Being Grateful On Thanksgiving

Posted on November 29, 2015

thanks giving

The Americans have just celebrated Thanksgiving, the holiday that is very close to my heart being raised in the US. We gather with friends and family to celebrate an important time in history when the Pilgrims, in what is now the US, gave thanks for a good harvest that year.

I still remember a lesson my cousin taught us many years back on one of the last Thanksgivings that I was able to spend with my family in the US. “Thanksgiving is about giving thanks, being grateful,” she told us and asked us all to go around the table to tell everyone what we were grateful for.

So this year, I find that it’s me ushering both my Love Coaching clients and my kids to consider what they’re grateful for. There are many people I know who spend much of their time thinking and talking about the things in their lives that aren’t working and that they’d like to change. While growing and improving is something I am a very big supporter of (and something I myself am always doing in my own life), complaining about what’s not working on a regular basis is usually not an effective strategy for a successful life.

In fact, most of the people I know who spend a lot of time complaining, actually spend very little time really doing something to change their circumstances.

Some people have simply become accustomed to only talking about what’s not working in their lives. What’s interesting is that those same issues that they’ve always had are still there many years later. Sometimes, the issues even seem to get worse as the Law of Attraction states: like attracts like. Thinking and complaining about what’s wrong and what’s not working, will inevitably draw more of that into your life and you keep paing more attention to it.

This is why gratitude is so important.

When we’re forced to look at what in our life is actually something that IS working and that we feel gratitude for, it introduces a completely different way of looking at our life in general. One of the exercises that I do with my clients suffering from issues of self-confidence, for example, or with issues in their relationship, is force them to look at what they DO like, either in themselves or in their partner. Often, just that little exercise forces a dramatic shift that completely changes the mentality of the person.

That’s not to say that we should rest on our laurels and just be happy with everything we have without ever asking for more. Not at all. Asking for more – and then acting towards those goals – is what drives success.

But we also will never find contentment if we spend all of our time just asking for more. There is a balance that must exist between asking for more and thanking the universe (or whatever force you believe in) for what you’re being given.

Most of us have small miracles coming into our lives on a regular basis. The problem is that we often miss them.

That’s where gratitude is so important.

When we force ourselves to look for what we are thankful for in our lives, we often begin to realise just how amazing and miraculous our life really is.

I always think of my parents and how they speak about each other when asked. After more than 35 years of marriage, they are more integrated and united than ever and each still claims that the other is their ideal partner in life, even with occasional issues that arise and have arisen over time. It may not be possible to have the ideal partner, or the ideal life. But what is within our grasp, is how we look at what we have and what we’ve been dealt, and how we react to it.

The same incident has the potential to be both a blessing or a curse, depending on the perspective from which we look at it. That, in itself, seems to be what makes the biggest difference in how things actually turn out in our lives.

Today, I’m incredibly grateful for my children, my family and my good friends. I’m grateful for all the amazing women I meet who help me realise every day why I do what I do, and a big I give a big thanks to all my clients who have trusted me to take them on a journey of self improvement and self discovery.

What you are grateful for today?


Julia Keller is a DrivenWoman member and group leader; and a transformational Love Coach.

The Reason You Should Be Blogging

Posted on November 22, 2015

blogging landscape

It’s pretty simple: you want more clients and you want increased income.

And with so many marketing activities to choose from, you want to work smart. You might have already heard the many benefits of blogging – it’s great for SEO, it enables you to build your email list, it raises your credibility and expert status – but bottom-line? The magic of blogging comes down to this:

Right now, your ideal clients don’t know how amazing you are.

Unless they live in your home office or sit next to you while you type away at the café, they don’t know how much time you spend developing the most incredible events, products and services. Unless they’ve got access to your inner world, they don’t realise how much heart and soul you pour into your offerings; they don’t know how much you care about them, and until they get into a conversation with you, or into the venue with you, they simply don’t know how much their life is going to be changed by your approach.

This became crystal-clear for me when a friend invited me as a guest to her workshop. I’d seen her promoting the event on Facebook so it was on my radar, but it hadn’t grabbed me. A few words in a social media status (“Hey, this workshop’s coming up on 11th October, book your place now”) hadn’t told me a story. It hadn’t inspired me to sign up. But a free place? Sure, why not, thanks.

The workshop was incredible. Profound. Transformational. I cried. Other participants cried. I could have guessed my friend would be a talented facilitator, but this? A whole other level of skill.

And what was clear to me was the massive gap between her brochure website and her basic social media sharing… and actually being in the room with her.  And without a blog, frustratingly there wasn’t a bridge between the two.

My friend could have waxed lyrical about how amazing the workshop would be but her community probably wouldn’t have felt it, or even believed it; as the creator, she was biased.

She needed to show me how amazing her workshop would be – and that’s where a blog comes in.

In order for your ideal clients to know how amazing you are, give them value through a blog.

Every blog post gives your prospective client a window into what happens on the other side of payment: the workshop room, the 1-1 session, the product. Every blog carries inherent value and gives your reader a taste of you.

Like right now – you’re getting a taste of me. Just as if you were reading this as a blog, we’re starting a relationship (hey there!). Through my words, I’m building your trust that I might have something of value to share with you. I’m revealing myself a little – so that you can come to know me and trust me.

So, give your prospective client a bridge between not knowing you… and knowing you enough to give you money. When you blog, they’ll get glimpses of your amazingness – and they’ll feel safe enough to give you money; in time, it’ll feel like doing business with a friend.

Start now.

Write a blog post this week (oh go on then: today!) that gives your reader a snippet of how amazing you are.

