We have interviewed 17 very accomplished women from around the world to get insights into achieving goals, daily routines, life advice and more. Thanks to all of them for their time and energy in sharing a part of their life, experience and thoughts on what women need to know in 2018.
Dr Monica Borschel is a Clinical Psychologist at the Mindnlife clinic in Central. She attributes her success to providing an open and safe environment to guide clients through the healing process. She enables them to find balance by better understanding themselves and others using attachment theory, meditation and positive psychology. She is available for a private session in Central or via Skype. Call 2521 4668 or email email@example.com for inquiries or bookings. doctormb.com | Facebook @drmonicaborschel | Instagram @mborschel. Photo by Kalok Ng
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Success means something different to everyone. For me it means having a feeling of fulfillment in my career and personal relationships.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self what advice, would you give yourself I would tell my younger self “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
If anything was possible. What would you sacrifice your life or current wellbeing for? It is never a good idea to sacrifice well-being. My life is far from perfect, but it is a part of my journey. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow.
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10? Any tips for the rest of us? I am hyper by nature. I schedule my day down to the minute. Time management, exercise and sleep are important so that I have the energy and organization to get things accomplished. If I feel overwhelmed I take a day off to relax so I can come back stronger. When we push ourselves past fatigue we become burnt out and our energy levels drop.
Any favorite quotes? “We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.” – Carl Sagan
What does you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? People should listen more to each other and spend less time on their cell phones.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Currently, I am trying to find balance between my career, the gym and my relationships. I am overcoming this challenge by being patient with my mistakes and myself and re-evaluating my schedule on a daily basis. You often hear people say they are too busy, but it is really a matter of priorities.
What question do you wish more people would ask you? Can I have a hug?
Any books or resources you recommend? 1) The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success – Kevin Dutton. 2) The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT – Russ Harris, Steven C. Hayes
For your work you deal with people on some serious issues around loss and attachment, also holding group meditations and talks on relationships, stress, body image, women’s issues etc. – if you know anything to be true what 3 bits of knowledge would they be.
1. The darkest, most painful moments of your life are the best opportunities to know yourself and to evolve as a human being.
2. Love and appreciate the ones that you have on a daily basis.
3. Everyone wants to be loved, appreciated and understood.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? The most important part of the day for me is the morning. It is the most challenging for me because my brain does not function properly. If I can stay organized and focused in the morning, the rest of my day will be smoother.
Is there anything you cannot live without? Coffee, boxing and love.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? When I am absolutely overwhelmed and boxing and meditation are not working, I call my psychologist. He helps me to gain perspective from an outsider perspective without judgment.
What message generally do you think is given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That a woman’s main role in life is to be a mother. Men and women should decide if they want to take on the role of a parent. It is the most difficult and important job in the world. It is not to be taken lightly, and requires deep commitment.
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? That women are just as capable as men in careers and leadership roles.
What do u wish you did more of in a day and what do you wish u did less of? I wish I spent more time with the people that I love and less time commuting.
What is the worst advice you see or hear given in your trade or area of expertise? That cognitive behavioral therapy can cure any psychological problem. There can be deep wounds from trauma, loss and abuse that need a different kind of care.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? My education
What in your life are you most proud of accomplishing? Things that I never believed I would ever be able to accomplish.
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Can you dig a bit deeper on any women’s issue that keeps coming up for you in your profession, and your thoughts on it? Feelings of low self-worth come up quite often. Women are often socialized to look beautiful and feminine, and to put their needs behind others. It is important to be healthy and to have proper hygiene in order to feel good about your self, but women do not need to look like super models, as it is an impossible standard. When people put their needs behind others they become resentful. Feelings of low self-worth might lead to depression and anxiety.
What is your spirit animal and why? A horse, because it’s always working
Who inspires you? Most people inspire me. Personal narratives of overcoming hardship captivate me.
Best health advice to women or girls? Remain balanced both physically and mentally. When you are out of balance physically, you become mentally foggy and down. When you are out of balance mentally, you become physically ill.
If you could put one thing on a billboard would it be. You got this.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? You are exactly who you are and where you need to be at this moment. Don’t be afraid to question yourself and others.
Tanya, also known as Pirate, has been living and working in Hong Kong for over a decade. She is a full time artist, who specialises in fashion illustration and live events. She discovered trail running 5 years ago and now spends all of her spare time in the mountains. Her favourite climb in Hong Kong is Mount Butler, and she’s currently training for her first 100mile ultra. www.piratetb.com | Facebook @piratetb | Instagram @piratetb
You’re a successful artist and runner. What do you think of when you hear the word successful? My immediate response is to rebuff the notion that I am successful. I have certainly been lucky in terms of the opportunities I have been offered for my work and at races, but I am a long way off achieving my greater goals. This is especially true in running.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? I would tell myself to be kinder to my body; to rest more and to eat better foods… and to drink less alcohol!
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10. Any tips for us? I am absolutely excellent at procrastinating! I have taught myself to be a productive procrastinator though… Don’t want to tackle that deadline, head out for a 20k training run instead; don’t feel like going running, sit down and sort out the accounts; Don’t want to tackle the laundry, head to a coffee shop and sketch for a few hours. That way, I get stuff done but I feel like I’m rebelling against my responsibilities.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to? I would credit my family and friends first and foremost. My dad has supported my dreams of working in fashion and being an artist since I was a kid. And, running long distances takes a lot of time away from your social calendar. Without friends who understand your commitment and passion, it wouldn’t be at all possible. Not only do my friends have a huge understanding of my training schedule, they also come and meet me on races, pick up my sweaty ass from finish lines and keep me motivated on my race group chats.
Next, I would certainly attribute stubbornness to helping me achieve some of my goals. In work, it took me over 8 years to get to the point where I could work full time freelance doing the job I love. In running, without stubbornness, distances like 50, 100, 150 kilometres are just not possible.
Lastly, I like to think that I am someone who doesn’t take life too seriously. At the end of the day, I paint pretty pictures and spend stupid amounts of time in the mountains. If you can’t have fun doing these things then you miss the moments that make them worth remembering in the first place.
Hardest thing you have currently done to date? Quitting my day job is up there, alongside running Pulag 100 (a 112k mountain ultra in the Philippines). Both were equally very traumatic but rewarding.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? I think there should be more compassion for others, I worry that we are evolving to be very selfish. I definitely could be contributing way more but I try to put in where I can; either by adopting an ugly old cat no one will take, or working with wonderful children’s charities like the Sovereign Art Foundation. I think that there should be less tardiness. I cannot fathom how people do not have have ability to be on time, I don’t understand how that works!
What challenges are you currently facing and how are you trying to overcome them? In my art, I’m looking to expand my business and my practice. I’m trying to secure a bigger space and as we all know, in Hong Kong rent is prohibitively high. I’m trying to overcome this by sharing a space with other creatives, which should also help to evolve my practice. It’s a wonderful thing, to be able to share ideas and collaborate.
In running, I have signed up to a race next summer with a team that is a lot faster than me, and being able to run 100k at the speeds we are aiming for will take a lot of training and dedication. I am coached by Andy Dubois of Mile27, and if I pull my socks up and follow his advice to the letter over the next 8 months, I might just be able to keep up!
What part of the day is most important to you and why? I used to be a night owl, and now I have grown to love early mornings. Maybe it’s an age thing, or maybe it was born from the necessity of having to train at sunrise to beat the summer heat. Either way, I really enjoy being awake when so many people are still sleeping and getting a head start on my day before lunch.
What do u wish you did more of in a day and what do you wish u did less of? I wish I did more painting and creating. I find it comes in bursts and it’s very hard to be creative when you’re ‘not in the mood’. I’ve learnt through having commercial clients with deadlines, to overcome this to an extent, but I still tend to cram painting into manic bursts. I wish I watched less netflix, it’s not teaching me anything productive to binge a tv series, but it is nice to switch off occasionally.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? I recently volunteered at a race and borrowed my friends camera to shoot the runners on the course. I took 450 photos and they were all blurry (!!), but it was exciting being out there capturing people from the very first runners, to the back of the pack-ers. So, I have invested in my very first ‘proper’ camera and am trying to learn how to use it, it’s my 2018 resolution.
What’s one of your best memories? Probably every finish I ever cross. More often than not, there are moments during a race where you are unsure that you will make it to the end. Physically, it is hard, but it’s usually your mental game that determines if you DNF (did not finish) or not. Crossing the finish line is affirmation that you overcame your negativity and self doubt, dug in and got on with it. It’s a really, really, really, good feeling.
What is your spirit animal and why? A Cat. They sleep and eat all day long, love having a cuddle but are also fiercely independent, and they are constantly curious and going on little adventures.
Who inspires you? So many different people inspire me in different parts of my life. My friends Tiffany and Lindsay inspire me by running big companies and raising small children, and yet still somehow always having time left over for their friends. My friend Dervla (interview below) inspires me by being immensely dedicated to launching her new business about health and wellness retreats. My friend Brenda inspires me by trying to change the world a little bit, through promoting recycled textile thread that also helps the communities in their supply chain. All of the women I run with in our group called HOTH (Hot On Their Heels), inspire me with their training, dedication, race efforts and their career pursuits. I have so many other amazing female friends, mentors and role models. I feel very lucky.
What messages are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That we are not as strong as men, that we are not worthy of being paid the same, and that we should not shout and push back against these messages in case we give the impression of being ‘crazy feminists’.
What messages do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? That we should lift each up and support one another and that the future is getting much brighter for women and the goals that they want to pursue.
Can you dig a bit deeper on the women’s sports industry and the way it’s portrayed – is it going in the right direction? Hong Kong’s health and fitness scene continues to grow, and there are new female focused businesses, events and races are being introduced. The overall message seems (to me) to be trending towards a focus of strength and performance, over achieving an aesthetic goal. I think this is also driven by the rise of social media and women being able to control their own message. It is changing the way women are presented, and how they are consuming sports. I think the downside to this is the lack of official accreditation required to become a Instagram fitness star, and I think that women should take the time to educate themselves on the science surrounding their chosen sports.
Best health or lifestyle advice to women and girls? Find something that you love to do, and do it because of the way it makes you feel. If it is uplifting and it’s something that you will look forward to doing, then it will never feel like a chore. Surround yourself with other like minded people who like to do the same thing and you will find yourself part of a community that constantly inspires you.
What do you think women need to know in 2018? I think women in 2018 need to know about more influential women. It’s my personal goal next year to meet more women whom I can learn from; to share content about influential women in sports and the arts (and of course the many, many other areas of interest); and to try my best to be a positive role model to the young women in my life, such as my niece and my Goddaughters.
Currently living in the UK,
Olympic Rower womens 4x & 8+,
2011, winner world cup double
2016 euro champs – gold W8+
2016 world cup silver x 2
Rio Olympics – W8 silver
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? I think of someone who’s contented in what they’re doing with their life, whatever it is. Someone who’s chosen a goal and is putting all their energy into it. Success is a work in progress and not an end goal.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? Care less what other people think, and have a little more trust and patience that things will work out. Great things have happened to me by being open to opportunities and seizing them when they come, and not fighting for something that doesn’t feel right.
What would the older you advise to your current self? If anyone knows this information please get in touch.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? ‘Discovering’ rowing for the third time. I tried it when I was at school (middle island!) and wasn’t too fussed, and then for a few weeks again when I was 18 (training sessions were too early!) and then for the third time in my twenties. I fell in with a really good group of friends, and it was this that kept me going initially. About a year later I realized I loved the sport. Some things take a while to grow on you, and that’s OK.
