Three years ago, Ruth was gutted to find out she was not reappointed to a job that had given her joy, purpose and challenge for 15 years. One of her daughters encouraged her to connect with Penny to help her navigate her uncertainty, her fear and where to next.

In her introduction e-mail Ruth’s daughter described her as a person who had huge passion and awesome transferable skills but who was unable to identify how they could be used to move on.

Ruth was 53, and had spent most of her time consumed by a job that no longer existed. Her self-belief was at an all-time low and she was doubtful of whether she was even worthy of investing in herself to pave a new path.

Penny encouraged her to connect just for a brief conversation to share how she was feeling. It was in that conversation that Penny provided the space for Ruth to re-imagine her future. One that was premised on visualising what happiness would look like in just the next 12 months if all Ruth desired was possible?

Ruth had a firm view on what retirement had to look like. She believed that the only path was to squirrel away money now in a job that was diminishing her self-confidence and compromising her happiness.

Penny challenged Ruth to look at retirement through a different lens. “Why does retirement have to mean you kill yourself to 65 then you stop and enjoy life? What if you could create a life you loved now by finding work that gave you meaning and joy would that need to have an end date at 65 or could you continue on?” Ruth was shocked she’d never considered prioritising herself and her happiness before retirement. Immediately she blurted out “I love health, wellbeing and fitness and thought one day I would love to train as a PT.” To which Penny responded “why would you wait, why wouldn’t you do that now?” Ruth replied with “I’m too busy, I don’t know that I’m capable of being a PT and running my own business.” “Then let’s start right there” said Penny.

Penny challenged Ruth to undertake the Busy = Bullshit challenge. To stop using the word busy for two weeks and just observe what happens. She also challenged Ruth to observe and document how she spent her time. During this period Ruth realised she did have the time to study as outside of her work she just found herself filling space with noise that didn’t have the same meaning.

Soon after Ruth leant into her first big act of micro bravery and signed up to become a student for the first time in 26 years. This role reversal of the teacher now becoming the student made Ruth feel extremely uncomfortable and vulnerable. “I’d gone from a place of being all knowing to a place of knowing nothing, a place where I didn’t have the answers, I couldn’t even bluff my way through.” She also gained huge benefit from observing how teachers taught from a student perspective which helped her realise how easy it was to confuse people when your knowledge made the process so obvious to you.

Over the next year, both in-person and via video, Penny encouraged Ruth to explore the edge of her comfort zone through experimentation using small happiness practices and acts of micro bravery.

Ruth had shared with Penny how her internal dialogue was a real challenge she had strong feelings of not being good enough, not being worthy of the life she desired. Penny asked her whether she received compliments to which Ruth said “yes and often.” Penny asked how she’d respond to them and Ruth said “I feel awkward and pass them off as not my doing.” Penny challenged Ruth to lean into the discomfort and just say thank you when people paid her a compliment and observe how it made her feel. Which she did. Recently Ruth’s mother passed and she had many people telling her what an amazing job she had done in caring for her in the last six months of her life. Ruth would have once deflected or down played these kind words with “oh I’m not special, it’s nothing.” But now she says thank you very much with a smile on her face and pride in her heart. In Ruth’s words “Noticing and accepting compliments enabled me to realise how often they came through and helped me realise my worth. I am good enough, I am capable and I am deserving of kind words.”

Ruth now uses her new perspectives on looking at life and work through a different lens and not having to be normal to support those around her. She has two daughters in their 30’s and she’s helping them look at their happiness and options to realise it in ways that previously would have made her shudder.

She’s finished her PT Training and recently left the safety of the teaching contract role she’d taken on to get her through the transition and she’s exploring what her very own PT business would look like!

In Ruth’s words “although I don’t know what comes next, I’m is excited about the unknown and blown away with how far I’ve come. I’ve realised I am going to be a great PT, I deserve happiness and it’s completely up to me to bring it to life.”

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Also in Hacking Happiness Case Studies

Lauren's Hacking Happiness Journey
Lauren's Hacking Happiness Journey

At just 28 she was looking for a pause button she just couldn’t find. She was desperate to unshackle the feeling of being on a never-ending treadmill without throwing away all that she had built.