How Turning your Life Upside Down Makes it Right Way Up

At times, you’re pushed to the edge. You have too much to do, only the urgent (instead of the important) things are getting done and your inner compass is broken, so you can’t find true north. Normally, at that point, the last thing you think you need to do is either take on more or turn your world upside down. But Irma Zimmermann discovered that was exactly what she needed to do, to reinvent her life…        

Irma was on the edge. But she wasn’t swinging her legs in a carefree kind of way. She was deep in thought, because something in her life needed to change. Despite a crowded life, she was acutely lonely… even when surrounded by people. Her many friends, family, home life, hectic business and numerous clients all demanded something from her, but she felt little was coming back to her, in return. Her life seemed empty. With no purpose or meaning.

Then there was her marriage. And the fact that depression had swallowed her husband. “Oliver and I had been happily married for 22 years, but we drifted apart, feeling disconnected and unable to communicate. In mid-2014, Oliver was diagnosed with depression. With three million people in Australia living with anxiety and depression, we weren’t alone, but it was a day-by-day battle.”

Searching for something to hold on to, became Irma’s mission. She turned her life upside down as she read, talked, listened and looked for the missing pieces and a way to keep her marriage and family together. “I’d come to a point where I thought my family may break up. And then I remembered Oliver’s counsellor had said ‘exercise is a great way to help fight depression’ so I started to think, how can I help Oliver get active?”

The answer (for both her and Oliver), came unexpectedly. It happened while listening to a talk by Peter Bains OAM – from Hands Across the Water – about the charity he founded in the wake of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Thailand. “I was intensely affected by the children who’d lost their parents – I imagined how lonely and vulnerable they must have felt. And in my circumstances at the time, I could clearly understand those feelings.” Impetuously she signed up to do a fundraising 5-day 500km bike ride across Thailand, to build a new orphanage.

“What was I thinking?” she later said in her You Tube Talk About Purpose, “Cycle for Your Life.” With no bike, no training, no time to fundraise, no money or plan for the trip, Irma set about making it happen. “The one thing I knew, was that cycling was Oliver’s passion. I had to find a way to connect. And something had to change.”

What changed? Irma. She’d realised that her purpose was to give… not get. And her epiphany was the catalyst for a new start, a way for Oliver to get active and contributed to the AUS$300,000 raised in 2015, for a new orphanage. But it didn’t stop there.

When she returned, she revived her connection with the Slow School of Business and signed up for their Talk on Purpose program. Ideal for Irma and her journey of self, the Slow School offers a ‘learn by doing’ approach – through courses, dinners, events and tailored learning programs – where everyone pitches in, learns something new and makes deeper connections.

During the 3-day Talk on Purpose course, Irma emotionally relived her purpose-driven ride across Thailand, and the lessons she’d learnt. “What about Oliver… me… and our family? Oliver is back on his bike. Our marriage and our family is back on track. And butt cream works!”

But the wisest nugget, shared at the end of her talk, explains how having purpose and meaning in your life improves mental and physical health, enhances your self-esteem and decreases depression – “What else did I learn? I learnt that action and activity is the antidote to loneliness. I also learnt that you, me and everyone can create change in their lives, by taking action.”

About the Author:

Di Mace is a freelance story-based brand copywriter, strategist and purpose-digger. Brands hire her to transform their meaningless messages into heartfelt content and stories centred on culture, customers and core values.

As a corporate marketer-turned-copywriter, she’s equal parts strategist and writer, so clever phrases aren’t all she cares about. She believes creating a brand that is meaningful to your ‘right people’ comes from knowing your purpose and that customer experiences fuel the legacy your brand leaves. Find her at

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