The other day my meditation teacher Tim introduced me to a young bloke over an impromptu lunch. I was not in the mood for meeting someone new, to be frank. I was thyroidy and scratchy and couldn’t deal with the “So, what do you do?” palaver (a conversation pivot point that always makes my eyes glaze over). But something piqued me to show up.

Image via Dangerous But Sweet Tumblr
Image via Dangerous But Sweet Tumblr

Turns out this young bloke (my goodness, I am sounding old) – Sebastian Terry – and I hung back and chatted for some time after Tim left. We’d got onto the “So, why do you do what you do?” train of chatting (a thoroughly meaty one).

Seb’s response was wonderfully naive and authentic: “To prioritise happiness”. Usually such facile answers annoy me. So do “bucket lists”, which is what Seb went on to develop. (After the death of a close friend when he was 27 he was forced to ask ‘Am I happy?’. The answer was no and so wrote a list of 100 Things – most of which are geared at helping others – that he’s systematically worked through over the past four years, relaying the experience in the book 100 Things and in a Discovery Networks documentary. So far he’s married a stranger in Vegas, helped push a man in a wheelchair for a half marathon and run with the bulls.)

But Seb was convincing. He spoke about how, since his massive success, he gets emails constantly asking him to explain the secret to his success and following. “I tell them I simply put happiness first,” he says. “But sometimes people don’t get it. They go and build a shiny website, and do a big launch, and try to do the same thing as me and expect it all to fall into place. But they’re too caught up.”

All this happened on the day I Quit Sugar For Life came out. I was stressed to buggery from some major publisher hiccups (long story) and, earlier in the day, I’d snapped at someone in an email. I’d been feeling very off kilter for weeks, actually, like I was wearing an itchy woolen jumper too tight around the neck. Seb’s words slapped me down.

Suddenly I realized the problem: I was too caught up. I’d allowed a whole bunch of shiny, peripheral stuff to take me away – too far away – from why I do what I do.

I do what I do because I care about connecting.  I prioritise authentic connection.

But I’d let commercial lures, exciting opportunities, frantic people, multiple media commitments drag me further and further away from my priorities, like a whirly whirly. I said to someone I felt totally prostituted out. Problem was, I was both pimp and prostitute in the equation. I felt like an awkward fraud with a shiny website.

The scratchiness – the snapping, the feeling of disconnect, the agitation, the inability to make decisions – was all because I was too caught up and the whirly whirly had carried me so far from “me” that nothing fitted. This is what happens when you get caught up.

I, too, get asked how I’ve managed to make a living from something I love and believe in.

My answer has always been this: “Focus on what matters, the rest will follow”, or (if we’re talking online traction, “be your message and they will come”, or “first jump and then you get the angel wings”.

But now I add: “Plus work hard on not getting caught up”.

After lunch I promptly cancelled a few media appearances, returned a number of phone calls mindfully, and had a gentle chat with a few people on the IQS team about backing off from chasing stuff…and allowing opportunities to find us.

And I soon felt like the scratchy jumper was fitting better.

Are you too caught up at the moment. Do you need to come back closer to what matters for a bit?

PS: Seb is running a weekend retreat – the 100 Things Experience – at the end of March in Manly, NSW. If you’re keen to learn more about prioritising your values and finding balance, check it out here.


Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Steph

    Oh dear, there goes half my day reading his blog …

  • Sarah Wilson…….I love you. I am feeling exactly like you describe. I have tears in my eyes after reading this. Yes, yes, yes…..too caught up………back off a little… will come…….

  • I love this post. For the last few days I have been feeling very similar. How was it you put it? “Stressed to buggery?” When I feel that way, i eat everything in the house, especially the sugar and bread. So, needless to say, my nutrition hasn’t been great the last couple of days. I was too caught up in what I thought I should be doing to be successful and it stressed me out. I need to let all of that go and think instead about why I do what I do and do that to the best of my ability. Like you say, the rest will follow. Thank you thank you thank you.

  • Shanina

    I love Seb’s work, I love your work. I’m glad your paths have crossed.
    Walk your own path – don’t get pushed off… Or caught up.

    • Sebastian Terry

      It’s a small world out there Shanina! Seb 🙂

  • Anne-Maree

    Love this – thank you !

  • Brooke

    i definitely feel the need to back off from everything from time to time – very much caught up in all the goings on and not really thinking past to the real things that matter. Thanks Sarah for yet another amazing post

  • LOVE this post!

