We have interviewed 17 very accomplished women from around the world to get insights into achieving goals, daily routines, life advice and more. Thanks to all of them for their time and energy in sharing a part of their life, experience and thoughts on what women need to know.
Dr Monica Borschel is a Clinical Psychologist at the Mindnlife clinic in Central. She attributes her success to providing an open and safe environment to guide clients through the healing process. She enables them to find balance by better understanding themselves and others using attachment theory, meditation and positive psychology. She is available for a private session in Central or via Skype. Call 2521 4668 or email email@example.com for inquiries or bookings. doctormb.com | Facebook @drmonicaborschel | Instagram @mborschel. Photo by Kalok Ng
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? Success means something different to everyone. For me it means having a feeling of fulfillment in my career and personal relationships.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self what advice, would you give yourself I would tell my younger self “Don’t take yourself so seriously.”
If anything was possible. What would you sacrifice your life or current wellbeing for? It is never a good idea to sacrifice well-being. My life is far from perfect, but it is a part of my journey. Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and grow.
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10? Any tips for the rest of us? I am hyper by nature. I schedule my day down to the minute. Time management, exercise and sleep are important so that I have the energy and organization to get things accomplished. If I feel overwhelmed I take a day off to relax so I can come back stronger. When we push ourselves past fatigue we become burnt out and our energy levels drop.
Any favorite quotes? “We can judge our progress by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers, our willingness to embrace what is true rather than what feels good.” – Carl Sagan
What does you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? People should listen more to each other and spend less time on their cell phones.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Currently, I am trying to find balance between my career, the gym and my relationships. I am overcoming this challenge by being patient with my mistakes and myself and re-evaluating my schedule on a daily basis. You often hear people say they are too busy, but it is really a matter of priorities.
What question do you wish more people would ask you? Can I have a hug?
Any books or resources you recommend? 1) The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success – Kevin Dutton. 2) The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT – Russ Harris, Steven C. Hayes
For your work you deal with people on some serious issues around loss and attachment, also holding group meditations and talks on relationships, stress, body image, women’s issues etc. – if you know anything to be true what 3 bits of knowledge would they be.
1. The darkest, most painful moments of your life are the best opportunities to know yourself and to evolve as a human being.
2. Love and appreciate the ones that you have on a daily basis.
3. Everyone wants to be loved, appreciated and understood.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? The most important part of the day for me is the morning. It is the most challenging for me because my brain does not function properly. If I can stay organized and focused in the morning, the rest of my day will be smoother.
Is there anything you cannot live without? Coffee, boxing and love.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? When I am absolutely overwhelmed and boxing and meditation are not working, I call my psychologist. He helps me to gain perspective from an outsider perspective without judgment.
What message generally do you think is given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That a woman’s main role in life is to be a mother. Men and women should decide if they want to take on the role of a parent. It is the most difficult and important job in the world. It is not to be taken lightly, and requires deep commitment.
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? That women are just as capable as men in careers and leadership roles.
What do u wish you did more of in a day and what do you wish u did less of? I wish I spent more time with the people that I love and less time commuting.
What is the worst advice you see or hear given in your trade or area of expertise? That cognitive behavioral therapy can cure any psychological problem. There can be deep wounds from trauma, loss and abuse that need a different kind of care.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? My education
What in your life are you most proud of accomplishing? Things that I never believed I would ever be able to accomplish.
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Can you dig a bit deeper on any women’s issue that keeps coming up for you in your profession, and your thoughts on it? Feelings of low self-worth come up quite often. Women are often socialized to look beautiful and feminine, and to put their needs behind others. It is important to be healthy and to have proper hygiene in order to feel good about your self, but women do not need to look like super models, as it is an impossible standard. When people put their needs behind others they become resentful. Feelings of low self-worth might lead to depression and anxiety.
What is your spirit animal and why? A horse, because it’s always working
Who inspires you? Most people inspire me. Personal narratives of overcoming hardship captivate me.
Best health advice to women or girls? Remain balanced both physically and mentally. When you are out of balance physically, you become mentally foggy and down. When you are out of balance mentally, you become physically ill.
If you could put one thing on a billboard would it be. You got this.
What is your message, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? You are exactly who you are and where you need to be at this moment. Don’t be afraid to question yourself and others.
