to summarise a trip like that into a neat paragraph (trust me, I’ve tried!). One thing I’ve noticed is that the best stories are the moments when everything went wrong.
Like the time I spent as a camp leader for 15 wild German boys who didn’t speak any English, except for a few choice expletives. Or when my boyfriend realised he had accidentally brought along his expired bank cards, and thrown away the new ones he’d ordered, instead of the other way around. Or the time we physically hugged our luggage after losing it in Turkey. And of course, there were all the amazing experiences. Watching my brother marry his beautiful wife in Greece, spending a week in Taize (a French monastery), teaching English to a group of Spaniards for a week, performing improv comedy with a group of internationals in Munich.
If we had stayed within our comfort zone and spent six months lying by the pool, we would have missed out on all those moments. Also - how boring!
An improv comedy philosophy is “Today is the day”. There is no time like the present to feel what you’re feeling, do what you want to do and say what you mean.
I haven’t always been a risk-taker. I was an anxious child and preferred to stick with things that were familiar and had already been road-tested by my five older siblings. I was a very fussy eater and opted out of most of the roller-coasters at theme parks. Being comfortable taking risks is something I’ve had to cultivate one step at a time.
When I was 16 years old I became a leader at Don Bosco Camp in Safety Beach. The first time I explained a game to the children on camp I was so nervous that I forgot half the details. Rather than humiliating me, a few of the senior leaders put their hands up and asked questions which gently reminded me of the things I had forgotten. “Felicity, what happens when the ball hits you?” “Great question Charlie! That means you are out!” In this supportive environment I learned the value of taking risks and challenging myself.
The first time I did something that no one else in my family had ever done was as a 20 year old when I volunteered in the Solomon Islands for six months. I distinctly remember the feeling of terror that gripped me as the plane made its descent to the tiny island covered in coconut trees and thin plumes of smoke from people cooking outdoors. I had come a long way from that little girl who was scared to ride the roller-coaster. Those six months were enormously influential in shaping the person I am today. I was the house mother for 30 local women who grew to be my family. Despite being raised in completely different environments, we had so much in common. We sang, laughed and teased each other and they taught me how to convert challenges into lessons. I remember in the months prior to leaving, I had struggled to articulate why I wanted to volunteer there; I just had a strong gut feeling that it was the right choice for me. That was my first experience of the Yellow Arrow working in my life.
I just had a strong gut feeling that it was the right choice for me. That was my first experience of the Yellow Arrow working in my life.
A year ago, while I was boarding the plane to Europe, I felt immense gratitude for that scared but determined 20 year old who had trusted her instincts. Without the benefit of the experience and confidence she provided, my crazy travel idea may never have left the drawing board. I may have missed out on meeting all the incredible people from all over the world who inspired me. I may never have felt the peace and clarity that comes from cutting through all the chaff and distilling what is really important. And my brother Michael and I may never have connected over our respective adventures and decided to start a business to help others feel the same way.
When viewing life through a filter, patterns start to emerge. I can see the nudges of my Yellow Arrow throughout my life. I am so grateful to the many people who invested in me and made me feel safe to take risks. Having a supportive community is so important when forming young leaders and I am excited to be involved with this work through Yellow Arrow.