  • Sebastian Terry

    Sarah, it was a pleasure meeting you and thanks so much for your kind words. It’s always good to meet genuine people and I’m glad our chat helped your sweeter fit! How good is that 🙂 I wrote a little post on our meeting too called ‘Leadership through Authenticity’- you’re a shining light. Good luck with all that happens and keep up your great work 🙂 Seb

    • YES! Authenticity is exactly what I was thinking about when Sarah spoke of your success. You and Sarah have absolutely got that going on…hence the importance of ‘not getting too caught up’ because that’s when authenticity is most likely to leak. People are craving authenticity these days, they want to see it, be around it and get to know it- they don’t always know why, as humans I sense that we innately know that authenticity is critical to our well being and happiness.

  • Stacey Sullaphen

    Pimp and Prostituite…LOVE it! In my former life, I started a humble blog to help women look after their children’s mother. It grew and grew and grew, until the only kids whose mother wasn’t being looked after was my own and the itchy scratchy jumper started choking me and destroying my marriage in the process! Thankfully, I ripped off the jumper and a WHOLE lot of itchy scratchy areas were exposed for me to soothe and heal. I’m doing that now and i’m proud as punch to say my family is WHOLE and I’m learning what makes me itchy and scratchy. And when I come back to helping others again, I will do so with laser focus and a nice soft chenille cardigan to ease in and out of as necessary. Don’t ever change Sarah Wilson, the world needs you just the way YOU ARE 🙂

  • Felicity

    Great post, as usual, Sarah. Thanks so much.

    Hope it’s ok to post this link to info about free how-to-meditate courses in northern Sydney:

    I wanted to learn to meditate but frankly couldn’t afford to pay for a class. This was brilliant. Hope it helps someone.

  • mw

    Is it just me or are you getting even more honest ? Scratchy Was my middle name .. And .. I am changing that narrative .. ‘Twas a pleasant surprise to receive your e-pack. Q: does this mean I have to get more serious about my diet ? Half of the ingredients you rabbit on about I wouldn’t recognise if you hit me over the head with them .. A: gently does it !

  • Mag

    Perhaps Seb gets the luxury of prioritising happiness from his hefty $1497 price tag. I don’t want to place negativity on your blog, Sarah, or this post because I love it, but it saddens me to see that price tag. I think you’ve done an amazing job at building your audience through your authenticity and free time and, while I know zero about Seb’s message other than what you’ve written, I’m disillusioned by seeing wellness touted at a price that only the advantaged can afford.

    • I hear what you’re saying Mag, but it’s a world of free will and there’s something for everyone (or most). What Seb’s offering isn’t for everyone but living his lifestyle certainly does come at a cost…and to ensure he can keep it up I guess he needs to make good money when he can. He’s also in no way claiming to be a social worker, there’s so many things we can’t possibly know or understand about Seb’s journey- everyone’s is unique and incomes and sources of those will vary. Really what I’m saying is good on him, he is truly making the most of his life & inspiring others to do the same; regardless of whether or not they can afford his offer. And yes, I am most definitely in the category of not being able to afford such things at this time, so I don’t speak from a place of naivety.

    • Sebastian Terry

      Hey Mag, thanks for your comments and I appreciate your opinion. I think that perhaps if you knew of my journey, you’d understand that I also believe that happiness should not come at a price. The $1497 price tag though is necessitated through the costs associated in arranging it. I actually just got back from organising and giving a national roadshow of free talks open to the public with the intention of introducing wellness to strangers for free. They were extremely successful and I’m very proud of them. There have been a lot of things that have led to this 3-day course being born; mainly that at the end of each talk I am inundated with people asking for further advice or help with certain issues relative to them. For years I have happily taken the time to email, call and meet these people in person to offer wellness for free and this course is meant specifically to provide a high quality product to try and help as many people in one place as I can. I hope this sheds light on why I have to charge for this event (you have no idea how expensive sugar-free biscuits are at function centres!). Seb 🙂

  • Lisa

    Sounds great, however a bit naively indulgent. Let see if same principles apply to a battered housewife. Let all get a grip people.

    • morgan

      Lisa, Sarah’s post poses a question. Do you feel this way? Nowhere does she claim what she says applies to everyone.

      • Lisa

        Understand Morgan “we are all too caught up in the moment, and ideally should all get back to what we feel matters to us” this is still an irritating, indulgent post, and I do love Sarah’s take on life, mostly.
        All the best.

        • Agreed Lisa, I have heard Seb speak last year at a conference I attended. Not all of us have the indulgence ika finances to walk away from everything ie children house holds, clients etc etc to follow “fun”. I am all for living life wholeheartedly but for us mere folk who don’t come from wealthy backgrounds we have to work to earn a living and have responsibilities that do not allow us to travel around the world doing crazy things. Sorry to be a spirit breaker, but we can “find” ourselves and live happy lives with simple pleasures. Sorry Seb I thought you had great public speaking skills, kind heart, but a bit naive when it comes to what a lot of hardship people experience in this world, and yes a bit over indulgent.