Tanya, also known as Pirate, has been living and working in Hong Kong for over a decade. She is a full time artist, who specialises in fashion illustration and live events. She discovered trail running 5 years ago and now spends all of her spare time in the mountains. Her favourite climb in Hong Kong is Mount Butler, and she’s currently training for her first 100mile ultra. www.piratetb.com | Facebook @piratetb | Instagram @piratetb
You’re a successful artist and runner. What do you think of when you hear the word successful? My immediate response is to rebuff the notion that I am successful. I have certainly been lucky in terms of the opportunities I have been offered for my work and at races, but I am a long way off achieving my greater goals. This is especially true in running.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? I would tell myself to be kinder to my body; to rest more and to eat better foods… and to drink less alcohol!
What do you do to bring your productivity levels to a 10. Any tips for us? I am absolutely excellent at procrastinating! I have taught myself to be a productive procrastinator though… Don’t want to tackle that deadline, head out for a 20k training run instead; don’t feel like going running, sit down and sort out the accounts; Don’t want to tackle the laundry, head to a coffee shop and sketch for a few hours. That way, I get stuff done but I feel like I’m rebelling against my responsibilities.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to? I would credit my family and friends first and foremost. My dad has supported my dreams of working in fashion and being an artist since I was a kid. And, running long distances takes a lot of time away from your social calendar. Without friends who understand your commitment and passion, it wouldn’t be at all possible. Not only do my friends have a huge understanding of my training schedule, they also come and meet me on races, pick up my sweaty ass from finish lines and keep me motivated on my race group chats.
Next, I would certainly attribute stubbornness to helping me achieve some of my goals. In work, it took me over 8 years to get to the point where I could work full time freelance doing the job I love. In running, without stubbornness, distances like 50, 100, 150 kilometres are just not possible.
Lastly, I like to think that I am someone who doesn’t take life too seriously. At the end of the day, I paint pretty pictures and spend stupid amounts of time in the mountains. If you can’t have fun doing these things then you miss the moments that make them worth remembering in the first place.
Hardest thing you have currently done to date? Quitting my day job is up there, alongside running Pulag 100 (a 112k mountain ultra in the Philippines). Both were equally very traumatic but rewarding.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? I think there should be more compassion for others, I worry that we are evolving to be very selfish. I definitely could be contributing way more but I try to put in where I can; either by adopting an ugly old cat no one will take, or working with wonderful children’s charities like the Sovereign Art Foundation. I think that there should be less tardiness. I cannot fathom how people do not have have ability to be on time, I don’t understand how that works!
What challenges are you currently facing and how are you trying to overcome them? In my art, I’m looking to expand my business and my practice. I’m trying to secure a bigger space and as we all know, in Hong Kong rent is prohibitively high. I’m trying to overcome this by sharing a space with other creatives, which should also help to evolve my practice. It’s a wonderful thing, to be able to share ideas and collaborate.
In running, I have signed up to a race next summer with a team that is a lot faster than me, and being able to run 100k at the speeds we are aiming for will take a lot of training and dedication. I am coached by Andy Dubois of Mile27, and if I pull my socks up and follow his advice to the letter over the next 8 months, I might just be able to keep up!
What part of the day is most important to you and why? I used to be a night owl, and now I have grown to love early mornings. Maybe it’s an age thing, or maybe it was born from the necessity of having to train at sunrise to beat the summer heat. Either way, I really enjoy being awake when so many people are still sleeping and getting a head start on my day before lunch.
What do u wish you did more of in a day and what do you wish u did less of? I wish I did more painting and creating. I find it comes in bursts and it’s very hard to be creative when you’re ‘not in the mood’. I’ve learnt through having commercial clients with deadlines, to overcome this to an extent, but I still tend to cram painting into manic bursts. I wish I watched less netflix, it’s not teaching me anything productive to binge a tv series, but it is nice to switch off occasionally.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? I recently volunteered at a race and borrowed my friends camera to shoot the runners on the course. I took 450 photos and they were all blurry (!!), but it was exciting being out there capturing people from the very first runners, to the back of the pack-ers. So, I have invested in my very first ‘proper’ camera and am trying to learn how to use it, it’s my 2018 resolution.
What’s one of your best memories? Probably every finish I ever cross. More often than not, there are moments during a race where you are unsure that you will make it to the end. Physically, it is hard, but it’s usually your mental game that determines if you DNF (did not finish) or not. Crossing the finish line is affirmation that you overcame your negativity and self doubt, dug in and got on with it. It’s a really, really, really, good feeling.
What is your spirit animal and why? A Cat. They sleep and eat all day long, love having a cuddle but are also fiercely independent, and they are constantly curious and going on little adventures.
