Life Design Lab Winter Retreat at Elm Park 

Take time for Your SELF.

Calling out to courageous hearts, and creative dreamers.

I’d like to welcome you to my happy place, my home away from home, Elm Park . Two full days in my country studio, set on two acres of tree filled paradise. Here you will be supported and guided through a range of self-discovery experiences, a blend of coaching, relaxation and creative play. more here

Warrior, Plunger, Toe dipper or Shrieker?

Are you a warrior, a plunger or a toe dipper? Or are you a wader, a squealer or a shrieker? And how does this reflect your approach to taking business risks or being self expressed? Coaching can help you be a warrior.

copyright Davia McMillan

Warrior – original painting by Davia McMillan

Fighting my natural tendency to plunge head first into the deep end

I recently discovered that I was fighting my natural tendency to plunge head first into the deep end and was toe dipping instead. This I discovered was holding me back, big time.

Having been encouraged, told, cajoled and virtually pushed to take action I have continued to hide out and play it safe, despite knowing that what I really want is just a few steps away and that I have the skills to carry it off. Sound familiar?

Imagine after a long cold winter, that first really hot day, when the sun is bright and you suddenly find yourself all sweaty and bothered at the waters edge of the local pool. Taking a deep breath and smelling that icy cold water now.

The water like glass, sparkling in the sun. The surface unbroken, calm, blue and freshly inviting. Do you find your self dipping your toe to test your mettle? Is the water too cold?

Do you intuitively know that once you are in you are going to love the experience?

Do you intuitively know that once you are in you are going to love the experience? Are you cautious and wade in slowly, allowing your body to adjust to the water temp an inch at a time? Danger zones… First the crotch and then the nipples. Eeeak!

For as long as I can remember I have been a plunger and a leaper. I have always figured that just like ripping the Bandaid off quickly, it is better to get the pain and the shock over and done with and just get on with enjoying myself. Yes I admit it, quick gratification is my style. I like a direct line to quick satisfaction, chocolate wonderful, sugar fantastic, coffee glorious. Sweet powerful endorphin rushes. Mmmm…

When I was at high school I prided myself on not being one of ‘those girls’ (rolls eyes back into head) who crept to the waters edge still cloaked in her towel, only to squeal and squeak like a mouse as soon as a drop of water touched her skin. I laughed in the faces of ‘those girls’. I thought them wusses and called them chicken, scaredy cats and princesses. I was a brave warrior, scarred of nothing (nothing I would let them see) . I have always prided myself on being tough as steel. I was there to beat the boys into the water, thereby proving I could do anything they could, only better.

I realise now that I’m a toe dipping princess after all

But recently I realised that I was a toe dipping princess after all. Scared of something unseen and unnamed in the water, I was being overly cautious and running into the change rooms, squealing and flapping my arms about, still wrapped in my towel all before giving myself a chance to get wet, let alone sink or swim.

Business coaching improves your approach, gives courage and can determine your success in business, self expression, promotion and leadership.

Working with one of my coach colleagues yesterday in our regular mentors circle, I tackled that unnamed thing. My fear. Specifically my fear of being perceived as stupid, silly, ignorant, a dreamer and a fool.

A fear that my bathers will suddenly appear translucent

Quite unbelievably and irrationally I have been going against my natural tendency, choosing to be a wuss over and above doing a belly whacker, for fear that my bathers will suddenly appear translucent and I will be exposed as the terrified little girl I really am under all the bravado.


The BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) is that the people I was hiding from and scared of embarrassing myself in front of are also standing beside the pool in varying degrees of nakedness, hesitation and anticipation. We have this in common and if I take time to notice their discomfort mine diminishes.

Fear lives inside shame

All metaphors aside, my fear lived inside the shame I had attached to self promotion. My fear of authentically sharing who I am and what I can do, in a business such as coaching this is a lonely and boring change room to hang out in, especially when others are having fun getting wet one way or another.

If you are unsure about how to take the plunge or how to even test the water, consider using the services of a credentialed coach such as myself. Drop me a line or give me a call and we can discuss how to get you courageously leaping into the things most important to you, and have you being a warrior in no time.


Original painting Copyright Davia McMillan

Are you being asked to compromise your personal values?

Compromising my Values left me gripped by anxiety and a dread that caught in my throat…

 “I would wake up in the morning feeling sick to the pit of my stomach at the thought of going to work that day. I was gripped by anxiety and a dread that caught in my throat…”

Graeme (name changed to preserve confidentiality) came to the Life Design Lab to work with me 2 years ago. He felt he was at risk of losing his job as a senior executive in a large manufacturing company. Not happy at work but felt that he was not in a position to move, family obligations and financial commitments weighed heavily. He knew he was not performing well and was terrified of being told to leave with nothing else to go to.

