The upheaval of the past two years has had many people contemplating making a change. Whether it be a tree change, a career switch or something personal, it can be tricky to translate that hope into reality.
Two friends, Jo Smith and Bonnie Tuttle have both made enormous positive changes in their lives and now concentrate on helping others do the same. Jo through her holistic wellness farm on Bruny Island and Bonnie through her Hobart-based business as a consultant. They also collaborate on workshops designed for individuals who are looking to develop a clear and strong foundation for their way of life, their business or both.
An Overwhelming Time
Times of great uncertainty can naturally lead us to want to stay put within what feels secure. But they can also be an excellent time to make changes, if that’s available to you. Jo says the pandemic has a silver lining in that it has offered many of us a chance to pause, step back and re-evaluate our lives.
‘There will never be a right or wrong time in life to make a big change,’ she says. ‘I feel anytime is a good time to rethink life. Maybe it is a good time now to take a step back and ask: Will I be happy returning to a pre-Covid life, or do I need to pivot and follow my truth?’
Bonnie agrees: ‘It really depends on the individual and their personal circumstances, but I do think it is always and never a good time!’ she says. ‘Jo encourages me to follow my intuition, but as a natural analyst and strategist, I like to have some criteria to assess the benefits of change against. For me, Holistic Decision Making (a whole-oriented approach to decisions) is a great tool because it encourages and supports the use of both intuition and practicality.’
Jo swapped city life, managing a wholefood shop in Hobart, for a very different life on an off-grid Bruny Island farm where she and her partner are raising their young twins. She’s built a huge market garden from scratch, added a yoga shala as well as many, many chickens. She runs gardening and yoga workshops, farm tours, a farm stall and provides the Bruny and wider Tasmanian community with fresh, organic food boxes and new skills.
‘A dear friend once told me you have found your dharma (your purpose) when you can do that thing and do it all day without thinking of anything else or doing it unpaid,’ Jo says. ‘This is how I feel on the farm. That, to me, is success. It brings me great joy, happiness and contentment.’
It sounds idyllic, but Jo and Bonnie are both refreshingly honest about the challenges they’ve met along the way and those they continue to meet. ‘I do want to say, it has taken me quite some time to find my thing,’ laughs Jo. ‘I tried many other things throughout my life and because my choices at the time weren’t aligned, my mental and physical health suffered. As I have gotten older I do feel – and I acknowledge I am in a very privileged position – the choices I’m making are truly aligned with my values.’
Bonnie lives on a suburban block in Hobart with her family and a pumping vegie patch. Her big move was quitting working for other people and setting out on her own. She did a Permaculture Design Course and a Holistic Decision Making course, and began helping individuals and organisations in a variety of ways that align with her values. She is now self-employed and takes on a variety of jobs she really believes in.
‘For me, the biggest change was questioning the life I had built for myself, and asking myself who that was actually for,’ she says. ‘I realised that I had been making choices according to everyone around me, both close to me and in broader society. Now when I make a decision it really is my choice.
‘By choosing based on the success criteria I adopted from others, I made choices in my past that led me to poor mental and physical health, and a life where I was disconnected from my family and my community. Now I just do what I can with what I know and what I have. I follow my interests, and I say yes to most things once out of curiosity.’
Clockwise from top: Bonnie in the kitchen of her Hobart home; As well as running courses, Jo grows produce for her local Bruny Island community; Yoga helps Jo confront and overcome challenging decisions; Bonnie finds happiness in her productive patch.
Knowing When It’s Time
Bonnie offers three key questions to ask if you’re considering making a big change. The first is to ask yourself if the change is really necessary, or are you looking to make these changes to fix a different problem? The next question is have you considered and are you ready for the practical requirements and the impacts of this change? Lastly, who is this change going to benefit? If the answer isn’t you, then maybe it’s someone or something else that needs to change.
Where To Start
Bonnie recommends first making time to be with your thoughts. ‘That might sound ridiculous to those in lockdown but what I mean is intentional time to ask yourself some hard questions,’ she says.
Questions like what do you really like about your life? What don’t you like? What would your ideal life look like? When you close your eyes and imagine your best day, what does it look like?
‘Ask yourself why that “best day” or “ideal life” would make you happy and keep asking the question until you reach the core of what it is you really want,’ she says.
Sometimes one of the biggest barriers to change is the opinions of others, or the – often louder – inner voice of imposter syndrome and Jo says yoga has always helped her to regain focus.
‘Part of my work as a yoga practitioner is to help people lean into their own inner compass while holding space to enable stillness and self-reflection,’ she says. ‘When we become still we can soften the mental chatter going on and have space to hear our own intuition speak.’
Making any kind of change in your life, big or small, can be really daunting and call for a lot of courage to see it through. If at any time things become overwhelming, the advice is – as it so often is – keep it simple. Bonnie suggests coming back to permaculture’s three main ethics of earth care, people care and fair share.
‘Ask are we caring for people – that goes for ourselves as well? Are we caring for the planet? And are we giving what we can and taking only what we need?’
Treat yourself with kindness. Return to the basics and feel gratitude knowing that you can only do your best at any given time under your personal and current circumstances.
Stop & listen
JO TALKS US THROUGH A USEFUL MINDFULNESS PRACTICE
‘Place one hand on your heart and one hand on your lower abdomen. Take a few slow and mindful breaths in and out. When you feel the space you can ask yourself: “What do I want my day to look like and how do I want to feel?” Then we can sit with this without judgement and actually notice if we are aligned with the answers. If not, we can slowly make small changes that are sustainable and nurture the whole self. Small and slow changes are the best.’
Bonnie and Jo are planning to run a Your Life, By Design workshop together in November in southern lutrawita/Tasmania. Follow them @bonnietuttleconsultant and @naturallywellwithjo