Five years ago today, I handed over my one-way ticket, boarded a plane, and seven hours later, touched down in the desert, eager to start life afresh in this strange new city of Doha. I didn’t know it then, but I was about to embark on an adventure that would eventually lead to me marrying my soulmate, starting a family, and setting off on a journey that would throw me the highest highs and lowest lows of my life to date.
Ten days previously, I had opened my laptop, set up a rookie Blogspot page and penned my very first Follow Your Sunshine blog post from my little attic kitchen in London. It’s short and to the point, but if you read between the lines you can’t fail to notice the excitement that was bubbling away beneath the surface at the prospect of following my heart to join Mr Sunshine half way across the world.
Reflecting on my life and the direction that I was taking it in was far from my mind at this point; I was more of a ‘jump right in and see where the wind takes you’ kind of a girl. However, the older and wiser I become, the more I believe that no matter what’s going on in your life, whether you’re sailing on smooth seas, or experiencing a patch of turbulence, it’s important to have a period of introspection at least once a year. Coincidentally, exactly a year ago today, I did just that when I reflected on my blog and the direction I wanted to take it in in the coming year.
Over the 365 days that proceeded, as my life was thrown upside down and inside out; as horror story after horror story started to appear in my narrative, this introspection increased tenfold.
When nothing in life seems to be going to plan, and nothing you do seems to be changing anything, you can’t help but think that it might be time to crumple up your metaphorical blueprint for life and go back to the drawing board.
So that’s what I’m doing. After half a decade of blogging, here is what I’ve learned, and the resulting changes that I’m going to be making around here from now on.
1. You can only bring about meaning when it comes from the heart
I have wanted to write ever since I was a little girl. Many an epic adventure novel and dreamy poem was penned on ripped-up pieces of notepaper at my little desk under my cabin bed, and it was unsurprising that later on in life, my career would be spent mainly in the field of communications, and that I’d eventually start a blog.
Creativity like this, whether you’re a writer or artist, chef or musician, is always at its best when it comes from a place of passion. There are many that have summarised what it means to create in this way, but nobody puts it better in my opinion, than Elizabeth Gilbert, in her inspiring book, ‘Big Magic’:
“Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart. The rest of it will take care of itself.”
New FYS direction: Nothing will grace the pages of this blog from now on unless it causes a revolution in my heart. Life is short and rare and miraculous, therefore my time will only be spent on things that give life meaning from now on.
2. There should be intention to everything you do
Starting to live my life with intention has been a conscious decision I have made over the past few weeks, as I’ve attempted to climb back out of the black hole I found myself in. If you believe like I do, that you don’t just attract what you want in life, but that you attract what you are, then you will start to think very carefully about the intent behind your every thought, word and action.
As Gary Zukav put it so eloquently in his 1989 book, ‘Seat of the Soul’:
“Every action, thought, and feeling is motivated by an intention, and that intention is a cause that exists as one with an effect. If we participate in the cause, it is not possible for us not to participate in the effect. In this most profound way we are held responsible for our every action, thought, and feeling, which is to say, for our every intention.”
It sounds pretty compelling doesn’t it? More to the point, Oprah uses the power of intention in everything she does and every new direction she takes her business interests in. If it’s good enough for Oprah, then it’s good enough for me!
New FYS direction: My biggest intention for Follow Your Sunshine is to give something back to my readers and followers. Only articles and collaborations that add value in some way will be found on the blog from now on. This will include interviews with inspirational individuals and information that people will find useful or compelling.
3. Choose love over hate, every time
One thing that’s been apparent to me from the very moment that my blog started to gain popularity, is that there is sooo much love, but also quite a bit of nastiness in this little world of the ‘influencer’. I’ve seen so much of both sides in my time: the birth of brilliant, supportive friendships with other bloggers that will last a lifetime and the death of other friendships as I came to realise that they weren’t really friendships at all, but relationships built out of convenience or proximity. There’s so much support and women empowering women, but there seems to be an equal amount of gossip, and women tearing each other down (apologies for the sexism here, but in an industry that’s still sadly biased towards the female sex, we’re still the biggest perpetrators of this kind of behaviour, sadly).
If every intention (see above) was borne out of love, then the negatives of the industry would simply disappear. As with all things in life, we have a choice – to choose the positive, uplifting road, or its uglier cousin. For me, there’s only one choice: love over fear, nastiness, competition, jealousy and hatred. Every. Single. Time.
New FYS direction: All relationships and blogging direction from now on will be motivated by loving intentions. This means keeping away from drama and negativity, being less afraid to say ‘no’ and letting go of all the things I can’t control. Recognising that people’s opinions and reactions don’t belong to me, and are actually none of my business is quite a liberating feeling, and now that I’m attemting to focus only on those that bring positivity and enlightenment to my journey, I feel like I’m about to be more excited about what I’m creating than ever before.
4. Compassion and benevolence have more influence than egocentricity
When you write a blog, want to grow an Instagram page, or even set up a small brand or business, then knowing your audience is absolutely key. What matters to them in life? How are you adding value to them? What will make them want to listen up and take note of what you have to say?
No matter how much your creative output emanates from the heart (see above), if your intention (see above!) is based on the desires of your ego (e.g. becoming famous, gaining recognition, getting free things, attaining money or status…) then you will not have nearly as much impact as when your outputs are centred on giving back, through compassionate or benevolent aims.
As Ghandi says, “When the ego dies, the soul awakes”, and what could be better than creativity that comes straight from the soul?
New FYS direction: In order to give something back to my readers, I am starting a new feature, called the ‘Collaboration of the Week’, featuring organisations and brands with similar values to mine, or those that I think will benefit the lives of my readers and followers. These will be highlighted on my Instagram stories every week on a Monday (follow me here to follow along!), and some of the most meaningful of these collaborations will be highlighted in longer posts on the blog, with competitions and giveaways to keep you engaged!
5. Stay true to your morals
This, for me, is the most important lesson that I’ve taken from half a decade of blogging. There are all kinds of shiny things to tempt you in different directions, but if you stay true to who you are and what you want to stand for, then you can’t really go wrong.
It’s time for me to take things back to basics and to remember the true meaning of ‘Follow Your Sunshine’: to seek out the brighter and better things in life and add value to my own life and the lives of those around me.
As I love a quote, I’ll leave you with my very favourite of all time, from one of my favourite people of all time, Mother Theresa:
It’s time to be more MT!
Follow Your Sunshine xx