Shame and guilt clung to him weighing him down. This was a visible thing, his shoulders were slumped and rounded, his head hung low and his skin a sallow greyish yellow. He complained about feeling washed out, very flat and low on energy.

It didn’t take long to turn things around.

A short coaching program very quickly turned this into relief and a feeling of freedom he hadn’t experienced since his youth. One of the things he recognised as contributing to his situation was his Phone-a-phobia, something that had grown to almost crippling extremes with the evolution of email and texting as a means of communication.

“Having to pick up the phone and cold call people had begun to cause me such angst that it was like having to swallow a wet football before I picked up the phone. The lump in my throat seemed to grow by the day as my phone-a-phobia escalated.”

Graeme had several issues that had helped to create this extreme need to avoid picking up the phone and talking to potential customers, they all revolved around a misalignment of his personal values with those of the company.

Beliefs can have great impact

Firstly he did not actually believe in the positioning of the product as a superior quality offering, he knew of the cost saving and short cuts being taken that resulted in both reduced quality and performance.

Secondly he didn’t believe the company cared for it’s workers or actively prioritised their safety. Graeme had seen both injury and a fatality in his career and was acutely aware of the price paid when safety was not made a priority.

“ I couldn’t bear the thought of someone getting injured on my watch. I probably should have left the company way earlier but I was too scared about how I was going to handle not getting paid a monthly salary.”

This was a clear misalignment with Graeme’s values that related to Family and Security.

“Every time I picked up the phone I felt like I had to steel myself to get into action.”

copyright Davia McMillan

Are you being asked to compromise your values? How does that make you feel?        Original painting by Davia McMillan

He was working himself up to say something he didn’t truly in his heart of hearts believe. This in turn activated an autonomic nervous system freeze response.

Freeze is a natural nervous system response of the gut, closely related and in contrast to the flight/fight response. It is also no surprise that with freeze being a common response for Graeme he had also suffered years of weight gain.

Our gut is responsible for monitoring our safety and helping to either mobilise us or preserve us much like the old saying ‘caught like a rabbit in the headlights’ (FYI, all the rabbits I’ve sen lately and I’ve seen a few scamper pretty darn quick). You can learn more about how intelligent and useful your gut can be here. Gut instinct is more than just a saying, it can be a very powerful tool when understood and harnessed wisely.

Coaching helped define the problem and find the solution

Graeme’s gut had been giving him some very strong messages for a long time. During coaching we used some amazing new techniques that helped us to understand Graeme’s gut responses to certain situations and personal interactions.  Gaining insight into how these limited and impacted his ability to take actions also highlighted why he was unhappy at a deeply personal level as well.

Working together to uncover the many subtle ways in which Graeme’s core values had been compromised over the years, we were able to clearly articulate why honouring his values is vitally important to his health and his ability to do his job.

A coaching program tailored to Graeme’s personal situation helped him refine his understanding of his personal values, which prompted him make the courageous decision to leave the company and use his strong value proposition as a platform on which to build a very successful consulting business.

Walking his talk and he is not afraid to pick up the phone

Two years down the track, Graeme is loving his life, and feeling great about walking his talk and he is not afraid to pick up the phone and tell people what good value really is.

“These days I speak with complete confidence about my services, I am proud of what I do and I am optimistic about my future.”

If Graeme’s story resonates with you in any way, please get in contact and we can discover what might be possible for you.

Free Rein – How a horse helped heal my anxiety

I didn’t expect to actually get coached by the horse.

How a horse helped heal my grief and lift a layer of anxiety that was weighing on me.

Heartbreak and anxiety

Heartbreakingly, I have very recently given away a very beautiful 9mth old Labrador puppy due to a rapid increase in my anxiety levels. She and I just weren’t compatible. She wanted to be close to me ALL THE TIME, so close in fact that she required a part of my body or my clothing in her mouth most of the time. My hands had begun to ache and my clothes were looking shabby. I wanted a dog that would sit calmly by me and look adoringly into my eyes.

Reality meant I was spending large parts of my day replacing various parts of my body with chew toys or stressing about what she would destroy next. Amazingly she was only ever like this around me, other members of my family just didn’t have the same experience of her at all, as I said we were just not good together. Proving once again you can love someone with all your heart and still not be suitable life partners.