Who inspires you? So many different people inspire me in different parts of my life. My friends Tiffany and Lindsay inspire me by running big companies and raising small children, and yet still somehow always having time left over for their friends. My friend Dervla (interview below) inspires me by being immensely dedicated to launching her new business about health and wellness retreats. My friend Brenda inspires me by trying to change the world a little bit, through promoting recycled textile thread that also helps the communities in their supply chain. All of the women I run with in our group called HOTH (Hot On Their Heels), inspire me with their training, dedication, race efforts and their career pursuits. I have so many other amazing female friends, mentors and role models. I feel very lucky.
What messages are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That we are not as strong as men, that we are not worthy of being paid the same, and that we should not shout and push back against these messages in case we give the impression of being ‘crazy feminists’.
What messages do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? That we should lift each up and support one another and that the future is getting much brighter for women and the goals that they want to pursue.
Can you dig a bit deeper on the women’s sports industry and the way it’s portrayed – is it going in the right direction? Hong Kong’s health and fitness scene continues to grow, and there are new female focused businesses, events and races are being introduced. The overall message seems (to me) to be trending towards a focus of strength and performance, over achieving an aesthetic goal. I think this is also driven by the rise of social media and women being able to control their own message. It is changing the way women are presented, and how they are consuming sports. I think the downside to this is the lack of official accreditation required to become a Instagram fitness star, and I think that women should take the time to educate themselves on the science surrounding their chosen sports.
Best health or lifestyle advice to women and girls? Find something that you love to do, and do it because of the way it makes you feel. If it is uplifting and it’s something that you will look forward to doing, then it will never feel like a chore. Surround yourself with other like minded people who like to do the same thing and you will find yourself part of a community that constantly inspires you.
What do you think women need to know in 2018? I think women in 2018 need to know about more influential women. It’s my personal goal next year to meet more women whom I can learn from; to share content about influential women in sports and the arts (and of course the many, many other areas of interest); and to try my best to be a positive role model to the young women in my life, such as my niece and my Goddaughters.
Currently living in the UK,
Olympic Rower womens 4x & 8+,
2011, winner world cup double
2016 euro champs – gold W8+
2016 world cup silver x 2
Rio Olympics – W8 silver
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? I think of someone who’s contented in what they’re doing with their life, whatever it is. Someone who’s chosen a goal and is putting all their energy into it. Success is a work in progress and not an end goal.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? Care less what other people think, and have a little more trust and patience that things will work out. Great things have happened to me by being open to opportunities and seizing them when they come, and not fighting for something that doesn’t feel right.
What would the older you advise to your current self? If anyone knows this information please get in touch.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now? ‘Discovering’ rowing for the third time. I tried it when I was at school (middle island!) and wasn’t too fussed, and then for a few weeks again when I was 18 (training sessions were too early!) and then for the third time in my twenties. I fell in with a really good group of friends, and it was this that kept me going initially. About a year later I realized I loved the sport. Some things take a while to grow on you, and that’s OK.
What do you do to bring your motivation levels to a 10. Any tips for the rest of us? Have short term goals as well as the long term ones. Targeting an Olympic Games 3 years ago feels too overwhelming, and it’s hard to see how that individual session is going to make an impact. Thinking about that session you want to improve next week, and suddenly you can appreciate that pushing yourself today will help.
What is needed to take your life to that next level e.g. going from an ‘ordinary person’ to being selected for the Olympic team? Olympians are ordinary people! Believing that is the first step I suppose. Being exposed to people who had already been to the olympics, and seeing that they had weaknesses as well as strengths, just like me, made me realize it would be possible if I put my mind to it.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to? A very supportive family. It’s a bit scary, emotionally and financially to commit to sport. At all levels in the UK the pay isn’t very good, and knowing that they would be there for me if it all fell apart was invaluable. A coach – he helped me train when I was studying medicine, and believe that I could beat the girls training full time. He’s since said he wasn’t sure I could, but at the time I believed him, and that’s what I needed!
Any favourite quotes? Calm is a super power.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of? More time to be outside. Living in a big city at a competitive job means there isn’t much time to be outside, exercise, enjoy seeing friends and family, everything is crammed in back-to-back. Everyone should work a four day week. I think they’d be more efficient anyway. And happier. Less plastic would also be good.
What challenges do you currently face and how are you trying to overcome them? Not rowing! Exercise can be a bit of an addiction. Finding a balance where I can commit to my work, but at the same time spend enough time training. I feel as though I need it for my mental health more than anything, but it’s tough to fit it in sometimes.