What do you do to bring your motivation levels to a 10. Any tips for the rest of us? Have short term goals as well as the long term ones. Targeting an Olympic Games 3 years ago feels too overwhelming, and it’s hard to see how that individual session is going to make an impact. Thinking about that session you want to improve next week, and suddenly you can appreciate that pushing yourself today will help.
What is needed to take your life to that next level e.g. going from an ‘ordinary person’ to being selected for the Olympic team? Olympians are ordinary people! Believing that is the first step I suppose. Being exposed to people who had already been to the olympics, and seeing that they had weaknesses as well as strengths, just like me, made me realize it would be possible if I put my mind to it.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to? A very supportive family. It’s a bit scary, emotionally and financially to commit to sport. At all levels in the UK the pay isn’t very good, and knowing that they would be there for me if it all fell apart was invaluable. A coach – he helped me train when I was studying medicine, and believe that I could beat the girls training full time. He’s since said he wasn’t sure I could, but at the time I believed him, and that’s what I needed!
Any favourite quotes? Calm is a super power.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? More time to be outside. Living in a big city at a competitive job means there isn’t much time to be outside, exercise, enjoy seeing friends and family, everything is crammed in back-to-back. Everyone should work a four day week. I think they’d be more efficient anyway. And happier. Less plastic would also be good.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Not rowing! Exercise can be a bit of an addiction. Finding a balance where I can commit to my work, but at the same time spend enough time training. I feel as though I need it for my mental health more than anything, but it’s tough to fit it in sometimes.
Any favorite books or resources you keep coming back to? I’m not a big one for motivational books! I like a good novel. I loved ‘cutting for stone’ recently.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? The morning. It has to be for a rower. It’s peaceful, the day is ahead of you and you get to drink coffee.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I love to cook. I find it really therapeutic.
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That being weak and a bit helpless is something desirable. Having said that, I think the world is changing (in the UK anyway), and strength and bravery in women is becoming more sought after attributes. And that men’s sport is more interesting to watch!!
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? That they can do anything they put their mind to. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by strong women, in rowing, and in medicine where over half my cohort are female. There is very little perceptible difference in the way men and women are treated in the workplace. Women are sometimes the tough ones and men the ones with the greatest empathy. The stereotypes go out the window and I love to see it in action.
What’s one of your best memories? Has to be the Rio Olympics, two days after our final. We went on a food tour of the city. We’d just won an Olympic medal, and I was eating delicious food in an amazing city with some of my greatest friends. It was wonderful.
What is the worst advice you see or hear given in your trade or area of expertise? That you need to be aggressive to get ahead. In sport it’s all about being relaxed and powerful and calm at the same time. It’s the same in most walks of life.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? My flat in London. I love it and it grounds me.
What in your life are you most proud of? My wonderful friends and family.
Coffee or tea? Coffee all the way.
Can you dig a bit deeper on women in sports – is there anything not happening you wish would? More women in sport on TV and in the media. The more people get used to seeing women do incredible things, the more young girls will be inspired to do so.
What is your spirit animal and why? Sloth. Very few fast twitch fibers…
If you could increase or decrease the amount of something in your life what would it be? Increase the amount of time I get to spend with my niece. She’s amazing and growing up like a beanstalk. Decrease the amount of chocolate. It is a weakness.
Who inspires you? Patients I see battling long term conditions. Sometimes they can make the Olympics look like child’s play.
Best health advice to women or girls? Eat enough fat! The healthy stuff. It is very old school to believe that fat makes you fat. It doesn’t. It makes you feel full, gives you energy, and stops you eating other crap.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what will be? I’m hoping that’s still to come. I’d love to make an impact on healthcare somehow, but not sure how at the minute!
What is your message to, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? Be brave and let yourself be vulnerable at the same time. The world is changing for women, jump on the bandwagon and bring your male friends along with you. The more they see strong women, the better. Every little bit counts.
Mira Rai is an Ultra runner and Salomon athlete from Nepal. She is a Nepali village girl turned world-recognised mountain runner. Having the opportunity to compete around the world against the best ultra runners has recently led her to win the National Geographic Adventurer of the year award in 2017. Instagram @mira.rai | Facebook @mirarainepal
Portrait Photographed by Sanjog Rai . Instagram: @sanjograi
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? I think it is being able to express your unique gifts or talents in best way possible.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? I had a lot of struggles to overcome when I was young, and I think I followed my heart and worked very hard to be what I could be today. However, if I meet my younger self, I would tell her to study sincerely. Education is one of the most important tool for girls.
How much time are you now spending in Nepal vs other parts of the world? Half of the year I am spending in other parts of world. I go to Europe during the world championship season and same for other countries. I go for competition or some important projects where I am invited.
What are 2 things you want to accomplish in the next 2 years? I want to compete in more races worldwide and I want to develop trail running in the grassroot level in Nepal. I want to support other talented runners to have opportunity to compete worldwide.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now. I was about to go to Malaysia to work and my Karate guru stopped me and provided me opportunity to train for athletics. In three months, I participated in my first ultra race conducted by Richard Bull Sir in Kathmandu. I had no idea about ultra running then but winning that race in Kathmandu was my first moment which defined my life till now. That was about four years ago.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to?
- My father’s mother, grandmother used to say that girls are cursed. She was a young widow to 3 children. She had a lot of hardships and she was very afraid of struggles that a girl in poor family will have to endure. I wanted to change her beliefs.
- My grandfather regretted a lot during his last years. He used to tell me stories of the opportunities he missed and encouraged us to take and make the most of the opportunities. So I learned about taking whatever means possible to manage my life and earn for my family too at an early age.
- Respect for the people who gave me chances. I had determination and will but if my Karate guru Dhurba Bikram Malla, Trail Running Nepal founder Richard Bull sir, my friends and family wouldn’t have worked hard behind the scenes to make me this platform, I would be nothing. I think now I have responsibility to keep up their faith in me.
Any favorite quotes? There used be a line in a nepali song, when I was growing up, I used to listen to it and it used to motivate me a lot- it says, “Jungle bhauney cheli haru, himal chadne aat garanu.” It means – Girls fascinated with jungles, be more ambitious to climb the mountains. I think it still gives me an adrenaline rush. 🙂
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of. There should be more girls in the leading position in any field. There should be less corruption.
What are you working on right now? Any projects or goals? I am figure head for Kathmandu Trail Race series happening in Kathmandu. It is a race series of 10 short distance races around stunning landscape of Kathmandu valley. It is to encourage more people to experience trail running as a beginner or be appreciative of the rich trails we have in Nepal. It also aims to recognise the talented athletes in Kathmandu. We have piloted the 2017 series and conducted 9 races already. Finale is in January. By far, we have made about 1000+ participants run in all 9 races combined. I am organiser for Bhojpur trail race to encourage trail race in my own village with children especially. There is another project we are thinking for creating jobs for female ultra runners as trainers and roles in race organising and running camps. We will pilot it in 2018.
How has running changed your life? It has changed my life completely. I come from nowhere and I was struggling for survival. I was taking up any jobs to support myself and family. Running has given me opportunity to not only make a living but also be recognised all over the world. Girls tell me that I am their inspiration. I get to compete with great athletes worldwide. Everyone used to tell me that there is no career for girls in running. In Nepal, no one gives importance to sports and no one thinks especially a girl can sustain a career like that. I think my winning and name has changed a lot of ideas regarding this sport. I have got an opportunity to change the mindset of my people back home and also encourage other talented athletes to take up what they love the most.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That Girls and women cannot do well in sports. That they should be sitting home and taking care of the family and children and farms. I think women are very very resilient creatures. We can do anything we set our mind for. I think women make better leaders too. We need to make our way.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? I can see a lot of girls rising these days which makes me happy. Winning competitions make me stand with some great athletes and leaders who have broken the traditional mindset of the people. I get inspired with many other great women who have become my friends too. I agree that girls can be whatever they want to be and they can go as far as they want to go.
Did your life change at all after winning the National Geographic Adventurer of the year award in 2017? My life had already changed in 2014 for myself. I didn’t know what National Geographic was. It was a 45 day competition! Winning it was a life changing event in a big scale for me and for the trail runners of my country. Actually everyone who voted for me for so long! I think it was something which changed everyone’s perception about Nepal and Nepali athletes. It was a huge win for me and those who had faith in me. I was invited to the photo shoot of Outside magazine which was celebrating top 10 women in adventure from all over the world! That was a once in a life opportunity for me. I never thought of it!
What is one thing you couldn’t live without? Running. My training. A day without running is a life half lived for me. I am addicted 🙂
What in your life are you most proud of? That my survival struggle has given me so many roles to play. Struggles and taking up opportunities in desperation has brought me to best place I never imagined in my life. I was a farmer, a chilli pakoda seller, a rice seller, a child soldier, karate player, and now an ultra runner known worldwide!
Coffee or tea? Tea. Black tea 🙂
What is your spirit animal and why? Deer. It is so light in its movement. It is so graceful and can go anywhere.
If you could increase or decrease the amount of something in your life what would it be? Increase: my training and study time. Decrease: the number of interviews I have to give or events I have to go to attend in my country.
Who inspires you? Dhurba Guru for making me secure enough with house and food and opportunity to train in Kathmandu. I was absolutely no body and going to Malaysia that time. Richard sir for changing my life. He worked days and night to raise funds for me, provide me english education and introducing a platform for me to race in international championship. I think the self less hard work and support of these people inspires me the most. I wish I could do the same for other less privileged gifted people.
Best health advice to women or girls? Exercise. Not just running but take up any activity that pumps you up and makes you sweat for sometime in a day. It is very important for girls to take up physical activities to keep themselves strong.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what will be? Best world renowned ultra runner from Nepal.
What is your message to, or what do you think girls and women need to know in 2018? Be more ambitious. Do what you want with your full heart. Strive to be the best in what you do. Support each other.
Christiana moved from London to Hong Kong after graduating from University. After five years working in the finance industry, Christiana wanted to follow her passion for health and fitness. With her husband, they launched The Skin Gym as well as bringing the first protein ice cream to the Asian market. Christiana loves martial arts, vertical running, yoga and weightlifting. After many years of competitive kickboxing and karate she now coaches at Ursus Fitness, where she has helped bring their unique style of training to Hong Kong. Christiana has a one year old daughter Layla and loves living in Hong Kong so much that she is taking a second degree in Chinese. Instagram @Christiana_lewis_
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Whilst success is often associated with money and status, if you are happy then I think you have to be doing something right!
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? Don’t always think about the worst case scenario.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? The more challenging times definitely help build resilience and strength. I was bullied in my last year of school. Instead of making me doubt myself, it pushed me. There will always be people who want to see you fail.
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10. Any tips for the rest of us? I wake up on a high and get things done straight away. Starting the day in a productive and positive way gets me pumped and stays with me throughout the day. Eating well, exercising and keeping alcohol to a minimum is key for me.
What has martial arts taught you about life? Martial arts provide a great form of discipline and encourage focus and bravery. Martial arts have also taught me not to judge a book by its cover. I used to worry about fighting particular women who may have looked the strongest or acted the toughest, however when it came down to it they were never usually the ones to worry about!
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them too?
1) I have high standards for myself. Whilst being a perfectionist can have its drawbacks, I certainly believe it helps you achieve, push limits and aim higher.