          • Sebastian Terry

            Hey Gabrielle, I appreciate you noticed my kind heart- thank you 🙂 I feel I should clear up a few things though that it seems you’ve misunderstood. Firstly I most certainly didn’t come from money- I actually started my journey with $9,000 that I saved from working extremely hard in many jobs. Secondly I would never encourage walking away from children or households or clients, no matter how rich someone may be. I do though encourage people to have children, households and clients if that is fundamental to their fulfilment (not ‘fun’). The key is understanding your truth and your values and also recognising that we are all different. Where as a house may be the key to happiness for one person, a naked skydive may offer the same feelings to another (perhaps i’m just immature?). I think it’s important to take the time to identify what makes you happy and if the answer is ‘both’, well the key is balance. As for the word ‘indulgent’, I actually think it’s important to think about yourself first, as without a solid foundation (fulfilment), you will not be able to help others as best you could. I hope you understand that I do not share my story to dictate how others should live their lives, only share what I believe to be a set of principles that seems to resonate with people. Thanks, Seb

          • I appreciate your comments Seb 🙂 it totally understand you used your over seas experiences as an example of how you found forfilment and happiness. I know you have helped thousands of people too I’ve been to your website. Which is comendable.
            My comment about being naive etc is more about there are people that don’t even start with 9k some people live very hard lives. So even taking “time out” is a cost to them and a luxury. I’ve come from very poor living in the crappy areas of far Western Sydney to now middle class where I can afford to do some of the things you have done. Others never get out of the low socio economic rat wheel. So when people talk about being indulgent it’s a reminder that we complain about stress etc as being a bad thing and about losing ourselves. But stress is a necessity to accomplish things in life without stress we become complacent and potentially lazy.
            And maybe I read too many psychology books, but forfilment / happiness should not be totally externally focused ie achieving materialistic things or experiences. As externally driven happiness is short lived. Internal appreciation of day to day things brings us true happiness that has longivty. That’s my two sense anyway.

          • Sebastian Terry

            I agree that there can be a general naivety about the struggles and hardships that some of us have, but I disagree with your comment that I’m guilty of this. I spend lots of my time helping kids and community groups in the very areas you say you’re from and I would not change it for the world. I think you’re spot on with everything else 🙂

          • That’s awesome Seb I’m glad to hear. I was commenting of what I heard you speak on a year ago. The messages you outlined now where not clear in your talk. Yes I agree I think we are in parts agreeing with each other 🙂

          • Sebastian Terry


  • Ms Jane

    Hey Sarah check out Danielle La Porte. Similar message to Sebastian which has TOTALLY made me change my thinking about goals. It’s all about how you feel!!!

  • Anthony

    When you have a small business, it can really seem to be a big business when you a managing it yourself, and it becomes all consuming for a while or so. Even when I’m in the thick of it I make sure I take time for quality meditation, to recharge, I like what I do, just like you do Sarah, so I want to make sure I’m around for the long haul.

  • Monkeyfish

    Oh yes, the thyroidy and scratchy. I feel you. To add hilarity to my thyroidy situation I am having some kind of arthralgia issues, possibly resulting from the glandular fever I just found out I had, and was made redundant at the same time. Weee!

    It can be easy to get caught up if we aren’t careful. Life will never slow down and never be quiet. We have to set our own pace or we get swept up in the chaos.

    And also I don’t want to be a nag but PLEASE nobody go to running of the bulls. It’s horribly cruel, the animals are treated terribly, and those that survive the torment are killed anyway. Not for food. Just because.

    • captaintabby

      I am glad you brought up the running of the bulls, I don’t think that anyone that participates in such barbarity could have a kind heart and as a participant Sebastian Terry should hang his head in shame.

      On another note, I think the importance thing in life is to find balance between life being too full on and having time to just be. This is something that seems to be difficult in modern life.

  • Justine Buckley

    Love this, is soooo true for many of us.
    Thank you for reminding me.
    Happy Friday !!!!

  • Peta

    Just what I needed today… Thank you!

  • This is a great reminder Sarah – I think it’s natural to get pulled in, but having the awareness to pull yourself back is a valuable thing to learn and embrace!

  • Carrie

    Thanks for sharing this Sarah. I hadn’t realised how much I needed it. Time to reorganise priorities and get back to a more simple way of living.

