“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” (W)
Hayley has an undeniable presence with her effervescent smile, and natural beauty. Yes, she has been genetically blessed! It is her inner self that resonates with people. Her compassion, and vulnerability. She has the ability to gently direct, helping leaders understand the importance of being a follower. She has what I call the “in-basket” effect. People wanted the opportunity to “connect” with her. She created a desire for others to have personal interaction, rather than leaving “stuff” for her in-basket.
She is a changemaker and motivator.
Through observation and conversation, she has taught me much.
Vulnerable yet strong.
Humble and present.
I feel blessed that I was able to bask in her shadow, and that we remain friends.
I always envisioned that one day she would hold a diplomatic role.
Who is Dr Hayley Watson?
I am a clinical psychologist, researcher, lecturer, and program developer and I am passionate about helping people find and cultivate their inner potential and inherent value. My Ph.D. focused on forgiveness as an empowering response to bullying victimisation, and I believe that inner openness and the courage to let go are the strongest assets within all of us. Most of my career has focussed on developing interventions for young people, and my specific passion is the work I do with teenage girls, helping them see their own incredible beauty and power. I hope that I can do my part in this life to help as many people as possible make the transition from fear to love – for I believe that this is all we can or need to do in order to change the world.
Tell me an accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career?
My most significant accomplishment so far has been establishing a private psychology practice in Sydney, Australia. My business partner and I knew that our psychology groups for kids and teens were really helping people and so we took a chance in starting our own company. We were so surprised at how successful it was from the moment we opened our doors, and I believe it was because we love what we do and we truly care about our clients and their growth.
What work have you done in your field, that gives you fulfilment?
I have been so lucky in my career so far in that I have been able to work directly with young people to help them overcome challenges and shift the way they see themselves and the world in many capacities-as a psychologist, mentor, keyworker, and program developer. I find this work so fulfilling, because I get to witness the unfurling of human potential and see the vast impact that feeling seen, cared for, and understood can have on the trajectory of a life.
Hayley’s reading list:
I have always loved books about developing the self, and currently most of the ones that I read are about spiritual growth and expansion. I find psychological growth can only get you so far as its focus is primarily in the mind, whereas more spiritual texts have a greater perspective in terms of getting past our ego and seeing things from more of a heart perspective. The other genre I am loving at the moment is historical fiction. I have always found history quite dry and boring but I knew it would be helpful to understand it more and I am excited to have found a way for the past to come alive for me.
We are “foodies”, list your current favourite foods.
I have recently gotten into making food from scratch, and I am currently obsessed with these homemade veggie burgers made of lentils, with a homemade pesto on top…so delicious! I have gone through a huge food transition lately as I discovered the negative impact that some of the foods I was eating had on my body, mind, and emotions, so while I love food just as much as I always have, my tastes have changed a lot. Now organic greens get me as excited as cake used to.
Do you recall, when you knew you wanted to be a psychologist?
I have always known I wanted to help people, and the first version of how I could do this came from my obsessive reading of crime thrillers as a teenager. The first job I was aiming for was to be a forensic psychologist – to “catch the bad guys”, but after my incredibly eye-opening Criminology degree at Simon Fraser University, I realised that the way to help suffering in the world was not to punish people who have hurt others, but to empower young people with the skills and tools to make choices that didn’t lead to a life of hurting others. It was at that point that I started looking at ways I could work within a healing capacity for youth. It was only after I started working in that area that I realised that becoming a psychologist would give me more ability and freedom to work in the way I truly wanted to work with youth.
Who inspires you, and why?
Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspirational figures to me because it was during his 27-year jail sentence that he changed his whole approach to himself and to his life. He didn’t wait for others to change or for his external circumstances to become better or more manageable. Instead, he used his challenges as an opportunity to open and let go and in so doing he became a beacon of peace and forgiveness for the world. This message is so profound to me because so much of our current world is based upon “getting what I want”. What Nelson teaches us is that whatever life brings our way, we can work with that exactly as it is and let it be the doorway into our own growth and expansion.
Adversity makes us stronger. Has there been anything you are willing to share that has helped you become the strong woman you are today?
Well the biggest adversity that I have faced in my life so far occurred when I was very young. My house was bombed with dynamite five times over a year and a half period when I was between 2 and 4 (I know that sounds crazy but it’s true!) So my whole experience of life as a child was riddled with fear. Going to bed at night only became a pleasant and relaxing experience as an adult – as a child it was a process of laying in bed terrified that my world would fall apart (literally) until I was too exhausted to keep my panicked eyes open any longer. So that kind of trauma was really a powerful experience for me in my growth and in my work, because it enabled me to become so incredibly familiar with fear, disempowerment, and confusion and in my healing of this experience (which is in many ways still ongoing) I have been able to gather such a rich knowledge and understanding of how to help people who also find themselves scared, disempowered and confused. So I am incredibly grateful for this experience because I would not be able to do the work that I do were it not for this direct experience to draw on.
You are a young woman, yet you are wise, and old soul. Addressing students entering university, what would you say to them?
I would say that the most important skill you can cultivate is the ability to listen to your own inner wisdom. You know exactly what is best for you, what path is the right path for your development, growth, and finding your place in the world. All you need to do is to become quiet and listen. I would highly recommend some form of meditation or mindfulness practice to help you on this path. It is only when we pause the busyness of life that we can begin to listen to what is really going on inside of us. So give yourself the space to find out what ignites and excites you, what calls you, and what fills you with joy and love. If you can hear that voice, you will find the courage to follow it, and if you follow it, you will gain the insight to let go of the outcome of what your life will look like – and that is when you are truly powerful. If we focus on what job we will have, what relationship we will be in, or what we will accomplish then we are stuck in our mind. But if we soften and open and simply take one small step at a time, moving closer and closer to our truest version of self, then we are living from our heart and that is where we are truly free and ultimately where we can change the world without even trying.
What does the next couple of years look like?
I am about to take a big career leap and leave my thriving private practice in Sydney, Australia to move to New York. My intention is to help and reach more people than I am able to working only as a psychologist. I am not exactly sure what that will look like but two ideas I have so far are to write a book on everything I think teenage girls need to know to become their most authentic selves (based on my work and my amazingly inspiring clients), and to create a podcast along similar lines. But I am not sure exactly what will unfold once I get there…watch this space!
Importance of mindfulness, please elaborate.
Mindfulness is in my opinion the single most important aspect of life. If we are not mindful, we are not actually present to what is happening. And if we are not present, then we are in a state of avoidance – meaning that we are creating more chaos for ourselves and others because we are trying to get away from what is really happening. We think we need to change things, fix things, or become somehow different than we are, when actually all we have to do is tune into what is happening right here and now. If we can make this shift to seeing and accepting ourselves and the world as we truly are, then all of a sudden the struggle is gone, and our actions arise from a place of love. So if we can be mindful – that is if we can pay attention to what is happening for us right now in this moment – our whole approach to life changes. So yeah, I think it’s pretty important
Hayley’s bucket list for travel:
I love travel and I still aspire to see as many places as I can in this magnificent world! The style of travel I am drawn to these days is to spend a longer period of time in one place – to really get to know the culture, people, and spirit of the place. At the moment I am feeling the urge to go back to Europe – I would love to live in a small Italian village for a while and learn the language. I would also love to spend some time in South America – a big dream of mine has always been to do a motorbike trip along the South/Central American coastline. Oh and I would absolutely love to hike in Nepal!