2) Perseverance and hard work. I am not afraid of working hard and I won’t make excuses for why I can’t do things that I actually can.
3) Love and luck. I am lucky enough to be surrounded by love and support. It is definitely easier to accomplish things when you are given good opportunities and support.
Any favourite quotes? Benjamin Franklin- “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
You’re out there winning national Kickboxing Championships and representing Great Britain in Stair Running (which you’ve just started doing)….this kind of success, is it natural talent? or does one train for years to get to this level? I think a bit of both. My long limbs and flexibility no doubt made me a better fighter. At the same time you can have everything handed to you and do nothing with it. You can plateau, or you can surprise yourself by pushing yourself to whole new limits. I was never a good runner when I was younger – even now I don’t think I am. But I am generally fit and I will have a go at anything!
What are your thoughts on social media platforms like Instagram and how they affect girls and women’s body images? Awful. But unfortunately it’s the world we live in now. As women we have to learn not to use it as a means of comparison. Social media is all about searching for popularity and approval rather than focusing on what makes you happy.
For you, in what ways has life changed or will change after your baby? She comes first and I love to spend a lot of time with her. There is no denying it, as a mother I feel guilty if I travel to compete or study etc. There are without a doubt huge sacrifices you have to make to be a good mother, but I am definitely not alone in thinking it is totally worth it.
You have set up a few successful companies and also recently had a baby – what’s your take on the question “can women have it all?” If I’m honest I hate this saying. I think it almost suggests that the perfect woman can balance everything all the time and meet certain criteria to “have it all.” If it simply means having a family and a career then yes, women can most definitely have it all. Everyone has different ideas about what it means to have it all.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Having enough hours in the day! I try to waste little time on people or things that don’t matter to me.
Any books or resources you use you can recommend? I don’t do it enough but I believe mediation is an extremely powerful tool. I don’t think it means having to sit down with your eyes closed but rather finding your own way to quiet your mind. I have recently started listening to more podcasts – there is so much information out there and so many inspiring and smart people to learn from.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? The morning. New day, new start and new experiences to be had.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I always feel better if I talk to someone I love. Even if you know your thoughts are stupid, sometimes sharing them makes you feel so much better. Either that or I workout like a maniac!
What do you wish you did more of in your average day and what do you wish u did less of? I wish I spent less time on social media. I think the rest of my day is a really nice mix of things that make me super happy!
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? I think any investment in yourself is worthwhile. Buy experiences and education rather than things.
What in your life are you most proud of? My daughter. It was very hard for me to get pregnant and I often look at her and just can’t believe she’s even here! She is so happy and full of life.
Coffee or tea? I would die without coffee. It makes me so happy!
What is your spirit animal and why? I have no idea. I guess a monkey because they are the most similar to humans. I like being a human.
Who inspires you? My parents.
Best health advice to women or girls? Drink less and don’t be afraid to take stick for it! Excessive drinking is not only becoming socially acceptable it is almost encouraged. I think on the most part it makes people less happy.
If you could put one thing on a billboard would it be? Be kind to yourself and be kind to others.
What is your message to, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? If something makes you feel bad be strong enough to get rid of it. If something makes you feel good then be strong enough to do more of it.
Dervla Louli is the Founder of wellness travel portal CompareRetreats.com, yoga teacher and a Digital Editorial Consultant based in Hong Kong. She was formerly the Digital Editor of Hong Kong Tatler, the Director of Integrated Content at Edipresse Media Asia and the Managing Editor of Sassy Media Group where she oversaw seven websites spanning Asia, the Middle East and Australia. You can follow her Instagram adventures and wellness travel journey on: Instagram @dervlalouli | @CompareRetreats
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? I was thinking about this last night. Succes is accomplishing the goals you set for yourself.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? I think giving advice to my younger self would be fruitless; my parents gave me a lot of advice that I ignored but should have listened to. But if I was to fast forward ten years and my older self could give advice to my current self I would say, “Small consistent steps every day will get you to where you want to be.”
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? Crossing the finish line of a 100km ultramarathon was pretty life changing. My left knee kind of collapsed on the 70th kilometre and I was mentally exhausted. It’s the hardest thing I’ve done and every time I feel I can’t do something challenging or feel overwhelmed I remember that race and it puts everything into perspective.
Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to recently – what’s the most exciting thing going on? I set up compareretreats.com an online portal for wellness retreats and healthy holidays that have been vetted by qualified health and fitness professionals. There are more retreats now than ever before and I wanted to build a platform for the best ones in the world.
With all your accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them too? Hard work, good advice from mentors and a good dose of impatience
Any favourite quotes? ‘Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.’ – Vincent Can Gogh
What challenges have you had and how did you overcome them? Physically I used to struggle with a lack of endurance, flexibility and strength so I do cardio, strength-training and yoga pretty consistently to maintain what I’ve developed over time in these three areas.
Any books or resources you use you can recommend? ‘Tools of Titans’ by Tim Ferris contains useful tips and tricks and ‘I Quit Sugar’ will completely change the way you look at food.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? Every morning I make my bed, meditate or write, and workout. It helps me build a foundation for the day.
What messages do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That you can’t have it all – I think we can.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? Together we are stronger so it’s important to support one another and raise each other up.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I prevent getting overwhelmed by using apps like ‘Todoist’ and write down everything I need to do. If I can do something in five minutes I take care of it right away and I’ve trained myself to focus on tasks one at a time so I don’t get distracted. Sometimes being overwhelmed is just being stressed and a little bit of stress is necessary to finish tight deadlines or encourage you to take action fast. Exercise always makes me feel in control too so going out for a walk or run does wonders.
As someone with a large following, what’s your take on the way social media influences women’s body images? Thank you, but I’m small fry compared to the fitness influencers I follow. I like learning new things so I tend to follow wellness influencers who cover healthy food and their fitness routines. A person openly talking about their workouts and meal prep makes everything more realistic and emphasises that consistency and hard work is key. 99% of images are filtered and photoshopped so I try not to believe everything I see.
What is your spirit animal? Metamorphmagus
Who inspires you? Ariana Huffington, Frank Wang Tao, Elizabeth Holmes
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to start their own business or brand? Be stubborn about your goal but flexible on the path you take to get there.
Best health advice to women or girls? Eat real food, stay away from anything processed and exercise little and often.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what will be? I like helping people feel good about themselves and teaching yoga lets me do that. Tackling difficult poses on the mat helps you overcome obstacles off the mat.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? Try to do one thing every day that makes you feel good about yourself, that might mean working out, eating well, learning a new skill or just finishing a task you were putting off. Every time you do something that makes you better, stronger or smarter you build a little more resilience which makes it easy to form new habits. I also think it’s important to invest in yourself by learning new skills.
Dr. Kamilla Holst, D.C. is a certified Doctor of Chiropractic who specialises in treating pregnant women and babies. She is an Instagram influencer and regular contributor to maternity publications and podcasts. She is a speaker at international Maternity events and author of the woman empowerment book ‘The Fear Bucket List’ | Instagram @drkamillaholst
What does success mean to you? Success to me, on a financial level, means to be able to live a comfortable life without having to worry about where the next rent comes from and being able to travel whenever I want. On a personal level, success for me is, when other people seek my advice or consider me a role model. On a spiritual level, success for me is, starting my day with a morning meditation and staying on a high energy frequency throughout the day giving back in any way I can.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? It will all turn out great, you’ve got this! Your story will one day be published as a book helping other young women overcome their trauma.
What would your older self advise your current self? Remember to enjoy the journey and what you’ve already accomplished at an early age.
Your schedule is packed right now. What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10. Any tips for the rest of us? My schedule is always packed 5 days a week, so for me to stay at a 10 I have my routine down, starting with my 5D meditation, then an incantation to set up my day, followed by a visualization of the day being a success and the people I’m gonna meet that day, then I have a matcha latte and drink 2 L of alkaline water throughout the day to stay energized. Once a week I get a full body chiropractic adjustment to keep my chi flowing and my spine healthy, I also like to do negative ion treatment and foot massage to help my lymphatic system detox any stress in my body. And I always make sure to have minimum 8 hours of sleep.
Any favorite quotes? Don’t fear failure, fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Currently no major challenges. But when and if they occur I usually ask my Higher Self for advice on how to handle a situation, that way I make sure I’m always on the right path.
What question do you wish more people would ask you? How did you get to where you are now? What made you the person you are today?
Congratulations on your new book – can you tell us a bit about it? Thank you very much! I’m really excited to share my life lessons with other women in this book, while they follow my spiritual journey around the world. The book is about overcoming past trauma and fear teaching women how I broke free from being a victim to becoming the power woman I am today. I wanted to share my ups and downs in order to help anyone out there to accomplish their highest potential. Many people are very surprised when they hear my story, they can’t believe I’m so “outgoing and happy” now! The book profits go to HAGAR international helping women and children in Cambodia, Vietnam and Afghanistan get back to a normal life after human trafficking. You can get your copy here www.thefearbucketlist.com
For your work as a chiropractor you are well know for working with expecting mothers. Why is spinal health and alignment important for pregnant women? During pregnancy it is very common to experience pain in the lower back and pelvic area due to the changes happening in your body, such as altered hormonal balance, different weight distribution, fatigue, poor posture, etc. Your chiropractor takes care of your nervous system and musculoskeletal system, in order to optimize and enhance your body’s self-healing and create relief and wellness.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? Mornings are most important to me because my morning routine sets me up for the day and makes me ready for anything being thrown my way.
Is there anything you can’t live without? My pomeranian puppy called Coffee <3
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I found that if I ever start feeling overwhelmed it is always because I have skipped a few days of meditation and haven’t connected to my true self. I use this feeling of overwhelm as a guide to get back on track.
What message generally do you think is given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That girls need to know how to cook to hold down a man… I’ve heard this over and over again…Well guess what…I can’t cook if my life depended on it, and my man is still with me after 3 ½ years…
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? That you can do anything you want just as well or even better than guys.
What is the worst advice you see or hear given in your trade or area of expertise? To stop being active when you become pregnant. Pregnancy is NOT a disease. Being active is so important, in order to have active muscles during labour. Luckily most of my patients have started to adapt an active lifestyle.
What in your life are you most proud of? Moving across the world and starting a successful business from scratch and publishing my first book.
Who inspires you? Women like Oprah and men like Anthony Robbins, who have suffered in their childhood but still accomplished building an empire.
Best health advice to women or girls? Get your DNA tested and eat/exercise according to your specific genome. It completely changed my life taking a test and living accordingly. Instead of doing what I thought was healthy for me. You can get it done through me and save 25 % here: www.kamillaholst.com (book appointment online and mention discount code when you arrive).
If you could put one thing on a billboard would it be? LEAD BY EXAMPLE!
What is your message to, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? I think 2018 will see even more women take care of themselves first in order to be there for others. Putting their health first, being proactive and trying out new different approaches to improve their own wellness. I think DNA tests will play a big part in the future customizing people’s diets and exercise routines. My message to you in 2018 is remember to be kind to yourself, you’ve got this!
