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sHeroes: How psychologist Rachel Tomlinson is helping people set clear goals and overcome their fears

Give back. Not only are you helping someone else, but it can feel good for you too. So, make a habit of giving back, whether it be seasonally going through your wardrobe and donating old clothes, to donating your time to a local charity, doing a fun run for a cause or collecting tinned food […]

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Give back. Not only are you helping someone else, but it can feel good for you too. So, make a habit of giving back, whether it be seasonally going through your wardrobe and donating old clothes, to donating your time to a local charity, doing a fun run for a cause or collecting tinned food for your local food bank or homeless services. Happiness can come from being kind and giving back. It gives us a sense of affirmation and we feel compassionate and caring.


For my series on strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Tomlinson. Rachel is a Registered Psychologist who has worked with adults and children in general counseling, education settings, play therapy, drug and alcohol counseling, trauma counseling and parenting support programs amongst others. She has written and delivered talks at national conferences on mental health topics as well as delivered guest lectures at a University. She is a wife, mother to a toddler and is writing a book which is due for publication in November 2019.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always wanted to work with people. So, after I graduated high school I chose to do a Bachelors degree in Psychology because it would give me a lot of employment options when I finished studying. But once I had actually started the course I found that things just clicked…all of the theories and models made sense, it felt more like remembering instead of learning. After I graduated I dedicated myself to working in various different mental health and community services jobs to figure out which path I wanted to follow. I feel so lucky to be one of those people that know exactly what they want to do. Since I started on the road to becoming a Registered Psychologist I have never wavered or lost my passion for this work. To me is doesn’t even feel like work, which tells me I made the right decision!

What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?

Living on purpose to me is all about living intentionally and being present in your day to day life. It is about uncovering, defining, being courageous and fearless in the pursuit of your purpose. Having a purpose brings structure and guidance to your life and some research shows that this benefits well being and mood. I don’t think there is one simple way that a person can live a life “on purpose”, it is a journey, very unique to each person. However; there are a number of elements that people can put in place to help create their own destiny. The key is about figuring out what your purpose is, you need to find out what makes your heart sing, puts a fire in your belly, what refuels you and gives you energy? Many people confuse “purpose” or “direction” to mean a career, but it isn’t (necessarily), it can be anything that gives you direction and motivation. The second key point is about setting goals, something only remains a wish until you actually do it. So, set yourself clear, relevant and achievable goals (SMART Goals — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely) to give structure and coordinated steps that are going to move you towards this goal. The third key point is about sustaining motivation. Generally, if you are genuinely passionate about something, or your goals are appropriate (they give a sense of achievement and motivation if they are set well) it should generally keep you on the “right path” as it were. But there is no harm in creating visualizations, so things like posters or vision boards with your goals (big picture and stepping stone goals), it could be implementing daily affirmations or gratitude. These activities will also boost motivation and remind you of your purpose.

Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?

I have some health issues that meant having a baby would be challenging. Having a choice taken out of your hands is crushing…but my husband and I used it to re-define our lives. What did we really want from this life? It wasn’t just to be swept away into the automatic stuff you do, like wake up, go to work, come home, cook dinner, go to bed. I really knuckled down and started going above and beyond just “working” and knew that I had to step outside of my comfort zone. So, I got a new job, I started studying again, I started working towards being an authority in this industry and somewhere along the way I did actually fall pregnant. But that renewed purpose was so rejuvenating and refreshing and pointed me in a direction I had never even considered possible.

The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?

Well, being an Australian I wouldn’t like to comment on another country’s ranking. But in general, I think it has to do with the stress of daily living. There is so much pressure to achieve and to live a certain way (a materialist way if I am being honest) that our lives are consumed by it. The simple life eludes us because we are so busy rushing from one activity to the next without being able to stop and ask why? Why am I doing this? What is the reason? Do I even want to be doing this? We get on a conveyor belt of life and once you get going its so hard to stop.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I was thinking about this only the other day. It’s the little successes, the seeds you plant that have the opportunity to grow into something big. It is easy to feel like a small cog in a big machine, but I thought about the thousands of people I have worked with over my career. If, for every person, a seed was planted the potential for growth and change is phenomenal. For me bringing goodness is all about helping others see their worth and their potential and I work really hard to share that.

