For women like us who have spent numerous years creating our identities around our work or our families, taking a step in a new direction can feel like a katydid molting its exoskeleton. It’s unsettling and liberating in equal measures, possibly painful–we can’t ask the katydid–and we suspect, itchy.
Here we share stories of women who have scratched a new itch. We hope these stories may provide the insight and encouragement for others to leave their old skin–familiar and easy as it is–and go into a new world a little naked and scared. But not alone.
Today, we’re happy to highlight the work of Lisa Sullivan of Dripping Springs, Texas.
What kind of work or passion are you pursuing now?
I oversee marketing and communications for my city during the day. But my passion is bringing women tools of positive psychology with Let Your Yoga Dance. I started a women’s retreat called Camp Atta Girl!, a one-day retreat where I try to help women find their voice, power, light and purpose. I try to help them play big in life, embrace their true selves, have fun, and do whatever it is they are being called to do.
How old were you when you began in this new direction?
What did you do before you made this change?
I was a marketing VP for a national direct mail company.
What prompted you to make this change?
I was a corporate marketing exec for 20 years. My husband was a stay-at-home dad, and I was the sole support of my family. My company was purchased by a private equity firm, and I was laid off. I went from a 6-figure salary to nothing, at an age for women that was extremely challenging to find a comparable job. I was without a job, with a daughter starting high school and a son in college and panic set in as I was the sole support for our family.
A couple of months after being laid off, in the middle of the panic, I decided to do something totally out of my comfort zone. I decided to become trained in Let Your Yoga Dance, a practice that takes you through the seven energy centers of your body through music and dance. I’d never done yoga, was totally out of shape and overweight, but something about it spoke to me. So I became a certified teacher. I discovered the true way to my happiness was for me to be me.
But my biggest joy from all this was creating Camp Atta Girl!, a retreat for women. During my life and especially during my “panic” stage, I met women who were going through the same “stuff” I am going through. Whether it’s our careers, our relationships, a health challenge, our self-worth, we all have challenges and we’re pushing through them.
At the camp, I try to give every woman an “atta girl” for all she’s overcoming and all she’s done in life.
What from your previous work or life situation helped you in your reinvention?
At my last job, I noticed how so many people were so unhappy. They never smiled, hated work, and it just carried through the entire company. I wanted to do something to bring some happiness into the company. So, on my own, I went through a year-long course in Positive Psychology and got certified in that practice. I also went to Google’s Search Inside Yourself training and a happiness academy. I took all I had learned and created “happiness” modules for the people I worked with. I created 5 “lunch-learns” or “happy” hours to share what I was learning.
Creating these modules and seeing how the tools helped everyone – men and women – gave me the courage to continue this passion after I was laid off.
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
The number one obstacle is that fear of not making enough money for my family, and the struggle over whether I should keep doing this or go back to the corporate world. Right now, I’m in the “keep doing this” realm. My husband has been a big supporter because I’ve had to tap into our savings We are close to the “major fear” point of no money, but we’re slowly making it. It is also challenging to promote what you’re doing because of budgets. But word of mouth is growing.
How are you overcoming them?
I’m still overcoming them. I’m in the process of writing a book that helps me remember the tools to use, too. And I mostly I just breathe, meditate and visualize where I want to be and tell myself all is okay, that the universe would not have put this passion in me to help other women through fun and science if it didn’t plan to help me make a living, too.
What kind of support did you receive in your reinvention?
My husband and my family have been amazing. And my close friends have all supported me. I think they see my worth more than I do. I don’t know what I would do without any of them. And honestly, the reaction I get from the women who attend is the biggest support. I take post-camp surveys and I’m amazed and humbled by the comments.
How have you grown or how has your life improved as a result of taking on this new pursuit?
I’m braver. I’m not afraid to speak to large groups. I’m more confident. I feel like I’ve rediscovered my voice and power. And mostly, I feel like I’ve finally found a purpose, something that gives back to help the world and women be a little happier.
What advice would you give to other women at this age who are looking to reinvent themselves?
If you’re afraid, that just means you’re supposed to jump. As scary as it is, just do it. You don’t have to do it all at once. Get rid of the all or nothing mentality. Even just doing one to two hours a week towards your reinvention will make you happier and will get you in a forward motion. Alway, always chase your smile.