Founder of Rainlily – Hong Kong’s first Rape Crisis Center. Armed with an MA in Women’s Studies from University of Kent in 2002, Linda founded and became the executive director for RainLily, the first non-profit rape crisis centre providing support for victims of sexual violence in Hong Kong. Linda’s master’s degree strengthened her theoretical foundation on gender equality and broadened her vision globally, which is crucial for a good social worker. Linda received the Women of Courage Award from the Secretary of State of the United States of America in March 2016 for her passion in promoting gender equality. Her strive for zero sexual violence through educating the younger generation continues. Website: rainlily.org.hk | Facebook @acsvaw | Instagram @acsvaw
What is your average day like? Every day, I count my blessings and I never overlook the small ones, including having a dinner with my sisters, and join the run organized by Women’s Five, for a lot of small blessings and add up to a big one.
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? When women can make informed decisions, and are allow making choices.
What new initiatives are going on at the Association concerning sexual violence against women (ACSVAW)? I want to advocate for zero sexual violence through educating the younger generation. Therefore, the new initiatives include the opening of 480.0 Gender & Art Space to arouse social awareness on gender equity. To increase the capacity of women against sexual violence, we set up the Legal Clinic services, as well as successful lobbying for amendments in Practical Directions of Judiciary for protecting victims in courts.
If there is something we can all do to help what would it be? During the 20 years, we have provided support and care for victims in need, raised awareness of sexual violence, and promoted gender equality education. Help us spread the massage of gender equity through becoming our anti480 (sexual violence) ambassadors and donate online to help us continue our work: onlinedonation.rainlily.org.hk
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? The international Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP 2017) in US is a life-changing opportunity for me. After almost half a year passing, I still think that it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity I had. Since I did the IVLP, the vast knowledge and unique ideas has helped to develop the concept of the “Survivors Speak Up” project. In November 24, 2017, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we have launched the ARISE—Sexual Abuse Survivors’ Portraits Exhibition (For more: http://480dim0.com/arise). In support for the #MeToo movement, the exhibition is organized by RainLily and 5 brave survivors, displaying their courage and stories on the road of recovery after weathering trauma. The project has not only successfully encouraged more victims of sexual violence to break the silence and seek help, but it also educates more people to be an active by-standers to combat sexual violence.
Any favorite quotes? Mr. Poon, the Secretary General of UN: “Break the silence. When you witness violence against women and girls, do not sit back. Act.”
What’s one question you wish more people would ask you? How should we create a world free of gender based violence?
For women, generally in life, what do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? Women’s and girl’s social roles were still bound by cultural traditions and they were still perceived in stereotypical roles of being week and inferior. Nowadays, women’s traditional roles are no longer adequate to accommodate social changes, so we must break through those gender stereotypes. We believe that both female and male could benefit from a more enlightened view on relationships. Most importantly, a more gender equal society will help to reduce sexual violence.
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? Sexual violence is a concern for the whole community and both women and men should work together to prevent sexual violence.
What in your life are you most proud of? As one of the founders of RainLily, I am so proud to set up RainLily. RainLily has been helping over three thousand victims to get access to medical and counseling support by providing round the clock one-stop-shop services. Today, RainLily is one of the major service providers in Hong Kong that comes closest to the ideal of a multi-disciplinary one-stop crisis service for victims of sexual violence stipulated by the World Health Organization.
What is your spirit animal and why? Owl – they work overnight – like us to provide care and round the clock to our victims.
If you could increase or decrease the amount of something in your life what would it be? I had been working in RainLily for 20 years. Much of my life has been spent on walking along with victims of sexual violence and I have witness how survivors had gone through their recovery road to regain their rights and dignity. In my frontline work, I become aware of the large number of unreported cases of rape and sexual assault among my clients who suffered life-long trauma and self-depreciation from the experience. Though long-term counselling, I helped such clients to accept themselves and to rebuild their social lives. The face-to-face encounter with victims of sexual violence and their second trauma had a profound impact on me. I was angry and worried by the fact that my clients did not receive any help at the time of the incidents and had to carry the burden of shame and guilt for so many years before their psychological problems surfaced in the form of depression and even suicide. This reflected the lack of social support and resources for victims of sexual violence. If I must increase the amount of something in my life, I hope I can group them together to break their isolation. Being together and through collective action, they can gain more courage and perseverance to overcome all the difficulties and fight for gender justice.
Who inspires you? My active involvement with women’s issues begin when I work in a Women’s Centre and I met a 7 years old beautiful girl “Lily” many years ago. This sparkly little soul had already suffered what far too many girls and women will, she was raped by a thief on the way she went home. Her mother came and ask for help. Looking in Lily’s lovely face, she becomes my drive, my inspiration and my why. I am angry with “why” the world had not provided a safe place for Lily. Every day since, I dedicate my work for RainLily to these girls and women who deserves a far better world than she was born into.
Your best health advice to women or girls? You shall not try to relive yesterday for good or ill, it is forever gone. Concentrate on what is happening in your life and be happy now.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what would it be? My active involvement with women’s issues begin when I worked in the Women’s centre in 1990s and joined with other social service agencies (YWCA, Family Planning Association, HK Council of Women and AAF) to launch the Campaign on awareness of sexual violence. Public talks and workshops were organized to correct myths about rape and to promote community understanding of rape victims. In 1990s, a rape crisis centre would not appeal to women because of the stigma attached to it. After spending ten years of community education, I am so glad that I have set up the first rape crisis centre – RainLily, in Hong Kong in year 2000.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? We hope that everyone has a safe and happy holiday with our loved ones when we go for a travelling and trip. We also look forward to a better year for gender equity in year 2018.
A Hong Kong native currently in my final year of my PsyD Clinical Psychology degree while also pursuing athletic dreams of being a jiu-jitsu world champion. Instagram @kimpossiblecarder
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? I think it’s such a dangerous word. I am always really cautious when I hear it and enquire further into what the person using it means. I don’t think there is any hard definition of the word and it depends what community you’re in. The secret is to find a community who define the word the same way you do, that way you can align your metrics and progress of success with theirs. Ultimately, success is to rid yourself of worries and to feel unconstrained in how you make choices, whether that be financially, physically or emotionally.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? I frequently wish I could go back and liberate my younger self from the chains of social approval. I would remind her that she has nothing to prove and there’s nothing more powerful than falling in love with yourself. Whether or not she would listen to me is a very different matter.
What would the older you advise to your current self? Ask me again in a few years time!
If anything was possible. What would you sacrifice your life or current wellbeing for? Anything is possible! Personally I don’t spend a lot of time dreaming about fantasies – I guess other than being able to tour musical festivals and historic ruins around the world while also having enough brain power to pursue my goals. But unfortunately I can’t be in two places at once, I’ve tried.
My current ‘trade-off’ for pursuing my rather big goals is not feeling normal sometimes in social settings. I can’t always talk about the latest movies or my latest holiday, as I simply don’t have the means to do so right now. The challenge for a while was not being bitter, but somewhere along the journey I was able to let that go and remind myself that my time for a break will come soon. Sometimes in the pursuit of a long-term goal it feels like everyone else is ahead of you and you’re so far behind you can’t even imagine what it will be like to reach your goal. That’s where you have to remind yourself of your love for what you do. There are some dark days, but learning to be comfortable with those darker days is what makes you so much stronger.
Do you have any current personal goals you are working on? I am a huge fan of goal setting. My most important current goal is inner peace which I am pursuing through meditation, gratitude and self-regulation. Athletically, I am working towards a jiu jitsu goal of becoming a world champion as well as trying to be as functionally strong as possible.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? After I won my first professional MMA fight there was a lot of media attention towards the woman who lost the fight, and I couldn’t understand how, even though I had won I felt as though I had lost in terms of media coverage. I learned that media is whole different fight and if I wanted to take that on, it’s a different kind of training.
At the same time, I was getting fight contracts and offers from different organizations around the world. I had to make a very conscious decision about what my priority was at the time, was I going to pursue fighting and put my doctorate training on hold? No. It was never my plan to be a full-time fighter, the risks and outcome wasn’t the journey for me. But to come to this decision and not to be seduced by the glamour was a difficult decision.
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10… Any tips for the rest of us? I think time perspective helps with productivity. In reality anything you need to do doesn’t take as much time as you feel it does. Breaking the task down into small manageable tasks makes things seem less daunting and it creates a clear action plan.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them too?
1) My belief that I am more capable than I think I am.
2) My amazingly supportive family who have put up with more than their fair share of emotional support.
3) Having friends who inspire me with their resilience and ambition.
Any favourite quotes? Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Time. There never feels like there is enough time to do everything I want to do. Before, when I felt really overwhelmed I would binge eat and start a negative cycle of self-hate, excessive eating which would inevitably lead to guilt and the cycle would begin again. The trigger was obviously feeling out of control and feeling like what I was doing wasn’t good enough. I now practice much more self-compassion and I am in constant effort not to let self-punishment destroy weeks of my life, just a few minutes and then we move on.
Any good books or resources to recommend? I love the Tim Ferris Show. Hearing how other people live their lives and have structured their days allows me to adopt different strategies and philosophies to mine.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? Bed time. In the past year I have started to prioritize sleep and am I always attempting to improve the quality of my sleep with a structured bedtime routine. We frequently say things like “I can sleep when I’m dead” and “sleep is for the weak”. But research has consistently shown that the quality of our sleeping hours determine the quality of our waking hours.
If you could eliminate one thing from your life what would it be? Self-doubt.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? Meditation, my dissertation research is on the power of sensory deprivation through floatation tanks. I love meditating, and floatation tanks take the practice to the next level. My first step is to always connect with myself again, through breath and then I will start to reach out to others.
What messages generally do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That we have to do it all. That there’s more value to being one thing than another. Ultimately, most of the media is working to its own agenda and you need to be a mindful consumer of everything you see published.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? Never give up.
What is the worst advice you see or hear given in your trade or area of expertise? If you’re not doing what you’re passionate about it, you’re wasting your time, and all quotes that are along those lines. I think we live in a dangerous time where my generation is told that they need to live a life of passion and everything needs to be amazing all the time, post it on your instagram, give it a meaningful quote about how life changing this moment is – it is all a bit too much pressure and has serious effects on mental health.
I meet clients every week who feel unfulfilled because they have come to expect so much from every single moment, and it is that expectation where anxiety or depression thrive. Yes, there should be passionate moments and life is beautiful, but sometimes life is boring and mundane but that’s okay too. For us to deny ourselves the lows of life, that resistance creates more problems. Instead we should learn to be comfortable with being dispassionate and not to be fazed by it.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? Gym memberships.
What in your life are you most proud of? My relationships with my family members. We aren’t perfect, but we are connected through such powerful and authentic communication that we work problems out so well and always have a great laugh whenever we are together.
Obviously social media has a big role to play in the overall perception of body image – can you give your thoughts on this? It’s getting better, but overall I think it’s toxic and depressing for most women. It makes me sad to see working women compare themselves to ‘fitness models’. Yes, we all need goal and aspirations, but when the media demonizes flaws and makes women feel disempowered, we have a serious problem. I would suggest women to find people to talk to who emulates the lifestyle and physique you want. Ask them for a candid conversation about what they have to do to look the way they do.
What is your spirit animal and why? For me, it really depends when you ask me. During the week I am focused, engaged and moving efficiently – I like to think of myself as a panther. When I rest on Sundays, I am a panda.
If you could increase or decrease the amount of something in your life what would it be? I would increase the amount of time I spend meditating in the morning.
What do you think women need more of? To trust their intuition, remembering that they can do anything they want to do.
Best health advice to women or girls? Everything in moderation, including moderation. It is up to you to determine fitness goals that are appropriate for your lifestyle. There’s no point creating a reality you cannot maintain.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what would it be? At this stage in the game, it can only be my clinical and athletic work. I hope people remember my clinical ability to help people sit comfortably with the things that make them uncomfortable and personally, to remember that anything is possible at any given time.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? That the only standards they need to compare themselves to is the person they were yesterday.