Some tips:

-  Amazing doesn’t mean bragging about yourself. It’s about empathising with your reader’s greatest need, yearning or challenge and offering a snippet of your expertise that would help them immediately. Use that formula: empathy before expertise.

-  Start your blog, “Dear Chloe”, or whatever name you give to the ideal client in your mind and then when you’ve finished writing, delete that greeting. It’ll make the blog feel personal, heart-to-heart and intimate.

-  Less is more. You’ll hopefully be blogging for years to come, so share only what you could cover in a 5-minute conversation. Don’t overwhelm your reader with your brilliance; ensure you leave enough room to segue into your offer: “If you found this useful, book your session now”.

Here’s to your amazingness. Now, blog on.


This is a quest post from Corrina Gordon-Barnes, founder of Corrina will be running a workshop on blogging with DrivenWoman. Book your tickets now ‘Blogging For Your Passion‘ 9. December 2015, 6:30 pm – 9:30 pm, Soho, London, UK.


A DrivenWoman Weekly Checklist

Posted on November 15, 2015

personal improvement weekly checklist

It’s almost Christmas, and I’m thinking… where did this autumn go! The days are turning into weeks and weeks fold into months. Looking back you soon wonder “Did I do what I set out to do this year?” “Did I move along my path to become the woman I want to be?”, and looking forward “How can I feel more satisfied with my progress in the future?”

Life is not a personal development race, but I simply feel happier if I try to improve my circumstances and build better habits. But sticking to a daily routine is extremely difficult. I’m currently in a process of establishing a new morning routine based on the ‘Miracle Morning‘ principle. After one week of trying to get up early and start this new routine I haven’t made any progress, to be brutally honest.  (I’ll update you how I’m doing in couple of weeks.)

I could easily start beating myself up because I haven’t managed to stick to the new regime, but I have no interest in self-depreciation.

My intent is to always fully appreciate my efforts, even when I fall flat on my face and come nowhere near my goal. Weather I get up 6 am every morning or not is no indication of my self-worth.

It’s important to remember that beating yourself up is a choice you make. It’s a completely useless process that adds no value to your life what so ever. You are not more likely to stick to your goals or establish a new habit if you beat yourself with a stick!

It’s my choice how I want to deal with myself. I don’t know about you, but I like being kind to myself.

It’s very common to find sticking to new habits very difficult at the start. Anything new is always difficult in the beginning. Perhaps you are trying to swallow too large piece in one go?

When I find myself struggling with my goals, rather than abandoning them,  I try something a little easier first and then improve gradually.

It’s very important to appreciate all your efforts, how ever small, on a weekly basis rather than beat ourselves up daily for lack of achievement.

The idea of this ‘check-list’ is to have gentle reminders of positive habits that can eventually become daily habits, if you want to.

Weekly positive habits check list:

1) Help someone you can’t benefit from

It’s easy to get caught up in our own life drama. There are work tasks, family appointments, errands, baby sitters (who are never on time!), shopping lists, personal goals… The list goes on. If you get caught up in a cycle which mostly involves ‘me’ rather than others life can become very suffocating. Remember that we are just one small part of a much bigger puzzle, and helping others will give you a sense of belonging and increase your happiness.

2) Do something that you enjoy 

We are not here to achieve, and even if we never introduced a single good habit or reached our ambitious goals, we are worthy. DrivenWoman is on a mission to become the woman she wants to be, but she also knows she should fully enjoy the journey getting there!

There are many small things that make life much more enjoyable if you simply pay attention. Having a cup of coffee with your partner before rushing out of the house, spending the evening with your kids rather than reading endless work emails or going to have your nails done. Do something just because you like it, not because it’s useful or productive.

3) Do something good to your body

I’ve managed to create rather good exercise routine for myself over the years. I run twice a week, I do yoga every morning (well, at least 5 mornings) for minimum 15 minutes and I ride a horse twice a week. I’ve also established a good morning breakfast and juicing routine. Many women have a love-hate relationship with their bodies. But the fact remains, this is the body I’m stuck with so I might as well start appreciating and loving it! Check weekly that you have cared for your physical well being, no matter how small the effort.

4) Do something good to your mind

Life is like a basket of fruit. You keep working and giving to others so you keep taking fruit out of the basket. At some point you’ll have to fill it up again, you have to revitalise your mind. It’s not a good idea to let the basket become empty. Check that you do something to stimulate your mind, tickle your curiosity, and learn new things every week. I’m currently munching through books, but you can consumer audio, podcasts or attend a seminar. Watching Downton Abbey or spending time on Facebook watching cat videos doesn’t unfortunately count!

5) Do something uncomfortable

This is the killer one, but the one that will actually make a big difference. You have to step outside of your comfort zone if you want to change anything. Doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is called… well, insanity.

Take initiative and tackle a difficult conversation head on. Or when things are not going your way stay in a situation and see it through nevertheless. Put yourself on a spot and speak your mind in a situation where you’d normally stay silent. Or talk to people outside your usual circles and simply ask how they are doing and if you can help.

6) Do something good to your finances

Money has to be on our checklist. We’ve talked about this many times on this blog and it will remain an important theme. Thinking about money every week will help you change your mindset about money and you are more likely to stick to your savings plan. We women shy away from wealth for no good reason.

7) Clarify your personal goals

Dreams don’t happen because we don’t make them our priority. Write down what you want and make a short plan how you are going to get there. Stick it to your wall and make sure to work on your core goal every week. Work weekly on slowly visualising your goals and how your perfect day would look like. DrivenWoman believes taking time to focus on your goals regularly, to write them down and to discuss them with a friend will actually make them ‘real’ and easier to achieve!

