Recently I received the sort of telephone call we all hope we will never receive: “Ali, I am a paramedic. I am calling to let you know your husband has been in a car crash” The paramedic would not tell me how he was other than he was trapped in the car, a specialist medical response team was on the way and the fire brigade were working on getting him out.

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Lessons from a Wake Up Call

Design Life on your own termsRecently I received the sort of telephone call we all hope we will never receive:

“Ali, I am a paramedic. I am calling to let you know your husband has been in a car crash”

The paramedic would not tell me how he was other than he was trapped in the car, a specialist medical response team was on the way and the fire brigade were working on getting him out.

I can’t put into words how getting that sort of call feels.

At the time the call came in, I was hosting my monthly Self Employed Women Support Group. The group immediately stepped up to do what they could to support me and to get me to the hospital.

Because he was trapped in the car I arrived at the hospital well before him and it was over an hour before I actually got to see him and find out what state he was in.

The wait was hell.

The good news is that we were “lucky”. His injuries were not as bad as first thought. He had a number of broken ribs, breathing difficulties and extensive bruising. We are grateful it was no worse given how bad the smash was. He is now well on the way to a full recovery.

Wake up Call

It is easy to take your plans for life for granted and think you have plenty of time to make them happen. But the reality is that you don’t know when something will suddenly happen that will rob you of the opportunity to have the life you want with the people you want.

Mr D and I have been designing the life we really want since we escaped the corporate rat race 10 years ago. Our design life plans are based on our own definition of success and our core values.

Yet in the aftermath of the accident we realised we had become comfortable on our journey to the next stage of our ideal lifestyle. As a result we had started to play safe, take less of the actions that will take us to the next level of where we want to go. Progress had slowed down. Mediocrity was rearing it’s ugly head (I don’t do mediocrity!).

The Power of a Blank Piece of Paper

Once Mr D was well on the mend, I felt a real desire to go back to scratch and rethink everything. Accident aside, it feels like the perfect time to do it as this year is the 10th anniversay of escaping the corporate world.

So, the other day I got out a blank piece of paper. It has stayed blank for a good few days. Every time I have looked at it, it has stared back at me – blankly!

But it has started to become really powerful.

Powerful because every time I look at it, it has started to inspire me with new ideas and possibilities. It is really making me think long and hard about what “ideal” is in all areas of life moving forward. It is daring me to shoot for what I really want to do.  Clarity around the next phase of designing my ideal business and lifestyle with my husband & son has been kick started.

Yes, a blank piece of paper can be that powerful.

The mediocrity that had started to creep in is about to have it’s sorry ass kicked into touch.

I am sharing this personal experience with you to get you to think about what changes you need to make to have the life you really want. Don’t wait for a wake up call. They don’t always have the happy ending that ours did.

So, I invite you to ponder on this:

  • When was the last time you sat down with a blank piece of paper and dared to dream about your ideal business life and personal life?
  • If you started from scratch how would you want things to be in all areas of your life?
  • What needs to happen for you to start shooting for that?

The blank piece of paper represents just having the time and space to think so that you can make sure you are designing the life you really want.

What will you do to give yourself regular blank piece of paper moments?


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  • Elaine,
    Your experience (and mine) is a timely reminder that it is good to challenge the “masterplan” from time to time to ensure it is still relevant or if it needs to adapt and evolve. It is easy to get caught in the tablets of stone mentality that can hold us back.

  • Elaine Rogers

    Perfect timing Ali. Thanks for sharing this post and it coming into my view just at the right moment. We (myself and my husband are in a similar situation (sans car accident) but are re-evaluating our personal and professional lives, and what we really want to achieve from our time.
    We set a 5 year plan last year, and in Jan of this year, like yourself realised that it doesn’t have to be as per the plan, but to get back on track. If we can accomplish our goals in less than 5 years, then that is the right thing to do, instead of assuming it will actually rake 5 years, and falling into meritocracy just to fit the plan.
    So pleased Mr D is making a full recovery, best wishes to the 3 of you in your quest

  • Roisin Markham

     Gosh Ali, how dreadful a shock. I’m so glad Mr. D is on the mend. Mind yourselves.
    I work with blank pieces of paper all the time. In fact I used to keep a large sheet on the wall in the studio called the tipping space and use post-it notes on it. We all need space in our lives for new things to flow in and out.Your post is a timely reminder that the journey is one thing but we do not know our time and we all need to use it wisely. I think also that when we design something we should be aware the world evolves, things change and we need to adapt with it. 10 year plans will have a destination and after that destination another comes into focus. We should not under steer before the destination.