I’m simply another one of Hong Kong’s mixed ethnicity third culture kids. I was a national HK rugby player, and studied Business at Nottingham University. Now, I compete in Powerlifting and Strongman whilst working as the Asia Pacific Manager for Ultimate Performance’s healthy meal service. Instagram @daniella.may.lee
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Good health. Free from financial insecurity. A challenging but rewarding career. Surrounded by family and love.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? Stop trying to be so great at everything – choose your struggles, and choose them wisely. Find out what makes you tick instead of trying to make everyone happy.
What would the older you advise your current self? Be more present.
If anything was possible. What would you sacrifice your current wellbeing or lifestyle for? Travel the world! Sacrifice my training to spend at least one year seeing everything there is to see.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? My first rugby game when I was 16. I knocked a girl out and I’ve been competitive and driven ever since. Getting on to the HK national team only fueled me further and was the catalyst for my lifting career.
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10. Any tips for the rest of us? Turn off everything and focus on the task at hand for 30min and see how much you can get done in that time. Make it a competition for yourself and block out the noise and distractions – phone included!
With all your accomplishments so far, what 3 things would you credit them to.
1) My mom who not only told me, but also showed me that I can be anything I want to be if I put my mind to it.
2) My dad for teaching me and showing me first hand what hard work means physically and career wise.
3) My loved ones and friends – I couldn’t do this alone without the unending support from them.
Any favourite quotes? “I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they’re right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.” — Marilyn Monroe
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
What do you think there should be more of? Common courtesy and etiquette. Everyone is so busy thinking their own lives and time is so much more important than others that we’ve stopped being POLITE. Saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’; holding the lift, or a door open for someone, and punctuality. It’s not rocket science but my experience especially in HK has seen a tremendous lack of this. These simple things pave the way for a much more pleasant day.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Managing my own expectations. I’ve always set very high standards for myself, by the age of 30 I would have achieved certain things in my career, or my personal life. The thing is that, things change. What I wanted or thought I would have achieved when I was a teenager is very different to what my goals are now professionally and personally. And that’s okay. If I’m not happy with something right now, I just need to have the courage to be able to change what I can. If I can’t change it and it’s out of my control, I need to accept that…. and make sure I enjoy the ride 🙂
Any books or resources you use you can recommend? The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. A phenomenal book for basic life principles which I keep coming back to. In brief:
- Be Impeccable with your Word
- Don’t Take Anything Personally
- Don’t Make Assumptions
- Always Do Your Best
What part of the day is most important to you and why? My morning routine is so important to me. My morning sets the tone for the rest of the day, is often the most productive time, and when I feel the most alive.
What messages do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? Women are told what their goal in life should be; to have it all. You don’t need to have it all; the career, the family, the perfect apartment and salary. All you need is what is going to make you happy.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? Pause. It’s easy for life to run away with you, and I can easily feel overwhelmed, anxious, fearful all at the same time… and then panic about what I am even doing with my life. That’s when I need to pause, and sit with myself. I write down a list of things I am grateful for, think about my priorities and goals – short term and long term, and then return back to what can I do today. The things that I get anxious or fearful about are all things to do in the future and “what if” situations. What it comes down to is the fact that all we have is today.
What do you wish you did more of in your average day and what do you wish you did less of? I wish I spent more time indulging my creative side – whether through photography, drawing, reading or writing. I wish I spent less time on my computer!
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? Be confident – you can be anything you want to be and do anything you want to do.
What is the worst advice that you see or hear given in the fitness industry? No pain, no gain.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? Getting my personal training qualification when I was 19 years old. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to become a trainer, or what I wanted to do in the future (I was in the midst of completing my business degree), but I knew I was interested in training and was fed up with not knowing what I was doing. Getting that qualification didn’t teach me a whole lot of what I know now, but it marked a turning point in my attitude and mindset towards weight training.
What in your life are you proud of? I’ve achieved something I’ve been chasing for a while now…and that’s to formally represent my country in two different sports; rugby, and now powerlifting. It was an overwhelming moment having the gold medal hung around my neck with the HK national anthem playing at the Asia Powerlifting Championships.
Coffee or tea? I LOVE coffee, but I won’t sleep if I have it after 2pm which is when I switch to tea.
Can you dig a bit deeper on ‘strong not skinny’ Strength doesn’t lie in just your physicality. It’s simply being able to do something you previously thought you could not do. This relates to being physically strong, mentally strong, and spiritually strong. After many conversations with women I’ve come across, I’ve found that it’s often women who have imposed these barriers on themselves – “I could never do that, I’ll never be that strong/fast/disciplined/lean …” Putting ourselves down mentally before even trying.
The phrase ‘Strong Not Skinny’, to me, is a celebration of what our bodies, as women, are capable of. We should be honouring the amazing things we can do, not just what it looks like – whether it’s through flexibility, endurance sports, childbirth, or my own passion: strength sports. Pursuing something you LOVE shines through your soul and catapults you into learning the true meaning of self-love, self-worth, and happiness.
Many women have had their own issues with body image – myself included, especially as a teenage girl. I am so grateful that I’ve come to the point where I have a very healthy relationship with food which is a balance of healthy food, as well as the odd treat. What’s most important is that, I do not get stressed over food anymore, and am not a slave to food to make me happy, or depressed. The focus is no longer on being skinny and depriving myself of food – it’s how to fuel my body to be as strong as it possibly can be.
Everyone wants to look as amazing and as healthy as we feel, but “amazing and healthy” comes in many shapes and sizes. Take the focus away from what your body looks like, and put that into what your body can do, and stop comparing! You can only control your actions, so take it into your own hands and go out and DO something that makes you feel good.
Strive to be the strongest expression of yourself – mind, body and soul. And do it for yourself, not for anyone else.
What is your spirit animal and why? In my family we often talk about our Chinese zodiac, and tease each other accordingly…mainly because my mom is a pig. I was born in the year of the horse, so I guess it has become my “spirit animal.” The personality of those born in the year of the horse is one that is “extremely animated, active and energetic. Horses love to be in a crowd, and can usually be seen on such occasions as concerts, theater performances, and sporting events. With a deft sense of humor, Horses are masters of repartee.” WINNING.
Who inspires you? My mama.
Best health advice to women or girls? Balance is the spice of life, and don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice – we all go through the same thing.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what will be? That I was always there to listen.
What do you think women need to know in 2018? They need to make themselves happy before they can begin to think they can make anyone around them happy.
Founder of Voltage PR, Wellness Warriors
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Being able to make a difference in the world and seeing it last.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? Follow your heart and always do your best.
What would the older you advise to your current self? Save up and invest intelligently.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? Taking the leap to start Voltage PR. I never saw myself as an entrepreneur but it blossomed into a beautiful milestone and ignited my creator within to curate even more businesses. I’m grateful for my fiancée Dan to have encouraged me to jump off in the deep end and just go for it.
Any personal goals you currently have? To continue developing my self-discovery into spirituality.
You have a huge following on Facebook and Instagram – do you feel you have some responsibility with that type of audience or is it all just fun? It’s a platform for me to express myself and therefore I don’t want to make it too serious. However, that’s why I started the Wellness Warriors platform on Instagram so I can focus that account on wellness tips and helping others.
How much do you think social media drives misconceptions about health or body image? It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you’re looking at highly edited photos online. But I think it’s our duty as well as parents who are raising children to nurture and build up confidence from within. Obviously, also know that the photos you’re browsing aren’t the ‘real’ deal.
You have a crazy busy schedule…what do you do to help with productivity? Any tips for us? TIME MANAGEMENT, time blocking and prioritizing! I always have a to do list to work off of. I review it in the morning see which ones need my utmost attention and then knock them off one by one. Delegation is also key if you are able to ask for help.
Any quotes you live by? Always be true to yourself.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? I’d like to see more positivity globally. People being selfless in helping others without asking for anything in return. Less shit talking and more heart conscious decision making to make the world a better place. More love, less hate.
Many successful people have a set morning routine….do you? Morning meditation if I have time. If not, I always have an essential oil sequence routine with affirmations and intention setting to kick start my morning.
If you could cut out one thing from your life what would it be? NEGATIVITY! This is something I am constantly working on. Sometimes life throws you unexpected curve balls but it’s how you train your mind to stay positive in these types of situations that elevate you.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I’ve got a million and one ways but here are a couple of my favorite.
1) I finish up all my work and let people who need to find me know that I’ll be offline for a period of time. UNPLUGGING is key – this means zero distractions. I use this time to contemplate and do a grounding meditation.
2) Another way to stay grounded is being in nature. You can go on a hike, run barefoot on the beach, grass, or soil. This connects you to mother nature thereby keeping you grounded.
What messages generally do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? I don’t believe that women only belong at home and in the kitchen. I think that this type of stereotyping is old fashion and out dated. I want to see a society where girls can grow up to be whatever they want or set their minds to be.
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? Every girl should have the opportunity to receive an education. I’m glad we have women like Malala Yousafzai, Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, to advocate for girls around the globe.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? You’re probably asking about monetary investments but I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into my family and friends. Time and energy can not be made back therefore they are my most worthwhile investments to me. When you’re facing problems or have hit rock bottom, it is they who pick you back up when you are broken into a million little pieces.
What in your life are you most proud of? I’ve gone through more ups and downs than most people I know since birth. So I’m actually most proud of myself for being able to get through all that I’ve gone through and still stay positive through it all. It’s easy giving up but it’s always being able to get back up on your feet that counts the most.
You’re dong so well with your PR company – why Wellness Warriors and what are your aspirations for the company? Mental health is an issue close to heart. I grew up in Hong Kong and I’ve seen the mental health problem grow exponentially in the past 5 years. Hong Kong also just got named highest teenage suicide rate in all of Asia. This is my home and I won’t allow this to continue. I hope that with my network and expertise I can make a difference. Which is why I created Wellness Warriors which aims to connect people through a mash up of different wellness offerings to elevate holistic interest throughout the city of Hong Kong. I want to break the mold of people thinking wellness is only yoga. It isn’t – there’s so many other forms and modules of wellness. My main goal is to educate the public about alternative ways of holistic healing and finding one that suits them best. For those who are interested in mental health awareness I urge you to join me and make a difference.
What do you think makes a good leader? A good leader is a good listener. One that encourages you to explore and try to become the best version of yourself.
Are there any wellness trends for women you think don’t get enough recognition? SELF LOVE! It’s not selfish to set aside time for yourself. YOU are in charge of your life therefore you must also take care of yourself. Allow yourself to be happy so that you can share your happiness with the world.
Who inspires you? Everyone who is trying to make a difference in the world.
Best health advice to women or girls? Take care of yourself. Put yourself first and only then can you give others your full 100% time and energy.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? “Don’t be afraid to go where you’ve never gone and do what you’ve never done, because both are necessary to have what you’ve never had and be who you’ve never been.” – The Universe
Yoga instructor, Spin instructor, Healer
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Ooh it’s a trigger word for me. We are conditioned to believe success only looks a certain way. The deeper I go within, the more I let go of this conditioning, this idea of success or being successful. If you stop and ask yourself why do you want to be successful, you will see the answer most likely comes from a pain, from ego. You want to be successful because you want to be number 1, you want to impress family, impress/attract a mate, you seek attention or you don’t feel good enough therefore you need to compensate by wanting to be ‘’ successful ’’.