I hope this DrivenWoman weekly checklist will help you to put new habits in place and remind you to appreciate the work you are already doing. Amend it, personalise it, and make it your own.

What’s on your personal checklist?


Become Interesting – Own Your Story

Posted on November 8, 2015

networkingWould you agree a typical networking conversation goes a little bit like this.

“Hi, I’m Miisa. Lovely to meet you.” “Hi, what do you do?” ..”Ah, that sounds very interesting. You must be really busy!” And then both parties continue by reassuring the other person how busy they are and talk about their modest success (regardless of their real level of success) playing it either up or down as required. As no-one wants to appear too unsuccessful or successful.

The other night I was again in a typical networking situation. But this time I thought, hey, let’s live dangerously! I tried a different approach.

I stroke a conversation with a lady who turned out to own a successful PR company. And first we dealt with the compulsory technicalities – what we do – then moving on to the next compulsory bit, how busy we are. When she heard my crazy combination of projects - three companies, and a friend added a little more excitement by telling her that I also had 6 year old twin boys, so she rightfully exclaimed “Oh, you must be terribly busy!”

What a prize!

That’s what we all want people saying, right? You must be so busy.

This must mean you are important? Intelligent? Possibly in demand? Loved? Perhaps even successful? The subconscious mind starts adding all sorts of adjectives to the word ‘busy’, for no reason and none based on facts.

But I decided to push my boundaries, so I replied.

“No, I’m not busy.”

I didn’t want to sound smug, or belittle genuine busyness. (Sometimes we all have to be busy.) But I, honestly, am not busy. I have a lot to do, and that’s not the same.

refuse to live busy.

Let me explain. In the beginning of this year I made a firm decision (not your usual flimsy New Year’s resolution, no) never to be in a hurry again. And it has worked. I stopped being busy right there.

So I continued chatting with this lovely lady, and she asked me the next obvious question, the one we all ask a person who has just revealed that she’s piled on a bit too many projects she possibly can handle (and she says she’s not busy!)

“So, how is it going?”

Again, I should have said, “Oh, it’s going ok, thank you. All businesses are doing really well, and DrivenWoman is just starting to get some real traction.” But I thought, it’s so boring, always talking about what is working.

Let’s throw in a curve ball!

“Oh well, my online start-up hasn’t caught fire just yet. It’s actually not going anywhere. We don’t know who our customers are. I’ve been digging long and hard and haven’t found a treasure. It’s now time to look for another spot (to dig some more..). Let’s see what happens.”

Her jaw dropped.

I was just standing still, my former perfectionist shaking inside, the old me always wanting to appear so successful. My inner ‘chimp‘ (=the lizard brain) was screaming for bloody murder and wanted me to take her out of this situation by softening the message and somehow pulling it back out of the fire. Couldn’t I offer any BS story of success for the start-up too?

Rather than fabricating stories, I studied my feelings – and I felt great!

I’m as fabulous as a person even if everything I do doesn’t succeed.

(We shall see what happens next with my online adventure. The site has been open for 10 months so to expect success would be silly anyway. Perhaps we’ll find the sweet spot through a pivot, perhaps we don’t. All we can do is try our best and enjoy what we are doing.)

Meanwhile, I was enjoying the sensation of not trying to appear successful. A great feeling. I’m good exactly as I am right now. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I was simply owning my story, my journey.

What happened next was surprising.

The lady ended up being much more interested in talking to me than if I’d done the usual “blaah, blaah, blaah, I’m so and so and I’m so busy and successful BS”. We ended up having a much more interesting conversation than if I’d confirmed that I’m busy, and that no, it’s not a problem to have three projects on a go and everything is great.

Just imagine how interesting people and conversations would become if we’d all started owning our stories?

Failure is not permanent. When we talk to someone we get just a glimpse of someone’s journey. The lady I talked to that night might be really successful today and in 5 years everything might have collapsed. Or she’s just getting started and soon she’ll be on the Forbes most influential women list. What do I know. And for me it doesn’t matter anyway.

I always approach every person and every situation with openness, non-judgement, and understanding that we should never rank people based on anything. Not success, not money, not failure. When we talk to someone we see very little. Even when we talk to people we know. We never know their full story and we can’t really know where they are going.

Surprisingly this understanding helps me to be kinder to myself.

Today is just a glimpse of my story and it’s up to me how the story continues.

Please note. I don’t say – how it ends – as journeys are not about the ending. They are about the journey, ha ha!

Who would you rather talk to, the person who covers behind constant busyness and a mask of success, or the one who’d be ready to reveal some cracks in her shell?

Think about it. And think about who do you want to be next time someone asks if you are busy and successful?

Try telling your own story exactly as it is, own it. It’s incredibly empowering!

Girls, let’s be real.



How To Trust Yourself

Posted on November 1, 2015

trust yourselfHow do we gain that 100% trust in ourselves? How do we trust our own instincts, no matter what? And how can we develop that inner strength that no external influence can take away?

The athletic season is well and truly over now for this year. The challenges on trust are taken to an extreme level. The athletes have to dare to be brave and trust that the out come will be the one they have trained so diligently for over the past 12 months. It’s like a battlefield of warriors all fighting for that one prize. It requires an incredible amount of willpower and self belief.

In this arena self doubt can be exposed in seconds and dreams washed away. You have to trust yourself totally and have inner belief in your ability.

