I get asked a lot why I created The Smart Plan, what was the experience or thought that initiated my project. I don’t usually talk much about my experience, as it feels like bragging, but the truth is that my journey is a living proof that this method works. So I’d like to answer the above questions by telling you a little story, which will also give you some inspiration on how you can turn your life around, if you are up to it!
It’s May, it’s the heart of Spring, the season that nature looks at her best. The days last longer, the sun is warmer and brighter, the trees and flowers are blooming. Spring symbolizes rebirth and rejuvenation! I couldn’t agree more!
Every May I have an anniversary that is impossible to forget! I might forget important birthdays, I might forget holidays, but I’ll never forget that day in May when I took a plane from Athens to Berlin without a return ticket. It was 7 years ago, on the 28th May 2012. I am sure that many people out there have changed their place of residence, leaving their home country behind to try another option, a different life elsewhere without making a big drama out of it, but I guess every person and their story is different!
The thing is, behind every big decision like this one, there are different types of motivation. Anthony Robbins says:
”What drives us all to succeed is one of two experiences, either inspiration or desperation”.
Well it was definitely desperation for me!
At the time I was so dissatisfied with almost every area of my life and I was feeling constantly frustrated. My career was not fulfilling at all, my love life was a disaster and I was making one bad choice after another. I was living in a small apartment, that theoretically was a temporary solution that lasted 6 years, and my health was also not great. I suffered from constant headaches due to neck pain. Everything in my life was sadly predictable and boring, and everyday I was sinking deeper into a life I hated. I was emotionally, physically, financially and professionally stuck!
Of course I was blaming myself, I didn’t have any illusion that I was the victim of the circumstances of my life. But I didn’t know where to start. It is kind of hard to get motivated when your life is one big mess. At that time the financial crisis in Greece was also escalating which made the overall situation there pretty bad.
I tried to figure my way out of this by going to a therapist, but I was very disappointed from the lack of progress we were making. She was using a method where the patient talks more or less on her own, without even facing the therapist. It was taking me back to my childhood and made me think a lot about open traumas from the past. It was a difficult but interesting procedure, that nevertheless felt pretty useless at the time. It felt like it was taking forever to reach a breakthrough. I wanted solutions, ideas, inspiration, a helping hand to show me the way towards my future, not towards my past. Then a friend suggested I go to a 3-day seminar called Life Training. I took her advice and the experience I had there was a total eye opener.
The seminar gave me exactly what I was looking for. I stopped the endless moaning and got motivated! Among the many experiences and things I learned in those three days, the most important lesson for me was to claim responsibility for my life. The presenter with a direct and sometimes blunt way, was pushing on us the idea of taking 100% responsibility for our lives. No more excuses, no more hiding behind our failed relationship with our mother or father, or sister, or, or… No more I am too old, it’s too late, my boss doesn’t like me, my job sucks, the bus was late, the cat ate my homework! The things are the way they are. We first need to accept them and then to be accountable for our decisions and our actions.
I realized one very important thing. You are not responsible about everything that happens to you, nor can you totally control your life. BUT you are responsible about the way you react and relate with everything that life throws at you. This way of thinking was a wake up call. It forced me to examine every single dysfunctional relationship in my life, as well as the many personal limiting beliefs and thoughts that constituted my mentality, which hindered my potential.
After the seminar I started reading books and listening to podcasts that supported this way of thinking. I wanted to learn more, maintain that high and take it even further. Welcome in the world of coaching! I discovered of course Tony Robbins. This amazing, loud American that was talking directly to me and addressing my situation. After I finished his Personal Power audio course I was so pumped up, I could not sit in one place. Finally, I was able to focus on what really mattered and ask myself the right questions.
“What does failure mean to you?”, “What needs to happen for you to feel rejected?”, “What is your purpose, why you want the things you want?”, “What are your personal rituals and patterns?, and so on…
My state of mind was in “creative excitement”. What does that mean? I was so tense that my mind was working non-stop, coming up with ideas about how I can change the different aspects of my life. My brain could not find peace and I could not relax. It was as uncomfortable and painful as it was enlightening and creative. This is what self-reflection does to you: it gives you nuggets of wisdom about who you are, what you need and where you want to be. The result of that experience is the feeling of leaving your comfort zone and levelling up, along with the discomfort that comes from questioning everything about and around you.