    Hoping to talk to you later.

  • Roisin,
    Like you blank paper on the wall idea. I think this whole topic is a reminder that whilst it is good to design how we want our future to be and take steps to make it happen, life can only happen in the now.

  • Ali,
    This is a profound post… such depth in the emptiness of a blank page.. it’s like the white space in our lives that we don’t schedule and then  – life passes us by. Glad to hear you are doing better.

  • Judy,
    I think that is the danger we face – life passing us by unless we step up and create the time and space to design how want all areas of our life to be.

  • Anonymous

    Very powerful post. Wow. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Hi Stacy
    Thanks for dropping by and welcome to the site. So pleased you enjoyed the post.

  • Lisa

    Wonderful post, thank you so much! I feel the need to sit down with my husband this weekend and see where a blank piece of paper takes us.

  • Lisa, so glad you enjoyed the post. Have fun with your blank piece of paper. Since writing this post our blank piece of paper has evolved and now has a new vision and action plan which we have started implementing already. It is a very powerful exercise.

  • Jackie Paulson

    I admire you and that an accident got you out of the corporate world and into Your Life, the life you were meant to create for you.  

  • Hi Jackie
    Welcome to the blog.
    I had already been out of the corporate world for 10 years when the accident happened a couple of months ago. It was just a great reminder to watch out for complacency even when you feel you are heading in the right direction.

  • Wow, Ali! I didn’t know. Glad Mr D is safe and sound. I’m at a point in my life when I do need to take out that blank piece of paper and start deciding the things I’ll be happy to see on it. Actually, it’s something we should periodically do, I believe. We get carried away by everyday life, business, goals, task and often lose sight of what it is that really matters at every single moment and also in the grand scheme of things. Thanks for sharing.

  • You are spot on – the blank piece of paper is something we should be doing regularly, like a healthcheck, to check we are on the right track. It is also important to use as a basis for deciding on goals and action plans that will move us in the right direction. Have fun doing your blank piece of paper exercise.

  • Hi Farnoosh,
    Welcome to my site. Lovely to see you here.
    Yes, thankfully Mr D is now fully recovered and our blank piece of paper filled up with great new ideas for our business & personal future. We are now moving into implementation phase and turning it into reality.
    Love your realisation about your blank board. It sounds like to me that it represents possibility.
    I think the trick with overwhelm is never let your blank space, diary or whatever you use, to get totally full. Always have some space for new possibility to flourish..

  • Farnoosh

    Very, very touching story, Ali and I really hope that your husband has fully recovered. I dread dread dread those phone calls too. Who doesn’t?
    I have a blank board in my room and not sure why I like to keep it blank but I think you have answered a year-long question for me. Every time I fill it up, I get so overwhelmed but when it’s blank, it helps me be creative. Brilliant. 🙂

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  • Great words Ali. Those moments we all coach clients into and then, well, I for one am not that good at getting a move on finding the ‘where’ of where I want to be. Good reminder to get a piece of paper out

  • Wow stuff Ali.  My first husband was hit and run in the 90s and out of that came an extraordinary change in my life once the dust settled.  Why I get frustrated with having to stand still till today!

  • That blank piece of paper really is a powerful exercise – Team Davies have made it an annual event now. Just doing our latest one this week. Really inspires possibility and ideas.

  • Gosh Nicola, what an awful experience that must have been for you all. Experiences like that do make you look long and hard at life don’t they? Learning to grab life by the scruff of the neck without needing a wake up call to kick us in the pants is definately a skill worth nurturing.

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  • Katy Kozee

    I’m so glad it wasn’t any worse for you! I hope he has a full recovery soon. My own husband and I are currently having are own blank paper moment and aren’t quite sure what the next step should be. It’s so hard to tell the difference between fear and caution. I think we should try pulling out an actual blank sheet of paper and see what we want to put it on it.

  • 1010 Park Place

    Because I had breast cancer, I always thought I would be the one to go first, not my husband, unexpectedly, on Christmas Day. It took me two years to get out of my depression. Since then, I’ve been working on 1010ParkPlace. This summer I decided to change where I’m living and am working on making that happen. No one will do these things for us. What a great post to make us all think about that. xoxox, Brenda

  • Katy, have fun experimenting with your blank piece of paper. Just allow yourself to play with ideas based on your values and what feels important to you.You don’t have to make any firm decisions at this stage of the process – just give yourself permission to play with your dreams a little.

  • Brenda, wow, you have been through a lot. I admire your commitment to take back control of your life after such challenging and difficult times. Have fun with finding your new place to live. Onwards and upwards my friend.