The Courage to Follow Your Heart
By SALLY FORREST
Wise men say that a journey of a lifetime begins with a single step, or many small steps. On reflection, had I not taken those steps, my life today would be a different story.
Every small piece in the jigsaw puzzle called “life”, however annoying it may seem at the moment, actually has a purpose, as is evident from my story below.
I grew up in a large family in the UK and our resources were limited, so from an early age I was driven to succeed. I had my eyes set on working for a large pharmaceutical company, and so I majored in pharmacy in college. At that time, you had to be a pharmacist to rise within the management ranks, and so on graduating, I started my role as a manager.
The “externals of life” then were my goals—good job, income, house, car—I grasped any opportunity for promotion. I excelled at what I did as I was blessed with a very organized and active mind.
The pharmaceutical company, Boots, where I worked, decided to expand into Asia. Unbeknownst to me, what was also unfolding was the divine plan of my future.
I was given the reins of expansion, and before I knew, I was sucked into the corporate whirlwind world of retail: opening stores, negotiating deals, devising marketing plans, networking and discussing financial statements. It was fast paced and rewarding; and as the business expanded, we created lots of jobs and made great connections. Three crazy years passed and we opened 70 stores in Asia.
Then, the unexpected happened. The company decided to downsize and I was asked to head back to the UK to do a job that my heart did not desire. Just like that. Each morning I woke up to see my passion and purpose dying inside me.
I knew that if I stayed in the UK doing this role, my life would become mundane and ordinary and I would be living simply to pay the bills—and not following my heart.
So one morning, after 17 years in various management positions, I simply quit. What followed was an avalanche of judgment from family members: Was I having a breakdown? Was I going through a mid-life crisis? How could I cope without a job? The questions mirrored the usual fears and limited beliefs that keep people chained and stop them from truly following their hearts.
But I knew where my heart lay. In Thailand. During my Asia tenure, I had met an old missionary who had envisioned opening an orphanage there, yet had no business skills to go about doing so. On the morning that I quit my job, I found a purpose. I decided to open that orphanage. And so, a jigsaw puzzle found its place.
The other puzzle piece emerged in the form of a stranger at the airport in Chiang Mai in Thailand. The immigration line was long, and the only western man was right at the back of the queue. He was very tall, his height making him stand out from the rest of the crowd. The scene made me smile, he noticed this and walked over to say hello.
I narrated my story with passion and excitement, but we then parted ways without exchanging numbers or emails. I soon forgot about the meeting. To my disbelief, on arriving back in Singapore, I received an email with
the subject line, “Are you the lady I met at the airport?” It was him! Apparently he hadn’t been able to get my words out of his head; and so on returning, he placed an advertisement on
a website asking “Does anyone know a tall blonde lady wanting to open an orphanage in Chiang Mai?” A lady I had once chatted with on a bus journey, and exchanged emails with, happened to read the post and replied to him.
That same week I had a gathering at my home and so invited him to attend. It was
a moment I will never forget; 12 strangers gathered together listening to my ideas of wanting to open an orphanage. I was still very much in the corporate mode of presenting and had flip charts and graphs of what I intended to do and how to raise funds. But unfortunately, there were many obstacles identified and questions raised that made my dream seem unachievable.
My shoulders felt heavier and the idea felt like it was wading through treacle. I stopped, gathered my thoughts, and came up with a totally new idea. “Let’s collect second hand items for children and ship them to Chiang Mai to sell,” I said to a group that then immediately cautioned me about costs, shipping and transportation.
“Sally, I now know why I met you,” said my stranger friend in the room. “I have access to a shipping company and so I will ship all the items free for you.” Another puzzle piece had found its place.
Soon, a 20-foot container was shipped, and the money raised created the orphanage I wanted to start.
As a former pharmacist, I was all too familiar with the medicine cabinet that most westerners swear by, without taking any ownership of our illnesses. Whilst at the orphanage and working with the hill tribes, I watched how people, who had no access to medicines, healed themselves. That took me on a journey to truly understand the mind and body; and I studied Reiki, Meditation,
Color Medicine and the energies of external environments. My quest for healing had begun.
The orphanage now has 35 happy and healthy children living there. I wrote a book called “Ben’s Story“ about how we discovered one child and his amazing journey to health.
It didn’t end there. One puzzle piece after another found its place slowly. I soon wanted to open a holistic center in Singapore. During a visit to India, when I was sitting with Vikas Malkani, my meditation teacher, he received a call from his work partner in Singapore saying she wanted to travel and had concerns about who would support him. The timing was divine. He smiled and told me that there are “bigger plans in place”.
This was 12 years ago. Vikas and I combined our strengths and together
we opened SoulCentre in Singapore, and thousands of people have benefitted from our teachings. We are now expanding globally.
The puzzle pieces continue to find their place. I truly believe that once you follow your heart, be true to yourself, and say yes to life, you will move in the flow of the universe and miracles will happen.
Just have the courage to follow your heart.
Sally Forrest is an author, reiki master, a motivational speaker and co-founder of SoulCentre.