My moment of clarity came to me while lying in my hospital bed in early April. My sister Jullyana came to visit and handed me the book Thrive. She had tried to persuade me to read this book over and over again, but in my words "I just never had time".
After being rushed into hospital with pains in my arm and chest, all I could think of was "Is this the end?" Was all the hard work and pain worthwhile? Would my children remember the times we shared, was I a great mum, did I love and did I live a life that was filled with more than just career success? Did I spend quality time with those who I adored? If my time was up tomorrow, did I make a difference?
I have always had a strong, innate knowing in my heart that I was born to do great things. I can remember from an early age as other girls played with dolls and made mud pies, I watched on and I thought: "I want to be someone who can make a difference in this world".
So after years of helping others grow successful businesses, I decided it was time to follow my passion and build my own. My vision was to assist others, and educate people on growing and achieving greatness within themselves and their future careers.
I remember sitting in my cold, dark basement, day after day, plugging away for hours on end, hustling, cultivating and creating my educational institution. Some days forgetting to come up to breathe, let alone eat. Then I would look up at the clock thinking, "Where did the day go?"
At the time my idea of success was influenced by my strong Croatian heritage and upbringing. I remember my father saying to me: "Maria you need to work hard, make sacrifices to create a living. Be a good wife, mum, daughter, sister and raise your children with those same ethics."
However, in this digital age our lives are far more complex than when our parents were growing up. For we are not only striving to keep up the demands of family, money, career, and success. We are 'plugged' into things in all directions. We are attached to so many social media platforms, laptops, smart phones and an astounding number of apps, more than we actually use, or know how to use!
I had become part of this busy society that Dr Robert Holden talks about in his Coaching Success workshop. Busy has become the new black. How many times do you call someone you know and ask, "How are you?" The response is generally, 'Oh I am so busy and...".
I remember how much it bothered me to hear the comment "I am so busy". I thought to myself, "Yes, but aren't we all busy? What makes your busy more special than mine?"
With so many demands and my attention being pulled in so many directions, I found that catching up with family started to become a distant date in the diary. Even finding moments to spend quality time with my partner and children was becoming difficult.
My growing success became very exciting and I was living my passion and purpose. Few people talk about it, but I truly felt that I was living and breathing my dream life. But then came the BIG wake up call! Well, so I thought! Like every dream there is a moment of realisation, where you have to stop and ask yourself what is the real definition of success?
That moment of awakening happened one morning eight years ago when I couldn't feel one side of my face. So I called my sister and told her what had happened. Like any loving sister would, she freaked out told me I needed to be admitted into emergency immediately. Taking it in my stride and not wanting to make something out of nothing, I casually assured her I would be fine and had an appointment with the GP later that day.
Next thing you know I was rushed into emergency. After countless tests and examinations, to cut a long story short; I was diagnosed with a rare brain condition, which had caused a hemorrhage and needed emergency surgery. I had a massive intrusion cut into my skull and I was left wondering if I was going to live or die, as the specialist could not be sure of the outcome. I quickly arranged photographers to capture my last possible moments with my children. I wanted them to remember me and the special memories we have shared.
People say that timing is everything. I had survived this life-threatening condition and had undergone major surgery. With the fear of not knowing whether I would live or die, one would believe that this event alone would be enough to give you that 'aha' moment, give you goose bumps and a reason to live your life with vigor.
But no, it didn't. Within three months I was back behind the desk. Repeating old habits, and with that strong Croatian drive, I believed I was unstoppable. My goals, dreams, hours of relentless hard labour and work had been rebirthed.
Then, once again, as I lay in my hospital bed, attached to drips and tubes, being poked and prodded, I received the diagnosis of a 'damaged heart'. My specialist looked me in the eye and proceeded to tell me that if I continued down this path, I could expect to live another five years, maximum.
I sat there in bewilderment and amazement of this gift that I'd been given once again. To be given yet another chance to change my life, to be handed this book called Thrive, and to be surrounded by the love and kindness of the ones who truly LOVE ME! I realised in this moment of truth, we could have all the money, success and power on this planet, but unless you have your health and wellbeing, these things cannot exist.
So thanks to Thrive and my newfound knowledge of the 'four pillars of change', I proceeded to take the necessary steps to redefine the meaning of success. As Arianna said:
"Omnipresence is a source within, and cannot be found through external devices. To unlock our inner wisdom is the key to finding the true meaning of success. When we are living a life of emotional intelligence, self-awareness and self-compassion, we not only live a life of eternal well-being, but we influence, motivate and inspire others to do the same."
If we are to stand out as today's leaders, driving forward to new success, then we must strive to succeed in learning and growing a leadership of change. We need to continue to be the innovators of the leaders of the future.
It is through our strength, love and authentic compassion that we drive forward with bold determination, to be the change makers redefining leadership of today.
With a collaborative approach to one vision, we move forward with confidence, nurturing and helping others to grow and inviting them to engage with us.
Thank you Arianna for your captivating book Thrive, and for your beautiful sister Agapi for spreading the message at the recent Business Chicks event in Australia. You have changed my world. My wish is for other leaders and entrepreneurs to embrace mindfulness and their personal wellbeing, because without that, how can we continue to thrive and flourish into the future.