For some people, just reading the word ‘risk’ brings sweaty palms and fear. But for Lisa Bondarenko, taking a courageous step into the unknown transformed her life.

After eight years of dealing with infertility challenges and trauma, Lisa knew she needed change. So at the peak of corporate success, she quit her job and went back to university to study counselling and social science.

“I think it was free therapy every day for about three or four years, which you can’t put a price on,” Lisa told Bushy Martin on the Get Invested podcast.

“I finished uni and I smashed that out, and I still laugh because I knew what I didn’t want to do, I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.

“(Then) I really wanted to do private practice. Everyone was like, ‘Don’t be ridiculous. You’ve got no experience. Why would you do that? It’s a risk.’

“Driving down Brighton Road and I saw this sign of an office for lease. Went in, chatted to the landlord, and I came home and I said to Serge, my husband, ‘I know this is going to sound crazy, but I just feel like I just need to take a leap of faith and sign this lease. I will work two other jobs to continue to bring some money in and also pay for the lease, but will you back me?’ He was ‘100% you’ve got to do it babe’.

“This is no word of a lie, I’d get up every morning, get dressed, and I’d go sit in an empty office for about two months. My phone did not ring, I had nothing, and there were some challenging times because your self-doubt kicks in, and then I’ve got my first phone call. This person rings me and says, ‘Hi Lisa, I’ve been given …’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God this is it, right?’ She said ‘do you have any available appointments’ and you’d play the old, ‘I’ll just check my diary’. Of course no one else is here!

Then she said, ‘The truth is I can’t afford much. I’ve only got $20’. I did not even blink. I was like, ‘No problem come on in’.

“My definition of success and failure had changed. My definition of failure was not trying, not trying and failing. I do a lot of work with people now on that because I think that for so many of us we are walking a line of a version that we’ve been taught, but it is not true to ourselves.”

Taking on that first client would be the catalyst for Lisa to become a successful counsellor, author and speaker.

Drawing on her own experiences, Lisa teaches people that risk is an important way to break through, especially when thinking and life feels paralysed.

“There can be the financial risk, there can be the mental risk, there can be emotional risk, there can be physical risk, but if we don’t risk then what happens is we flat line really early. I’m seeing more and more people flatlining or being a slave to their circumstances. But even in all circumstances, we all have choice.

“I think it’s about courage and bravery. I think that it’s a really undervalued character trait or choice. I think if we’re all being more courageous and brave imagine what the world would look like.”

Lisa said courage doesn’t always have to be an ‘off the cliff’ scenario.

“Sometimes just a conversation can be courageous,” she said.

“’You know what? This is not what I want. I don’t know how to do it, but I’m just going to have the conversation’. People come into counselling and in a one-hour session we’re not radically changing people’s lives. We’re doing footprints. And I always talk about ‘what’s your footprint when you walk out of this door? What’s one footprint that is going to be different to when you walked in?’”

Anxiety and fear can be a roadblock in the way of healthy, transformative risk.

“Anxiety is normal, but I think what’s happened is that we have become a bit fearful of it and it’s become now a mental health label rather than ‘no, that’s just being human’.

“I think it’s really important that as human beings, if we are experiencing anxiety or anxious thoughts or anxious experiences, that we need to acknowledge it and we need to just start sitting in that and working out why.

“There’s so much research done on the brain and how we need to rewire that and actually be accountable for it. No, I will not allow myself. I won’t get lazy in my mind to I’ll just allow a snowball effect of ‘I had a bad experience’ that’s changed into ‘I’ve had a bad life’ very quickly. It’s that discipline of the mind.”

Listen to the full podcast interview here.

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