Spotlight Interview: Elizabeth Cairns

Achieving the perfect work-life balance is something of a challenge for most of us. Combining those routine tasks, the demands of work, and squeezing in culture, health and a dollop of fun is no mean feat. So we were delighted to discover  Elizabeth Cairns’ book The Empowered Entrepreneur; it’s packed with wit and wisdom on ways to have a more fulfilling life. The book features beautifully illustrated images of flowers and in particular some of the plants included in the Bach Flower Essences by Gail Jones of Starkeys Lane and although it’s aimed at creative entrepreneurs, there are plenty of useful insights for anyone looking to achieve a more harmonious lifestyle. We spoke to Elizabeth to find out more.

How did you start your journey helping others navigate the complexities of life?

I have been working in personal development for over 20 years.  As a trainer and coach for the last 15 years and before that, my training as a holistic therapist began was when I was in my late teens. Back then I was working for a large corporate based in the United States and wanted somewhere to put my energies that was more focused on wellbeing to counteract the pressure of work, and get my grey cells going a little. I’d always been fascinated by biology and psychology and as I studied more I realised there was so much to learn and explore about the body mind connection and that’s where it started. I began a small independent practice and built on my training over the years, ran workshops, retreats, one-to-one body work and counselling whilst still doing the more corporate day job in sales support, marketing, and later branding and events. When I left corporate life, I worked extensively in team development, outdoor learning and executive coaching before bringing it all together in the work I do now.

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Author, Elizabeth Cairns. Photo – Cecelina Tornberg

What do you enjoy most about your work?

Gosh, there is so much, it really does feed my soul. My first love has always been hosting retreats. I ran my first one nearly 20 years ago, and the joy of spending time with my clients over a few days never gets old.  I love the transformation that happens just by bringing people together and creating the space for it. So much can shift in such a short space of time and it’s a joy to bring all of my skills together in one offering. Both on retreat and in my everyday coaching practice, it’s the people that are most inspiring to me. I’ve had the honour of working with some truly amazing humans over the years and watching them overcome challenges, fears and doubts to do beautiful work, whatever that might be, is humbling and inspiring.

Bach’s remedies influenced the creative for the book. Photo –  Cathy Pyle

Where did the inspiration for your book come from and how was the writing process?

I suppose the book has been inspired by my work over the last twenty years or so and what I’d began to notice was the joy being taken out of work and life. So many people striving for an end goal and missing the joy in getting there. So many people are being pulled off track and away from their own unique purpose and passions to fulfil other people’s agendas and so many of us making a trade off between wellbeing and successful work. The writing process was pretty straight forward. To be honest I sometimes feel like a bit of a fraud as writing a book is so often described as hard and harrowing and a huge challenge, it was for the most part really enjoyable and when it came to putting pen to paper it just seemed to flow. I took the advice of my amazing husband Mike who is a prolific writer and got over my limiting belief that I could only possibly write good content in the morning and just got on with it after the children were in bed. I got fairly good at getting into flow really quickly so I could make the most of the snatched windows of time in between homeschooling the children and working with my clients. I wrote a lot of the final draft over Christmas and New Year when Mike was around to be with the children and I could just get into it.

Although your book is aimed at entrepreneurs there are lessons for us all as we navigate our busy lives. What are the most important lessons?

I think it comes down to knowing what’s most important to you. If you take time to connect with those priorities and you honour them when you make the big and the small decisions you’ll rarely find yourself in a place of regret. Be brave. Brave enough to listen to your heart even when it’s saying something completely different from everyone around you. Brave enough to put down a boundary and learn say no to the wrong things so you can say yes to the right ones. Brave enough to wait when the next step isn’t clear and be open to something wonderful unfolding. 

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Elizabeth and the book’s illustrator, Gail Jones of Starkeys Lane. Photo – Cathy Pyle

The Bach Flower Essences and botanical illustrations feature heavily in your book. How did they come about?

Gail Jones of Starkeys Lane and I had been playing around with the idea of a set of Bach Flower Illustrations for another project, but I hadn’t considered them for The Empowered Entrepreneur. When Fiona Humberstone, who designed the book, came up with the concept of a botanical alphabet to add life and detail to the pages, I was so excited and Gail was our first choice. Her work is absolutely exquisite and her attention to detail and commitment to getting them just right made her a real joy to work with.
Rather than an alphabet, I was keen for the illustrations to have deeper meaning, so I chose those that represented themes or elements within the book. With a couple of exceptions, most of them are of the trees and flowers of the Essences developed by Dr Edward Bach in the early 1900’s. I use them for my own emotional awareness and as tools in my work. 
I had already introduced Gail to the remedies and, as it was winter when she began her work few of them were available to sketch from directly. I lent her books and she sourced images from which to work until spring brought about the buds of the elm, beech and wild rose that she was then able to paint from in real life. 
Gail painstakingly blended and matched colours to get just the right greens and tones and sent initial sketches and drafts to Fiona and myself. The style of these illustrations is all together looser and more flowing than that of Gail’s own stunning botanical alphabet collection, so it was a lovely process of creative play that resulted with the illustrations as they are today. 

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Gail meticulously matched the paint colours of the botanicals.

What’s the secret to a happy life and what makes you happy?

Oh gosh, that’s the million dollar question isn’t it? I’m still a lifelong philosopher on a journey, so I’m not sure I’ve got the one right answer. Maybe that’s it you know, find your own way. You can’t go far wrong if you stay on your authentic path.I do believe that if we all take time to connect with what’s most important to us and ask the question ‘how can I use that to be of service’?’ then happiness is never far behind. I think it’s important to remember that ‘happy’ is just one way to be in a myriad of expressions of the human experience, and they are all beautiful.

What are your plans for the future?

Things are changing for us at home from January which will give me a little more space for the business, so I’m excited about that. I am holding a retreat in spring next year and, all being well, will get back to offering them two or three times a year. I’m also teaching on retreat for other groups a fair bit and look forward to doing more of that too. I have some lovely clients overseas so I’m planning to visit them when we can too; working face to face is always a joy. There’s plenty of space for opportunity and possibility and to go where inspiration leads, so the plan as always is to stay tuned in, hold the vision and trust the process. 

Find out more about Elizabeth’s retreats and events via her website.
For further info about The Empowered Entrepreneur Book click here
Follow Elizabeth and her journey over on Instagram.