Rise & Shine Interview: Jessica Larsen of Hello Wordsmith
One of my favourite things about blogging is the people you randomly connect with from around the world. Today, I’m pleased to announce that Jessica Larsen (a fellow writer and blogger) is sharing her thoughts on perseverance with us.
I have interviewed many people for my “Profiles of Perseverance” series about how they persevere through many types of obstacles. After finding Jessica's blog by chance, I had to ask her to be part of this series. I'm so blessed she agreed to take part and has graciously shared her life lessons with us. Jessica and I have a lot in common even though we live an ocean apart from each other - her in Australia and me in Canada. Jessica Larsen is a word-wrangler, story-seeker and general lover of wonder + whimsy. She loves green smoothies, summer evenings, and motivational movie montages. She is actively pursuing a life of inspiration, adventure and truth. By day, you can find her giving legal and policy advice to the Government. By night, she is a cape-wearing online superhero who writes, pontificates and inspires over at www.sparrowandsea.com and Hello Wordsmith. Thanks, Jess, for sharing with us the lessons you have learned throughout your life! Keep writing, smiling, and sharing your story!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Who did you receive it from?
Years and years ago, somebody taught me the concept of 'this too shall pass'. And as cliched as some may think this adage is, it changed my life. I had depression for a couple of years back in my early twenties. This one concept was more instrumental on my path to wellness than any other. In an example of the universe sending me exactly what I needed to hear (and batting me over the head with it until I would listen!) I kind of heard it from multiple sources at around the same time – from my high-school drama teacher, a good friend and in 'A New Earth' by Eckhart Tolle all at once. Thank goodness the Universe is persistent!
How important is mentorship in terms of your success?
When I have been lucky enough to have mentor figures in my life, they have been excellent guides and resources. I am someone who is always asking questions, always trying to wean snippets of information and advice from people and learn from their hard-earned wisdom. And I have learned that frequently, wisdom and insight can come from the most unlikeliest sources!
What has been the best moment in your life so far?
All the moments that come to mind have one thing in common – I am surrounded by people who I love, and am feeling connected to them and to the world at large. And let’s face it, those connections are why we are here!
If I have to narrow it down to one, I had a blissful road trip with my boyfriend last year, when we were driving twelve hours together to where he was starting a new job and going to live (it was the start of our whole long distance lovin’ thing). Whilst it may seem like an opportunity for sadness at the impending distance between us, instead we were infused with massive amounts of presence – both of us were so very, very present and soaking in the love and filled with the surreal it’s-just-you-and-me-baby vibe that comes with road tripping. And, of course, there were tunes and snacks and views of the ocean. But mainly just lots of love.
I also frequently experience insanely strong moments of overwhelming gratitude and love when I spend one-on-one time with my parents. I am seriously blessed in the parental department!
What tips would you have for living a healthy life?
- You will always feel better after a work out! Always!
- Find a way to make it interesting and exciting for yourself. My favourite thing to do is to walk whilst listening to an audiobook or a podcast. Seriously, try it!!! I can highly recommend the audiobook ‘Born to Run’ by Christopher McDougall and podcasts by The Wellness Guys (you can find both of these on iTunes, and I’ve got a heap more audiobook recommendations on my blog).
- Make it a priority. Like, sit down and make a list and see where wellness fits in to your priorities. For me, it is absolutely number one – I know that I am a better partner/daughter/sister/friend/colleague when I am looking after my wellness (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually). Prioritising is one of the best tools I use, hands down. In a busy or tired or stressed moment, it can be difficult to evaluate what you should do: e.g., if you come home from work tired, and you know you are just about spent, but you want to do at least one thing productive and progressive, what do you do? Sometimes I’ll get a bit overwhelmed and confused if I think of all the things I *should* be doing and may have planned on doing (writing and meditating and yoga-ing and exercising and organising and… Oh My!), and end up just vegetating in front of the television because it’s easiest. But, if I have a very clear hierarchy in my goals, then I know what I should spend my energy on if it is limited. Right now, my physical health and fitness is my number one priority. Which makes evaluating everything else so much easier. So in almost all cases, the answer is ‘go for a walk’. If I at least go for a walk, it’s been a good day.
- Drink green smoothies. They rock my breakfast world!
How do you motivate yourself to persist despite setbacks?
Accepting where I am has always been a massive part in my ability to create change. It is only when I fully accept the entire warts-and-all picture of crapness that I ever seem to be able to actually achieve my goals! Also, having a good source of inspiration helps me. Something that I emotionally connect with. I love to trawl through pinterest for images that embody the feeling of the goal that I am moving towards (whether it is a career, health, relationship or creative goal). For example, when I lost weight, I could never be sustained by a motivation like ‘wearing a pretty dress for so-and-so’s party’, but I absolutely can be motivated by the feeling of being light and free whilst dancing with my boyfriend, or of the complete surreal wonder of being strong and adventurous paddle-boarding in the middle of the ocean. In both of those last examples, being strong and fit and healthy is an important part of the image and vision, but it is actually the emotional connection to the idea or activity that gets me to where I want to be…
What has been your biggest setback? How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?