One individual stood out for me this year and underlined the pinnacle of self belief. That person was Usain Bolt. To all who may not be familiar he is the icon of track and field, the flamboyant king of sprints who’s dominated track over the last 7 years. He has won every title and set world records. He was the person at the top of his tree. Everyone wanted him to endorse their products and he was the ‘Mr Untouchable’ to many.

So why Usain?  

At the World Championships this year he taught everyone a valuable life lesson, something that I will never forget. Against all the odds he was entering the Championships as the under dog. His opening rounds in the heats and semi final were below standard, to the point he stumbled out of the blocks in the semi final and almost did not qualify for the final. At this point I am sure everyone would have advised him to pull out not to lose face and his ‘idol’ position. But he ran against everyone’s expectations. He trusted himself and he pulled off a vital win that shocked everyone.

With everything to lose and everyone questioning why he showed up in the first place he did what we thought was impossible: he trusted his own instinct and ability to win. This depth of trust he had in himself was truly outstanding.

Since that moment I have been intrigued to find out why and how can a person become so in tune with themselves regardless of external influences.

This brought me back to one of the DrivenWoman workshop ‘The Daring Way’ by Brené Brown which was presented by the lovely Roxanne Hobbs.

“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.”

“Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.”

Amazing statements!

This is when I understood that Usain was ok feeling vulnerable. He did not see it as shameful but a tool to remind him to step into bravery.

External pressure was removed from his vulnerability. 

Too many of us, and me included, often reply to outside influences to change our lives. We search for external guidance in every situation to help us find the answer. This can keep you standing in one place holding you back suspended in your own fear. What we don’t understand  is that we have already everything we need for this change.

You don’t need external help when you have a complete trust in yourself.

Trust your ability and take action. Trust yourself 100%.

I have decided to be even more committed to myself. I want to feed myself the information that my inner guidance tells me. I want to research all there is to know about. me. I want to quiet the world around and listen to the rhythm of my own beat.

What is important to me?

What do I want for myself and my girls?

How do I want to show up?

I want what is best for me.

I believe I have enough years wrapped inside of me and knowledge to draw upon. I need to be honest to myself. That is the only way to truly live the life I am meant to live .

We all need to develop the trust in ourselves. We need to learn to know ourselves better. It will be a conditioning exercise of what works for you and what doesn’t. By taking action you can learn and reflect, and get that information.

Having that ultimate trust in myself is another exciting chapter in my life to look forward to.


The Ups and Downs of Quitting The Rat Race

Posted on October 25, 2015

escapeAs a new (very) small business owner, I sometimes want to pinch myself because I’ve actually left the world of full time employment… and the world still turns! I started Spark Escapes earlier this year but the idea and dream have been with me since 2010, making my new reality even sweeter than I ever imagined.

However, getting to this place has been an emotional roller coaster with setbacks and risks. But let’s be honest, whose new business journey is a bed of roses all the way?

Over the transitional new year period between 2009 and 2010, I admitted to myself that I had had enough of work.  I had a long running career and enviable job at a media firm in London, but I was exhausted by and fed up of being a puppet five days a week.

I wanted something that drove me, that I created, that made my heart sing every day.

But I had absolutely no idea what that ‘something’ was to be. I spent hours daydreaming my way around new jobs in the same industry and alternative careers but nothing made me jump up and shout ‘eureka.’

Unintentionally, I began a self-development process by attending small events and workshops which opened my eyes to other options. This period was extremely fulfilling as I met some great new friends in a similar boat and learnt new ways of thinking.

One such workshop led me to an incredible coach called Marietta Birkholtz. I walked in hoping to find a new career path but surprisingly – and very happily – walked out with the concept for Spark Escapes, a business which organises inspiring events and workshops all over the world for people trying to escape boring jobs. It completely resonated with me and friends loved the idea too.

The energy and enthusiasm was all encompassing and I found it hard to continue going into the office every day.

On the side, I decided to organise a workshop – with Marietta – in Marrakesh. I booked a villa that I’d holidayed at in the past, researched flights, built a P&L, the works.

But I had little spare time and minimal funds. Add to this, the small amount of marketing effort I could make, all ensured zero places were sold. I climbed back into my box, lacking confidence and strength and filed the experience under ‘Failures’.

Fast forward a couple of years and a messy break-up later, I found myself again dissatisfied with and tearful about work and life in general. I had a million ideas but no self-belief so I reconnected with Marietta for a 1-2-1 session.

That session changed the course of my life and gave me the confidence to take risks the old ‘safe’ me would never have considered. The following morning, I walked into my boss’s office and resigned. That night I booked a one-way ticket to Mumbai and planned an extended grown-up gap year.

When I returned to the UK, I identified companies I wanted to work for and started writing letters of application.

Luckily I realised I was just repeating my old pattern.

I met with one wonderful company who offered me a new role but I took a huge risk and declined, instead asking for a six-month contract instead. It was scary but they agreed. I wasn’t ‘owned’ again!

During this six month period, I quietly revisited my dreams for Spark Escapes. My time travelling in Asia, coupled with the influences of the inspiring people I met on the road, had revived my confidence in myself and the concept.

One new friend had left her ‘big time’ career to work two days a week, giving her more time to develop her book writing career. She oozed happiness and fulfillment which gave me the guts to do the same. Work agreed to renew my contract as 9 days a month.

At this point, I knew my earnings would more than half so I needed to rein in my expenditure. My sister kindly agreed to put me up so I could eliminate hefty London rent prices, and friends were understanding when I missed social occasions and jaunts abroad. I recycled old clothes and generally cut back.

I hit the ground running, spending every moment at my laptop and getting worried about everything from money to finding customers to absolute failure. I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I thought I would. Luckily, I had a moment of clarity and realised I was doing exactly what I did when I was employed.

