Redefining Success: What Your Body Has to Say An Interview with WWRI Editor-In-Chief Fiona Fine By David Cohen
A new generation of women is maturing who are telling their mothers they will not do things their way.
It makes sense then that David Cohen of The Boomer Business Coach would want to talk to Women Who Run It’s Editor-In-Chief Fiona Fine. At The Boomer Business Coach the main goal is to help baby boomers do a business they love, and do it successfully. Fiona Fine is the pinnacle of this, and so David Cohen invited her to be interviewed on his Lives Lived Well Teleseries.
Author and speaker Fiona Fine has been through a lot in her life. She has a degree in engineering, has been married twice, and has gone through three car accidents plus two major concussions from other accidents over the span of 30 years.
The Accidents At seventeen, a few weeks into studying engineering at university, Fiona experienced her first car accident. It caused her considerable pain, as well as started the damage to her immune system.
“Yet I didn’t change – I just kept pushing and driving myself through it all,” recalls Fiona.
She pushed through her five year engineering program to graduate as a Mechanical Engineer – one of 35 women in a class of almost 1000. Yet this severely impacted her health and collapsed her immune system which just couldn’t keep up to the stress.
Over the next 15 years Fiona worked in her career of engineering, CAD/CAM and then ultimately in IT corporate headhunting – all male dominated industries. In 1995, she had her second car accident. This one left her disabled for a period of time before she figured out how to become the first person in her industry to tele-commute so she could continue to work. “Making money was what I was good at above all else.” she said.
“Yet I still didn’t get the real message,” says Fiona.
Finally, following a third accident, Fiona finally got the message that she needed to reframe how she looked at life, and how she managed her health and personal life. She began to realize that her definition of success was warped and required change in order for her to go on. She began this process by tapping into her body and psyche and figuring out how to harmonize her mind body and spirit. “Up until that time, my ego mind was the largest muscle of my body.” she admits.
Marriage Being a young alpha woman, Fiona had pre-planned her life out in detail. At 17, she already had the vision of herself in her engineering career with two kids and a husband – all before the age of 34 “because that was how society still encouraged us as women to think” but could see no further she admits. Life mostly started out by fitting the plan.
At 28, her first husband fell hard and fast in love with her. She was different than the other women he had dated. “Brains times beauty is a constant and you changed the constant” is what he told her and it was shortly after a trip to Italy and only 6 months of meeting her that he asked her to marry him. All she could say was “Oh, sh#t” – evidently thirteenth times. She couldn’t say yes…
“He asked me, ‘if you love me why wouldn’t you want to marry me?’ And so I got married because I didn’t have a good answer,” she said. “I didn’t understand that you can love and not be ‘in love’. He was a good man yet he was not the man for me.”
The marriage lasted less than two years.
“He wanted out,” she shared succinctly with David Cohen on his show. She dove back into her career and in that timeframe also had a second major car accident. Life was a continuous challenge yet about that time she met another man and went back into a 10 year relationship.
Yet history was repeating itself, and in 2007, Fiona left the relationship. She considered herself “successfully divorced for the last time,” cleaned up her health (again) and felt confident and ready to date. Nevertheless, she found the concept of reentering the dating game difficult to wrap her mind around. This was where she got one of the best pieces of personal advice from one of her male best friends:
“Even if you love pizza, why on earth would you want to eat pizza every day of your life?” he said.
In a nutshell, his advice was to go out and have fun! Explore what made her happy and what she really desired to create in her life and how she wanted to live and love – on her terms!
Thinking back to her first relationship, she remembers the societal expectations that influenced her decision.
“It was society saying: ‘this is a good man’.”
“Yet every year I was putting myself away in a smaller box.”
What the body has to say She found that in the pursuit of success and competition in a male world, she had denied so many aspects of her femininity. All of her time had been spent trying to fit into a mold created by society and it was hurting her – literally. The harder she went after her goals, the bigger an accident or “growing experience” was required to slow her down.
It’s not that there were no warning signs. Fiona is frank about the fact the her intuition and body were sounding the alarm very loudly that she was moving too quickly and pushing too hard/too often.
“I honestly believe that our bodies speak to us – if we listen. Whispers at first, then grumbles, then often full a out assault which is the cause of much ‘dis-ease’”.
But it’s not just about learning to listen to your own body. Fiona emphasizes the need for women to interact with each other and speak using their own voice. According to her, there are three major periods in a woman’s life when women do not seem to communicate well and share what works/what doesn’t in their lives: puberty, child rearing years, and again during menopause.
This idea drove Fiona to create two online publications for women to advocate, support and connect with other women: one on women’s leadership (the one you’re reading right now!) and the other on dating and relationships.
Ultimately, while Fiona figured out the hard yet conscious changes she needed to make in her life, it took her many years filled with pain and difficulty to get there. Her mess has become her message and has also created the spectacular life she leads now. She doesn’t want other women to have to learn things the hard way but to listen to the whispers in their own lives. She wants every woman to be a B.I.T.C.H (a Babe In Total Control of Herself). She wants this so much that she wrote a whole book on the subject (found here). Babe In Total Control of Herself is Fiona’s guidebook for women just like her who want to find the same success she had.
Fiona’s advice is to change the focus in our lives from “doing” to “being”.
“A life that is not one of self-awareness is not worth living,” according to her paraphrase of the Socrates quote. “We need to know ourselves to create our best lives.”
Life is made of choices and changes that mesh with each other in often unpredictable ways, and it is okay (and often mandatory) to step back and say “I don’t know why” or “I don’t know how to…”. Indeed, slowing down to give your body and inner spirit a chance to talk to you will probably do more for your career and personal development than constantly sucking it up and toughing it out. “We push ourselves so hard and it is often in our later years that we realize we never had to- slow is smooth/smooth is fast.”
Our minds and bodies are not machines, and we cannot and should not conform to norms and expectations if they harm us. We rob our lives of authenticity when we forget that our lives are meant to be an expression of our true selves as individuals.
Drawing on Fiona’s inspirational story, there are many nuggets of wisdom to be extracted that can help us reclaim our lives.
1. Are your jobs or goals hurting you? Does your body physically ache from your job? Perhaps the stress is unreasonably high. These are signs that you might need to make some changes.
2. Are you trying to fit in? It’s not a good idea for your self-esteem and self-expression if you’re adjusting your life according to what you see other people doing or find yourself trying to conform to stereotypes.
3. Redefine success It just might be the things you are neglecting most of all- your health and well-being.
4. Do not disregard challenges in your life If overcoming them is coming at too great a price, the difficulties might not be worth your time.
5. Set boundaries. Define your limits. Know what you can or can’t do. Know what you desire to create in your life – how is it you want to live not just what is it you are looking to cross off the list.
Wow! What an inspiring story! I love that she says we have to change our focus from “doing” to “being.” It’s true that women feel this pressure to find their dream job, marry their dream guy, have 2.5 children, and live in perfectly clean white picket fenced house all by the time they reach their mid thirties. The irony is life does not work that way and you can not force these things to occur. The 5 nuggets of wisdom are great tips on getting men and women to re-evaluate their goals in life and focus on just “being.”
Redefining success is the big one. Along with that word, we should also strive to redefine “winning”. The focus is often way too narrow – getting ahead at work and being well off financially. I feel that a true successful winner is someone who strives to better their community and benefit other people through their successes.