What would you advise your younger self if you traveled back in time and met? Trust your gut feeling/ intuition at all cost, it is ALWAYS right.
What would the older you advise to your current self? Life is lit! Surrender into the unknown, everything else will be taken care of.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? Moving away from home, Toronto, Canada, was life changing in ways I couldn’t have imagined. The adventures I’ve experienced and still currently experiencing are beyond this world. The good and the bad experiences.
You have quite an alternative lifestyle – yoga/spin instructor now getting into healing…how did these decisions come about? I got pushed into holistic wellness after I got really sick at the 19, I depleted my adrenal glands. During my time of healing, I was prescribed to do restorative or yin yoga twice a week. Which made me realize the power of healing that yoga has. That’s when I became a yoga instructor. I got drawn to indoor cycling , aka spinning, as it was a healthy version of clubbing, since I no longer drank alcohol/‘’partied’’. I also saw it as a way to connect to people who would reject trying or doing yoga. I deliver the same healing message. Now moving into healing practices came about, for me, by just working on myself for many years reaching deep levels. Then you reach a point where you get guided to start to help others, and slowly move into a teacher role.
Any favorite quotes? Many, here’s a few:
‘Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart through my eyes, that i may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.’ – Yogananda
‘Leave people better then you have found them.’ – Mother theresa
‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ – Ghandi
‘Love expects no return and no attachments.’-Sai Baba
‘Everything happens for a reason.’ – unknown
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Obstacles in life become a challenge if you resist the lesson. Take a deep breathe, surrender and learn your lesson. That’s how i’m dealing with it.
What’s the last book you read? ‘The autobiography of a yogi’ – By Paramhansa Yogananda (a must read book)
What part of the day is most important to you and why? The first 5 minutes of me waking up and the last 5 minutes right before I fall asleep. The first 5 minutes are crucial, as the thoughts that are running through my mind will often time determine my mood for the day. Last 5 minutes or hour, i take time to reflect on my day, learn my lessons from the day, release any guilt, pain or anger left from the day. That way I minimize the potential of carrying those emotions with me the next day, or in the future.
Is there anything you can’t live without? Donuts and crystals
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? Heal, nap, meditate, massage, Disney movies, me time.
What messages generally do you think are given to girls and women today that your disagree with? You need to look, be and behave a certain way.
What do u wish you did more of in a day and what do you wish u did less of? Less worry about the unknown future, more enjoying the experience I’m experiencing in the moment regardless if its ‘good’ or ‘bad’ moment.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? ME!!! I have come a long way to be able to say that.
What in your life are you most proud of? How far I have come.
Drink of choice? Water! or Milo lol
Can you dig a bit deeper on your thoughts of the Women’s fitness industry – is it on the right track? Yes it is. It’s moving slowly forward, unfortunately it’s still a image thing versus it about being a health movement, especially in Asia.
What is your spirit animal and why? I was told it was a tiger, a year ago. It represents the inner strength that one has, the trust in it’s instinct and intuition. It is connected to gaia, mother nature and so on.
Favorite colour? Turquoise, green and sparkles!
Who inspires you? My best friends aka Soul Family and Babaji.
Your best health advice to women or girls? Avoid social media unless you are using it to empower others or make the world a better place.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what would it be? Dunno, we’ll have wait and see!
If you could put one thing on a billboard would it be? When’s the last time you helped a stranger?
What do you think women need to know in 2018? Our time has come, its all about the now. Heal your pains, surrender and trust into the unknown and you’ll come to know the world as a magical place.
Stephanie is an Exercise Physiologist and Exercise Scientist. She is a former Hong Kong representative of the Women’s Rugby Sevens full-time scholarship program at the Hong Kong Sports Institute, and has also previously represented Hong Kong in Women’s Netball. She now spends her time designing and implementing health management and exercise rehabilitation programs for private clients with a variety of lifestyle conditions, acute/chronic injuries, rehabilitation goals and exercise adherence issues.
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Happy, healthy & continually learning.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? Keep playing all the sport that you’re already playing, stick with dancing & gymnastics (amazing for coordination and body awareness!), learn from your peers both inside and outside of the classroom, and appreciate your teachers (both parents and educational teaching professionals).
Role models are constantly surrounding you, it’s just a matter of taking in the information they’re guiding you with to shape the person you choose to become in the future. Oh.. and listen to your parents! They know what they’re talking about.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? Battling injury always poses as a defining moment in my life. They do come and go, but they truly do test your patience, mental strength and discipline.
I’m currently facing one at the moment so it’s been tough and I have my ups and downs, but I’m also pushing past the lows by setting myself realistic goals for my rehab in order to get through it in a more positive light.
The first injury was when I was still playing rugby 7s, and I underwent one too many shoulder dislocations. After finally repairing it, the rehab process was long. I’m lucky I’ve got a background in Exercise Physiology as well as a solid support system, otherwise I don’t think I would’ve been able to make it back as quickly and as smoothly as I did. It taught me to take time for myself and really listen to what my body and mind needed. Taking the time off and learning to switch off, as well as diverting my attention to my other passions such as my family and work, was crucial for me and I think I managed to take a lot away from that experience. Now that I’m facing another serious sporting injury, again it is testing me but I am finding ways to get around it in a safe way, without pushing the limits too much.
Despite the circumstances, I do still believe there always is a silver lining, you just have to find it. With my current knee injury, it’s put me out of action for pretty much the next entire year. Yes that is hard news to take, but now I’m fully able to focus on my rehab and my work. Something that I believe couldn’t have come at a better time with all that I have going on at the moment.
Other defining moments in my life came about when making my career changes. The first one was when I chose not to take on the job offers I got in Sydney working as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist, and chose to put that on hold to come back to Hong Kong to play professional rugby in the Hong Kong Sevens set up. The second one took place when I chose to leave the professional rugby set up in order to continue growing my business to set myself up for the future. Each stage of my life I feel has been an incredible learning curve, and there is always something to take out of it. It’s the experiences that you learn from, and what you choose to do with that feedback is such a valuable lesson in itself.
Tell us a bit more about Calibrate by Stephanie…Calibrate by Stephanie is my baby! It’s my company that I’ve actually had incorporated since the very start of when I first moved back to Hong Kong after university. I wanted to keep on practicing my Exercise Physiology despite it not being a recognised industry here in Hong Kong. Since leaving the rugby set up, I went on to revamp the company and decided to re-brand it as ‘Calibrate by Stephanie’.
In very simple terms, what I look to offer with my company is education, training and other services to help people change their lifestyles and recalibrate their systems. So much of what we do and choose on a daily basis affects our health in ways that may be not seem tangible until it’s too late. Health promotion in the form of promoting healthy & balanced eating as well as regular exercise is what I try to preach through my services, in order to prevent and/or manage chronic disease and illness.
It’s been tough trying to establish this sort of business as there are quite a few competitors out there. When I say this, I’m really referring to personal training and physiotherapy. Half the battle of what I do is actually explaining the type of service that I’m qualified to practice. And what I’m really looking to offer is a bridge to close the gap between the two services, as opposed to compete with them. At the end of the day, getting my clients pain-free and moving better is my #1 goal so that they can live with a higher quality of life!
How has playing rugby at such a high level had an impact on your life? I’ve learnt heaps both on and off the field. Playing rugby at such a high level has taught me to problem solve under pressure, live in the moment at all times, and learn a lot about the mental side of the game. It’s taught me even more about discipline and also taking on feedback. I do believe that the mental skills side of things has been the most impactful with regards to how I view the world and how I tackle situations on a daily basis. When things work out, keep going at it. And when they don’t? Figure out what went wrong and learn from it, creating a new strategy in order not to make the same mistake again! And if you do fall into the same trap? Figure out another strategy. There’s always a way out of a rut, but you have to keep an open mind throughout the process. Enjoy the process as opposed to fixate yourself on the end result.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to? My family, my friends & the education that I was fortunate enough to grow up with.
Any favourite quotes? “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard”
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Battling injury at the moment. Trying to make my comeback from my ACL reconstruction. Trying to stay positive and journal my rehab process. Documenting it all is helping me focus on something in both a positive and educational light. I’m able to put myself in the injured one’s shoes to know what it feels like to go through it all both physically and mentally. I just don’t want this to get in the way of my work – not being able to walk around or be as mobile as I would normally has posed as a bit of a speed bump, but nothing I can’t handle!
Any books or resources you use you can recommend? I’m definitely more of a podcast person but when it comes to books and reading materials, Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit” is a personal favourite.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? Early mornings & before I go to sleep. Particularly early mornings when I’m already 2 clients in before most people are up for work. Sometimes it’s hard getting up so early especially when you haven’t had enough sleep the night before that, but I do still try to make the most out of the hours I’m up to set my intention for the rest of the day. It’s so nice having that peace and quiet at the start and end of your day not only to set your intention, but for reflection too.
What messages do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? I really dislike that so much of social media and magazines are all about looking a certain way, and that it’s the aesthetic part of their body that has become their priority as opposed to their health. By health, it’s not just the physical state, but the mental and emotional states. Why on earth do beauty tips trump valuable health tips?!
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? Always try to stay positive but always acknowledge the negative in order to create and maintain balance. Sometimes you just need to feel sorry for yourself in order to acknowledge it, digest the situation, and then be able to move on from there.
What do you wish you did more of in your average day and what do you wish you did less of? MORE: Daily meditation both at the start and end of my day. LESS: Screen time (technology in general)
What’s your take on the way social media influences women and body image? I feel that social media has had a confusing and detrimental effect on body image… and I don’t believe it’s only affecting women either. As I mentioned somewhere above, people are making aesthetics such a big priority when it comes to their bodies, as opposed to prioritising their health. With regards to body image, it used to be all about being skinny. Then strong became the new skinny. And then the skinny ones would be shamed or labelled having some kind of disorder, irrespective of genetics or anything else. And then someone would have something to say about someone being too large or muscly. People need to stop judging others and realise that everyone is built differently and have their own reasons for doing what they do, and making the life choices that they make. They don’t need to be shot down by someone else purely based off what’s trending on social media. Body image distortion is only one of social media’s horrible faces. Social media can be used as such a powerful tool, and yet it can also be a terrible weapon. I feel like there are too many rules set on how to look, what to wear, what the outfit of the day is, what hashtags should be used for what.. the list can go on.
This may be slightly off topic, but I think one of the bigger problems of social media is that it has drastically affected the way people communicate with one another, and the instant gratification that is obtained through ‘likes’ and followers has completely changed the way people interact with one another. It’s scary because half the time it seems like people don’t know how to connect on a personal level, in real life. But this topic is a whole other can of worms that can be saved for another discussion!
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? Loving and caring for your body, as well as standing up and having a voice. I am an advocate for standing up for what you believe in. Times are changing and so is society. I think people are coming to terms with that and it’s important that we take a stand to say what we believe in, in order for change to take place.
What is the worst advice that you see or hear given in the fitness industry? ‘Skinny tea’ and other ‘detox’ weight loss fads. Ladies – if you want to lose weight, gain muscle and feel great, you’ve gotta eat the right foods, as opposed to starve yourself and think there is going to be a magic pill that’ll help you overnight.
What in your life are you most proud of? My family and my career.
What is your spirit animal and why? Either a bear or whale. Because both of these animals have strong ties with their families but also know how to appreciate and live solitary lives – I am a firm believer in knowing and appreciating alone time (definitely not a bad thing!)
