A few months back I had the absolute pleasure of receiving a thank you gift from a gorgeous soul. Delivered to my door was large black box tied with grosgrain ribbon and featuring gold foil embossing. From the outside I knew that I was going to love whatever was inside. Whoever had sent this to me knew me well, and whoever had created it had an incredibly stylish eye for small, thrilling details.
I loved all the cleverly curated goods inside The Luxury Gift Co. box and savoured using each one. I instagrammed them, and the gorgeous creator responded with gratitude. We chatted, and I discovered that the person behind this business didn’t have a history in retail, or gifting or styling. Founder of the business was Daniella Burns, a former psychiatric nurse.
Anyone at the front line of high touch caring for fellow humans is in a special bred in my books. They see the best and worst in people. And nursing patients with mental health issues that can’t be easily diagnosed, treated or clearly cured would be particularly challenging.
But after years of studying and working in the sector, Daniella started a family which prompted her to reevaluate her career. She took the leap to start her own business, The Luxury Gift Co., which celebrates small pleasures that invoke self care, beauty, joy and gratitude. She assembles immersive gift sets that alight all the senses and creates pockets of childlike excitement with the thrill of discovery when diving into the black box full of surprises.
You’ll read in Daniella’s story that her life had been punctuated by chronic over achievement and seeking external validation for her worthiness. I think there often comes a point in our lives when we stop the ‘doing’ and stand still for a moment where our life catches up with us, and forces us to dig into what really drives our own deep yearnings. Connecting with that is perhaps the greatest mental health gift we can give ourselves.
GIVEAWAY! We’ve got one beautiful luxury gift box, A Lavish Affair, to send to a lucky reader! Jump over to Instagram in the next few days and look for the image below and let me know what little luxury brings you joy.
What did you want to be when you grew up? And why?
I’ve always been a dreamer, with an unwavering desire like so many before me to make a ‘difference’ in this world. I was frustrated and perplexed by the intensity of life and the quiet but persistent yearning for purpose and something bigger than myself.
It is little wonder that I consistently struggled throughout my childhood and perhaps my entire adult life up until my leap, with having to conform to the social constructs and expectations of needing to know ‘what I wanted to be when I grew up’. Turns out this whole time I was asking myself the wrong questions.
Like any child I started out wanting to be the first thing that came to mind. Me, I wanted to be a park ranger which lasted I think a whole of one day in Year 4 following a rather insightful day of work experience. I was laxly delegated to two council workers who collected rubbish, weeded and mowed for six hours. You could imagine my response to this. I promptly changed my mind to being a stay-at-home mum and then a radiographer which lasted throughout my primary and secondary years. Looking back perhaps I felt it an inevitable path, given both of my parents were in the medical profession.
What did/do you study?
Failing to achieve the high 90s ENTER score I required to get into radiography, I was accepted and completed my first year in biomedical science. Discouraged by the leaps I would have to undergo to be accepted into radiography I opted to enrol in nursing. I then studied and graduated shortly after with my Bachelor of Nursing, specialising in Mental Health. I went on to complete three post graduate degrees in mental health to become a psychiatric nurse with a specialist degree in developmental psychiatry.
What has been your most scary/courageous leap you’ve ever made?
It actually wasn’t until I was asked to share my leap story here that I processed that I had actually made a leap with The Luxury Gift Co. I was so consciously consumed by moving forward that I forgot to take things in along the way. Yes, I had in fact leaped in a big way, a profound, soul transforming way, and I hadn’t even realised.
What were you doing before you made the leap?
I was always an eager and conscientious being who felt intensely, worked fiercely, gave everything and had nothing left for myself. I felt completely overwhelmed by fear and consumed with frustration that I was yet to find my reason for being.
Just before my leap I was on maternity leave with my second child. Having worked in nursing for nine years prior, I was happy to have the space to process and assess my personal and career path goals. After I had my first child I just didn’t feel the same about the direction my life was travelling in anymore. I think deep down I had resigned to the fact that perhaps I wouldn’t return to nursing after my second child was born.
Who have been the biggest 3- 5 Influencers in terms of your career and doing work?
The older I get the more I believe in the serendipity of life: those chance meetings, seeing someone you haven’t seen in a while, those events or people in our life that shape us, change us, transform us, break us and rebuild us. I was fortunate enough to have met and connected with some wonderfully inspiring beings who taught me many beautiful lessons in life.
I identified two main influencers in my life.
My husband has certainly been one of my biggest supporters. He is my conscience and my everything. He has nurtured my wild heart and crazy ideas. He has grounded me and is where I can call ‘home’. He has been my constant when it all fell away and my biggest fan when it all came together.
My best friend Elissa, my earth wandering soul person, my daily inspiration and my creative muse.