What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1. Be grateful. Start a gratitude journal (I have some prompts on my website for a month-long gratuity challenge — but also just do an internet search if you need inspiration). Gratuity doesn’t have to be about the big things, its about appreciating what it is you have in your life. We often focus on the negative, and practicing gratitude has been shown to improve mood, well being and self-esteem. It changes the focus and gets us looking for the positives in our life, if you make it a daily practice it can become an automatic and changes the way that you engage with, and see the world.

2. Affirmations. Similarly, to a gratuity journal setting daily affirmations will help to improve your mood, attitudes and well being. An affirmation can be consistent, or changed daily, but it is essentially your focus or intention for the day. It can be something as simple as “I’m going to be kind to myself”. These affirmations tell us what we need to create balance and happiness in our lives and how we can do this for ourselves in an intentional way.

3. Self-care. People often think that they need to prioritize the well being of others over ourselves. But if you don’t look after yourself its impossible to have enough energy (physical and emotional) to care for others. So, make a practice of looking after yourself everyday…it doesn’t have to be anything grand like a spa day, it could simply be reading a chapter of your favorite book, making a cup of tea or coffee in a fancy cup, saying “no” etc. Self-care can be anything that refuels you and will replenish your energy!

4. Give back. Not only are you helping someone else, but it can feel good for you too. So, make a habit of giving back, whether it be seasonally going through your wardrobe and donating old clothes, to donating your time to a local charity, doing a fun run for a cause or collecting tinned food for your local food bank or homeless services. Happiness can come from being kind and giving back. It gives us a sense of affirmation and we feel compassionate and caring.

5. Learn mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention back to the present moment. We often miss a lot of opportunities to enjoy the moment and live with purpose because we are focused on “what is next?” or get caught up in our own worries and thoughts. By getting out of your head and back into the present you can live with more exuberance and passion.

6. Get connected. As humans we are social beings. Feeling connected, part of a group or something “bigger” is refreshing and gives us energy. So, find a hobby and meet new people, plan catch ups with friends, expand your circle of concern by traveling…anything like this is going to increase your sense of connection, well being and happiness.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?

I think for a lot of people reading the book “The Subtle Art of not Giving a F**k” has helped them to step outside of the conventions and expectations that they have tied themselves down with. Any opportunity for people to have a cathartic moment about their own sense of worth and encouragement to re-frame their intentions is fantastic!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Difficulties mastered are opportunities won” was said by Winston Churchill. I love this quote because sometimes people talk about luck…and how being lucky has led to positive outcomes or opportunities. Sometimes this is the case, but also, a lot of “lucky” people have worked hard to achieve particular outcomes. I suppose what I am getting at is…take the bull by the horns, don’t wait for opportunities, make your own luck and take charge of your destiny. This quote also speaks to me about working through adversity and continuing to push despite challenges. If you can follow this quote you can live a life with purpose and happiness.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am writing a book which is due for publication in November 2019. It’s all a bit hush hush still, but it is a non-fiction book where I use my experience as a psychologist to help readers! I can’t talk about the topic yet (sorry to be so cryptic) but stay tuned!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Live without fear of what other people are thinking! So many of my clients have talked about this overriding fear that their loved ones, friends and strangers are judging them for their life choices. And not even big life choices, this fear can even extend to everyday decisions; what color they are going to dye their hair, what they cook for dinner etc. This fear is exhausting and creates inaction and regret. It’s not as simple as saying “don’t care about what other people think”, but essentially that is what we all need to do. Your life and choices are yours alone, don’t commit your life and energy to making other people happy (or just to stop them being displeased). Live a life that gives you fulfillment and joy.

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