Who inspires you? My oldest sister, Natacha.
Best health advice to women or girls? Listen to your body.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what will be? My contribution to the community, and how I strive to help others.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? Create healthy habits. Move often, eat well, and get enough sleep. Believe it or not, your quality of life will be enhanced as a result of those simple steps!
A mother of two rambunctious boys, an avid outdoor junkie, and a regional Director of Digital and Loyalty at an international retail brand.
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Ultimately, it’s when you and the people you love most are happy, and you feel fulfilled with what you’re doing.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? Stop worrying so much! Sweat the big things, not the little things. And sleep more.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? Leaving my comfortable job back in Canada to come backpacking around Asia in search of new adventures. That was almost 14 years ago, and it’s hard to fathom how much I would have missed out on if I hadn’t followed that dream.
Any personal goals you currently have? Try not to burn my toast. (I’m a terrible cook.) But more importantly, strive to achieve better harmony and balance.
How much do you think social media drives misconceptions about health or body image? Social media is a double-edged sword – how one leverages it is key to whether or not it drives misconceptions. We need to be conscious of the obvious perils, such as how body image portrayals are often distorted, and how as a form of media, it instigates instant gratification and unrealistic expectations. However, social media can also be used as a force for good. Ignore the over-airbrushed, superficial aspects and take the good parts from it—the training videos, the inspirational anecdotes. Leverage it to connect with others, drive motivation and learn.
You have a crazy busy schedule…what do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10? While I’m continuing to personally evolve in this space (!) here are a few life hacks I’ve discovered:
- True multi-tasking doesn’t work – you end up with a half-written email response and a toddler who has his shirt on, but no trousers. Focus on one thing, give it your full attention, then move on to the next thing.
- Healthy body = healthy mind. Exercise at least once every 24 hours. I am so much more productive at work if I have put in a good sweat session earlier in the day.
- Leverage the support of those around you, and play to your strengths. If evening comes around and there is no dinner, my husband can whip up something delicious and healthy in the same time it would take me to open my laptop, scour allrecipes.com and contemplate which option would be least likely to spark a kitchen combustion.
Any quotes you live by? You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to loses sight of the shore. (André Gide) It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? This is a broad question, but in general, there should be less judging, and more kindness.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Achieving balance across work, family, friends and personal pursuits is always going to be a challenge, but a good one. One area of continual focus is around prioritization – spend time on the things that matter, and be brutal with the things that don’t.
Any books or resources you keep coming back to? I often pass out in bed at night with a flurry of articles all around me, which in a strange way, I find calming. I like to keep abreast of current affairs and opinion pieces, but (try) to avoid screen time before sleep. I’ve also recently attended some thought-provoking sessions led by women leaders, whereby the purpose of these sessions is to support women in various stages of career development. While there’s still a long way to go, I’d like to think that from a positive perspective, there is a growing support network of female leaders within the region.
Many successful people have a set morning routine….do you? I wake up around 6:00AM to spend time with my eldest son before he gets on the bus at 6:40AM, hopefully see my youngest son if he wakes up before I head out [due to the time difference I tend to have a lot of early morning calls], and have a double-shot short Americano and a filling breakfast at my desk once I get to work. If I know I won’t be able to nip out for a quick gym session at lunch that day, I’ll wake up at 5:00AM to do some form of exercise.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I’m fortunate to live close to several great running trails. After sprinting up a hill, I’ll sometimes stop at the top of the peak and force myself to breathe slowly, take in the breathtaking surroundings, and focus on gratefulness—we should always stop and think about how lucky we are to have health, mobility, shelter, safety…the list goes on. We should never take for granted what we have.
What messages generally do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That you are “almost as good as” your male counterparts. Whether or not this messaging is implicitly or explicitly stated, there are unconscious biases that exist today that need to be overcome.
What messages do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? Women bring diverse and enriched perspectives. And as a young girl or woman, you can achieve your dreams if you persevere.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? Traveling to Asia. Coming to Asia in and of itself was likely the most life-changing investment I’ve made. It opened up new opportunities, both personally and professionally, and pushed me to get out of my comfort zone.
What’s one thing you would change about the corporate working environment? And what advice would you give girls or women thinking about a career in something similar? One thing I would change about the corporate working environment is to offer greater flexibility and openness, so that there are broader opportunities for women to advance among leadership ranks. In terms of advice, I would say to choose to work for a company that embraces values around empowering women and female leadership growth. The company I work for is a great supporter of women in leadership and is doing some very progressive work in this area.
What do you think makes a good leader? A good leader is somebody who inspires and motivates others while continuing to personally grow and evolve. A good leader isn’t afraid to give constructive feedback, and provides opportunities for others to flourish.
Best health advice to women or girls? Exercising is as important as eating or sleeping. It should become part of your regular routine – not to make you look good, but to make you feel good.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? Be true to yourself – pursue the areas that you’re passionate about. Be kind. Focus on what matters, and the rest will fall into place.
Ellen Lai Costa
Hello I’m super thrilled to be asked by Womens Five for this interview. I’m a Wellness and Fitness coach, also certified Yoga teacher and Biotherapist. I’m originally from Brazil but have lived in Asia for 13 years. You will find more about my lifestyle on my Blog and a lot on social media as I also work as a digital marketing manager. There is a lot happening for me in 2018 so I’m delighted to be able to share my experiences and connect to other powerful and innovative women! Blog: popcornandpavlova.com | Instagram @ellencostacom | Facebook @ellencostacom | website: www.ellencosta.com
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? I would first like to ask “compared to what”? I find that most people are successful in my opinion and I think of myself as successful now, after years of chasing whatever I thought would make me successful. I learned to separate being successful over comparing my success to someone else’s material or financial gains. I first had to redefine the things that would make me happy instead of wanting to live someone else’s life. Once I got that down, I figured “woah, I’m already there!”. It is amazing to feel that way
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? I would advise myself to get out of bed everyday before 6am, even if I went out and was hungover (worst case scenario). Sleeping in is not going to recover the lack of sleep anyways, but getting up early will eventually help the habit of going to bed earlier. A lot can happen before the rest of the world is up and running.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? Omg, I had a few… it’s so funny that I have just written a blog post on it because I actually put a name to those moments where everything seemed to change change (http://www.popcornandpavlova.com/about-me-happy-new-year/) Just to mention a few: when I left behind my entire “life” in Brazil including a job and fiancé, and moved to China 13 years ago. Then again when I came to Hong Kong. When I decided not to get married once… And now changing career from model and dancer to online coaching.
You have quite an alternative lifestyle – yoga teacher and fitness coach, dancer, biotherapist and now online coaching…how did these decisions come about? Every one of those things came at a moment in time when as mentioned in the previous question, something big happened in my life. Yoga came after years of dancing, I needed to find a practice to restore recurring injuries, then again later when my life seemed to be falling apart and I deepened my practice with meditation also. Fitness has always been a part of me since I was quite athletic as a child, and when I started doing bikini competitions a lot of people came to me asking for help to start getting into fitness. Just last year I studied Biotherapy which helped me understand even more the power of our immune system self healing abilities, and how unfortunately it can also self destruct. It was an eye opening experience and I wish to advance more in my practice, hopefully we will have a clinic up and running soon in Hong Kong.
Any favorite quotes? It will sound like a super harsh quote, but I find inspiration in it for different life situations, from complex worldly interactions to simple things such as how we judge one another on a daily basis. So if you can be open minded, this is one of Gandalf’s line’s from Lord Of The Rings (little nerdy may I add). Not the typical super enlightened yogi quote.
“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? More exchange of abilities, something I’m good at in exchange of something you’re good at and that will benefit both. Same goes for gifting, instead of buying things, I will make things to gift. And less of compulsive shopping, I’m not against shopping, but I wish to help promote more of consciously doing so.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? I have just recently undergo a major shift in my career, I decided to quit entertainment but was having a really hard time trying to decide on one thing to focus on and invest my time and resources to build up a new career. I was searching for the things everyone had told me, to find my passion and work on it. Big problem! I’m a multi-passionate person and some would say multitalented person, so I couldn’t make up my mind. Then finally started getting signals and messages from mentors and coaches that I should try instead of focusing on my passion, to think of two things combined: 1) what I was really good at and, 2) something that could benefit others. That solved the issue. I just needed to find that one-two thing and it got me to where I am now, which is to help others make important changes in their lives through forming better healthy habits
What’s the last book you read? The Organising Mind by Daniel J. Levitin A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Must read asap.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? The first one hour after I wake up. It will set the rhythm of my day and how efficient I will be. But also, that might be the time I decide to turn off and retreat to recharge my energies.
Is there anything you can’t live without? Considered all my very basic survival needs are provided, I can’t think of anything. I’ve been without phones, internet, money, my own house, a varied wardrobe full of clothes… everything can be sort of figured out.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I have learned a new skill, I have traveled, and done volunteering work. But often I felt that if I engaged in activities that focused on helping others, it changed my perspectives. What seemed like a big deal before, turned out not to be a big deal at all.
What messages generally do you think are given to girls and women today that your disagree with? I wish that girls learned to be confident and powerful like Goddesses, with grace and embracing their natural energies. That they could find balance within themselves independently of how the world is running, and they didn’t have to just live to react. That is what I think is happening, they learn to react without the capabilities of in fact being true to themselves. They still don’t know their bodies, they don’t know how to deal with their cycles, they don’t know how to balance their feminine and masculine energies. Those things are not taught in school, it used to be passed on from mother to daughter, but since a long time ago when the Goddess Culture was shut down and considered witchcraft, very few kept passing it on. So mothers were not able to pass it on to their daughters for many generations, and it’s been mostly lost. There is really no one to blame, but I hope we can bring it up again since we have so much more freedom (where we are lucky to have). There is in fact a Women’s Temple in Hong Kong which cultivates that, if anyone is interested.
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? In the past women have been conditioned to comply with the standard imposed by society on how we should be, look, behave. Be perfect. Finally we started to break through and we are encouraged to seek for what makes us happy even if it doesn’t go by the books, but chose a career that truly fulfils us, be married or not, have children or not and so on.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? Always in learning a new skill or deepening an old one.
Drink of choice? A glass of guinness, only 99 calories!
Any advice for someone looking to start their own business? Check out a few mentors and coaches if you might be thinking of it even if you don’t know what business you want to start yet. You will find really good ones online – those will give you a lot of material and insight for free, and even a free call without hard selling. Then hire a good coach. I researched many for a few years and when I knew it was the time to start my own business I knew which coach and mentors to look for.
Can you dig a bit deeper on your thoughts of the Women’s fitness industry – is it on the right track? It really depends on what is on each person’s mind. Different needs call for different measures, it goes from new moms just trying to get to their pre baby bodies, to pro athletes trying to excel. There’s a lot of shortcuts too, and I believe people will have common sense to know the difference when it’s obvious but sometimes it is a very thin line and it’s hard to determine what it means to be on the right track. I finally got to a place for myself and my clients that comes from a holistic approach. I had done crazy stuff to look fit when I first started as a bikini competitor, it got me wins but my body felt horrible, I got injured and then it took me years to rebuild and restore with Yoga. Then I abused certain yoga practices and got injured again. It was a journey to understand my body, stop comparing it to anyone, and then learn to customize a mix of natural bodybuilding and sculpting, however and whenever I wanted, and stay fairly flexible, strong and mobile as well as free of injuries.
