Shannah Kennedy is one of Australia’s top strategic life coaches. She helps transform her clients’ careers, wellbeing and lives. She specialises in executive strategy, transition, values, vision, overcoming burnout and life planning for individuals. Here is an extract from her latest book ‘Plan B. A guide to navigating and embracing change’. Published by Penguin.
For eight years I worked in sports management, sponsorship and PR. In 1999 I was at what I thought was the peak of my success – I had A-class tickets to events, money and a glamorous lifestyle mixing with our country’s superstars. I would burn the candle at both ends, living on adrenaline. It was exciting, intoxicating, thrilling and fast. As a Type A overachieving perfectionist, I did not rest, I could not sit still, and when I had time off I filled it with going out, exercising and avoiding being by myself or allowing myself to experience deep feelings in a relationship.
Then one day it all came crashing down. My body could no longer keep up that relentless pace, complete the never-ending goal sheet I kept creating for myself or serve my addiction to avoiding being still with myself.
I lost my health. My mind stopped. My body stopped. My life stopped. I felt paralysed. I could not move, could not think, could not function, and I experienced pain like I had never felt before. Chronic fatigue syndrome broke my mind and body, and it came calling with its best friend: depression.
I could not do anything, create anything or work for a year. Grounded and unable to function, I experienced a huge range of emotions – shock, confusion, blame, frustration, shame, embarrassment, anxiety, anger, overwhelm, helplessness, loneliness, pain, loss, grief. The question came into my mind and body, ‘Who am I without my job?’
I had loved my title and the security it gave me. My job defined me. It defined the athletes I worked with, too. They had deep confidence that stemmed from their job title, the car they drove, the travel, the applause, the medals, the accolades and the fans. I had seen the great loss in many of them when their sporting career was suddenly over – through injury, being dropped from the team, early forced retirement, their body breaking down, their club folding, a media scandal. An athlete can lose their career at any time.
I had noticed that athletes who had not done any inner work – built themselves as a person first – and instead defined themselves by their career, marriage, title and status, fell the hardest when a curve ball was thrown. Because their confidence had been built from external factors, not from within, once they no longer had the title that defined them they felt lost. It was, in reality, a false confidence.
I had not done any inner work either, and I came to the realisation that I was externally driven. My reliance on success was not based on knowing, loving, caring and connecting with my true self.
My ill health was my moment in life to change. It forced me to reassess and throw my plans in the bin. I had to start again.
Slowly over the following year, with help, guidance and support, I built a new plan – Plan B – which involved developing a body, mind and soul that were deeply connected to self: sustainable and healthy, with an empowered mindset, with new control and a calm confidence. I experienced every emotion, learnt about it and wrote about it. Over time I built a new and better version of myself, a new life for myself and a new future for myself. My emotions gradually moved to empowerment, security, meaning, self-esteem, joy, love, confidence and connection, abundance and inner harmony.
In my book Plan. B: A guide to navigating and embracing change, my hope now is to instil this confidence in you and guide you through the change process.
Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new centre of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.
Life is in constant transition. The world changes every day, every hour, every minute. Change is inevitable. It can be positive and exhilerating and take us to a whole new level, full of excitement, awe and overwhelming joy, but it can also be devastating and throw us into the depths of loneliness, pain and despair. Regardless of whether you anticipated the change, the first stage you must go through in order to pivot is to recognise and respond to the situation. This is the beginning of finding your calm and establishing some emotional balance.
You can buy Plan B: A guide to navigating and embracing change by Shannah Kennedy at all good bookstores. Published by Penguin. RRP $29.99 AUS. More info here.