I was only in primary school when I had my first thoughts of ending my life. I remember the overwhelming feeling of doom, the fear, the anxiety and the thought that nothing would ever be the same.
Before this time I was a truely happy child, connected deeply to my authentic self, without a problem in the world. Life was a beautiful playground.
I was ten years old and had recently moved schools. My parents where beginning to fight at home and little did I know, would soon seperate. I was finding it really hard to adjust to this big school after the first few years in a small school where I was liked by students and teachers, doing well academically and excelling at sports.
Adapting to this new school was the biggest challenge I had faced this far, and I wasn’t equiped to cope with it. I was only ten and I didn’t have any experience of adversity, of challenges or of the voice inside my head that said ‘ you’re not good enough’.
Over the years this voice became stronger and my marks at school began to drop. I wasn’t taking home a fistful of blue ribbons from any sports carnivals or even making the school sports teams. My self worth was low, my mental chatter was negative and I was beginning to meet the black dog more and more frequently.
This pattern continued into high school. By this time my parents had split up and my father had moved out. My mother decided it was time for a new start for me and my two younger brothers and so we moved houses, and I began high school in a new area, by the beach.
The first few moths of high school were challenging as I tried hard to assimilate into this new school and surfy way of life. It wasn’t long before I did what any human does when they are faced with difficult times. I started to use my strengths in new ways, to get what I wanted and what I needed most – to be seen.
Ever since I can remember I was good at talking, at articulating what I wanted to say and not being scared of speaking up. I didn’t know at the time that this strength or this story would go on to greatly shape my life, my career and my offering to others.
So I used my strengths, I started speaking up. I became the class clown, the smart arse and every teachers worst nightmare and it worked! I got respect from my peers, made friends with the cool kids and was finally being seen.
But it wasn’t all roses. My grades were dropping, I was on a behaviour management program and I began being horrible to other students and throwing my new found power around…and the black dog came to meet me more and more frequently.
I was finally being seen but I had lost touch with my personal values. I was letting my struggle guide my behaviour rather than my personal values. I was so disconnected to my authentic self, I didn’t really know who I was.
I got through high school, just. Many suspensions and threats of explosion but I somehow got through. I remember clearly telling a teacher of mine that I didn’t need an ATAR as I was never going to university, she smiled and me and said okay Jakob, we will see about that.
The years after high school were difficult times as I navigated my place in the world as an adult. I was drawn to jobs where I could use my speaking and connection building skills, though I never felt truely satisfied. I clearly remember the existential dilemmas I faced with using my greatest asset to rob people blind in a commission based sales role.
I decided it was time to study at university and after some introspection and a good push in the right direction from my Mum, I enrolled to begin my degree in Social Science.
When my first romantic relationship broke down, the black dog came to visit and brought with him something new. Unhelpful and repetitive, destructive thoughts that I just couldn’t shake. I couldn’t concentrate in class or with friends and family, these thoughts were getting louder, stronger and more intrusive.
Life was once again pointing me in the right direction, but I just didn’t know it as yet.
That term we began looking at a range of psychological techniques including mindfulness based cognitive therapy, which appeared at the perfect time. I started practicing mindfulness as much as possible and reading everything I could on the subject. I finally began to have some relief from my mind. The unhelpful thoughts began to have less impact on me and slowly dissipated. I could concentrate again and for the first time since I was ten my on and off struggle with depression began to come less and less frequently.
This mindfulness stuff really worked for me, and so I started attending workshops and trainings and started doing yoga. I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could.
In my final year at university I specialised in life coaching, and was introduced to Positive Psychology, the study of what makes humans flourish. I undertook a range of exercises that helped me to understand my unique strengths and values and see how these impacted my journey and how I could use these to become my best possible self.
The Mindful Coach was born shortly after university and I began helping young people and adults using the skills and techniques of mindfulness and positive psychology.
My journey from aged ten to the present has been an amazing road of ups, downs and learnings. I can see my path so clearly now and how and why every little thing that happened has got me to where I am.
Today I stand confidently and look at my future and know that I want to help young people to connect with their authentic selves, to learn mindfulness skills and to use their personal strengths and values to guide them towards their highest potential.
So here is my mission to myself, to others and to the world:
My mission is to facilitate, help and support others to connect deeply to themselves, their bodies and their minds. In order for them to become mindfully aware of all aspects of themselves so that they can cope better with life’s ups and downs, suffer less, care more about themselves, others and the environment.
I believe this learning begins with practicing awareness skills, knowing and using your unique character strengths and choosing behaviour that is grounded deeply in your personal values.
These learnings have been the most pivotal, influential steps in my personal development and my aim is to support as many humans as possible along this journey.
This is WHY I have created the Evolve Schools Program – a program that supports high school students to learn mindfulness skills and understand their unique character strengths and values.
My hope is that the development of new coping skills and a personal framework of strengths and values, it will make navigating the early years of of adulthood a little easier, happier and more rewarding for the young people who get the opportunity to undertake the evolve program.
EVOLVE : mindfulness and positive psychology schools program – Planting the seeds for a more resilient, focused and mindful future generation
To find out all about the EVOLVE program click HERE