Last April I did a complete 180 degree shift in my life and learned three valuable life lessons from it, that I want to share with you here.
You see, I went from being the ultimate digital nomad, traveling the world, being single for almost 6 years and running my online business I loved, into a completely different life.
This included buying and moving into an amazing ‘lifestyle’ property with 5 bedrooms, 2.5 acres of land and a 240sqm modern barn!
I did this with my life partner Josh, even though we’d not been together that long, we were both up for an adventure. Soon after moving in we got our adorable puppy Kayla, the White German Shepherd and I started my three month Business Sabbatical.
In short, a massive amount of change in a very short time frame, not only in my life, but to my very identity.
I’m not sure I recommend it. I mean I love change but this was a bit too much, all at once. But it knocked me down on my ass and forced me to get back up again, and again and again.
The Six Human Needs in Life
Many years ago I read Personal Development ‘Guru’ Tony Robbins book. Awaken the Giant Within. Regardless of what you think of Tony, I can’t speak highly enough of this book.
In it he describes the six human needs we should fulfil in order to be happy and successful.
No 1. is Certainty — you know a roof over your head, food on the table, stability, security. Basically assurance you can avoid pain and gain pleasure, which in many ways I now had.
No 2. is Uncertainty/Variety: the need for the unknown, change, new stimuli. I definitely had that too as this was a whole new lifestyle for me and now I had a fur baby that challenged me in more ways than one.
What I realized I was lacking pretty early on, that I had when I was traveling the world and running my business and helping people change their lives to have more freedom, was No 3. Significance: feeling unique, important, special or needed.
I was no longer feeling unique as a digital nomad living life on my own terms, as I had technically ‘settled down’, I didn’t feel important, in fact I felt like I’d become an overnight stay at home Mum!
It was winter, and the first one I’d experienced in six years, and we had a puppy Kayla, that I would stay at home with for the first 2 months full time as my partner Josh was finishing up a teaching stint at his business so commuting into town each day.
On top of that ‘Project House’ as I called it lasted around two months and was pretty intense, as you could imagine after living out just a suitcase. But when it finished, I didn’t have a project to keep me feeling on purpose.
Sure I had trees to plant and gardens to establish, a community to build in a new town and so much newness to get used to, but I had lots of time on my hand as I was taking a break from my business, which really had been my life (in a great way) for so long.
I did have No 4. Connection/ Love: a strong feeling of closeness or union with someone or something — with Josh, Kayla, my family who I was finally in the same country as, and our new lifestyle.
I did also have a personal version of No 5. Growth: an expansion of capacity, capability or understanding as I was learning a lot about ‘lifestyling’, gardening, permaculture, rural life, puppy training, being in a relationship and not traveling.
And, after too many years of dabbling, I was deep diving into yoga and meditation properly, to give me a foundation and feeling of being grounded in amongst the change. Yoga with Adrienne was a godsend!
What I didn’t have was No 6. Contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others.
After years of coaching, mentoring, advising, teaching, creating and helping others to find their own version of freedom in business and adventure in life, I felt like a bit of a phoney.
Most people who knew me as the Suitcase Entrepreneur, were wondering what on earth I’d done taking on this new life.
I felt personally disconnected as I’d deliberately taken time off my business to recharge and prove that everything I teach and stand for — automating your business so it can run without you, is true.
Turns out it was, but not at a cost. My identity was too tied to my brand and my work. That meant my significance was not linked to being of service, but to being important and needed.
Basic human needs sure, but when all is said and done, and you’ve had your success, fame and glory, people will forget you unless you leave a legacy, unless you change lives, unless you take actions that really matter and make an impact.
Unless you show up in this world and lovely deeply, both yourself and everyone else.
Lesson 1: Significance is not about you, it’s about who you serve in life
A few months into my new life I went into a rare dark state of ‘not muchness’. It wasn’t depression but a deep sense of feeling lost, unworthy and as if all I had achieved in life, all the skills I’d learned and shared, everything I’d spent years working so hard to build, simply didn’t matter.
Of course none of this was true, I was just feeling sorry for myself and deliberately wallowing in this feeling.
This is probably one of just two periods in my life where I’ve felt this way, for which I feel blessed, and I drew on the lessons I’d learned from reading Awaken the Giant Within when I was in my early 20s.