  • Thanks for another great post Sarah.
    I am struggling with ‘getting caught up’ myself these days, as I am setting up my own business. I can often feel the constant need to ‘be productive’ for fear of continuously feeling ‘behind the eight ball.’ It seems like everyone is doing more wonderful things and quicker lol. Doesn’t help when I have an illness that affects my energy!
    I often feel like there is always too many things to do. Then I realised the other day…there is ALWAYS ‘always too many things to do.’ Like you, I have now decided I need to let some things go and accept that my best is good enough and to be more present.
    So I have started a daily yoga routine around 5:30pm to simmer down after responding (or trying to) to all the demands of the day…to go inwards and thank my body for all that it allows me to do. Have a great weekend. Thanks for being such a wonderful inspiration to so many people.
    xx Jessica xx

  • Giselle

    Just found this post & fell totally in love with it. I was feeling way too caught up yesterday & this just fitted for me to understand that I was, indeed, in that point where I felt out of connection with myself.
    Awesome reading!, thanks for it.

  • Virginia Dempsey

    Yes, this post is a timely reminder. All the “stuff” is external only and its whats in our hearts that makes all the difference….. although, challenging in this day and age I have to say. Thanks Sarah.

  • Mark H

    New to your blog. Your post certainly opened up a myriad of thoughts in different directions.

    On ‘being too caught up’- reading your experience made me reflect on my own moments of overwhelm with too many things going on and that feeling of treading water in the same spot (with the ‘I should be moving forward’ motor driving me in the background). Often my attachment to the desire of getting a particular outcome, a result the way I want it and more particularly ‘when I want it’ can be such a distraction of my mind. Perhaps I am seeing more these days the difference between being committed to something versus attached to it. One can be a more powerful place, the other is darn draining.

    That feeling of a sweater being tight around your neck that you mentioned, I couldn’t help but think what a great sign post that is. A point of awareness to stop for moment to bring us back to the present moment and see where we are with ourselves, in thought and body. And if we don’t do it consciously well the flu can do that for me too!:)

    I don’t know you or Seb, but I get the sense there are a few similarities between you. You both get things done, are open to people, you both are doing things you enjoy and that creates a lot of openings in your world; whatever they maybe, like connections with people, and the medium in which you share yourself.

    One of the things that struck me about Seb’s talk was he is about creating from nothing, from that pure space of possibility, without the filters we (I) often bring to situations, without playing the role (by ego or whatever), he creates from just saying it, writing it, and going after it. Its infectious to listen to and see in action. He doesn’t seem to be held back by the constraints of a context like ‘its not possible’. How often do we meet that?!

    Mark H

  • Kate Adams

    Totally agree. Thank you. Just spent the past few days stressing about how much I need to do and being too caught up in my catering business. Our real season is May – October and yet I’m worrying about the confirmations coming in and how slowly they’re coming in. Need to just sit back and focus on the important stuff – nailing the 8th week next week and enjoying each day,

  • And that is EXACTLY why I have created Incense and Happiness – which is also a play on words of my name: Happy Ness (Vanessa).

    I’m obsessed by happiness (and incense) and helping others to follow that elusive but permeating concept of happiness.

  • fromthekiwigirl

    I have backed off. Needed time to prioritise and clear the head space..need more time of this. Love the simplicity and doing what I need and being present for my family and understanding their needs too.

  • Debs

    marry a stranger in Vegas… (eyes glaze over). Is that for fun or fulfillment or stupidity?

    • Sebastian Terry

      A combination 🙂

    • Kate Punivai

      Perhaps if you read his book you’d understand better. It started out as a list of things he wanted to do. Some might call it self-indulgent, but somewhere along the journey, he started to develop some wonderful insights into life and happiness. That is the beauty of setting ridiculous goals (even if they’re “stupid” ones to other people) because they force us to leave our comfort zones and become more than we currently are, in order to achieve them.
      I read his book a while ago, and this is the first time I’ve caught up with his blog (which linked to this post), and it was so heartening to see the way he’s evolved and grown spiritually. Kudos to you Seb. Keep doing what you’re doing. You’re an inspiration 🙂

  • Blackmores

    This is a great post, thanks for sharing Sarah xx

  • Cass

    This resonates with me so much at the moment!
    Thank you Sarah 🙂

  • Great post! Thank you Sarah xx This has been a similar lesson for me running my own business… to not get caught up constantly pushing but rather to sit back, enjoy the ride, love what you do and let everything unfold in its own sweet time…. in a more organic kind of way. It feels like the most abundant approach and everything seems to fall into place anyway. Love Nadia x
    P.S. I love your shiny website xx