Psychologically I had been battling with anxiety and stress and I was quickly losing my ability to think on my feet, focus on important business and I was quickly forgetting how to actually relax. I was feeling the decline in my health and wellbeing at a rapid rate. The choice had to be made; it was me or the dog.

Owning my feelings and emotions

I now have such mixed emotions, guilt combined with an incredible relief that I don’t have to be on guard constantly. Embarrassment and failure in the eyes of my family, friends, colleagues and my entire social network with whom I have continuiously shared her growth and crazy antics.

I’m still jumping unnecessarily though, half expecting her to be there next to me. I’m still awaiting the destruction or the attention seeking behaviour of this insecure pup.

As I stand and listen to Cindy, founder of Free Rein Australia at an International Coaching Week event hosted by International Coach Federation Australasia’s – Victorian Branch, my gut is tight and I am quietly thinking to myself that I just don’t know how I am going to cope interacting with a big animal like a horse. That perhaps I won’t be able to be comfortable in the presence of such a powerful animal. More than anything I fear that I might crack in front of my peers. I have spent weeks feeling guilty about pushing the puppy away and here I am about to let a 300 kg animal stand over me, I am so jumpy and edgy I can barely stand still.

Cindy is telling the group that the horses aren’t interested in anything inauthentic, that their body language will reflect what they see in us, they will move away or disengage if they sense that we are not physically and emotionally aligned. That is, they will know, if our thoughts are not matching our body language. They will likely be unsettled by negative energy and our fears will have them on edge and not wanting to connect with us. Cindy may be saying a heap of positive stuff, but this is all I am present to right now. How am I going to get a horse to like me? I am after all extremely uncomfortable and … I reject animals.

Thoughts and increasing anxiety

I’m thinking that I might get caught out trying to be all positive, when I am really just putting on a brave mask trying to cover up all that residual anxiety I’m still holding onto. I do a little scan of my body, noting the tight shoulders that are pretending to be earrings, (another interesting fashion choice) and the clenched fists rammed into my pockets. I know I am gritting my teeth I’ve been doing that for weeks, the pain referring down my neck and arm and the right side of my body, effecting my sciatic nerve and hip function. I know I’m tense, there is going to be no fooling these horses and there is nowhere to hide.

As the gates open and our group files into the arena one horse is making a bee line straight for me, it’s barely acknowledging my peers as it passes, walking straight to me, blocking my entry to the arena and coming up nose to nose. It eye balls me and doesn’t move. Neither can I.

I’m not sure what emotion to feel but I know that it has to be authentic whatever it is. So I search inside myself frantically, my head is a jumbled mess of thoughts my tummy a churning mess and my heart beating a million miles an hour. Anxiety! Overwhelm! Grief? Fear of embarrassment! Fear!

I feel like I can’t breath properly, there is a lump in my throat and my chest is tight, my feet feel like they want to hightail it back to the bus.

The horse just keeps staring into my eyes, it is so disconcerting and I feel under pressure to own my sh!t.

And then it hits me, this animal is very deliberately invading my space but not actually doing anything other than just being with me. There is no aggression, no actual demands, no tugging at my clothes, no actual touching, just pure honest ‘being with’. I have done this exercise with humans several times in the past. It is a wonderful space in which to come to the understanding that there is ‘nowhere to get to’ and ‘nothing to be’ in that moment but ‘be with’ the other person.

Horses make wonderful coaches too

After months of having my personal space invaded and feeling under siege in my own house, I was given this amazing gift of comfort and reassurance from a great big 300kg horse who was helping me to reclaim my space and relax within it. All this in the first 3 minutes of our 5 hour “Discover the power of coaching with Horses” experience.

Making choices about our lives can mean some really tough decisions, best made with head, heart and gut in alignment. Something horses know a lot about and also available at

Davia McMillan – “I’m passionate about Coaching and LIVING A LIFE I LOVE, I help people re-design their lives and I would love to show you how you can LIVE A LIFE YOU LOVE” Contact me 

Follow up on a Fools game.


Why reflecting on what’s happening while it’s still happening is hard to do and why Blogging about your “journey” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I quite naively thought that blogging about my journey would be easy. ‘Fifteen weeks to Fabulous’ is a challenge I embarked on over 6 months ago (way, way longer than fifteen weeks). I really thought that each day I could authentically just jot down where I was at, and it would just flow onto the page like the liquid gold.

The harsh reality is that when you are in the middle of life, it is incredibly hard to be reflective about it. You are in the thick of it and it is all about you and you are so full of emotion and drama and ‘OMG!!!’ moments.

I had a dream – and it wasn’t to be.

