Letting go… my way

June 11, 2017

Are you holding on to things in your life which no longer fit? Do you find it hard to let go? Even though you know somewhere deep down inside you, away from the chattering mind, that it’s the right thing to do?

Well, this feeling is a familiar friend to me too, and today is a landmark day for me. Today I am letting a major piece of my old life go and I want to share the story with you.


The slow game

I would say since 2006 I have been on the path to changing my life. I was 26 years old, and it was almost to the day when I took the spirituality fork and started to move away from the mainstream.

As I went through the transition, I couldn’t let go of everything at once. I used to be extremely fearful of change, and cling onto everything in my life as tight as I could, even though I was unhappy with how my life was, stressed, tired and approaching the cliff edge of full on depression.

So, I learnt to let go piece by piece, when it felt right or when I was guided to in a journey. When I saw signs out in nature or when circumstances presented themselves and I could see that it was clearly time to let go and move on. When I look back, some changes were really sudden and dramatic, and others more gradual and undulated.

I want to share with you my story of how I let go of my old working life, and fully embraced a change in my work to something which I loved doing.


Letting go

Today I am finally and fully letting go of the profession that sustained me for nearly two decades. I am closing the door on what was my life-line if you like. Something which gave me a focus and was a big part of my identity. It fed me, clothed me and gave me somewhere to live. It gave me many of my friends and my first husband. It gave me a purpose and a belief in an unchanging future. It was the thing that kept me going through difficult times during my twenties and thirties. It was the thing I worked so passionately in for almost 20 years. It was my career; that thing you were told at school you needed to get.

My career was in what is called corporate sustainability; working in business to help reduce the impact companies have on the Earth, and the people they interact with. It was a tough gig for two key reasons. Firstly the teams I worked in were hugely under-resourced for my whole career, even before the recession hit us.  I was always part of only a very small team, whichever company I worked in, and had either very little or no budget for delivery of projects. When I worked for the Co-operative we used to joke it was ‘corporate social responsibility on a shoe-string’. It was just us, and our time, which meant because I cared so passionately about what I did I put in a lot of unpaid overtime.

The second was that if we were going to achieve the level of change that was needed, we would have to drop the capitalist model, which was never going to happen. As long as money is the only consideration, then everything we did needed a business case, which was a huge constraint. I stuck at it because I believed it was my path, and it probably was for a while, but looking back it was really just a stepping stone for where I was destined to go.

One of the offices I used to work in, early in my career

The first big step

I worked in the construction sector for many years. In 2011 I was made redundant as a direct result of the collapse of the sub-prime market in America in 2008 when finance ceased and construction contracts dried up. As so many of you will agree who have been in a similar situation, loosing your job is incredibly stressful. However even though I was really anxious about money, and work, I decided to see this as a gift from the Universe and use it to set another course.

So rather than get another sustainability manager job, I decided to go at it alone. I saw that it would give me the freedom to choose exactly how I would spend my time. My intention was to work less hours earning money, which would free up my time to train in something else, to volunteer to give me new experiences, and ultimately give me time to listen to and follow my heart. I had no idea what that would be, but i trusted that it would evolve. It meant cutting back. When circumstances arose which meant I had to move out of my house, I chose to live in a caravan to keep my bills low. I stopped taking holidays, and cut down on eating out so it was just a luxury on special occasions. Some of the changes were drastic, and living in a caravan for two really cold winters wasn’t that much fun I have to say!. But the changes gave me precisely what I needed, which was time and space.

Me working in the workplace

A interim solution

My consultancy business was set up only ever as an interim solution. It was the vehicle which was going to help me make the shift into the work which I was truly destined for. I was clear on that, as I didn’t want to stay in my career for any longer than I had to to pay the bills. I knew I wanted to do more soul led work, whatever shape that would take.

There were many aspects that I disliked about being a consultant. I missed being inside an organisation effecting change from within. I struggled with the different cultures of the organisations I worked for, as I didn’t fit in many or agree with their values. It was hard working on my own, and not having a boss to take problems so they could help me sort them out, or a business partner to support me with aspects of business that I found very hard like legal issues.

It was a tough gig but I stuck at it because it was a necessity, and it paid off. After four years, I had enjoyed enough space to follow my emerging interests, and attend training courses which taught me what I needed to know to be someone else in the world.

