The Power of Personal Earthquakes


I’ll come straight to the point. 2017 was a bit of a year. Heart break, disappointment, fear, anxiety, sadness, grief, confusion, anger. You name it I felt it. In spades.

As years go it’s way down the bottom of my list of favourites. But it was also a year of courage and transformation.

The Problem

This time 2 years ago I set an intention.

Life and work were ticking over nicely thank you very much and I was hugely grateful for this. But lodged in some crevice within I kept hearing a whisper of ‘Is this it?’. I felt uneasy. An unsettledness that had been rumbling deep down under the surface for years.

Something was wanting to shift and I wanted to shift it. It was time to shake things up.

The Plan

So I changed my environment. I packed up my belongings, let go of my rental, and set off to the other side of the world. For the best part of 4 months I based myself in Bali. If I’m honest I thought I’d have fun, do a few downward dogs, drink a vat of green juice while wearing tie dye, and come back ‘different’.

Obviously that is not how things unfolded.

Of course, the decision to live the other side of the world created some internal movement. Tick. But I didn’t do much yoga. I wore very little tie dye. And sometimes, while those around me sipped wheatgrass, chomped on raw food salad, and read books like ‘Alkalise or Die!’, I tucked into burger, chips and a glass of Balinese red.

My plan was not going according to plan.

Luckily(?)… conspired to shake things up in a very different way.

Life Takes Over The ‘Plan’

I’ll keep it simple. I met a man. From the outside looking in it was a cliché of a situation, destined to cause pain for both parties and fail from the outset. I watched myself ignore all the signs and got involved while convincing myself that I wasn’t involved. It felt like my heart quietly crumbled into a thousand little pieces. And for the very first time I had doubts about my ability put all the pieces back together.

The details of what unfolded aren’t relevant here. The relevant bit is how much emotion the whole experience unearthed. A tsunami of new, but what I came to understand was mostly old, upset erupted to the surface. Layer upon layer of heartbreak, grief, and sadness I’d buried for years.

Other big ‘plates’ started to move. My work unexpectedly became unstable and uncertain, for an unexpectedly long while. I felt anxious. I arrived back in the UK without a home to return to. I felt unsettled. I embarked on a rollercoaster of a process of buying a property. I felt stressed.

It was painful. Sometimes unbearably so.

But alongside all of these experiences I kept excavating, digging deep, inquiring and trying making sense of it all. Both the present and the past. Slowly my heart started to heal. The tsunami of emotions died down. Those long standing internal rumblings started to quieten. That ‘Is this it?’ question started to dissolve. As the year drew to a close I looked inside and out and realised something had irrevocably changed in the process.

And that, I remembered, had been my intention all along.

The ‘Wise’ Bit

Personal transformation, growth, development, change, whatever you care to call it, comes in all shapes and sizes. It can happen in a heartbeat or a quiet breath. This time it was more a year long cardiac arrest coupled with a large dose of ‘losing my marbles’. I’m stubborn so life generally needs to bring me to my knees for me to stop, listen and learn. And the pressure of those tectonic plates to shift inside was so strong already my take is it just needed the guy, the wobbly work, the lack of ‘home’, or all three to set off the earthquake.

While the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for’ springs to mind, I am also in awe of how life has an exquisite way of giving us what we need. It rarely comes in the form we expect or want.

The plates have stopped shifting. But as with any earthquake things came tumbling down. I felt I had literally broken inside. There were internal walls, pillars, maybe palaces, to rebuild within me. But the great thing about rebuilding from the ground up is the opportunity to redesign, recreate, reconfigure in a way that is so different to how it was before. What I rebuilt felt stronger, and stood on more solid foundations than I have ever experienced previously. As I rebuilt internally my external world started to change shape. I’m happy about that. And of course this is always work in progress.

The Bigger Picture

We all experience ‘earthquakes’ in our lives from a small tremor to that ‘destructive’ seismic shift. Heartbreak, divorce, redundancy, death, ill health, change of any kind. As the world gets its own shake up, we will be feeling those political, economic and social earthquakes also, to an ever increasing extent. The rise of therapeutic conversations around anxiety and stress on the back of Trump’s election. On UK soil deep upset and fear in response to the Brexit vote is still rippling through individuals, families and businesses. Just two front of mind examples.

We are living in unsettling times. Our systems are in crisis. And as the pieces of our world literally start to crumble we will start to experience more tremors and plate shifts both personally and professionally. I think this means for many we can no longer remain in cruise control. We now need to be able to feel the tremor, understand what the disturbance is, take the learning, and rebuild with grace, wisdom and ideally speed. The world is calling for us to be different if we are to thrive in this change and complexity. We are being called to shift, recreate, redesign constantly both in our business and personal lives. I see great opportunity and power in that. But this will require a different kind of resourcefulness for us to be able to navigate through and thrive in.

In Part II I’ll write about how we do that shifting and redesigning from a resourced place, staying healthy and vibrant in these complex times.

In the meantime, notice the whispers, the feelings (I would suggest before they become cardiac arrests!), and the shifts that you are being called to make in your life or your business. What is the tectonic plate shift you are being called or forced to make right now?

I’d love to hear how it is for you. Please email or comment below and share your own stories and experiences.


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