Any favorite books or resources you keep coming back to? I’m not a big one for motivational books! I like a good novel. I loved ‘cutting for stone’ recently.
What part of the day is most important to you and why? The morning. It has to be for a rower. It’s peaceful, the day is ahead of you and you get to drink coffee.
What do you do to stay grounded or help yourself to reset when life is getting overwhelming? I love to cook. I find it really therapeutic.
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That being weak and a bit helpless is something desirable. Having said that, I think the world is changing (in the UK anyway), and strength and bravery in women is becoming more sought after attributes. And that men’s sport is more interesting to watch!!
What message do you think is given to girls and women today that you agree with? That they can do anything they put their mind to. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by strong women, in rowing, and in medicine where over half my cohort are female. There is very little perceptible difference in the way men and women are treated in the workplace. Women are sometimes the tough ones and men the ones with the greatest empathy. The stereotypes go out the window and I love to see it in action.
What’s one of your best memories? Has to be the Rio Olympics, two days after our final. We went on a food tour of the city. We’d just won an Olympic medal, and I was eating delicious food in an amazing city with some of my greatest friends. It was wonderful.
What is the worst advice you see or hear given in your trade or area of expertise? That you need to be aggressive to get ahead. In sport it’s all about being relaxed and powerful and calm at the same time. It’s the same in most walks of life.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve made? My flat in London. I love it and it grounds me.
What in your life are you most proud of? My wonderful friends and family.
Coffee or tea? Coffee all the way.
Can you dig a bit deeper on women in sports – is there anything not happening you wish would? More women in sport on TV and in the media. The more people get used to seeing women do incredible things, the more young girls will be inspired to do so.
What is your spirit animal and why? Sloth. Very few fast twitch fibers…
If you could increase or decrease the amount of something in your life what would it be? Increase the amount of time I get to spend with my niece. She’s amazing and growing up like a beanstalk. Decrease the amount of chocolate. It is a weakness.
Who inspires you? Patients I see battling long term conditions. Sometimes they can make the Olympics look like child’s play.
Best health advice to women or girls? Eat enough fat! The healthy stuff. It is very old school to believe that fat makes you fat. It doesn’t. It makes you feel full, gives you energy, and stops you eating other crap.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what will be? I’m hoping that’s still to come. I’d love to make an impact on healthcare somehow, but not sure how at the minute!
What is your message to, or what do you think women need to know in 2018? Be brave and let yourself be vulnerable at the same time. The world is changing for women, jump on the bandwagon and bring your male friends along with you. The more they see strong women, the better. Every little bit counts.
Mira Rai is an Ultra runner and Salomon athlete from Nepal. She is a Nepali village girl turned world-recognised mountain runner. Having the opportunity to compete around the world against the best ultra runners has recently led her to win the National Geographic Adventurer of the year award in 2017. Instagram @mira.rai | Facebook @mirarainepal
Portrait Photographed by Sanjog Rai . Instagram: @sanjograi
What do you think of when you hear the word successful? I think it is being able to express your unique gifts or talents in best way possible.
If you could go back in time and visit your younger self, what advice would you give yourself? I had a lot of struggles to overcome when I was young, and I think I followed my heart and worked very hard to be what I could be today. However, if I meet my younger self, I would tell her to study sincerely. Education is one of the most important tool for girls.
How much time are you now spending in Nepal vs other parts of the world? Half of the year I am spending in other parts of world. I go to Europe during the world championship season and same for other countries. I go for competition or some important projects where I am invited.
What are 2 things you want to accomplish in the next 2 years? I want to compete in more races worldwide and I want to develop trail running in the grassroot level in Nepal. I want to support other talented runners to have opportunity to compete worldwide.
Have you had any defining moments in your life. What were they, and how did that impact your life looking back on it now. I was about to go to Malaysia to work and my Karate guru stopped me and provided me opportunity to train for athletics. In three months, I participated in my first ultra race conducted by Richard Bull Sir in Kathmandu. I had no idea about ultra running then but winning that race in Kathmandu was my first moment which defined my life till now. That was about four years ago.
With all your amazing accomplishment so far what 3 things would you credit them to?
- My father’s mother, grandmother used to say that girls are cursed. She was a young widow to 3 children. She had a lot of hardships and she was very afraid of struggles that a girl in poor family will have to endure. I wanted to change her beliefs.
- My grandfather regretted a lot during his last years. He used to tell me stories of the opportunities he missed and encouraged us to take and make the most of the opportunities. So I learned about taking whatever means possible to manage my life and earn for my family too at an early age.