My other influencers, too many to share, bared to me an amazing journey, rich and meaningful. They taught me self-worth, strength, the beauty of life, unconditional love, the power of now, accountability, responsibility, self-reflection, friendship, gratitude and respect. Most notably the one thing that my influencers had in common was their unconditional belief in my ability and strength, even when I couldn’t see it myself. For this I am, and always will be, eternally grateful. I am constantly inspired by them and what they have brought into my life and I am now able to charge on with an open heart and mind. I can only hope that one day I too will be that special someone for another.
What did you have in place before you made the leap?
I was actually the least prepared for this venture than I have ever been for anything in my entire life. I’m a planner, a controller, and generally only take calculated risks. I left for maternity leave expecting my second child without a return date or a clear plan of what I was to do next. I had absolutely nothing in place. In fact, of all the times in my life I had the least of everything in place namely money, time or a plan. It was a big risk on all accounts which was both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. I was sacrificing seven years of higher education, a comfortable position that allowed flexibility (perfect for a young family), opportunities for promotion and growth, a good stable income and vocation for the rest of my working career. But somehow I felt it would all come together, because deep down I knew this was my purpose.
What was your defining ‘I can’t do this anymore’ moment that lead you to the leap?
I know a lot of people have an ‘ah ha’ moment but it wasn’t like that for me. Well not that I knew consciously anyway. I had made many leaps in my life, second to children this is one of the most significant and courageous leaps I have ever made. It felt like for once my head and heart were completely aligned. I knew I had found my soul’s purpose, my reason for being.
I actually had a really defining, cathartic moment shortly after my leap. I saw it as both the confirmation that I was on the right path and an enormous lesson in the importance of being unattached to the outcome.
Things were not going how I had imagined after my official launch. I had pushed so hard my whole life to get to this moment that I felt completely defeated. It was almost like I needed to feel my deepest severe moment of defeat for it to ignite the kind of strength within me I had never known. I was stripped bare, completely naked and exposed. I recall very clearly a comment my husband said to me, ‘don’t let this define you.’ He was so right. I needed to surrender myself to the power of all things greater than myself and just let things be.
How did/do you overcome/work with the fear that comes with leaping? How do you decide to choose courage?
I think it would be easy to live in perpetual fear of taking the next leap. Especially when you feel like believing in yourself becomes more difficult the bigger the leap. Sitting with fear is incredibly scary but it gets easier over time by acknowledging the fear that exists in any one situation but not giving it the power to grow. A great deal is about understanding and reassuring myself it is only natural for someone in this position to be fearful.
Perhaps the most fear comes once you have leaped and you realise that your mind has been stretched so significantly by this new experience, that you have grown so much that your world is different, you are different, you think differently. Your desires and needs change. You have a thirst and hunger to immerse yourself deeper, take greater risks and push yourself creatively. I believe that life is about challenging, nurturing and growing ourselves. To live life fully with purpose and intensity, whatever that looks like. I choose courage every day because I want to look back in 10 years time and say, ‘I am so proud of you.’
Making soulful connections with other creatives following my leap has been invaluable in providing a platform for self-discovery, nurturing and guidance especially during times when I feel completely over stretched, over engaged and overwhelmed. But I think most of all my leap resounds so deeply with who I am and who I want to be for myself and my loved ones that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
How did you fund your leap?
Because I was on maternity leave at the time I had little income. Fortunately I had access to basic office supplies from my husband’s business which relieved the pressure financially for initial startup costs. In addition, starting out as a sole trader and working from home meant I was also able to keep my costs to a minimum. My outgoings still outweighed my earnings but we were able to stay afloat somehow until I started to contribute again.
What other leaps have you made in the past?
Looking back my life seems to be full of leaps both on a personal and professional level. From the outside I was a chronic overachiever constantly seeking external validation. On the inside my life was an embodiment of lackluster and amotivation. I was completely and energetically disconnected from my purpose. I had to have the patience and trust that everything was unfolding as it should.
What leaps didn’t work out? What did you do about it?
My career path has been rather non-linear. Having undergone several career changes over the years with substantial setbacks financially and emotionally, I can certainly say they have strengthened my ability to adapt and provided me with considerable learning curves and growth, both professionally and personally. On reflection my accumulated experiences have brought me to where I am today.
During my first two years as a graduate I experienced an unimaginable amount of growth. I was driven and immersed so deeply that I lost myself completely. It shaped me as a clinician and as a person. It taught me a great deal about my limitations and my strengths, however, I quickly became burnt out and began searching for jobs in different clinical settings. I changed positions quite regularly over the coming years. I continued study to open up what I thought was further job opportunities. I quickly realised that skills and ability could only get me so far. I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. It took me several leaps before I realised that I hadn’t defined my true idea of career success. I knew it was about passion but what was I really passionate about?
