Lorna Harper: Can you decide your way to a happier life?

Lorna Harper, Vice President of Transformation at American Express Global Business Travel

The Universe was watching over me this week, but not until she’d had some fun first.

Someone decided to have International Women’s Day, World Book Day and Pancake Day in the same week, and in the same week as my presentation to our executive team. I was due to speak at an event for International Women’s day, I failed as a parent by forgetting pancake day and took part in a game of source a costume in 48 hours.

For International Women’s Day, I’d interviewed my colleagues about their experiences as senior female leaders and I was excited to share what I’d learned. The event was cancelled and I was disappointed, but it was a piece of good fortune. My husband is away for four weeks so I am solo – responsible for a 7-year old, a toddler, a Cocker Spaniel and the integration of two global companies.

In a normal week, I spend two days at our head office in London and the rest working from home. I have 6am to 7am for myself, time with the kids before school/ nursery drops, then nose to tail conference calls and the occasional dart to a spin class. Put `drop’ into a thesaurus and up pops a list with words like `fall,’ `abandon,’ `throw,’ `release.’ How many of us feel like we do this to our kids as we hurry through the morning? I do try not to `dump’ the kids and run, but it sometimes feels like that’s exactly what I’m doing.

During my morning time, I often spend time focusing on the improvements I want to make in my life and practice the thought techniques that support growth. A few months ago, I built a goal about how I would spend my time working three days per week with two days to pursue other interests and be more present as a mam, wife, sister, daughter, friend, niece, cousin… I told myself, that on the `off’ days I would have the freedom of mind to spend quality time with the kids before school and would be fully present for them at the end of the day. Without the distractions of work scuttling through my mind, I would be a fun, playful mam. I planned how I would spend time with loved ones and pop to friends for coffee. As I got excited by my new life I started creating ideas that could turn it into reality, but I kept coming up against the 3-day week constraint. My job can’t really be done part time and I really enjoy what I do.

Turning away from what couldn’t be done and tuning in to more positive ideas, I suddenly realised that I could be living the life I had imagined immediately. I asked myself what was stopping me enjoying mornings with the kids and being fully present right now – today! I realised it was all about decision and that I had a choice. I had been choosing to be distracted and hurried. If I made a different choice and decided to enjoy time with my kids, with total freedom and zero distraction, how would that make me feel…?

I felt I couldn’t be fully present in the moment with my kids due to the noise from my working day, but I realised the distraction only existed inside my own thoughts – which I control.

I made a decision to change the way I looked at this situation. I began to get excited for the two hours I had with the kids every morning and started to look for ways to make it special. I wrote down how I wanted the new mornings to be, how everything would flow, how I would feel relaxed and enjoy every minute. Then I would gently hand them over to their school/ nursery and head off to work to start my day.

We have had some amazing mornings – breakfast outside in winter, uniform treasure hunts, dancing around the kitchen, pretending breakfast was served in a café… What had changed really? My job is still the same, hectic, crazy-busy and all consuming.

The only thing that changed was my attitude and how I chose to look at the situation. How amazing is that…? We can do this with any situation, make an instant change and improve the quality of our life; in an instant!

I am so grateful to be learning how to improve my life by developing the way I think and take control of where I focus my thought energy, but more than half the time, our morning routines do not follow this beautiful path…

On Monday I said goodbye to my husband as he set off for the Lake District, where he is continuing to develop his fine furniture making skills. I was optimistic for the week. My parents were covering child care for my London trip so everything was fine.

I made a list:

  1. Book extra dog walks 2. Talk to daughter about World Book Day costume 3. Source World Book Day costume 4. Plan toddler costume just in case he feels left out 5. Buy dog food 6. Prepare kids clothes 7. Write instructions for parents 8. Change bedding in spare room 9. Prepare slides for exec presentation 10. Prepare for budget review meeting 11. Pack for London

Monday 5pm

Daughter decided on Hermoine Granger for World Book Day (Thursday) requiring shirt, jumper, tie and cloak (we already have the wand).

✓ Cloak and tie – Amazon. ✓ White shirt – Matalan. ✓ Grey jumper – next day delivery to Next.

Monday 11pm

Double check Amazon order. Delivery is Wednesday or Thursday! Back-up plan required.

Tuesday Morning

Drop kids at school/ nursery, begin morning conference calls and start slides for exec presentation. Exchange texts with cousin who tries, without success to locate cloak. Run to Tesco between calls and secure last cloak.

Tuesday 5pm

Text from Next reminding me to collect jumper. Collect jumper. Collect kids and drive to swimming lesson. Toddler tantrum – he wants to swim too. Get in pool with him and ruin freshly washed hair.

Tuesday Evening

Back up costume complete. Kids in bed. 8pm conference call. Finish slides. Pack bag. Feed dog. Feed self. Write list. Change bedding. Lay out clothes. Fill/ un-fill dishwasher.

Wednesday 6am

Prepare for London. Promised breakfast pancakes due to forgotten pancake day. No eggs. Google `egg-free pancakes’. Blend batter. Wake kids. Daughter meltdown. “The best part about having pancakes is mixing the batter! Thank you very much! Thank you very much for ruining it mam!”

Toddler knocks syrup on floor. Pancakes inedible. Toast replacement.

Overnight bag, coats, water bottles, book bags. Drive off. Forget coffee. Retrieve coffee.

Scoop toddler up. Wet foot print on dress. Settle him into nursery.

Drive to school. Kiss daughter goodbye. Wait 1 minute for daily second wave. Speed to station for 9:08 to London.

Sip coffee, breath and smile. Daughter fine. Excited to be Hermoine. Toddler happily playing with Fireman Sam. I’m happy. One night to myself and time to prepare for exec presentation. Take another sip of coffee. Sit back. Open lap top…

*Sh*t, must text mam and tell her where to find toddler’s Hulk costume!

To awesome ladies everywhere, stand a bit taller today, lean in and laugh when things don’t go to plan.


SharpLifeLorna Harper: Can you decide your way to a happier life?

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