What is your spirit animal and why? Had to do a little research on this one. But it came out quite inaccurate, I got Bear and Hummingbird. I like both 🙂
Favorite colour? White, but I rarely choose white. I choose black or navy blue for practicality.
Who inspires you? If I’m needing of a boost of motivation, I go for Sadhguru videos on youtube. Just type whatever you are searching for with “Sadhguru” and see what comes up.
Your best health advice to women or girls? 1) Make sure you understand and know that your cycle is in order. Don’t forget to visit a gynaecologist once a year. And if I can add: 2) Check how much food (MACROS) you need to eat everyday to feel good throughout the day from start to finish, there are free calculators online. Google for any free bodyweight low-medium impact 8 – 12 week program online, there’s plenty also free. This is quite safe but do consult a doctor, which you should be doing anyways once a year for general health checkup. Those two things are the least you can do for yourself.
If you could put one thing on a billboard would it be? Everything is “figureoutable”. Not my words, one of my coaches’ mom advice.
What is your message or what do you think women need to know in 2018? In a time where social media reigns, I still see a lot of people reluctant and quite negative about it’s use. And yes, there has been a lot of misuse but we have never had so much power and control over the messages we put out, and are not aware of just the fact that anyone nowadays has a loud voice. There are so many great skills we can learn about and from the digital world. Use your downtime or if you need something to leverage energy off, study this new science and put yourself at a great advantage. And if you are thinking of launching your business it is time to learn and choose the right platforms for you and rock it on! You can help someone from across the world with your powerful message.
Keshia Hannam is the co-founder of Camel Assembly–an international community of creative female leaders who gather to make change–and also writes for Fortune, covering topics ranging from leadership and entertainment to women and energy. Her work has previously appeared in Forbes, CNN, South China Morning Post, Huffington Post and Hong Kong Free Press, amongst others. Instagram @camelassembly
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Subjectivity.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? No one else should define you. There is no person or experience that will unleash you into your highest potential. That comes simply from consistent alignment with your own purpose, and a willingness to do hard work, to prepare.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now?Many. Every time they’ve occurred when a choice had to be made. A choice to do what was easy or do what felt right. Walking away from a dream job, choosing to live outside of the ‘Western world’, taking jobs with low paying salaries, all have had significant repercussions.
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10. Any tips for the rest of us? Become comfortable with the feeling of discomfort.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to? A strong support network, perspective lent by travel, stubborn optimism.
Any favourite quotes? Archimedes: “give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum upon which to place it and I shall move the world.”
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? More collaboration, less competition.
We have heard good things about Camel Assembly – can you elaborate more on the work it does? Camel Assembly is an international community of creative female leaders who gather to make change. We believe change begins with self, and then spreads to families, communities, cities and inevitably has global impact. While we see great value to marches and protests, our aim is to enable women to #marchingdaily by being accountable, intentional and imaginative.
This manifests most commonly in three ways:
A network of pioneering women around the world whose connections mean they don’t need to compromise to reach their goals.
Creative campaigns focused on social impact; from distributing care packages amongst homeless women to creating conscious block parties that give back (financially and artistically) to the neighbourhood.
Physical assemblies in New York, LA, London, Hong Kong and Mumbai that act as groundswells of creativity and collaboration.
What are your thoughts on social media platforms like Instagram and how they affect girls and women’s body image? Though these platforms are the root of much poor mental health, given that comparison can be much like a cancer of the mind, it’s a problem that we have to take responsibility for individually. Blaming the platforms is as useless as shouting at billboards–strong people know their worth, and that’s why all change must begin with self.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? As a perennial enthusiast, it’s hard to resist over-committing.
Any books or resources you use you can recommend? Three (books):
Daring Greatly by Dr Brene Brown
Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof
Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Jo Dispenza
Three (quick hits):
Blinkist (read books in 15 minutes)
Calm meditation app
Daily Economist podcasts in the morning
What part of the day is most important to you and why? I try not to value one part of the day more than others. They’re all great and challenging in different ways, and we should try to be appreciate and be present in all our moments.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? I feel women are constantly fed unintelligent content–standalone and also when compared to the messages targeting men. “For women by women”, “the future is female”, “maybe she’s born with it” “girl boss” are all quite unappealing to many of the women I deal with, myself included. Yet for some reason, they just keep coming.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? Our messages tend to be gender neutral, and balance emotion with reason (both are equally important), and aim to be as inclusive to diverse audiences as possible. Some of our messages are: “the future is yours”, “diversity, doing” “1+1=3” “empowerment is something to feel, not buy”, and “marching daily”.
Favorite snack? A rather large fan of coffee and raw bars. Also cashews.
What do u wish you did more of in your average day and what do you wish u did less of? More meditation. Less time chasing up emails and messages.
Coffee or tea? Coffee
What is your spirit animal and why? The dragonfly. They are a bit frantic and never stop moving, but to be more ethereal, in Buddhism the dragonfly is a symbol of transformation and adaptability in life, as well as change and light.
Who inspires you? My mother and grandmother are two of the strongest, most kind, wise and selfless human beings I have ever come to know. Yelda Ali, the founder of Camel Assembly and my best friend, lives a life that is consistently and unceasingly altruistic. Christiana Figueres, the Costa Rican diplomat who is largely the reason the Paris Agreement came to be, stands as a figure who effectively knits together power and intuition.
Best health advice to women or girls? Being healthy encompasses all the healths: physical, mental, sexual, spiritual etc. It’s okay to be unapologetic about the pursuit of any or all of these. I also appreciate reminders of the interlaced nature of our health, and how foundational it is. Camel Assembly revolves around the four common habits and desires of our community, and the first one is to “Be Healthy”. It’s a non-negotiable.
What is your message to, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? Nobody else is coming to do it for you. Whatever it is, no one is coming. Show up to your life.
Helen was born and raised in Hong Kong and went to university in the UK. She co-founded award-winning creative consultancy, Fluid in 2002, which was bought by PwC in 2015, was involved in the founding of leading VC firm, Nest, and the entrepreneurs club, Metta. In 2011, Helen followed a life long dream to become a natural health practitioner and began a second career as as a kinesiologist and health mentor. She now lives in London where she is working on setting up a new health and wellness venture called The Well Beings.
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Someone who is happy, healthy and is doing something that they love and find fulfilling each and every day.
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10. Any tips for the rest of us? Gosh I must admit I struggle with this as I’m a bit of a procrastinator. But my number one tip would be to avoid social media as much as possible – that just sucks time away from you and often doesn’t end up making you feel very good. Also, sometimes when certain tasks seem a bit too overwhelming, try to break them down into much smaller steps. That will mean you get a nice rush of dopamine when you achieve them, which will help get you through the rest of your tasks
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to? Following my intuition, Having the right business partner and being a perfectionist
Any favorite quotes? ‘Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear’
You’ve also recently had a baby – congratulations! Can you give your opinion on the question “can women have it all”? Thank you! Now that I’m a mother, I’m struggling firsthand with this issue. Of course we can ‘have it all’, but what does that really mean? I don’t believe that having it all results in being happy and fulfilled and is in fact more than likely to leave us feeling exhausted, self-critical and judgemental and guilty. There’s so much pressure on women to be perfect in all areas of our lives and it’s completely unrealistic and unhealthy. I’m personally working on trying to be ‘good enough’ at the different roles in my life and being okay with that.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? I think there should be awareness around the importance of a holistic approach to health – encompassing our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies. Too often when people think of health they only really work on one aspect, ie their physical fitness, and neglect the other areas, but they are all interlinked and equally important. I’d love to see less fad diets and dieting trends. We are each unique in our genetic make up and just because one type of diet has worked for someone doesn’t mean it will work for everyone, and in some cases, might well be detrimental.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? We recently moved from Hong Kong to London, and I’ve also become a mother, so both these changes have been a real challenge. I’m quite shy, so moving to a new city has meant I’ve had to really push myself out of my comfort zone to try to meet and make new friends. I find this pretty challenging but I try to use affirmations to help me when I’m feeling a bit stuck or anxious, and that helps me get out the door most days. Being a mother is without a doubt the single most challenging thing I have ever done and I’m only five months in. Coming to terms with the fact that you really can’t control a baby has been a bit of a struggle for me, so I’m working on going with the flow a bit more.
What’s one question you wish more people asked you? How can kinesiology help me? I love that kinesiology can help with almost any issue, be it physical, emotional, mental or environmental, and I wish more people knew about it!
You helped build a successful creative agency – why the change to Kinesiology? I always knew that in my 30s I’d make a switch to doing something in complementary healthcare, I just didn’t know what it would be. I come from a family of acupuncturists so I thought perhaps I’d eventually end up going down that road. I first went for a kinesiology session when I was feeling super stressed out and unhappy – I had built a business but wasn’t enjoying my role or what I was doing any more, but I couldn’t seem to be able to let myself hire someone to replace me or to get out of the rut I felt I was in. After one kinesiology session I noticed how different I felt – within a couple of weeks I’d hired someone to take over my role and signed up for a kinesiology course, and just kept going from there. I think for me, the creative and branding world had started to feel a little lacking in purpose. What I love about what I do now is that I’m able, in most cases, to really help people make positive and some times life changing shifts in their lives, and what could be better than that?
What would you advise anyone thinking about starting their own business? Make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons – that you’re truly passionate about the business idea and not just doing it to make money. If you’re raising money make sure it’s from people that share a similar mindset to you, and who can add value other then just contributing financially. With any business partners, ensure that you have complementary skill sets and are absolutely clear on your roles in the company.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I love going for really long walks – the act of moving my body and being in nature makes me feel so calm and clears my head. One of my favourite things to do (weather permitting) is to take my shoes off and stand barefoot on grass or sand, quite literally grounding myself. I visualise any negative thoughts I have leaving my body and going into the earth. I also really like to meditate – I like using apps like Insight Timer or Headspace to find guided meditations to suit how I’m feeling. I also make sure I’m eating well – when I’m finding things overwhelming I often will have the urge to indulge in something sugary so I instead try to have a good nourishing snack or meal.
What is the worst advice you see or hear given in your trade or area of expertise? In the area of health, I think pharmaceuticals are prescribed for too readily, and often cause more harm then good. Of course they have their place and can be life-changing and saving, but very often they simply mask the root issue and create new problems through their side effects.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? I would say retraining and retooling myself. After spending over nearly 15 years in the creative and branding business, to start a new career was a really huge step, and I think a lot of people though It was a little bit crazy. I had to invest a serious amount of time and money into learning my new trade, but I have absolutely no regrets about it.
Coffee or tea? I stopped drinking coffee whilst I was pregnant and I’m not really missing it now. I drink either roobois tea as it’s full of antioxidants and minerals or I make some chai with loads of spices and oat milk – perfect after a long walk on a cold day!
Best health advice to women or girls? Find time in your life for regular self care, it’s hugely important, especially if you’re the sort of person that puts everyone else first. Whether it’s a nice long bath, going for a massage, meditating, spending an evening in reading a book, make sure you find time for you.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? Focus on the people, situation and things that make you truly happy and invest your time and energy in them. Take an honest look at what drains you, makes you feel negative or bad about yourself and commit to removing whatever it is from your life. You’re in completely in control of your life if you choose to be.
Thank you to all these incredible women for the time and energy they put in to helping us create this. We hope you can take some things away from their insightful answers. Have an amazing 2018. – W5 Team