One sad, sorry Wednesday morning, whilst lying in bed scrolling through my Instagram newsfeed and ignoring the many alarms emanating from my clock radio, I came across a particular meme that stopped me in my tracks. It was an image of popstar Beyonce Knowles on stage, in costume, mid-dance move. Arms high above her head. The caption read, “You have as many hours in a day as Beyonce”.

I’m not encouraging everyone to become Beyonce, but social media was right. Beyonce DOES have the same 24 hours in a day as us mere plebs, and while I certainly don’t aim to be a pop culture phenomenon (or suggest that her lifestyle and music is for everyone), I do know that I certainly have 24 hours in my day to achieve amazing things. Just like you. Just like Australian pro surfer Sally Fitzgibbons. Just like my hairdresser Sarah. Just like my good mate Jen.

So what does it take to achieve amazing feats of excellence in the same 24 hour period as everyone else? What sets those that do apart from those that don’t? How do they motivate themselves through rough patches, how do they remain humble whilst still reaching for more? Five of Australia’s top athletes, Jessica Fox, Sally Fitzgibbons, Jordan Mercer, Ellyse Perry and Anna Flanagan, give us their inside scoop into their passions, inspirations and motivations behind who they are and what they’ve achieved.

1. They were all influenced and inspired by other people

Greatness doesn’t exist in a bubble. Sure, it ultimately comes from within, but without great role models or personal cheer squads in our corner, clamouring for our success, it can be a long and lonely road to where we want to be. Sally Fitzgibbons says top athletes serve as her inspiration, particularly Australian former Olympic track athlete John Landy. “He exemplified the meaning of hard work, determination and wore his heart on his sleeve”, Sally says. For Australian world champion slalom canoeist Jessica Fox, people who overcame obstacles to reach their goals serve as her inspiration. She cites Olympic Gold Medallist, Australian track cyclist Anna Meares as someone with tenacity and mental strength. “She overcame so many setbacks in her career to come back and perform in those major competitions like the Olympics”.

But it doesn’t always have to be people in your industry that influence and inspire you. Ironwoman Jordan Mercer draws inspiration from kids with special needs, thanks to her charity work with the likes of Noosa Seahorse Nippers, Surfers Healing and Paddle4Autism. She also draws inspiration from family, like her Aunty Jen.


Australian Women's Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan

Australian Women’s Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan



Australian Women's Cricketer and Footballer Ellyse Perry

Australian Women’s Cricketer and Footballer Ellyse Perry



2. They maintain a life that doesn’t always revolve around chasing their goals

Being goal-orientated is a great thing, in fact, it’s essential to achievement. But being a well-rounded individual is also important. It keeps you grounded, it keeps you sane. If you’re constantly chasing your goals without taking a step back and experiencing the joys the rest of your life can offer you, then what is the point of all this goal-chasing?

Top athletes are the same. All-rounder Ellyse Perry, who represents Australia in both cricket and football, maintains hobbies and goals separate from her competitive sporting life. “I study part time at uni, spend a lot of time at cafes, and love seeing family and friends”, she explains. Australian field hockey player and Hockeyroo Anna Flanagan is much the same. “I love blogging and writing”, she says, “But otherwise skateboarding and hanging out at the beach are where you will generally find me in my free time”.

3. They know the importance of staying healthy

We all know that life gets busy sometimes, and you might be too busy to hit the gym, or make yourself a nutritious meal, or hell, even just have a proper breakfast. But life is a marathon, not a sprint, and burning out due to stress or poor diet and inactivity is the quickest way to stop you reaching your goals.

Mercer is a big believer in food being the best source of nutrition, by fuelling your body with food that will nourish you, without potions or pills. Fox agrees, and stresses that fad diets and supplements aren’t always the best thing for you. “I really just believe in a balanced diet, and that you can get everything you need from a good diet. I tend to try and stay away from fads, and try and eat for my exercise”.

In fact, it’s a point echoed by Flanagan, too. “A healthy lifestyle is far more satisfying than constantly being on fad diets and yo-yoing with weight”, she says. “Exercise makes you happy, and is so good for your body”.


