In the below article, Reena Van Aalst shares with us life defining moments, and the rewards gained from taking a risk while remaining true to your own self.





Two interesting articles have impacted on my attitude to life and work. They are the Sydney Morning Herald article ‘Final Destination‘ words by “Peter Munro and Janie Barrett” in 2017, and the other was in Uplift  The Top Five Regrets of the Dying , dated 3 February 2016 by Bonnie Ware.

Because the topics centred round palliative care and dying, my initial thoughts were how morbid and depressing. But I was wrong because death is also about life and unlike going for your driver’s licence, 100% of us will get there. After reading the articles I felt I had been on an inspirational journey, enlightened and educated. In a stream of consciousness, I wrote – dignity, empathy, integrity, altruism, happiness, self-fulfilment, morality and live for now without regret.

I read thousands of words as part of my profession but rarely do I feel what I did when I read those articles. I took a sip of my coffee and thought “my life needs to change, now” and it did.

I decided to be more of a risk taker….I quit my job and opened my own strata practice. Between resigning and opening, I thought about what I wanted my practice to be and what I wanted to offer others and how could I mix work with play. Part of my reasoning for a start-up was I would be in charge of my own destiny and if I was successful, I owned that success. If I made mistakes I owned them too. Another motivating factor was I did not want to die with the regret that I had not given something a go which was part of my dreams, being the owner of my own business.

I have made changes before. In 2000 I jumped into the deep end of the pool and changed my profession from pharmacist to strata manager. There were plenty of naysayers but I followed my gut. If I hadn’t I would not have experienced the exciting changes I have had over the past 17 years. I have met and been involved with so many different generous, self-sacrificing, intelligent, creative and self-effacing people. I have also learned from the self-interested and the narcissistic who unbeknown to them helped me hone my people skills and increased my tolerance for the stupid and selfish amongst us.

Be afraid, take the journey, accept the risk and follow your dreams and imagination. Put in another way as Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook said “What would I do if I weren’t afraid?” “And then go and do it.” But first do your research and don’t jump in where fools fear to tread.

My time as pharmacist taught me what I did and how I performed affects others. So always do your best.

As a child, my mum who is highly intelligent without the benefit of a full formal education instilled in me to be a good person and care for others less fortunate. Because she missed opportunities, she instilled particularly in my sister and I that education is essential if we wanted to get ahead in life and consider opportunities as they arose. She also instilled in us to be self-reliant and be proud but not arrogant or boastful. She said “Life is fleeting, you are not young forever. Live and enjoy it and try not to have regrets.” What she was saying was don’t have regrets about not doing things you want to do and don’t put off tomorrow what you can do today. It is easy to be negative, critical and to say I am “gunna do this” or “this or that may happen” rather than actually just doing.

Another person (I confess a professional woman) gave me the following advice “achieving success is hard but maintaining it is harder.” Like the articles, at first I was perplexed by what she said ….it sounded exhausting and surely there must be time to rest. There is and it too requires doing away with the “gunna” principal. Don’t give yourself excuses. I try to go to the gym regularly, but not as regularly as I should. Getting there is often a pain in the butt particularly on chilly winter mornings. Doing it properly is hard. But when I finish I feel great. I feel I have achieved something worthwhile even with a few aches and pains to boot and I feel more relaxed when I get to work.

Various books and literature stress the importance of leisure and doing something outside work as extremely important for our physical and emotional well-being. It’s a proven fact. If you Google who the happiest people in the world are, you will discover in 2016, it was Denmark followed by the other Scandinavian countries. Australia came ninth and the USA thirteenth. Think about it the Scandinavian countries – they pay more tax but get more bang for their buck, they have worse weather than us but do lots outside and socialise in addition to work. They seem to trust each other more and have more empathy and sense of community. In short, they are proud of who they are and they are doers. I commend you do the research and see for yourselves hat makes people happiest. I am confident if you are unsure you will find something to enlighten you after all there are different strokes for different folks.

Try not to have regrets and live your life, takes risks and enjoy. Happiness is a choice.

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