I purposefully lingered in this uncomfortable place because I know, and you know, that growth and learning come from being uncomfortable.
Of the 6 Human Needs stated above, each of us puts these six needs in their own unique order of importance. That said, the first four shape our personality, but growth and contribution shape our spiritual needs according to Tony’s blog post:
“The problem is, if you have significance or certainty as one of the top two needs of your personality, your life is guaranteed to have problems.”
Yep. I was having them.
Ironically not because I had no certainty, which means you like to keep life the same so you have to artificially control your environment, control the people and control yourself.
According to Robbins, “the only way to achieve that is to lower your expectations or just be stressed out all the time, neither of which are a good option.”
I had too much certainty, and more than I was used to. I’d say uncertainty would be in position 1, and all those years of travel and moving about and constantly making decisions about everything catered to that.
But my real problem lay in significance, and “if it’s one of your top two needs, you always have to be competing with someone else. More than likely, you have to lie to yourself about your real abilities or surround yourself with people that are less skilled.”
I’m not sure I went that far, but I had certainly been lying to myself. I had become stagnant in a world where growth is a constant. Many people I had mentored or coached were outgrowing me.
I’d relied too much on my earlier success and had stopped learning — well not completely, but not with the voracious appetite I had before.
I’d become tired, jaded and disenchanted with the industry I was in and longed for something fresh and new. But deep down that wasn’t totally true.
It was up to me to fall in love with what I stood for, with what I already knew, with what I did well, all over again, but this time with a renewed energy, mission and outlook.
Apparently “all dysfunctional behaviours arise from the inability to consistently meet these six needs. But, if you are able to reach them, in a healthy order — meaning significance and certainty are not at the top — you will have fulfillment.”
And if you go even further to understand them, you can start to create new patters that stop any self-sabotage and create new patterns.
So that’s what I set about doing. And it wasn’t easy and it certainly was a long, slow process compared to what I’m used to. I tackled it in two ways:
I revisited everything I knew to be true, and threw out what was not serving me, to come away with a fresh perspective. I sent emails to five people I trusted and respected and asked them some specific questions about how they saw me, what they thought I had that was unique and valuable.
Then I went back over four tests I’d done, in some cases, years before like Wealth Dynamics – to reassess my entrepreneurial superpower, Strength Finder, How to Fascinate and The Four Tendencies and dug deep into the results to relearn about myself.
I write about these more extensively and how they can help you in my new upcoming book The Freedom Plan.
2. External Reflection
Then I focused on what I loved most about my work – which was helping people to achieve their own goals and dreams.
Luckily I had kept an email folder full of wonderful feedback from my community over the years. This is something I recommend everyone to do, because on those days when you’re feeling down it can bring you right back up again.
These loving messages, praise, testimonials and simple shoutouts, meant the world to me. Not because they made me feel special (which they did), but because they reminded me what happens when you put yourself out there to make other people feel special.
That was my why. That was the reason I had to continue on and giving of myself, day after day. These people needed me, and I needed them. Together we are making the world a better place through our actions and intentions.
Lesson 2: Create fake constraints in your daily life
One thing that has never wavered throughout this major life change is my commitment to understanding, nurturing and having true freedom.
The thing is with this new lifestyle, peace, quiet and nature surrounding me daily, I’ve done an almost too good a job of prioritizing life and fun!
That may not sound like a bad thing, and I agree, it’s not, we all need to recharge, take time off and be present on a daily basis.
The thing is, too much of a good thing is a curse not a blessing and I got a little lazy. Not in the physical sense of the word — I got fitter with all the dog walking, gardening, hiking, tennis, boxfit and outdoor activities, but in terms of my own time management.
It’s incredible how quickly a day can escape from you when you don’t have any pressing engagements or real priorities.
In a bid to fully embarce my business sabbatical I’d removed all constraints, yet as I have preached to all my clients and customers, friends and family, discipline gives you freedom.
I had lost my discipline. So I set about taking it back to get more freedom — sounds ironic but it’s true.
I created fake time constraints every day.
If you’ve never used this technique, and find yourself procrastinating a lot, or you work from home and get distracted by ‘other’ to-dos, then try this out.