Ironwoman Jordan Mercer

Ironwoman Jordan Mercer


Slalom Canoeist Jess Fox

Slalom Canoeist Jess Fox


4. They are passionate about their passions

As you’d expect from top performers, their passions really are their passions. It fuels their lifestyle, it gets them up in the morning, it pushes them to try harder. This is how you should be with your passions, too. Find something you know will make you happy pursuing, and gets you going. Fitzgibbons says it’s important to see women loving what they do in life. “I’m passionate about seeing women radiating happiness, standing up for what they believe in and living their passion with confidence and pride”.

Perry knows that her passion for sports fuels her, with or without the accolades. “Even if I didn’t make it to the highest level, I’m sure I would still be playing sport, but from the moment I played my first game for Australia, I knew I wanted to make it my career”.

A healthy lifestyle is far more satisfying than constantly being on fad diets and yo-yoing with weight

Flanagan’s passion for field hockey grew when she represented the country at the Olympics, particularly as she was surrounded by other athletes at the top of their game. But it’s what you put into your passions that produce what you get out of it. “I truly believe that what you put into a career, you will get out”, she says. “I think good things don’t come easy, and it’s reminding yourself of what you want through the hard times”.

5. They know how to motivate themselves and remind themselves of the why behind their actions

Sometimes you set yourself a goal and then work towards achieving it, but then lose your path along the way. Maybe you needed to take a side step in order to go forward, or even pause for a while to train or retrain, or focus on your family or health. Whatever the reason, if your motivation is strong, you will continue on your path no matter what. “I always have my ultimate goal of becoming World Champion to motivate me and push me through those hard days when you are exhausted”, Fitzgibbons explains. “It gets me out of bed before 5am every morning to go out and work harder than the previous day”.

Australian professional surfer Sally Fitzgibbons

Australian professional surfer Sally Fitzgibbons

Perry also finds that just getting up and out is a step in the right direction. “I always find once you get going, it’s never as bad as what you thought it was going to be, and I always end up enjoying it”. Sure, you might not be a champion athlete, but this positive attitude can be used in any situation. Got a presentation you need to prepare for? Need the push to finally work on your resume for career progression? It’s the motivation to just get up and take that step that makes the difference between sitting still or moving forward, even just slightly. Fox definitely applies this mindset to her training routine. “The saying goes that the only session you regret is one you didn’t do”.

Remember also that your why is important. Why do you want to achieve this goal? What is it about this lifestyle that makes you so determined to strive for it? Mercer gives herself short-term and long-term goals to remind her that the hard yards she’s working through now will all be worth it in the long run.

The only session you regret is one you didn’t do

If you want to succeed in anything, be it in your career, your health or your finances, your determination to make it through the rough times are what’s going to get you to your goals. Fitzgibbons remembers clearly the advice given to her by tennis legend Martina Navratilova, “She told me that champions adjust. No matter what obstacles you are faced with, they find a way to be the best they can possibly be”.

All images courtesy of athlete’s promoters and used with permission. Featured image via Pixabay under Creative Commons CC0


EricaEnriquezPhotoErica Enriquez

Erica is a Sydney-based writer and digital marketer, and can often be found pounding away on a keyboard, writing about everything from travel, lifestyle, well-being and anything in between. When she is not writing, she is STILL writing, developing copy and content for websites and marketing collateral. Erica is passionate about film, literature and culture (high brow and low brow), as well as pro-social causes supporting cultural engagement (counting travelling as one of them). In her spare time, she loves nothing more than to curl up with a good book, go for a nice dinner with friends or spend time with her partner.



Recently at Leaders in Heels we got together for ‘Strategy Day’. It was a day to assess where we have been, where we are now and whether or not the magazine is headed in the right direction for us and for you. Our facilitator, Ozlem Beldan from the Spirit of Womankind kicked things off with an activity based on the key points from Simon Sinek’s famous 2009 TED Talk: ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’. We hope that by sharing the exercise and our results you will also be inspired by Sinek to challenge your everyday activities!

Sinek Who?

