At the beginning of 2011 I started my journal for the year with a question to myself which I’ve asked many times over the years previously but this time thought that it warranted a little more effort and thought to answer than I had previously applied.
The question was ‘how do you change a life?’ As the year progressed and I worked my way through 2011 and my journal I discovered three insights that have helped me to understand the question and it’s possible answer a little more. Before I share the answer with you though I thought I’d share a little story.In 1994 I had major surgery to deal with the severe endometriosis that had plagued me since I was 16. I had spent years being in and out of hospitals, in pain and talking to anyone that thought they could help, eventually though I had a hysterectomy and my life changed dramatically. I was no longer ill all the time and in fact my health has changed beyond all expectation and it was without doubt the best decision I have ever made.
A couple of years later I was back at University in Loughborough studying for an MSc in Information Science and I found myself interested in how Patient Health Information could be used as a way of creating ‘informed patients’.
These two, seemingly unrelated events, came together beautifully in my thesis which was titled ‘Hysteria, it’s not funny on HRT’ and which looked at the information women in this group needed to help them recover from a hysterectomy.
I had created a website and a booklet to go along with the thesis, they were to be examples of how information could be disseminated in the future, using this new tool, the web and bearing in mind that this was when Bill Gates was still claiming that the web was never going to amount to much, it was quite an assumption on my part.
That website and booklet have, over the years, become The Hysterectomy Association and the books that we sell. There was no plan that this should happen as I never started out assuming that my hysterectomy, my Masters degree or my thesis were anything other than this singular events.
This story holds the kernels of the three insights I’ve had and they are:
- Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. The words of John Lennon have never rung so true. I never planned to be running something like The Hysterectomy Association; I had always wanted to be a ballerina … or a librarian (imagine that if you can!). This crept up on my simply because I happened to be in the right place at the right time.
- Opportunities exist everywhere but we don’t necessarily recognise them as such at the time. After I’d completed the research for my thesis some of the women that had taken part said that they would love to have a support organisation just for them because they had nothing else and nowhere to turn for information and support. I suggested that I leave the site where it was and see what happened – the rest, as they say is history.
- My life is the sum total of the decisions I’ve made and the actions I’ve taken. Of course other things happen that are outside of our control, but our reaction to them is what is within our gift. I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now or be the person I am if I hadn’t done the things I’d done. No-one can say that something else may have been better but I can say with certainty that I enjoy my life and love what I’m doing.
So, how do you change a life? In my experience, you don’t set out to change it, you simply set to change the sorts of decisions you make and the actions and reactions you have to the world around. I have no idea what I’ll be doing next year but I do know that whatever it is, it will be all my own work.