I suppose my biggest set-back was having serious depression for about five years in my early twenties, accompanied by significant weight gain. It was five years of lots of struggle and suffering, and for a long time, I felt like I had ‘wasted’ those years and needed to ‘make up for lost time’. Now, after being well for about five years, and losing all the weight and feeling more like ‘me’ than I ever have before, now I see it as being a necessary experience. I think the depression was always inside of me and was going to manifest sooner or later. And now I think that my purpose in life is in some way to use this experience to connect with others. I feel that I have learned so much through this experience and I am so excited at creating opportunities to share it with others. Whilst I would never choose to go through that experience, a big part of me feels like it happened for a reason and I am definitely a better person because of it.
How do you deal with critics?
I am pathologically conditioned to want everyone in the world to be friends and for everyone to like me! I used to think that this was a constructive and endearing trait, but have now come to realise that it does not serve me and just wastes a whole lot of energy! My intellectual approach now is to recognise that there are always going to be people who disagree with me or my work, and as long as I believe in the quality and integrity of what I am producing, then I can ignore any criticism that is not constructive. Of course, in reality, it can still be emotionally difficult to put this into practice. Something that has really helped me to emotionally disconnect from unhelpful criticism is to focus on my internal radar. I am constantly conducting an internal assessment of whether my work/thoughts/actions are meeting my own personal, ineffable requirements for being authentically me. If, on my personal assessment, what I am doing is passing my own test and is in alignment with who/what I want to be, then I find it a whole heap easier to disconnect from the criticism. After all, if I am truly acting authentically, then there is no space for the criticism and no reason to get upset by it. If, on the other hand, I realise that my work/actions are registering a slight ping (or, God forbid, sounding alarm bells!!) then I’ll assess the situation and utilise the criticism. It comes down to how I feel in my belly. Listening to that visceral response helps me steer.
How important is social support in overcoming obstacles?
Massively. I fully believe in the old adage ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ (and its flipside, that joy shared is multiplied exponentially). I have a tendency to be overly analytical and to intellectualise all the aspects of the obstacles in my path. I am so grateful to have support networks in place around me (my partner, my mum and dad, my sister, my best friend) to help me hash things out and get them out of my head and give me new points of view. Not to mention, I am frequently amazed at how someone else can immediately pinpoint - and solve - a problem that you have been struggling with and worrying over for days/weeks/months in the blink of an eye. I feel incredibly lucky to have such people in my life!
What advice would you give others about goal setting?
I think goal setting is a bit like diets – there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and all methods can be equally powerful but you have to make them work for you.
For me, having very clear priorities and an emotional connection to the goal is paramount. Then, making sure that the goal itself rides that fine line between challenging-enough-to-be-exciting-and-motivating but achievable-enough-to-not-be-overwhelming. That balance is super important to me, and when I find that sweet spot, the magic starts to flow. Usually for me, this means lowering my expectations. I am the sort of all-or-nothing person who will earnestly and wholeheartedly believe that I can write a book, lose 10 pounds, and train for a marathon within a two week period. Then feel disappointed with myself when I only do three chapters, three pounds and three 10ks. This is a recipe for a Stressed Jess. But as soon as I chop everything into bite-size pieces, things start to flow. I like to remember – you eat an elephant one mouthful at a time. Goals are the same. I break my overarching goals (write eBook on study habits) in bite-sized chunks (write chapter on note-taking this week). Chunk it down!
I also strongly believe in ‘launch, then learn’. Nothing is ever perfect, and if you keep waiting for the stars to align and things to be picture-polished-perfect, then you will be waiting forever. Danielle LaPorte writes brilliantly on this topic.
Also, don’t underestimate the power of momentum. Getting some of those annoying, perpetually rolled-over tasks completed can be super motivating in moving forwards and getting even more done.
And lastly, when I am overwhelmed by a faraway goal, I remind myself that I already have everything I need within me right now to get to where I want to be later.
What life lesson have you learned that you would like to pass along to others?
- Know that whatever happens, it too will pass, and that you can and will survive anything and everything (Proof? You have so far!)
- Recognise that your identity does not stem from your size, job, marital status or income. Your worth as a human being is inherent and implicit and absolutely unaffected by any of these external factors.
- In moments of suffering, accept how you are feeling – feel it, really feel it – and breathe through it.
- Practice the art of allowing. Allow yourself to feel what it is that you are feeling (do not numb it with food, shopping etc). Allow others to be who they are. Allow life to unfold at its own pace. There is so much more space in your life and your being when you allow it…
Thanks, Jess, for sharing your "random" thoughts and life lessons with us! Keep writing, inspiring, and sharing!
Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.
See you at the beach!