Before we jump into the activity we should introduce the man himself: Simon Sinek. The New York based ethnographer, (now speaker, writer, blogger and philanthropist and more), spent years studying the behaviour of leaders and discovered a common pattern that separated the average from the great. He realised that great leaders inspire action by promoting WHY they do something, not by selling WHAT they do. So he developed a simple diagram to explain this and called it ‘The Golden Circle’ – cue activity.

The Activity – The Golden Circle & the Golden Question: “Why do you do what you do?”
why how what golden circle Simon Sinek

” Most people can easily tell you WHAT it is that they do and HOW they do it, but struggle to understand and articulate WHY they are spending each and every day working on something

As per the picture the Golden Circle is made up of 3 rungs of seemingly simple questions to ask of yourself and your business:

  1. WHY do you do it? – The reason for existing.
  2. HOW do you do it? – Your USP or production methods.
  3. WHAT do you do? – The products sold or tasks you engage in.

What is your ‘WHY’

Sinek explains that most people can easily tell you WHAT it is that they do and HOW they do it, but struggle to understand and articulate WHY they are spending each and every day working on something. But as he repeats over and over to emphasise that the WHY is the most important question: “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!”. He stresses that leaders cannot expect to attract motivated staff members and businesses cannot expect loyal customers if they themselves are unsure of their purpose. This also applies on an individual level and to any aspect of life, as if you are unclear on why you are doing something, chances are it will soon become a chore and you will look for a way out.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it!

You can watch full Ted Talk below:

‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’

Our Results

We looked at this Golden Circle with regards to our roles at Leaders in Heels. Collectively we decided that the WHY behind this magazine is to empower, educate and inspire women to chase their dreams as well as to promote gender equality in the home, in the workplace and, ultimately, in society.

HOW we do this is by recruiting passionate women to be regular and guest contributors, connecting with like-minded organisations and entrepreneurs, and speaking up about contemporary issues facing women.

WHAT we provide is an online magazine that features articles on business, career development, inspirational women, gender equality and work-life balance. We also run networking events and foster an online community of women in business.

We also considered our individual motivations for working for the magazine, using the same three questions. Our Founder and Publisher, Kasia, explained that she was raised in Poland by her mother after her father passed away when she was just 13. Luckily her mother was a strong and confident woman and who taught Kasia that “a man is not a plan” and that she should speak up and ask for what she wanted. But after moving to Australia in 2008 she realised that this was not common behaviour and that her colleagues were continuously being overlooked for promotions due to unconscious bias, stereotypes, and worst of all, because they didn’t put their hands up. She says “I created Leaders in Heels because I wanted to dispel the limitations women put on themselves. My aim is to empower women to reach for the top and educate them on how to take control of their lives, finances and careers.”

Similarly, Yolanda, our Social Media and Community Manager, says that she is passionate about changing the ideas women have about themselves. She loves the happiness, inspiration and motivation that the site provides readers and devotes her time to making sure as many women as possible feel this.

Lifestyle Editor, Erica, explains her WHY as “being able to join my love of writing with helping women to be the best they can”, a statement that Leanne, our Chief and Tech Editor, identifies with. She believes that the stories she and her fellow contributors write for Leaders in Heels play an important role in shifting the thinking of what women can do in this world.

I agree with my colleagues and am motivated by my personal philosophy that the work I engage in should serve a greater purpose than just delivering me a pay check. Leaders in Heels is a place where I feel supported to learn and grow and also where I have the power to positively influence other women’s lives.

Now it’s Your Turn

This exercise was invaluable for us at Leaders in Heels, both as a team and individually, as it forced us to reassess our whole purpose for being. We have come out on the same page with a clear understanding of WHY we do what we do. I have personally also applied this to other aspects of my life, particularly when weighing up a decision, and it has helped me to focus simply on whether or not it is relevant to my goals at this point in time.

We couldn’t recommend this activity any higher, and just want to say “Thank you Simon!”

We’d love to hear how you go with the exercise, and ultimately WHY you do what you do! Tell us in the comments below to keep the inspiration rolling. And don’t forget to ask your friends the Golden Question!

Good Luck!

For more on Sinek:

  • Watch his TED Talks
  • Visit his Website (If you get stuck some courses are available to help you discover your WHY)
  • Check out Ozlem Beldan Spirit of womankind website to arrange a strategy day for your team