I wasn’t ready to let go and make the jump into something else fully, as it scared me. It scared me to let go of something which had sustained me in so many ways for so long. It was a nature sign which gave me the final push I needed. I won’t write too much about this here, as there is a whole other blog which covers it called “When birds start falling out of the sky

Suffice to say, that when birds did start to drop out of the sky in front of me, it was pretty clear that I was going in the wrong direction, and it was time to change.


The final goodbye

Now today, I am letting go of the final piece. I am letting go of my old business website. This is my window to the world to say that I am a sustainability consultant and open for business. The reality is that I haven’t done any business for 18 months, and I have known that I need to fully let it go since May 2015, but I just haven’t quite been able to do it. My guides have told me to close that part of my life down, and although I took steps to, I didn’t have the guts to finally do it until last week.

But I didn’t need to. Gradual felt good. It felt like I wasn’t putting all my eggs in one basket, and relying entirely on blind faith. That door partially left open was enough to give me the confidence to go forward.


The emergence

When I worked in a company as a sustainability manager, my time wasn’t my own. I gave them 45-60 hours a week to deliver on their goals, their agenda.  Yes at the time they felt like my goals. And they were good goals, reducing waste, energy, buying sustainable timber in a construction firm. But they weren’t my souls goals. And I was very constrained. Constrained in corporate image, the business plan, and the need to make a profit.

When I had my consultancy business, I had more control of my time, and created space so that I could emerge into someone else in the world with a new line of work to offer. I still had to give part of my time over to others agendas in order to earn money to live, but I didn’t need to give it all over.

Now, completely out of that game, all my time is my own. This is where my creativity can come in and be unleashed. Whatever I want to do in my work as a shamanic practitioner, whatever I am guided to do, I can go ahead and do it. I can tune in with my guides and seek their instruction. I can wander in nature and seek insights there. I can follow messages from my dreams. This for me is the ultimate freedom, to be able to use my creativity like this.

Five years ago I would never have seen that I could do all the things that I can do. It’s not been easy getting here, and not every day is easy and straightforward. i still come up against my edges – I brought those across with me from the corporate world. I still have some of the the usual day-to-day worries which I had when I was working in a career. But I am doing the work that I love, and I am closer to my purpose here on Earth.


Final thoughts

So it’s all been worth it. I am sure I will continue to hold onto things which I need to say goodbye to. I am sure that fear will set in from time to time and hold me back. But my way of ‘slowly and surely’ has helped me. Letting go a piece at a time. Being patient and seeing that one course of action may not be ideal, but it will create change and be a stepping stone in the right direction. That if we look at change over a five year period, or even longer, a lot more seems possible to achieve.


Spring work

I want to leave you with a few photos of my Spring, which I have loved. Exhausting, but so much fun. A stark contrast to my office days delivering flip chart presentations and syndicate exercises in board rooms and construction site offices I am sure you will agree!

So, if you have made it to the end of this blog, then I imagine that you are in a transition, and looking for a way to move forward. Maybe my story will give you a perspective, some inspiration, some encouragement. Or maybe it was just an interesting read. I know when I was in my depths of not knowing how to find a way out I would look to others who had made the leap, and tell myself that if they had done it, maybe I could too.

That it is OK on the other side! … it may just take a while to get there.


Patrick & Carolines Hand-fasting (photo credit: Tim Emmerton)


Beltane Ceremony at Gorton Monastery (photo credit Steve Walkden)



Space to Emerge (photo credit Jayne Johnson)

Space to Emerge (photo credit Avril Banks)


Drum Birthing (photo credit Jason Smalley)


Full Moon Ogham Stick and Drum awakening (photo credit Jason Smalley)


About the Author


Nicola Smalley is an edge-dweller, shamanic practitioner and writer living in the Arnside and Silverdale Area of Natural Beauty in north Lancashire, England.

Following a career in corporate sustainability, she now runs The Way of the Buzzard with her husband Jason. Her passion is anything connected to nature and the mysteries of the Earth.

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  1. Hi Nicola,

    Thank you for the reply. I keep looking at your workshops and activity weekends, but so far they always clash with something else booked. Obviously not meant to be just yet. I hope to get to one next year.

    Many Thanks,


  2. Hi Nicola,

    Your blog was inspiring. Like so many that have commented, I too am looking for change. Stuck in a Public Service industry that states we are there to help, while restricting us in red tape. I sense that pull to do something different, but unsure what. I have been in this industry too long, and the security is the big issue.