I was quitting the rat race, not recreating it!

So I slowed down and reset my schedule to include all the fun things I promised I’d do when I started my mission.

In addition to running Spark Escapes, I now make sure I spend time with friends, enjoy my research, develop my skills and travel. Recently I spent a month back in Asia, trekking in the Himalayas and visiting friends in Thailand. The business – and revenue – won’t grow as fast as it maybe could but I’m living the life I set out to live and I’m loving every moment.


Faith Hill is the founder of Spark Escapes, a company that organises Inspiring events and workshops. They have great events lined up both in the UK and aboard. Find out more here.


How To Eat Like A DrivenWoman

Posted on October 18, 2015


I’ve been asked to write this post by many people for a long time, so here it comes. Let’s start with a full disclosure. I’m not a nutritionist. I’m also not interested in weight loss or slimming. Will this make my blog post irrelevant to you? Probably not, because I’ve travelled a long journey finding my balance for eating food that makes me energised and happy every day. I’ve discovered some key principles that will apply to all, and some important questions that you should find answers for yourself.

This is a long post. Sorry. I’ve tried to summarise and add links as relevant. But this will hopefully be one of the more helpful blog posts you read about how to eat to feel great. I don’t try to show you what to do. But what I do hope you will learn is to understand what areas you should pay attention to and why you should commit to find better answers to your diet. Your food mindset is no different to your money mindset. You can either adopt generally held beliefs and look for easy answers, or commit to finding a way that will fit you and make you successful.

My journey started 5 years ago. I’ve always had a healthy diet but 1,5 years after giving birth through a c-section to twin boys my body suddenly changed. Over night I started getting ezema on my skin and dandruff on my scull. I remember being on holiday and pouring olive oil onto my skull before going to bed to calm down itching so I could fall asleep. So bad it was. And this just happened, out of the blue.

I visited a skin doctor and asked him how should I change my diet to get better. He told me that my skin condition had nothing to do with how I eat, prescribed all sorts of medicine (which did ease the symptoms) and sent me home.

Lesson 1: if your doctor tells you you can’t change the way you feel by changing your diet, don’t believe him.

Months went by and I got my skin condition under control with the medicine but the condition didn’t go away. Then my aunt suggested I’d try to leave out gluten from my diet for two weeks and I should see if that was causing me trouble. In two weeks my symptoms were much reduced so I decided to stay gluten free from then on. In 6 months my skin had completely healed.

I started to do research into celiac disease and found out that surgery, pregnancy, childbirth, or severe emotional stress can trigger celiac disease symptoms. Well, I had all of the above.

However, I felt my body wasn’t yet in balance. I kept getting bloated, blocked and tired. I stopped eating all dairy products. I went to see a nutritionist. I tried all sorts of things but nothing really worked. I kept feeling worse and worse, and finally in October 2013 I was feeling so bad that I got desperate. I found a great doctor who was specialised in functional medicine and all matters of the intestine. I got an appointment for January 2014.

To cut a long story short, a lot of tests were taken and very precise results were delivered. I was not celiac but I was severely allergic to gluten AND all grains! My gut was severely damaged due to wrong diet and stress. Apparently this is very common for women hitting 40!

Here are the key principles I now live by when it comes to eating well. You should consider these points, check out the links, and then do your own research and trials. This is not to say – follow my diet. The most important thing is to accept that you can feel so much better if you understand the facts about food and don’t ignore them. Too many people simply brush it off saying “oh, I’m just like such and such food too much to change”. That’s all rubbish if it makes you feel bad.

Finding your own balance will take time. This is no quick fix or how to loose weight in 2 hours program! You have to discover a new way to live.

1) Avoid processed foods

I shouldn’t have to say this as you know processed food is really bad for you. Additives, E-numbers, artificial flavours are all substances that we humans don’t really need in our body are injected into all processed foods. They are harmful in many ways.

I generally only buy single ingredient foods. So, say I want to have a flavoured yoghurt. I buy natural full fat yoghurt (avoid low fat as it is unnatural and processed), strawberries and agave. These are all single ingredients and I mix them to make my flavoured yoghurt. I generally try avoid foods that come in a lot of packaging and definitely if it has a long ingredient list. I never buy ready-meals and I try to buy organic when ever possible. For instance I don’t eat non-organic chicken at all. Why?

2) Understand your grains

I can’t eat any grains, not even gluten free oats. My system was so badly damaged that grains are out, for good. This doesn’t mean you should eat like me.

But everyone who wants to feel energised and happy in their body should consider cutting off white wheat from their everyday diet. White wheat is simply bad for you. It’s processed, low in nutrition, high in carbs (sugars) and high in gluten.

Lesson 2: Gluten is dangerous because it damages the wall of the digestive tract, causing pain, bloating, stool inconsistency and tiredness.

I know this at first hand!

If you eat grains, choose only breads/pasta that are made from whole grains. Rye and oats are great. They are good for you as they are a great source of fibre.

But I do suggest you do some trials or see a doctor to get yourself checked if you suspect you are allergic. Try leaving all gluten out for two weeks (this is the time you need to empty your digestive system) to see how much better you feel. Then you can judge for yourself. You have to be completely free of gluten so this includes additives in crisps (well, you shouldn’t eat those anyway), sauces and spices. So read the labels!

To be honest, life without grains is fantastic. You can bake most recipes with gluten free flour and substitute wheat with buckwheat flour (which is not a ‘wheat’, it’s actually a seed of a herb!)

An important note: grains are not the same as carbs. Carbs are not bad, they are the body’s main source of fuel!