- Respect for the people who gave me chances. I had determination and will but if my Karate guru Dhurba Bikram Malla, Trail Running Nepal founder Richard Bull sir, my friends and family wouldn’t have worked hard behind the scenes to make me this platform, I would be nothing. I think now I have responsibility to keep up their faith in me.
Any favorite quotes? There used be a line in a nepali song, when I was growing up, I used to listen to it and it used to motivate me a lot- it says, “Jungle bhauney cheli haru, himal chadne aat garanu.” It means – Girls fascinated with jungles, be more ambitious to climb the mountains. I think it still gives me an adrenaline rush.
What do you think there should be more of and what do you think there should be less of. There should be more girls in the leading position in any field. There should be less corruption.
What are you working on right now? Any projects or goals? I am figure head for Kathmandu Trail Race series happening in Kathmandu. It is a race series of 10 short distance races around stunning landscape of Kathmandu valley. It is to encourage more people to experience trail running as a beginner or be appreciative of the rich trails we have in Nepal. It also aims to recognise the talented athletes in Kathmandu. We have piloted the 2017 series and conducted 9 races already. Finale is in January. By far, we have made about 1000+ participants run in all 9 races combined. I am organiser for Bhojpur trail race to encourage trail race in my own village with children especially. There is another project we are thinking for creating jobs for female ultra runners as trainers and roles in race organising and running camps. We will pilot it in 2018.
How has running changed your life? It has changed my life completely. I come from nowhere and I was struggling for survival. I was taking up any jobs to support myself and family. Running has given me opportunity to not only make a living but also be recognised all over the world. Girls tell me that I am their inspiration. I get to compete with great athletes worldwide. Everyone used to tell me that there is no career for girls in running. In Nepal, no one gives importance to sports and no one thinks especially a girl can sustain a career like that. I think my winning and name has changed a lot of ideas regarding this sport. I have got an opportunity to change the mindset of my people back home and also encourage other talented athletes to take up what they love the most.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you disagree with? That Girls and women cannot do well in sports. That they should be sitting home and taking care of the family and children and farms. I think women are very very resilient creatures. We can do anything we set our mind for. I think women make better leaders too. We need to make our way.
What message do you think are given to girls and women today that you agree with? I can see a lot of girls rising these days which makes me happy. Winning competitions make me stand with some great athletes and leaders who have broken the traditional mindset of the people. I get inspired with many other great women who have become my friends too. I agree that girls can be whatever they want to be and they can go as far as they want to go.
Did your life change at all after winning the National Geographic Adventurer of the year award in 2017? My life had already changed in 2014 for myself. I didn’t know what National Geographic was. It was a 45 day competition! Winning it was a life changing event in a big scale for me and for the trail runners of my country. Actually everyone who voted for me for so long! I think it was something which changed everyone’s perception about Nepal and Nepali athletes. It was a huge win for me and those who had faith in me. I was invited to the photo shoot of Outside magazine which was celebrating top 10 women in adventure from all over the world! That was a once in a life opportunity for me. I never thought of it!
What is one thing you couldn’t live without? Running. My training. A day without running is a life half lived for me. I am addicted
What in your life are you most proud of? That my survival struggle has given me so many roles to play. Struggles and taking up opportunities in desperation has brought me to best place I never imagined in my life. I was a farmer, a chilli pakoda seller, a rice seller, a child soldier, karate player, and now an ultra runner known worldwide!
Coffee or tea? Tea. Black tea
What is your spirit animal and why? Deer. It is so light in its movement. It is so graceful and can go anywhere.
If you could increase or decrease the amount of something in your life what would it be? Increase: my training and study time. Decrease: the number of interviews I have to give or events I have to go to attend in my country.
Who inspires you? Dhurba Guru for making me secure enough with house and food and opportunity to train in Kathmandu. I was absolutely no body and going to Malaysia that time. Richard sir for changing my life. He worked days and night to raise funds for me, provide me english education and introducing a platform for me to race in international championship. I think the self less hard work and support of these people inspires me the most. I wish I could do the same for other less privileged gifted people.
Best health advice to women or girls? Exercise. Not just running but take up any activity that pumps you up and makes you sweat for sometime in a day. It is very important for girls to take up physical activities to keep themselves strong.
If there is something you wanted to be remembered by what will be? Best world renowned ultra runner from Nepal.
What is your message to, or what do you think girls and women need to know in 2018? Be more ambitious. Do what you want with your full heart. Strive to be the best in what you do. Support each other.