As 2020 wraps up, so does the Share Your Story series. Our 100th share hails from New Zealand. Leigh Johnson is living life her way.
After a dark period of depression and feeling the need to do what was expected of her, she now does it HER WAY. Leigh’s revelation at 36 re-set her trajectory, giving her the impetus to abandon the life she was stuck in and begin the life she desired.
Today, Leigh helps other women, in midlife, to work towards a life of fun, friends, and adventure. She is a is a Work & Life Coach, who inspires women over 50 to do work they love, so they can enjoy financial comfort.
KUELLIFE: What are you pursuing now, at this stage of your life, that surprises you or might appear to others as if it comes out of left field?
LEIGH: That I am living my dream in our simple beach house following the sale of our business in 2019. I get to do what I want and that includes travel adventures that extend for months at a time.
KUELLIFE: What’s a typical day like for you?
LEIGH: Taking care of my mental and physical health is a priority. When at home I am served coffee in bed while I scroll my social media and news channels. When I do get up, which isn’t early, I start the day with a dip in the spa pool and then do 25 minutes of pilates and yoga while listening to the radio. After this, I’ll often get on my elliptical trainer for 20 minutes of high-intensity intermittent training (HIIT).
I don’t make myself available until 11 AM, which is when I’ll work on my blog, create content, complete coaching calls, service our Airbnb guest suite on the property, catch up with friends and family, or do household chores. My home office is in our camper van which is parked on our front lawn, and I’ll generally spend 3 to 4 hours there each day. My time is mine to manage as I like and I’ve learned that the day can pass very easily.
In the late afternoon, you’ll often see us walking on the beach behind our home. I love to cook and find the creative process of preparing our dinner to be very therapeutic. Evenings are downtime revolving around Netflix and knitting.
KUELLIFE: With what do you struggle?
“At times I feel guilty with how good my life is.”
LEIGH: At times I feel guilty with how good my life is. Then I remind myself that it’s not all luck and that I use my hard-won experiences to help others.
KUELLIFE: How do you motivate yourself and stay motivated?
LEIGH: I have trouble motivating myself to work on my business. One, because I don’t want to put myself under pressure which might mean a return to burnout or depression. Two, because I very much enjoy living in the moment, taking joy from the many small activities that fill my days.
Previously I was motivated by the need to be successful (in the eyes of others) which drove me to work too hard until I finally crashed. These days I measure my success by how I meet my expectations – which are about being non-judgmental, supporting others, and living in the now.
KUELLIFE: What advice would you give fellow women about aging?
LEIGH: Many of my coaching clients (who are women over 50) feel they are invisible and lack purpose. They also often lack resources.
But fortunately there are many new ways to earn a living today, as well as alternative lifestyle options, as long as we’re prepared to try new things and take steps each day towards achieving our goals. Examples include; living simply, downsizing or co-housing, creating multiple income streams, and economical travel using home swap and house sitting.
Giving ourselves permission to follow our heart takes courage, but can be hugely rewarding.
KUELLIFE: What does vulnerability mean to you? What has the ability to make you vulnerable?
“Sharing the lived reality of my then prevailing dark, depths of depression made me feel incredibly vulnerable”
LEIGH: Vulnerability requires courage. Sharing the lived reality of my then prevailing dark, depths of depression made me feel incredibly vulnerable, but that was offset by the responses I received. Often for the first time, these people felt safe enough to share their very private mental health experiences. Knowing how I help others motivates me to keep sharing. Being vulnerable has made me stronger and a better person.
KUELLIFE: What are three events that helped to shape your life?
- At the age of 36 I experienced an instantaneous revelation, while mowing the lawns of my brother’s home, which is where I had taken refuge during a difficult life transition. I suddenly realized that the expectations that I had allowed to rule my life until then could be abandoned. Once I had let these go I was then able to create new expectations of my own making. This discovery changed my life.
- The death of my oldest, dearest friend from pancreatic cancer at age 51, was the first domino of a major mental health crisis lasting three plus years. While I don’t wish this type of experience on anybody, it has been revelatory to how I live now.
- Meeting my husband at 39. He supports my crazy ideas and shares my need for new experiences. Together we are living our dream.
KUELLIFE: Who influenced you the most in life and why?
LEIGH: I was fortunate as a child to be supported to be the best I could be. (Though sometimes that meant trying too hard to meet others’ expectations.) Within that setting, it was my mother who role-modeled how to be a strong, intelligent, pioneering woman while also being patient, gracious, and caring.
KUELLIFE: What is the best advice you’ve been given from another woman?
LEIGH: When entering full-time university in my late 30s while a single parent, I spoke to an old boss about what I should study. Ruth was an ex-manager whom I admired greatly for her business skills and drive. Surprisingly, her advice was to study what interested me – and the rest would take care of itself. It did!
KUELLIFE: Are you grown-up?
LEIGH: My oldest, dearest friend died when we were both aged 51. She never wanted to grow up, and she didn’t. I try to follow in her footsteps – though I fail when I take myself too seriously or beat myself up for making mistakes.
KUELLIFE: What do you do for self-care?
LEIGH: I’m selfish. Not in a bad way, but by doing things that allow me to maintain my mental well-being. That can be as much about the things I don’t do, as well as what I choose to commit to.
KUELLIFE: And last but definitely NOT least: What are the top three things on your bucket list?
- To live until I’m 90 years plus.
- To take my grand-daughter on adventures, here in New Zealand and overseas.
- To never stop adding new adventures to my bucket list.