Words are powerful.

They play an essential and life affirming role in how I navigate each day.

As I get older, some of the advice shared with me over the years holds truer and acts as my guiding light.

The wise words I value have become gems I hold close to my heart.

The world is not black and white

Wendy was one of my first managers when I worked at Diageo Australia.

She gave me some invaluable advice during a performance review when I asked her this question.

How can I get your job one day?

She told me I’d need to change a lot to be considered for management roles.


Karen, you tend to view the world as black and white.

As I think about this now I realise she was trying to tell me I was inflexible in my thinking, perhaps even intolerant.

Double ouch.

My (eventual) openness to this advice helped me develop habits I continue to work on today.

While I still hold firm opinions on many topics, I’ve learnt to keep some thoughts to myself.

I’ve become quieter at times when I used to share my opinion.

This has taken practice.

I don’t always remember that God blessed me with two ears and one mouth for a reason.

My husband remembers both versions of Karen.  He sometimes asks me . . .

Why are you so quiet?

Wendy’s advice helped me learn to listen better to other people’s point of view.

I see things now I would never have noticed if I viewed the world as black and white.

Shed the shoulds

The best way to be happy in life is to have no expectations of others.

These are words from my Mum that I lived by for many years.

I now realise I do have expectations of my inner circle.

I need to feel safe.

I need to feel understood.

And I need to feel heard.

Beyond the safety of my trusted advisors, the concept of no expectations means tackling the perceived ‘rules of engagement’ and expectations we and others place on us.

These are the ‘shoulds’ society likes to impose on us.

Sometimes we impose them on ourselves.

They are immobilising and get in the way of doing our best work.

Shedding the shoulds is freeing and empowering.

It’s allowed me to ruthlessly focus on what’s really important and ask myself these questions:

  • Who is responsible for my happiness?
  • Who is responsible for taking action in my life?
  • What do I need from others?

I believe the expectations of others must not drive our decisions all of the time.

Our heart’s desires and our Inner Voice* must drive our decisions and actions.

Boundaries are my friend

As I climbed the corporate ladder in the mid-late 1990s and early 2000s, I let my work define and consume me.

It was my Mum’s advice to integrate regular breaks and my Dad’s advice from the earlier years, when I was studying, to learn to rest and recharge.  Our family’s ritual to take regular holidays enabled me to place clear boundaries on ‘work’ and ‘play’.

Being clear about my boundaries means knowing what I do and don’t want to do.  It helps me navigate my role as a business owner, wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, niece and cousin.  Family forms the cornerstone of my schedule and how I engage with my clients, my team and my suppliers.

Think Bespoke‘s philosophy is family first and flexibility.  I’ve always called us ‘the future of work’ because we embrace technology and engage in highly productive work that we love while being present for those who matter.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your schedule I encourage you to take stock and make sure you have clear rules around work time and family time.

Tune in to when you are most productive with particular work activities and negotiate with those around you to ensure you dedicate the time you need to in order to do your best work and be in your flow.

Put aside some time to journal

By carving out sacred time to reflect on your own journey and check in with yourself, you are working towards living life on your terms.

I encourage you to reflect on what’s important to you.  Hand write your own thoughts and ‘words to live by’ in a journal.

Surround yourself with individuals who encourage you to be the truest version of yourself.

Spend time on activities that light you up inside.

*Inner Voice is a reference to the program I explored with Tali Brash in 2021.

Listen to my interview with Tali on The Creative Zone podcast here.

Image source: Sincerely Media

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