Investigate what kind of carbs suit your digestive system. I don’t eat white rice, except occasionally in sushi. At home I cook black rice. I eat potatoes, after all I’m from Finland and that’s how we Finns are brought up. If you eat grain based carbs, stick to the brown stuff. Vegetables high in carbohydrates are for instance carrots, beans and sweet potato.

3) Understand your sugars

We all know we shouldn’t eat too much sugar, but has anyone ever told you how much is too much?

There is no biological need for dietary fructose. Before the Europeans discovered the New World 500 years ago and the development of the worldwide sugar industry, fructose in the human diet was limited to a few items (honey, dates etc). At the same time, our lifestyle has become less mobile in terms of the need to run after our prey or do physical labour.

Sugar consists half glucose and half fructose. Glucose is vital to life, fructose is not. Fructose is bad for you.

Lesson 3: Don’t exceed 25g of fructose a day

My doctor told me I should not exceed 25g of fructose per day. I never really eat any sweets or chocolate so that part wasn’t a problem. But you’d be surprised how much fructose is in an apple (13g) or in a dried fig (11g) – well one of each and there goes my daily quota right there!

See the list of fructose in fruit & wine here.

I’m now sticking to avocados, cantaloupe melons and some pineapple and orange. And on the wine front I haven’t touched a glass (a bottle, ha ha) of rose wine ever since!

When you calculate your daily fructose intake from cakes, sweets, soda etc containing white sugar, count 50% or white sugar as fructose.

You get used to this very quickly and it becomes intuitive so it isn’t such a pain as it may sound.

4) Understand your fats

Fats are not all bad. Counting calories is irrelevant (and so 80′s!). Here’s a beginners guide to fats you need and the fats you don’t.

Most dietary guides only talk about saturated fats and trans fats (bad) and monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and omega-3 fatty acids (good). This is way too complicated for me and the whole thing evolves only around heart disease and cholesterol. My cholesterol is good and I’m unlikely to get a heart disease. So I find these terms misleading. For instance, you can find saturated fats in meat and cheese, humans have consumed meat since we were not much less hairy than the ape. So why should I swallow a blank statement that all saturated fats are bad? Besides I need protein and iron and other good stuff I get from high quality meats.

So here’s how I divided fats. I think of them as ‘cold fats’ ie the fats I eat un-cooked, and as ‘cooking fats’. This is by no means a scientific approach but my aim is to be practical. You can find the science in the links.

Cold fats

I’m not worried about the fat I get from meat. I generally only eat high quality meats, cooked at home and no junk. Milk products also contain fat and I know eating a lot of cheese is is not great because the fat it contains is mainly saturated. So I eat cheese in moderation. For the same reason I don’t put butter on my bread or crackers other than at weekends. Butter is my great pleasure and a big treat! I use hummus or just pour a dollop of good quality cold pressed rapeseed oil and sprinkle on some Maldon sea salt on my buckwheat cracker, that is. Or I may make my own spread mixing quark and cold pressed rapeseed oil.

I use cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil and cold pressed extra virgin olive oil very generously on everything! Oh yes, it has to be ‘cold pressed extra virgin‘ so don’t be cheap here! The nutritional benefits are lost with traditional methods of producing oil and heating the oil changes it’s chemical structure.

Lesson 4: eat minimum of 3 tbsp of high quality cold pressed oil a day

Thorbjörn Hafsteinsdottir, a Danish pioneer nutritionist, suggests women (especially over 40) should take 3 tbsp of high quality oil per day. Cooked oils don’t count.

Hemp seed oil is the super fat in my diet and I mix 1 tbsp every day to my yoghurt. Read about the health benefits here.

Cooking fats

The health benefits of cold pressed olive oil and other good oils are lost when they are heated above their smoke point. For olive oil it is around 180C°. My doctor recommended me to use only cold pressed coconut butter for cooking, an advice which I only adopted after a year reluctantly. Coconut butter doesn’t add any flavour to your food, I promise.

I avoid all fried food, unless cooked in coconut butter. I make a lot of soups and oven dishes and avoid using oils when marinading meats. You can make perfectly good marinades using soya sauce or tomato paste as a base.

Now almost 2 years after my diagnosis I’ve finally found a balance. I feel great, I know how to eat food that suits me and I feel absolutely no gravings towards anything I shouldn’t eat. My body is my friend and I have returned to my natural state.

You need to do your own research, but you can apply these principles in varying degree. There’s a lot of quilt and stress attached to eating these days. I think it’s because we’ve learned to eat completely wrong which makes us feel bad in our bodies. It’s difficult to identify this because the whole society around us is eating the same way. It’s time to take the matters into your own hands!

Key Principles About Eating

1) Nourish

The purpose of eating is to feed us, give us energy to live our life to the fullest and to fill us with nutrients and minerals we need to thrive. Just because someone is skinny or eats only lettuce doesn’t mean they eat healthy. Equally, the idea of eating shouldn’t revolve around comfort or feelings replacement. We eat to keep our body and brain functioning to the optimal level. Feeling great will fuel your goals and dreams and help you make them happen. The goal is to feel energetic, balanced and happy everyday.

2) Enjoyment

Food and eating should be enjoyable. We should aim to be present and mindful when we eat and fully aware of our food choices. This includes the knowledge about food chain and the production method or process and how the food has ended up on our plate. Demanding high standards from the food we put into our mouths is a direct reflection on how much we value our selves.

