What a great question and one that I found quite thought provoking. As a guest panellist at the University of Technology, Sydney, one of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) students asked me the question, “What drives you?”
My father’s death!
Aged 44 my father died unexpectedly from a heart attack, I was 16, at the end of Year 11 and in the beginning of my HSC (Higher School Certificate). I was gutted! Dad left behind a young widow who had been challenged with poor health all her life. Without further notice, as the eldest and a female in a family with Greek heritage, I was given an enormous amount of responsibility.
My father’s death may have ignited my drive, but it was my mother’s relentless belief in me and her constant words of support, that created this blazing ‘fire in my belly’ and a hunger to want so much more out of my life.
Mum constantly repeated, “You can do it, I know you can!”It also helped, that mum was tough, (being related to Bouboulina – a Greek Naval Commander and Heroine) … and so she refused to enable me.
As heartbreaking and life changing as my father’s passing was, it also presented me with opportunities for growth and lessonsthat consistently fuelled my drive and desire to want to do more and to love learning with a passion.
My eternal drive has assured me, that if I died this very moment, my tombstone would read:
The following are my top 10 lessonsthat I have learnt and the ones that keep my drive blazing like the eternal fire of the Olympic flame:
Lesson Number 1: Life is fragile
In a split second your life can change forever and there is no turning back. So live each day as if it were your last. When it comes to trying something new, I do not spend a lot of time thinking about it, nor do I waste time in the, analysis paralysis mode.
As long as it does not involve drugs, alcohol (or anything else that can change my mental state) does not involve hurting anyone in the process or compromise my integrity and is legal, I’ll give just about anything a go.
Consequently, I do not aim for perfect, nor to collect trophies. I don’t care if people laugh at my efforts, I am having a go with the aim to beat my personal best.
I plan for success, by putting in 100% effort at all times and then I go for it.
Lesson Number 2: Do what makes you happy
My father was a ‘go-getter’ and one of his many achievements, was financial success. But the big house and the prestige car, did not put a smile on my face, it did not remove the lump in my throat nor did it dull the constant pain in my chest. The material possessions that dad left behind, did not remove the deep sadness and loss that I felt as a young girl, having lost her father.
On the outside, I could see people’s envy and obsession with material possessions and labels …but I had just lost my father. You often hear people’s throw away lines that, “money doesn’t buy happiness”, do they really mean it? Are they really listening to the words they speak?
Having said that, of course we need a certain amount of money for our basic needs and wants, but not to excess and by no means having to keep up with the latest market trends or your next door neighbour!
If your goal is based on achieving material possessions and social status only and you do not enjoy doing what you do to achieve that specific goal, then what’s the point? I only do that which makes me happy. If something or someone is taking away my happiness…I protect myself and walk away.
Money and status does not necessarily bring happiness.
Lesson Number 3: Sense of humour is empowering & powerful
My father’s legacy includes a wicked sense of humour. Dad did not take himself too seriously and he tried to find the funny side in every situation. That’s ME! For me a sense of humour is a gift. Every time you laugh, your brain releases happy and healing hormones throughout your body.
Laughter is the best medicine for your soul.
So don’t take yourself too seriously!
When life takes a few turns that you did not expect or plan for, a healthy sense of humour gives you that burst of energy that is needed to help fuel your drive.
Lesson Number 4: Today is a great day for learning
How far can I go? What are the possibilities? These are the questions that I keep asking myself. There are endless amount of possibilities for those of us that live in countries where we have the permission to design our today and tomorrow. When you are not afraid of hard work, love learning new things, or enjoy working towards improving and evolving, you can become more powerful beyond measure.
Lesson Number 5: Focus
There have been plenty of times that people have tried to convince me that:
Being a conflict avoider, I respectfully listened, did not engage in justifying myself or try to convince them that they were in fact, wrong. I stepped aside, with a smile on my face, whilst a raging fire had been ignited in my belly. That raging fire gives me the motivation and laser focus to prove, I can and I will!
I focus on my own stroke. My aim is to beat my personal best. The benchmark is not the person next to me, as that benchmark and that goal post can and will change.
My benchmark and goal post, is set by me for me.
I take this opportunity to thank all of the difficult and toxic people in my life, I could not have done it without you!
Lesson Number 6: You have the power to choose
The vast majority of the time, I choose not to reflect on the fact that my father missed out on my graduations from High School and University, dad did not walk me down the aisle and he has never played with my children. I choose not to reflect on what my life would have been like, if he were around today. Reflecting only on what you do not have is disempowering.
I choose to reflect on the memories that were created when he was alive and he had made sure that there were plenty.
Knowing that you are in control of your thoughts and actions gives you the drive to want to do more.
Lesson Number 7: Achievement = Self Confidence
Every time you get out of your comfort zone and either try or learn something new, you are helping increase your self-confidence. If you have been enabled and expect others to do things for you, you are erasing your opportunity for growth. Eventually this lack of growth will have a negative impact on your self-worth.
Each time you achieve a goal that you have set for yourself, no matter how big or small, this achievement fuels your self-confidence. A positive association is then formed in your brain and a pattern is created. So next time there is an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone, your brain will draw on the positive experience, replicate that pattern and keep fueling your drive.
Lesson Number 8: Collect experiences & Create memories
I have trained my brain and body to embrace challenges and to;
‘Feel the Fear and do it anyway’
I challenge myself by choosing to experience different things and with new people. Now this takes me right out of my comfort zone. Growing up, the dance floor and the stage were my safe zones. Later on in life, I challenge myself by doing those activities that I would not have done as a dancer or a singer, like, Rowing, Surf Life Saving, the Raw Challenge and this year Tough Mudder. Aside from taking time out to enjoy special moments with family and friends, this is how I create memories that I treasure more than material possessions.
Lesson Number 9: Be selective with your ‘circle of trust’
It is imperative that you eliminate all toxins from your life, including what I call “energy drainers”. Energy drainers come in all shapes and sizes, they could be a so called, “friend” or even a family member. If they are not adding value and are taking away from your happiness, then know your self-worth and set boundaries.
Be very selective with whom you allow into your ‘circle of trust’. When you are surrounded by people who are genuine and authentic, they are the ones that will keep the fire in your belly blazing, when times are tough. These are the angels that will encourage and support your drive to achieve.
Lesson Number 10: Gratitude
Taking the time out to reflect on what you do have and what is good in your life, is empowering. I know that I am blessed to be born in a country where females are allowed to be educated and have the freedom to design their future. Eternally grateful for the opportunities that have come my way due to my love of learning and laser focus.
I am grateful for the strong male relationships that I have been blessed with ever since my father passed. These special males have supported my drive and encouraged me to achieve. They include my spiritual adviser, Father John Daskalakis, my good friend and confidant Terry Trevor who passed away this year and today 29th September, 2016, would of marked his 100th birthday. My loyal friend and awesome personal trainer Mark Glanville who always listens with empathy and of course the greatest blessing in my life, my husband, Paul.
Gratitude is key to keeping that fire in your belly blazing, even when things aren’t going your way. Gratitude is the key to happiness.
As the sun rises on a new day, ‘happiness’ is what I aim for.