It is a great pleasure to have Shannah Kennedy for our ‘Behind the Book’ segment. For the unknown, Shannah is one of Australia’s foremost strategic life coaches. She works to transform her clients’ careers, wellbeing, and lives. She is the bestselling author of The Life Plan, a wellbeing specialist, keynote speaker, workshop facilitator and media contributor, and a wife and mother of two. Shannah lives and dances with chronic fatigue syndrome and depression and is committed to living her best and most energetic life based on her values and commitment to authenticity. Her latest release Plan B is your roadmap to finding happiness once again.
When did you decide on writing Plan B? Was there a redefining moment when you felt you must write this book?
Shannah: Plan B – A guide to navigating and embracing change, came to me at the beginning of Melbourne’s first lockdown in early 2020. I woke up in a sweat and had a real “Gerry McGuire” moment when I had to get up at 3am and the whole book came to me. I got out of bed and wrote the introduction and chapter headings in 2 hours and sent it to Penguin. I had just had all conferences that I was speaking at cancel for the year and knew the chain of events to follow. I have been coaching people through the change road map for the past 20years, and it was time to put it into a practical guide that could serve as a lighthouse for those experiencing change.
There’s so much that a reader can take away from this book, but I wish to know what has been your biggest takeaway while writing Plan B?
Shannah: My biggest takeaway in writing Plan B was to organise the journey into a simple structure for myself, and the reader. Having experienced change for myself and navigating Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Depression over the past 20 years, I know all too well the cycle we go through when we cannot control everything. I really enjoyed putting all the pieces together in such a simple and practical format and including stories from not only my own life but from those who I have coached over the years.
You wrote about the reality often being a lot kinder than the story we tell ourselves. How do we tame our Monkey mind and bring its focus on reality? Especially during a pandemic where it can wander through all the negative bubbles.
Shannah: Yes, the mind needs a program. It needs instructions or it takes off and does whatever it feels like. Training the brain with positive affirmations, treating ourselves like we would a best friend and speaking to ourselves like we would to our best friend is such an important skill to master. We are too harsh on ourselves which robs us of joy in life, and where our focus goes our energy flows, so we need to be quite mindful of what we are focusing on.
How different was the writing process for Plan B in respect to the other books that you’ve written so far?
Shannah: Incredibly different. I wrote Plan B in lockdown. I hired an Airbnb 1 km from my house as we had a 5km limit from home, had 8pm curfew at the time and my children were homeschooling and my husband was working from home. I knew I had to write the book and get it out of my head as quickly as I could, so I went to the Airbnb for a week and wrote for 12 hours a day and really absorbed myself into it with no distractions at all. I had the blessing of my husband and children who encouraged me to go and write and do it properly without stopping and starting.
We all face various forms of adversity and loss in our lives, and it can blindside us. What advice would you give to someone who is experiencing a crisis or a loss?
Shannah: Change can turn our lives and our dreams upside down. Whether you faced redundancy, dealt with a break-up, been in an accident, lost a loved one or had a health scare, or faced lockdowns etc in the pandemic – our ability to navigate through the change process and create an alternative plan will be the key to our future happiness and our ability to cope.
Firstly, when blindsided, we need to stop and breathe, feel the pain, and name it. We need to then develop an immediate survival plan and understand the grief cycle (which is in the book) before we can start the healing process.
This book is a big hug to many of us but even more for people struggling through Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Is there a message you want to convey to them on retraining their mind and being hopeful?
Shannah: Yes, I wish I had this type of guide 20 years ago when faced with a debilitating disease that turned my life and career upside down. There was no hug, no advice, no solutions, and no guidelines. I worked with a coach to train my mind, to set very small minor goals each day and to believe that I could recover slowly with consistent mental and physical actions.
Mental health and wellbeing skills are not taught at school, so this book is full of the small solutions, that are not overwhelming, that we can all do when we are ready. And perhaps and I acknowledge that CFS was my gift and is my gift, as I am a much more present human being because of it, and I had to tame my overachieving personality to become a much healthier version of myself.
What are your hopes and plans that this book could rightly achieve?
Shannah: I hope that this book becomes a lighthouse to so many people at any age and stage of their life. Every human being goes through this journey, and now there is a map, a guide, a lighthouse, to help you navigate feelings, emotions, grief, healing and resetting yourself.
I hope that this book is a hug, is an educational tool, that schools and businesses give to students and employees as a book for life as an act of a culture of care and teaching life and mental health skills to the community.
You acknowledge your diagnosis with CFS as a gift of learning that helped you embark on a beautiful journey of Plan B. Is there anything that you wish to change in that journey from then to now?
Shannah: No, I see it as a gift. I cannot do everything I want to do as my body will not let me, however rather than get angry and frustrated, I choose to focus on what I can do, what I am grateful for, and self-care is now a part of my life. Burnout is not pretty, not inspiring, so it gives me great joy to teach these skills so people can have longevity in their career and enjoy their personal life at the same time.
What is an ideal day in the life of Shannah Kennedy like?
Shannah: I start with making my bed and moving my body. I love being out walking when the sun is coming up, as the day is so fresh, and I feel like I have achieved before the day has even started. Then I write in my 5-minute journal, eat breakfast, shower, and get the kids ready for school.
I love to coach people in the mornings until mid-afternoon and then spend an hour or two working on a project or presenting to teams, or groups, and teaching the life and wellness skill sets that are most relevant for today.
I always finish work by 5pm so I can have some downtime, enjoy dinner with the family – this is my sacred family time – dinner, with no devices or television, just discussions about our day and how we are feeling. We have done this since the kids were very little, now they are 15 and 17.
I like to then spend half an hour getting ready for bed, washing my face, teeth, showering, writing in my 5-minute journey what I am grateful for and what went well that day, and then enjoying a show on TV before getting to bed by 10pm.
Who gets to read your books before anyone else?
Shannah: My team at Penguin and my friends who are wordsmiths, who read and give me honest feedback. My mum proofreads my books and looks for spelling mistakes and grammar which is a wonderful way to include her in the journey of my books.
When you’re not reading, writing, coaching clients, or taking care of your family, what do we see you doing?
Shannah: Walking, doing some nice meditations, dancing around the house with loud music (such joy), and visiting friends. I don’t mind a small shop once and a while also!
Just last question, what are you working on next?
Shannah: I am developing vision board kits that will be launching in December 2021. These are beautiful kits with 80 images, words, quotes, and a workbook for all people to assemble an inspirational vision board for their home, bedroom, or office. How to bring our dreams and goals to life in a pictorial format is incredibly inspirational and motivational. There are two kits – Career and Confidence and Health and Happiness which will be available in Kmart for Xmas. Exciting and I have wanted to do this for about 10 years!
Plan B by Shannah Kennedy was published on 20th July 2021 by Penguin Books Australia. You can purchase the book here.