In this continuous brainstorming I was flirting constantly with the idea of rebuilding my life and starting over in a new country. Secretly, I started searching the internet for probable destinations. I visualized myself creating the life I wanted and it no longer made sense to do that in Greece. It had to be somewhere else. Apart from the fact that the financial crisis was getting worse, I realized I need distance from everything and everyone I know in order to recreate myself.
I had a long list with everything that I wanted to achieve. I wanted to work as a web designer on projects that got me excited, to find the love of my life and have children with him. I wanted financial freedom, a beautiful apartment, better health and a good relationship with my body. I wanted to travel. I wanted a lot. Plus I was broke and in my late thirties. All the above sounded more like fantasies and less like specific goals. From that starting point nothing seemed possible. There was no path to take me there, there was no financial support to help me build everything. All I had, was faith and a clear visualization about everything I wanted. I couldn’t support it with arguments but I had a feeling in my gut that no matter what, everything would be okay!
This whole relocation was such a big thing for me, because with it I had to leave my “childhood” behind and enter “adulthood”. It was clear to me that living my whole life in the same city didn’t help me mature. My desire to be independent was always strong and I was sure that most people who knew me thought of me as a very independent, strong woman. This is the impression I was giving. I started working when I was 19 and I soon reached financial independence. This gave me the illusion that I am the master of my own life, but it took me many years to understand that having a very close relationship with my family and being surrounded by similar people as me, didn’t give me the space to grow. I knew I had to go.
Using a system of setting priorities that made the whole enterprise less overwhelming, I packed my suitcase, and came to Berlin. In the back of my head, I kept the thought that if things didn’t work out, I could always go back!
The first couple of years were the most stressful, tiring and lonely years of my whole life. I changed 5 apartments in 2 years, which was a very tough process every time. I met a lot of people. Some stood by me, some inspired me, some wanted to take advantage of me. I worked in several jobs, while I was looking for a job in my field of expertise. I realized that the only way to enter the market was by starting from the beginning. This is why my first job as a designer in Berlin ended up being an internship. I was working full time, while being underpaid. But it was one of the many compromises I had to make, to create the life I wanted.
Every disappointment, every rejection, every door that closed on my face was telling me that “this wasn’t your apartment”, “this wasn’t your guy”, “this wasn’t your job”.
What I realized while trying to achieve all my goals was that the only way to keep going, was one: to keep going. Just keep trying, keep searching, be patient, it will come. Working my way towards my dreams felt like working on specific muscles. The more I did, the more I could do. While it was getting harder and harder to get disappointed, it became easier and easier to aim higher.
To cut the long story short, I am here. I still have my goals from 2012 in writing and I get goosebumps when I read them. Apart from the small stuff, like owning the mac I wanted, visiting the cities that were my dream destinations, speaking relatively well a very very very difficult language, I am so proud and grateful that I managed to meet and love – and be loved by – the most wonderful man in the world. I am also a mother! I have a sweet daughter, that I absolutely adore! I managed to work successfully as a designer, I had the luck to learn the art of coaching from the best teacher out here and I created my own business. I also live in a wonderful, sunny apartment in the exact neighbourhood I wanted. I still have goals, a lot of them.
I appreciate my good fortune, I don’t claim I did everything on my own BUT nothing would have happened if I hadn’t taken the time to understand myself, to decide what I really wanted and to take specific and consistent action towards it!
The result of this journey, but not the end of it, was creating The Smart Plan. I wanted to share my experience and what I learned by creating something that was practical, as well as a source of inspiration for people who want to transform their lives and reach their potential.
The Smart Plan is full of tools and practices to help you define your goals and give you the drive to pursue them. You can use the daily planner to prioritise and set your actions into motion. The Smart Plan was created to be a helping hand and a trusty ally for everyone who is looking for change and fulfillment, like I did.
My biggest takeaway from all this is the realisation that at any point in your life you have two choices. Either wait for the life you want to happen, or start living it!