My business is growing and more and more people are asking me “Who are you and what do you do?” I have wanted my blog to openly and honestly reflect my values, the sort of things I am passionate about and the sort of person I am.

I had declared that I would embark on a short journey ‘Fifteen weeks to Fabulous’ to discover what it would take to consider my life and possibly even myself as Fabulous. Little did I know what I was in for.

The journey was indeed wonderful and an amazing growth experience for me, BUT…

Here’s what I came up against.

Self doubt

As I sat at my computer week after week wanting to tell the story, I was constantly wracked with self-doubt. Questioning the whole point of sharing and totally convincing myself that no one would want to read it. Everything I wrote had me either laughing or crying as I struggled not to sound just a tad crazy. The possibility of writing about any of it got further and further away.

As a personal coach I really should know better than to let an obstacle like self doubt stand in my way. But the hardest person to coach is your-self. That’s why even coaches need coaches.

Mental Blocks

Sometimes things stand in our way and prevent us from moving forward.  One of those things that stands in my way quite often are the things I TOLD MYSELF I would do. This is called a Mental Blockage. I told myself I would blog about my experience and then when the time came I couldn’t, it just didn’t work for me. I found it impossible to do it, be it and blog it at the same time. After the fact, was even worse. I just wanted to get away from the past a.s.a.p. so the last thing I wanted to do was reflect about it publicly. I have made myself very, very wrong in my own eyes for failing to do what I TOLD MYSELF (not even anyone else) I would do.

So, there it is the post that had to be written… that needed to be written in order for me to move forward. This is me clearing the decks, moving on and now with time and distance I can share. I think…

What kind of BLOCKAGES do you suffer from I wonder?

Fifteen Weeks to Fabulous

Fifteen Weeks to Fabulous

What is the Difference that makes the Difference?

Exactly Two years ago to the day I QUIT SMOKING and today I TOOK UP EXERCISE! Both of these things are MASSIVE events in my life.

I have resisted exercise for years and if the truth be known it was probably because I feared not being able to breath in public and that I would look like a fool, playing in an arena where I just didn’t belong.

Today marks what I hope will be the beginning of many trips to my local gym. I have finally decided to close The GAP between the image of my ideal self that I have been attached to for years, and the self that I am actually committed to being. The best me that I can be that is.

The thing about an ideal self is that it is rarely based in reality. It is most often a concoction of images that have developed and merged over the years. Images that we have collected from the T.V. magazines and movies and subconsciously filed away as something we SHOULD be aiming for. Quite possibly if you placed all your required attributes together you would come up with one very strange alien like being.

Closing the GAP means a change in thinking about what is possible for me to achieve. It is based on what I am actually committed to, rather than what I might be capable of, if I work really really really REALLY HARD at it, and if I sacrifice many of the things I enjoy…like food! This change of thinking is a breath of fresh air, I feel alive with the possibility of creating something that will be sustainable, fun and rewarding

In Last weeks post I mentioned the success that my husband has had in the weight loss and fitness department. I mentioned that he had two things I just didn’t have (a realistic and sustainable vision of what was possible and a commitment to living rather than being thin.) But it turns out there was something else, something I just wasn’t quite ready to see just yet. Not ready, because that would mean I actually had to do something, to take some serious action, which is not the easiest thing to do when you are hell bent on resisting taking any actions at all (picture a chocolate eating couch potato here).

The Difference that makes the Difference

However all good things take time and we all have to work through stuff like this to discover our blind spots at our own speed. It took me a couple of days to work out that the third thing he had going for him, the thing that would make a real difference, was A PLAN. A plan which included stepping outside his comfort zone but with the kind of  support and structure that made a difference to it’s longevity and success. A plan which was based in real time and is measurable. His plan has seen him work with a personal trainer for over two years and when he shares his initial goal from the start of that time, it was to still be doing it in six months time, now that is a plan that is both simple and measurable! Since then his goals have shifted and become way more specific, but sustainability remains an objective and that is a goal I am willing to commit myself to also.

Where Magic Happens

The Difference that makes the Difference is A PLAN with a step outside your Comfort Zone

So …you might be curious to know … how did that first day at the gym go?

TOUGH! And GREAT! Andi (my trainer) made me sweat and hurt and I swore a fair bit. But I felt great and I pushed through some pain that I didn’t think I could, and I feel better for it. I am stronger than I think and I was pleasantly surprised by my core strength. I know I am going to feel it in the morning and probably for a day or two or three, but that’s great because feeling it will mean I am still alive…And so my “Fifteen weeks to Fabulous” begins in earnest  and I’ll let you know all about the searing pain and trauma associated with my post workout body somewhere down the track when I have recovered…

Signiture name

You don’t have to be Famished to be Fabulous

Stop doing what doesn’t work!

