Focus on Intentions: Mental Health Awareness Week

by Tobias Esdar, Health & Safety Partner at Kames Fish Farm

12th May 2022

I have reached a stage in my life where I feel that sharing some of my experiences may help others facing their own challenges in life. Every journey has a start and I think to better understand my journey with mental health I need to take you back to the start.  In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, here is my story…

Since I was born my life has revolved around the ocean. It has largely shaped who I am today and undoubtedly been the root cause of many a high and low point in my life. In my early years the ocean was pure play. Surfing and fishing took up much of my free time, if not all! But as I matured into early adulthood, I started to better understand the realities of life and realised that I needed a job to finance my life’s ambitions. No problem. I was good at fishing and through a friend I landed my first job on a commercial tuna fishing boat. I was 15 at the time and battling giant tuna for cash was the perfect school holiday job. Commercial tuna fishing was never my end goal and I knew I needed to move on after school if I wanted to live the life I envisioned. No problem. Following completion of my school years, I begun law school and off I went to learn all about rules. I think my mother was more excited than me! Not long into studying law I was lured by the siren song and enrolled myself to attend Commercial Diving School during my uni holidays. The dream of travelling to exotic locations and filling my bank account with black gold was too alluring!

Before I could answer the call to adventure, I still had a law degree to complete. Much to the dismay of my parents, I dropped out of law school and embarked on the new adventure that was calling my name. I was 21 at that point and the call to adventure was stronger than any sensible reasoning.  I travelled all over for work… South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Namibia, Angola, Cameroon… not the typical tourist destinations. I loved it and don’t regret that period in my life.

I also soon learned that life is not all fun and adventure. During those parallel years, I failed exams, experienced a number of near-death experiences, dealt with corrupt government officials, workplace fatalities, missed family events as I was constantly away from home, financial problems, relationship problems, held at gunpoint, family member pass away from cancer, many other general failures, redundancy and eventually moving my life to a new country and starting a new career in fish farming.  

Things like stress, anxiety and nightmares became quite common. In other words, my mental health had deteriorated and I had to take action if I wanted a positive life outcome. Deep down I always wanted to be here for a good long time. We all go through difficult periods in our lives, but with the right tools and people to help us there is no challenge in life that we can’t overcome. Sometimes it’s hard to see the light when one is shrouded in darkness. Like the seasons, life is constantly changing and the key thing is to focus on maintaining that positive mental attitude.

And at last spring is here and it is unquestionably my favourite season of all. After a long winter, the warmth of the sun is revitalising and watching new life emerge always feels like a real-world biology lesson. I just never cease to be amazed by watching nature at play!

Biology was never my favourite subject at school, but I do remember reading something about genetics that is deep-rooted in my memory… and I wish I learned about this years earlier instead of being forced to memorise parts of a cell just to get through high school biology.

To my surprise genetics actually play a big part in our overall happiness in life. 50% to be exact. Now we could easily blame our genetics for being unhappy, however genetics only account for 50% of our happiness. The remaining 50% of our happiness is attributed to our circumstances and intentions. Circumstances account for 10% of our happiness, leaving 40% of our happiness down to our intentions. (ref. The Geometry of Wealth by Brian Portnoy)

We can’t change our genetics and circumstances change all the time, but we can influence our happiness by focusing on our intentions.

Stay healthy, keep safe and focus on your intentions!

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