    My Guides are leading me to a new path. I feel the need to be out in nature more. Some days I feel I am 2 people..the face presented in “the day job”, and the real me, in my own time. I guess the balance is off. One step at a time, is the way to go. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Michele, I know that two person feeling very well – the day job and the real me as you describe. Yes, one step at a time, with faith that there is a grand plan and you are being taken care of 🙂

  3. Interesting timing that i read this Nicola….today i announced to my place of work for the past 8 years that i am taking 2 months off after which time i may or may not wish to return. I have nothing in front of me except an empty space. A bit scarey but I think i must trust that this is the right thing to do. My tornado dream last week says it all!! Important to surround myself with supportive folk who are the special ones in my life, my soul family, but its not necessarily always easy for people to accept in some cases. All ok so far tho… Thanks for sharing xx

    1. Wow congratulations Jess for creating this space. I recognise that scary feeling but oh so exciting to know you now have space to allow something new to shape infront of you if its meant to be. Beautiful to hear and I share your anticipation and excitement. Enjoy your rest and space to emerge 🙂 xx

    1. Thank you for sharing Nicola that was very inspiring as I am going through a very difficult life transition myself. I found it helpful when you said letting go and I can do that like you a bit at a time and I can look forward to a positive outcome. I just pulled black thorn as well from the tree ogham set I bought from you,s and it gave a similar Message about going through a challenge but focussing on a positive outcome. So thank you again as my double message from you has really helped uplift me. Many thanks and lots of love.

      1. Hi Pauline, so lovely to hear this. These little signs from the Universe, the scynronicities (excuse spelling) are so helpful, when we open ourselves up to them. Thank you for sharing, and I wish you the softest of a transition that is possible 🙂

  4. Congratulations! I guess there’s still a business side and lots to do in terms of promotion and publicity in your current work but at least you are free to follow your soul and your guidance and bring wonder into the world 🙂

    I’d be interested to hear if you think you’d have been so successful in what you currently do without your experience with business and interacting with people in your previous jobs.

    1. Hi Lorna, thank you! … 🙂 and you raise a great question. I certainly benefit from all the skills I learnt in the corporations. I was always asking to go on training courses, and I received a lot of development from the companies I worked for, and have brought this all into my work.

      But, if I had spent those two decades doing something else, I wonder if I would have developed a similar set of skills? I don’t know – maybe and maybe not. However I have always hungered after learning. When I spot I don’t know how to do something which is holding me back, I go out and learn it. Sometimes begrudgingly if its an admin thing I can’t dole learning a new piece of software I need.

      Since I have had time after leaving the corporations, I seem to have spent all my spare money on training courses, supervision, books, and a lot of my free time learning. So I wonder if I had not worked in the corporations, wouldI have learnt what I have learnt outside them. Possibly many of the things, but in different ways.

      Does that make sense?

      1. Yes, that makes sense. When I was at university I spent as much time reading and learning things that were not on the course as on it and have found that I probably learn more and in a more authentic and original way though my own choice and intuition as opposed to following the dictates of institutions. That’s partly why I ended up giving up my PhD, although that was due to money too.

  5. Nicola, this latest blog has really struck a cord. I am truly stuck and unsure how to move forward. I too am in a corporate bubble, in desperate need of transition of some kind but feel unable to find what I need to feed my soul. Piece by piece really speaks to me and I believe finding this blog is my first piece. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Oh Bex, how I know that feeling – or at least my version of it. I lived though it for many years, not knowing my way out. But I did find my way out, with alot of focus, trust and support. I wish you the very best in your transition

  6. Enjoyed your blog – well done for breaking the ties to the past. Takes courage – even if they had become in name only. I’ve just broken ties – taken retirement after 21.5 yrs working in same place, although only 28 hrs/wk for last few yrs. I know it was the right decision and have no regrets, but tend to miss the structure and the people – and will miss the paycheck in due course! I had been contemplating the move for a year or two, looking for the right time, which finally came to me in a dream. I cope best when the sun shines and I can get outside!

    1. I have loved hearing a little of your story. Well done too Susan for breaking those ties to. Gosh there is another whole story in what it is like to be immediately on the other side having stepped across isn’t there. Nature time is so healing. I love that you got your guidance from a dream and that you trusted in that. Just amazing to hear 🙂

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