An incredible, personal and honest account of a real life change journey from one of our Managers here at Nine Feet Tall. Gayle Lui reflects on the changes she has made over the last couple of years looking at it through the lense of change management. Here is Gayles’ story…
“Skip back to February 2021 and I found myself unhappy and burnt out. There were 2 core problems, I had gotten out of kilter with my work life balance, and I had put on quite a lot of weight. The tipping point was realising I was heavier than I was at full term with my daughter (who is now 3). I had been trying to address these problems for a while, but this was my waking call. Change was needed. I decided to tackle my actual life like I would a work change journey project.
Step 1: Breaking down the problem
Problem 1: The impacts of covid, a challenging workload, my personal high standards had meant that over the years a bit of overtime had ended up being lots of overtime and though contracted to a 4-day week I was working well over full time.
Problem 2: I was 38, clinically obese, with a frankly shocking history of heart disease and cancer. At that time my kids were 3 and 5.
My fuse was short, I felt too thinly spread (in all aspects of personal and professional life), I recognised the signs of heightened anxiety and low mood.
Though I was active I was prone to injury and often making last minute excuses to not get out and do enough exercise.
I was not who I wanted to be for my family, friends, and colleagues. It was my life, but I did not feel like I was taking part.
Step 2: Making a plan
I decided on 2 projects. Fortunately, my change journey project board (aka my husband and close friends and family) were on board and supportive.
Project 1: Get a new job – time ideal under a year.
Project 2: Reduce my weight from 81.3kg to 59 kg (27% loss) and embed the life changes that enable that into normal life – time ideally 18 months.
Step 3: Define the benefits
No project, let alone a transformation project, can survive without clearly defined benefits. For Project 1, it was about finding balance, feel present in all aspects of life and being able to recognise my worth. For Project 2, the quantitative benefits were easy, reduced blood pressure, reduced joint pain, being demonstrably fitter (moving more, recovering quicker). Qualitive, feeling better, wanting to do more exercise, getting my spark back, improved family life.
Step 4: Understanding the impact
Changing jobs is hard, it takes time and is an emotional rollercoaster. I also loved the team I worked with and had real pride in the things we had achieved. Moving on would be difficult and it would upset that team dynamic, but it was the right call for me. The support I got from my old team when I did hand in my notice was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional career.
I realised early on that my change was not just my change journey. Making those big decisions would impact on numerous people and I need to acknowledge that and help to limit my impact on them. Part of that was just being open and transparent. Mostly I got support. I did get caught out a few times. I realised to get myself back on track weight wise I needed to stop eating what both my kids and husband ate. For a long while it was easier to eat separately but realised (later than I should) that just because we ate differently did not mean we couldn’t eat together or that elements of our food couldn’t be the same. In reflection, isolating myself from family meals was the biggest mistake I made along the way.
Step 5: Make progress
Regardless of how much you want something or how hard you are willing to work you can’t do big change alone. Invariably you need the right tools, resources and professional support.
For the job change I found Investing in Women a great new start-up who helped me to identify professional roles in companies who embraced flexible working.
For exercise I decided I needed some proper targets to aim for. I found Maverick runs and started my Canicross journey in earnest. Over time I’ve also joined a great boot camp. The balance of solo and group exercise has worked really well in keeping me motivated.
Step 6: Go Live
I started my new job (Manager at Nine Feet Tall) in December 2021 and it’s been a fantastic experience. It is full on and challenging but I feel supported, and my part time / flexible needs are really recognised. I also decided to really get involved with our charity partner Jessie May and they have been the source of inspiration for many physical challenges.
Health / weight wise I’m so nearly there I’ve lost 20.5kg (making me 25% lighter than I was) and my entire relationship with food has changed. I eat healthily and cook things I really enjoy. I’ve found a way of being part of family meals without compromising what I need to stay on track. I’ll be 40 next month and with 1.8 kg to go it looks like I’m on track to hit it by the big day. It has taken me a lot longer than I thought but I realised along the way you have to be realistic and kind to yourself. Allowing yourself to be less strict for Christmas, holidays etc is fine. Blips happen and I managed to avoid too many bumps along the way.
Step 7: Making change stick
So, what’s next? I’m going to continue to watch my weight and also keep an eye on the warning signs when it comes to work life balance. For that I’ll get assurance from my family, friends and colleagues.
I’m also going to donate all my comfy maternity clothes and other familiar stuff which is too big for me now so that I don’t let the weight creep back on and resort to old habits. While I don’t think I need a complete rebrand I do recognise I’ve changed and that furthermore it’s ok to celebrate that.”
Both inspiring and insightful. Putting change management in a real life change journey context helps bring so much of what we do here at Nine Feet Tall to life and relatable with everyone. Thank you for your openness Gayle! Gayle has said that she is happy to speak with anynone who may being going through their own big change journey who might want to chat. Equally, if hearing about Gayles’ story has inspired you to take on your next change management project then we’d love to hear from you and help. Contact us here.