3) Food vs treats

Eating consciously and healthily includes enjoying a treat every now and again. I’m a bakery owner, so I’m not going to start promoting people shouldn’t eat cake. Cake is for happiness! But the idea is to understand the difference between what you eat daily (=normal food) and what you eat occasionally (= treats and cakes!). As everything is available to us all the time the two might get confused.

4) Lifestyle not a diet

Don’t diet. Like any other plan in life for instant success, it will fail. Diets are based on an idea of a ‘magic bullet’… If I only eat carrots for a week it will solve all my problems! For me to find my balance after it was shaken by stress and life changes has taken me 5 years. First 3 years searching for answers and then 2 years eating and living the lifestyle that has cured me. Don’t expect quick fixes. Do the work.

5) Find your own answers

This is one of the DrivenWoman principles, don’t just swallow up anything people tell you – go find your own answers. The same goes for eating. To find a way to eat that works for you will require a lot of research, trying out different things and evaluating what works for you. You can’t take someone else’s diet, follow it blindly and expect great results.

It would be wonderful if someone could solve all your problems but unfortunately you have to go and figure these things out for yourself. Luckily a lot of it is common sense, and there is no lack of information. The most important part is commitment to finding your personal balance over time and accepting that it is a process, like anything in life.

I don’t think anyone who’s serious about improving their happiness can ignore how they eat. I hope the ideas in this post have been helpful. Please do share this post if you found it useful and add your own experiences below. I would love to hear about your diet discoveries!


Harness The Power Of Purpose

Posted on October 11, 2015

purpose_mountainPurpose is a word I’ve heard a lot about recently. Usually in relation to finding more purpose and meaning in our work. It’s not surprising really. When our work has significant meaning for us, we’re more likely to bounce out of bed in the morning, excited about the day ahead, and generally feel more fulfilled.

Maybe you’ve experienced the opposite – that Monday morning feeling when your only reason to get out of bed and go to work is because you have to pay the bills.

Some years ago that became the norm for me. Despite a successful corporate career and co-founding a global consultancy business, I was unsatisfied and questioning my purpose.

I went on a year-long journey of self-exploration and personal development. One of the key things I learned about purpose is that we always have one. Every thing we do – however small or big – is driven by a purpose. The question is whether it’s a purpose chosen consciously or one driven by unconscious desires.

When my stated purpose is to eat healthily but I scoff that yummy chocolate cake loaded with sugar, my real purpose is to eat that cake and treat myself. Eating healthily was, therefore, just a fantasy! When I say I want to get out and about but end up on the sofa watching TV, I’m ‘off-purpose’ in terms of what I said I wanted to do. The reality is that I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do at some unconscious level – which was to watch TV.

I now realise that purpose has a part to play in every area of our lives, not just in relation to our work, and, when you learn to harness its power, almost anything is possible.

A year ago, I ended up in hospital for four days. Excruciating pain in my hips had rendered me immobile. The diagnosis was osteo-arthritis. The consultant advised that, apart from pain killers, nothing could be done about it. I was “too young and too active for a new hip” and would “just have to put up with it”! Pain in my hips had been a problem for three years; upper back pain had been an ongoing challenge for twenty years. Over the years, I’d spent thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours with chiropractors, osteopaths, physiotherapists, pilates teachers etc. in my effort to be rid of life-limiting pain.

I couldn’t believe that nothing could be done. Research led me to an exercise system that restores good posture and relieves painful joints. Now, a year on, I am pain-free. I walk my dog every day, dance often and have even scrambled up a climbing wall. I’m more active now than for many years.

All of this is because I’ve learned how to harness my power of purpose. It’s taken an hour of exercise six days a week over a year to achieve this result.

There were set backs and times when I questioned if it would work and my commitment wavered. However, each time, I’ve re-engaged with my purpose to live life free of pain and found the motivation to keep going. There was a time when I didn’t know how to keep to such a commitment. I have a filing cabinet drawer full of exercises prescribed by various therapists who’ve tried to help me.

I never followed through on their advice; I wanted them to fix me so never did my part.

Learning how to overcome the, often, self-imposed obstacles and motivate myself to create this result is a gift I treasure. And, one that keeps on giving, as I harness my power of purpose to achieve other goals important to me. I now have a thriving business doing meaningful work that I love. My dog – whose primary purpose in life is food! – now comes when I call rather than running off to raid picnics. Where there once was a scruffy lawn and some trees, there is now a garden full of plants and colour. I’ve traded watching travel adventures on TV for jumping into trains, planes and automobiles to create my own. And – most of the time! – I walk past the chocolate cake.

Do you have unfulfilled dreams, find other priorities getting in your way, tend to procrastinate when the going gets tough and/or are at a crossroads wondering what next or wanting more for yourself but not quite sure what?


Caroline Holt is Attitude Coach. She runs a CPD-accredited six-week ‘The Power Of Purpose‘ programme, starting 26th October in London.

Re-discovering My Natural Self

Posted on October 4, 2015

natural element

A few years back in a session, a therapist told me that the whole orientation of my inner system was wired towards stress. It was a sub-conscious program in my body and mind – intensity had become a magnet. I was an intensity junkie and stress was my comfort zone. She told me that I had to consciously re-learn to move towards relaxation, otherwise I would become severely ill.

I had just jumped off from a hectic marketing career and started a sabbatical to find out who I would be without my work?  What would lie beneath? Sabbatical turned into three years of various therapist training courses, a lot of meditation, and a very deep personal discovery process. It became a process of de-coding my whole inner system. A process of letting go, and re-connecting with who I really was. A journey of reconnecting with my natural self. I finally met my existential fear of not having a right to be here without constantly efforting. ( = a constant state of pushing and controlling)

It has been a paradox to learn that the more you let go of efforting, the more of your true capacity is available.