Simply create hard stops in your day that you have to stick to, like lunch with a friend, a gym class, an art exhibition you want to see and then stick to it.
That act alone will force you to condense your available time into a shorter period, instantly making you more focused and productive.
I did it by using a powerful morning routine, including yoga to get up early and get in a daily rhythm. I made sure by 9am I was doing something of purpose — training the puppy or doing several hours of learning of a course I’d enrolled in online to learn new skills.
I created ‘meetups’ in town to get out of the house and out of my familiar surroundings (still sounds so strange to say that after 6 years of being nomadic, where everything was strange and wonderful all the time).
I put them at 3pm in the afternoon or earlier so I had less time to ‘faff’ about and do odd jobs around the house and garden that were nice but not truly useful.
Before I knew it I was pumped to get back into work and reinventing my business and brand over at nataliesisson.com
It started to work. My spirits lifted, the funk I was in receded and I felt more in flow, and as if I was moving towards my new found purpose.
I could now see that true joy lies in richness of experience in all areas of life and that not all of them can realistically be in balance at the same time.
The beauty lies in accepting that and owning it while always correcting course. Luckily I had been working on that too.
Lesson 3: We are all our own Life Pilots
In June last year, deep in the heart of my ‘funk’ period, Josh and I flew to Melbourne as he had a conference he was speaking at and I needed a change of scene and to travel again.
It was exactly what I needed. Simply a change of scene sparked my creativity, drive and imagination as to what I wanted to work on.
Josh and I walked and talked, sat in cafes and dreamed and schemed on life’s possibilities. We came up with several businesses I could choose to pursue.
He wisely knew that if I could find one thing to focus on I’d be off and running.
He was right. What I chose wasn’t the right thing at all it turns out, but it led me to think deeply about what excited me, what this next stage of life could look, feel, smell and feel like.
Together we got thinking about purpose, missions and goals. Something I thrive on but had been missing since I took time out.
Before I was like a ship out at sea with no wind, letting the waves take me whereever they wanted, with no real purpose or direction.
And now I was full sails ahead with a chart to guide me and a journey I had chosen with destinations to arrive at along the way!
Unbeknownst to us, that day was the start of Life Pilot, a system we developed together that we’ve been using for over 12 months, that lets us envision our best lives, set and track our goals and hold each other accountable.
But it’s more than a damn effective life planning tool, it’s become a compass for whether we’re being present, courageous and focusing on priorities.
It shows us if we are aligning with our values and putting our time and attention into the causes that matter most.
What started as a simple, yet slightly geeky colour coded spreadsheet and a deep and meaningful chat about life back in June 2017, has turned into a system that sees us setting our 3 most important actions every day together.
Each Sunday we make time to reflect on our weekly goals and ask ourselves important questions. This ties into making sure our monthly and quarterly goals in 8 areas of our life, are in line with the three year vision we set for ourselves.
We plan holidays and adventures around this too to turn it into something fun and even magical.
I think the reason it works so well is it’s not just me setting goals and trying to meet them, it’s both of us building a life together and helping each other dream and take purposeful action.
We think this could be a system you could use in life and benefit from immensely, because unlike the plethora of tools, journals, books and apps out there, this one works as you have someone you’re sharing it with.
Yes you can use it by yourself, but it’s even better if you do it with your partner, spouse, best friend, peer or simply someone who’s willing to hold you accountable and ask you the right prompts and questions, to help you achieve what you really want in life.
The more we’ve told our friends and community, the more interest we’ve had to share it with them. So we ran a small pilot throughout the month of July and the results have blown us away.
We had no idea whether our system would work when used by other lovely humans, but it has and more effectively than we could have imagined.
That’s because everyone has dreams and desires and needs, and yet ‘finding time’ to make those a reality is so much harder than we realize.
There are many reasons for this but the primary one is that if we haven’t take the time to dream, scheme and visualize our ideal life, there is NO way we are going to get there if we don’t back it up with a plan and focus and daily actions.
That’s what Life Pilot solves, the rest is all up to you.
Each month we open up a new Life Pilot 10 Day Challenge to take people through exactly what we do, and give you the system we’ve created that’s made a massive difference to our lives.
I truly hope you join us!