Burn Bright through Challenging Times

By: Jo Bassett • 4 years ago •


My work has given me a legitimate window to look into the lives of others. Professionally, I have chosen a career where people in many situations choose to share their stories and experiences with me as a leadership and wellbeing coach, author, educator and creator of Living Savvy TV.


he day to day lives of the people I work with can appear very diverse on the surface. Athletes competing at the top level of their sport, entrepreneurial business owners, emerging leaders focused on building lasting professional careers, young people transitioning into early adulthood, senior executives – all people who live full lives while handling a multitude of competing responsibilities that don’t miraculously disappear (even though they sometimes wish they would!).

Looking deeper, the people I work with all share something in common: when faced with adversity, they have come through.

A life completely adversity-free (if that’s even possible) is not really desirable. We will always face challenges, and there will be times of sadness, disappointment, pain and grief. This is part of being human.

The people I work with have overcome adversity by asking big questions, digging deep to learn about themselves and taking sustainable action. They understand that it is not about having all the answers up front or making overnight transformations. The key is to commit to the process – to have the courage to reflect on questions they may not know how to answer, to take small steps forward, and then to review and take action again. Just like I have been doing over the past 12 months.

12 months ago, change came sweeping through my life. Though I had some warning, it was still a time of shock, uncertainty and fear. I had faced adversity in the past and wondered how I would keep going, I questioned my ability to get through. I can’t recall ever being in a place like I was last year.

At that time, I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and the ground was crumbling under my feet. I felt sad, scared, anxious, and despairing. I am someone who is recognised for her determination and resolve and yet I was sobbing down the phone to a friend, “I can’t do this.” In that moment I’d lost faith in myself. It was a dark place to be.

I felt like I was standing on the edge of a cliff and the ground was crumbling under my feet.

I was questioning decisions made and patterns of behaviour left unchallenged that had led me to this place. I let go of long term goals and parked dreams.

I was feeling a potent mix of sadness and anger, and in between there was a big black pit of fear. There were moments when I recognised this change would bring renewal, and in those times, I would hold on tight to that precious feeling of hope. It took an enormous amount of energy and effort to stay hopeful and constantly skirt around the edge of the pit of blackness without falling in.

I was (and continue to be) blessed to have people in my life who believe in me. People who had faith in me when my own seeped away. When my doubts drowned out possibility, I chose to listen to these people and see myself through their eyes.

I honed the practice of living mindfully, seeing and feeling the smiles of my children, enjoying the company of dear friends and being captivated by my work. I began to move forward through this difficult time, focusing not on what was coming in the next few months, but on what needed to happen in the next hour and remembering the words of a yoga teacher I practiced with: sometimes life is ‘one breath at a time’.

Sometimes life is ‘one breath at a time’.


1. Step up

Stepping up and taking responsibility for making the changes that are needed for you. Shifting responsibility to others or expecting others to find the answers is not a successful strategy in times of adversity. You get a choice in the life path you take, so make each choice count. Ask yourself: What do I want to experience today? What do I want to be different? How do I want to feel when I end my day? What do I need in my life to be at my best? Build your life around these people, events or activities.

2. Fine tune the ordinary

Start simple and practice doing something a little different each week. Find something in your life that you take for granted or give little thought to. Order a quirky coffee flavour, flip to a radio station you wouldn’t usually listen to, smile at a stranger in the check-out line, turn off the light and burn candles instead.

Welcome opportunities to try something new and you might be surprised by what shows up.

3. Fill your happiness cup daily

At the beginning of each day, take a moment to ask yourself: What can I do today that will make me feel happy? Try to choose events or experiences that do not require investments of money or time. Things like: throw a coin into the guitar case of the local busker, take a bunch of flowers to work, bake a cake and share at morning tea, put together a ‘happy’ playlist and play on the way to work, eat lunch in the sunshine.

4. Set a powerful intention

There is magic in a well-crafted intention word or phrase, an intention that we can hold easily in our mind as we go about the day. Pause in the midst of being overwhelmed, refocus and prioritise based on your own values, then make better decisions that reflect who you are choosing to be, right here and now. Stay in touch with what you truly want and know you are heading in the right direction.

5. Build your wellbeing muscle

These muscles are as essential for our ability to stand upright and move through the world with ease as any of the physical muscles in our body. Just like the muscles in our legs or our backs lose strength and flexibility when neglected. Wellbeing muscle is built by doing those things that promote positive feelings.

Engaging and connecting with others brings a sense of achievement and will have you focus beyond yourself.

6. Honour your feelings (whatever they may be)

How do we process our feelings of loss, grief, anger and fear alongside the constant urging to focus on what you still have? These reminders can feel like an emotional gag. In times of adversity, acknowledge the power of your feelings and choose how you let them free.

7. Grab moments of gratitude

Sadness and fear can be a companion to gratitude. Shifting your perspective to take notice of the good is an important step in moving through adverse times. Practicing gratitude is more than a habit or something that you ‘do’; being grateful is the person that you are. As you go through your day, recognise those moments or experiences that are good and hold onto them. These could be something as simple as getting a park in the city or getting into your car and finding the fuel tank full or being first line at your favourite coffee haunt.

8. Let go of judgement

Last year, Oscar-winning Australian actress Cate Blanchett revealed that she “felt judged by other mothers during the school drop-off who questioned why she couldn’t ‘brush her hair’”. Why do we care so much about what other people think? Lean back from judgement by identifying three people whose opinion matters to you (this may change from scenario to scenario). Seek out their views and turn down the volume on other perceived or real voices of judgement to make room for self-assuredness and self-trust.

Jo Bassett is head coach at Living Savvy Coaching, working with talented people to burn bright without burning out. She believes you can achieve big without sacrificing joy, wellbeing and contentment, and shares stories and tips for achieving sustainable success on twitter @livingsavvy or

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