I was constantly searching to better myself and I even launched into other business ventures, falling into a cycle of overworking and undercharging. I knew l wanted to do something that connected people in a beautiful and soulful way. Looking back I have used several leaps to do this.
Thankfully maternity leave was conducive to self-reflection. I spent a great deal of time deconstructing what I thought I knew about myself: listening to my inner voice, understanding what guided me, drove me and sustained me. I needed to develop a greater belief in my ability and realise that I was enough, that I was capable and strong even if I couldn’t see it. I was suddenly conscious that reaching my fullest potential in this lifetime was actually about an alignment of both my heart and my head. It was the pathway to connecting me with my why and essentially my soul’s purpose.
What are you most fearful of? How do you deal with it?
My overarching fear would have to be a fear of failure. It’s a deep seated fear of being completely engulfed, consumed and lost within. It’s a firmly entrenched fear that persists at a more personal level, governed by the fear of not being in control. Perhaps in time I will get better at sitting with uncertainty but for now I acknowledge its existence and attempt to put strategies in place to move through it. It helps to break it down by analysing its source and questioning my thought processes.
For example: Where does the fear of failure come from? Is there something deeper underlying? Deciphering what is a real and an imagined fear? What past experiences have impacted on this feeling? What does it look like to me? How would I measure if I failed? And then is it really a failure? What are my safety nets? How does it manifest itself in my body and how does this impact on my functioning. What can I put in place to either a) move through it this time or b) manage this feeling long-term.
And in the cases where calculated risk is inevitable: What’s the worst that can happen? How do I expect growth and change without taking this risk?
I find this process particularly difficult when I am already overwhelmed and in a state of exhaustion. Usually there is an identifiable trigger that lets me know I need to step back and re-evaluate where I am at and prompts me to put strategies in place to look after myself.
1) Identifying my warning signs: Irritability, my problem solving skills become diminished, feeling completely ‘overwhelmed’, distractible. I become less efficient with my time and experience and increase in anxiety naturally.
2) Strategies I put in place:
a. Write a list: prioritising tasks helps me to utilise my time efficiently. Visual cues remove the stress of having to retain the list in my head and make it easier to break things down into manageable tasks.
b. Create small measurable goals to track progression and eliminate the likelihood of being overwhelmed. Having a clear plan about where I want to be in one week, two months, six months, 12 months, five years etc.
c. Seek support: physical tasks, outsourcing, supervision.
d. Move: resting or taking time out engaging in other activities is essential in making space and calm to re-energise for creativity to flow freely.
e. Saying ‘no’ is a skill I’m getting better at (though still not perfected).
f. On a grander scale, continually exposing myself to new experiences is essential in enriching my mind, evoking passion, filling me with new ideas and awakening my soul.
How would you rate your level of happiness about making your leap? 1 being sad, 10 being rad.
9 – Thrilled about taking the leap though I am conscious that I still have a long way to go.
What’s the biggest upside to making the leap?
Funny how I actually found this hard…I guess the reality is that I get so caught up in things that I forget to focus on the true and beautiful things that occur by making such a life changing leap. Besides the reality and joy that comes from actually taking the leap, I would probably say that the biggest upside to taking this leap is that I found strength in myself that I hadn’t been able to see all of these years.
What’s the biggest downside to making the leap? And how do you get through it?
The one true downside would most definitely be finding that idyllic blend between leaping, family and downtime. Establishing boundaries for leap commitments (trust me, I’m still working on this one) is paramount in maintaining equilibrium in my day-to-day life. My focus is still very much on being completely present in times of need, particularly for my children. I think with me there is always going to be a level of guilt and fear associated with not being completely present all of time, although I think this naturally comes with the territory of being a parent. Whilst I try my best, it’s impossible to get it right every time. I always strive for perfection in everything I do, but there is a level of acceptance and letting go that is required to move forward.
What might be your next leap?
I am not sure where this journey will take me next and that’s OK because I believe I am on the right path and when the time is right my next leap will reveal itself. I have a big vision and hope with all my heart to create something truly beautiful, soulful and deeply connecting for others in this lifetime.
What are you favorite words to live by?
Stay true to yourself.
Who do you admire that also made the leap?
I am constantly inspired by the unbridled alchemy of those dreamers, aspirers and creators around me. I have great admiration for their strength, beauty and energy for life. I admire how they leap with clarity and conviction, driven by passion, aligned by ambition and empowered by their self-worth. They are real and courageous.
A piece of advice for someone with an itch to leap?
It is going to be hard and it will test every part of your being. You will question yourself, perhaps every day, but you will find a way to move through it and you will be so pleased you did.
Right now I’m:
What area in your life would you like to explore more, to grow into? In what small way could you start to move in that direction? Pour yourself a cup of tea, light a candle and take a moment to consider the possibilities that exist in your life. It’s yours for the making.