My objection to the word EXERCISE has been noted several times this week, always linked to my complaint about how FAT I am, and how I can never be the weight that I want to be,… blah, blah, blah, boo hoo, woe is me etc.

I know I am not alone in this way of thinking, I have had several clients of late express their fear of the coming summer days. ‘What will I wear?’ ‘Oh no it’s Chub Rub time again.’ ‘And the sweat and chaffing…’

So, what is it that stops me from doing the things that I know would make a difference to my figure and therefore my level of satisfaction with regard to my body? You know, like… eat less, exercise more, rah rah rah!

The No. 1 thing that stops me getting what I want, strangely, is the thing that you might think would help drive me forward the most,… my vision of what’s possible. Normally a clear vision of what you want is inspiring…right? But the thing that actually gets in the way most is being totally attached to my goal weight and an ideal image, because they require more work than I am actually prepared to do. This leaves me miserable, riddled with guilt and feelings of failure.

I am not committed to my goals at all. And I am not alone. And right now is the time of year when we have to wear less clothes, which in my mind means EXPOSURE! I really do appreciate the layers of winter to cover the layers of me. It’s the time of year we start making resolutions and setting goals for the coming year (sometimes secretly) to lose the weight.

When we want to change something such as our weight we often apply the New Year’s resolution approach: We set a goal, we use willpower to move ourselves towards the goal. How effective is this approach in the long-run? In a 2007 study in the U.S. 3000 people were tracked while attempting to achieve a range of resolutions including losing weight, visiting the gym, quitting smoking, and drinking less. At the start of the study, 52% of participants were confident of success. One year later, only 12% actually achieved their goal.

Mind the GAP

There is a GAP between my attachment to the way I want to look and my commitment to taking the actions to get it. And that GAP is full of GUILT and SHAME, because what I say I want, and what I do about it, are not congruent.

What do I mean by the words COMMITTED and ATTACHED and how are they different?

Attachment looks something like this:
“Truth is, I am really attached to having a size 10 (Australian sizes) waist, hips and bum, then I will be sexy and attractive, only then I can feel good about myself.”

I have been there before, as a young woman, but not in the last 10 years. The last time I was that slim it took months of depriving myself of food on a strict Weight Watchers program, I lost 13 kgs back then and I put more than double that back on after my 3rd child over a period of about 10 years.

Whilst I know that I could actually get back to that weight and size again, I also know that it is quite impossible for me to be committed to taking this kind of extreme action. I don’t like depriving myself everyday and I don’t like the feelings of guilt every time I break the rules of my diet. It is like perpetual deprivation and punishment loop. It is not sustainable.

I recently tried the Fast Diet also known as the 5-2 diet with some great results, but it too felt like deprivation (I had massive headaches and couldn’t concentrate on my work) and after a couple of months everything plateaued and I lost focus and stagnated. My husband however has had brilliant results on the same program and it prompted me to investigate what was different for him. It turns out he had two things I just didn’t have. A realistic and sustainable vision of what was possible and a commitment to living rather than being thin.

Committed looks like:
“I am mindful of the choices I make with regard to food intake and movements. I choose sustainable options for my life, and I enjoy my food and exercise”

I know that many of my clients are dealing with the GAP in their lives in one form or another. And as a coach I think it is important to be able to stand by the things you say and believe. I believe that we can create LIVES WE LOVE. And so it is time, ‘to walk the talk’ as they say. And here I am armed with my new vision of a healthy, happy me, that is free of dieting for ever more. I am embarking on a journey with some short term goals which are aimed at building myself a sustainable lifestyle, loving my body and enjoying my food all the way through the silly season. I am calling this journey Fifteen Weeks to Fabulous and am going to share the juicy bits with you. This week I join a gym and get P.T. It totally goes against the grain, but I have decided I am no longer committed to being uncomfortable in this body. I am COMMITTED to being fit and energised. And the GAP between where I am now and what I’m committed to, doesn’t seem as huge as the one between where I’m at now and the vision I was attached to before, which when we really look at it, looked a lot like taller, blonder, thinner, younger and an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PERSON.


Discovering The GAP – This is a journalling exercise that I did as part of working out what the gap was. I wanted the thin and slim quickly, attached to a vision of perfection. What I needed to consider was what I was prepared to put into loving myself thoughout a sustainable journey. (I created this on a 1965 copy of NEW IDEA)