Actually, when you are relaxed and present, you are fully available for what ever is needed at that moment. You see more, you hear more, you sense more. You are more deeply connected with others. And when you are relaxed and present, people around you relax too. And this relaxed presence is a source of an insightfulness and a truly creative flow and action. It all happens on a level a tensed mind could never reach.

It sounds so flat, but as an experience it is radical. It’s an experience of limitless capacity, creativity, sensitivity, vulnerability and courage. But it can be frightening and confusing because it flows from a very different place we have learned. It’s a sensation of an unfolding energy, not a result of pushing and achieving.

I invite you to let go of an outdated program and conditioning, and make a conscious choice to trust that the biggest force unfolds from being natural, finding your natural element. And that relaxed and sensitive way is the most powerful way to live and work.

It is not easy in the beginning but soon enough you will find yourself wondering ‘What? Can things move so effortlessly? Can everything move so … naturally?’

I invite you to make a decision and take the first step – today. The journey will be greater than you can even imagine.


This is a guest post from Kaisa Peltola. She is a facilitator of human transformation, MSc.(Econ), and a Holistic Counsellor

4 Ways To Make Hard Things Happen

Posted on September 27, 2015


Does this sound familiar… A month has gone, perhaps a year, and the same hard thing is staring at you at the top of your to-do list? You might be wondering why it’s so hard to make hard things happen? And the worst part is that the hard things aren’t even that hard physically, it’s the mindset change that is difficult to overcome.

Isn’t it just so much easier to stay in the comfort zone and to do the things you are good at? We are supposed to focus on our strengths, aren’t we! But whilst we are building on the things we are instinctively good at – our natural talents – we still have to keep expanding ourselves to go forward. And to do this  we either have to learn new things to complement our strengths or we can team up with people who posses those abilities.

The latter sounds very attractive and might be the best way forward, but it’s not always the most realistic option. Do you have lots of extra cash to spend and hire a fabulous team who can sort out all of those uncomfortable questions? Or perhaps you are so talented and known in your area of expertise that people are going to willingly give up their time to team up with you? Yeah, right… and back to square one. The only way forward is to learn new skills and do things that are difficult.

The difficult thing about hard is that we have an image of perfection in our minds.

On one hand the vision can drive you towards bettering yourself, but on the other hand it can prevent you from getting started because the image just isn’t at all realistic and thus so out of reach.

Hard things don’t happen because there’s too great of a gap between where we would like to be (= the image of perfection) and the reality of now; and our own refusal to fill in the gap, to do the work. Our own refusal to travel the journey.

And why push the boat out to the stormy sea?

It’s more fun to do the stuff you know. You get praised, you are admired. Your ego is being stroked on a daily basis! But when you try something that’s hard it most likely isn’t going to be a big success at first. And it’s difficult to know even where to start.

Fear of failure keeps us paralysed and firmly docked at the port.

But nobody knows it all. When we see a person who’s really good at a topic we instantly assume she’s really fantastic in everything she does. Well that’s simply not the case. We all know our own craft, but for all the other stuff, we are all beginners! To learn new things you must expose yourself to potential failure and even occasional ridicule.

1) Success depends on what you want

Fear of failure only exists inside our own heads. There really is no audience. Nobody is watching you. Nobody is checking on you if you do things ‘perfectly’. And one woman’s perfect is another woman’s failure anyway as we all want different things from life.

When me and Jennifer sat at the empty room two years ago, it wasn’t our greatest triumph, and someone could have seen it as a failure, someone might even have ridiculed us, but for us that evening gave us evidence of our own determination.

It’s best to define your own success and give up feeling shame because of setbacks.

2) Try new things little by little

I was terrified when we started DrivenWoman just over two years ago. It was completely outside of my comfort zone. It was also something quite different to what I was known for in my professional circles. I felt I had to explain myself to my former colleagues and friends.

The way I got over it was by taking small but determined steps. I was exposing myself one little bit at a time. First starting the blog. Then doing the first event. Then starting with social media. And so on. I felt like I was doing human experiments on myself, like I was conditioning myself to a new drug, a drug called ‘what am I really capable off’. And that, my dear sisters, is the best drug of all!

3) Label it research

The trick is not to let your hard thing paralyse you. Once you chopped it up to smaller chunks simply think about going into the unknown as exploring. Label it research. Make it into a project. Call your project ‘How Many Times It Takes To Be Rejected To Succeed’ or ‘Two Steps Forward And One Step Back’ or ‘I’m A Newbie And I Like It’. Think of yourself as a scientist trying new chemical experiments in her lab!

4) Accept failure

Accept that you will fail. Think of the first 10 or 20 sales calls/ interviews/ tweets/ blog posts/ what ever hard things you are trying to do … as a practise run. Accept rejection and set backs as part of the process and give up unrealistic dream of perfection from the start. Start where you are, not where you would like to be!

I’ve given up shame, I’ve given up trying to guess where other people put their bar every day and if I fit their image of success. I’m walking my own path and I’m free to learn from things I find hard. Exploring my capabilities daily has become hugely motivating for me and deeply personal. I don’t want to waste my life worrying about someone else’s opinions and agendas when I have my own fabulous life to live! I’m also blessed to have found a group of fantastic, driven women who occasionally fail at hard things around me to provide a realistic benchmark.

Take the first step, do the hard thing. Push the boat out of the calm, cosy harbour. Once you’ve found the courage to start sailing it will soon turn into your comfort zone. Rinse and repeat. Becoming life’s eternal student is so much fun!