The Shift: Nudging change at The Merrion

Anna Mooney.

Change, challenges and the confidence to tackle them were the buzz topics at the Merrion Hotel Thursday past for My Second Spring’s Mastering Confidence workshop. ​Everyone in the room, it seemed, had a story worth sharing, and we tried to capture a few below.

Aisling Grimley – Write it Down

My Second Spring’s own Aisling Grimley told her start up story, and shared some thoughts on how to successfully make a shift at midlife.

Mags Clark-Smith – Take up more space

Mags Clark-Smith, whose own business Resolving Chronic Pain grew out of a personal family crisis, began by getting everyone into the “Power Pose”, urging them to take up more space – not less, as women culturally have been conditioned to do.

She then asked three questions – What makes me happy? What am I good at? What am I passionate about? Paired or grouped in threes, women turned to complete strangers and gave candid, intuitive, no-hesitation answers, designed to focus each woman on that sweet spot we all seek in life -  where joy meets passion and talent.

Fiona Hedigan – Big Scary Change

Fiona Hedigan’s response to being unemployed in early 90s Dublin  - "Feck it, I’ll create my own job” – pretty much sums up her attitude to change – she has skillfully segwayed from positions at the IDA to an escape artist hanging out in Florence, consultant to pharma plants and artisan cheese makers, from brand development with Avoca to her latest venture – Flora + Fiona, beautiful face and body essential oil blends. 

Nonetheless, this veteran brand consultant and mother of young-adults was very honest about the hesitancy she experienced at midlife – it was, as she puts it, “big scary change”. But her observation of the power of essential oils to address her own hormonal woes – joint pains, low energy, low confidence – over 5 years  - led her to the AHA! moment – that she could create a range of oils specific to menopausal issues.

Her advice for women similarly stuck?

Fiona's Essential oil recommendations:


Breffnie O’Kelly – Becoming unstuck

Breffnie O’Kelly moved the room with her candor about the personal challenges – financial, relationship, career -  that stalled her a few years ago and how she gently, one step at a time, made the transition from restless full-time mother to contented single parent and successful estate agent.

She recalls the problem common to many women in her situation: “I was stuck, very stuck. But to admit that meant I would have to do something about it, a very big thing that I didn’t feel I had the energy or confidence to do.  Then someone suggested I should look for the cure to the problem within the problem, so if my financial problems stemmed from property, then that’s where the answer  would lie. I figured, if I became an estate agent, perhaps I could at least sort out  the property problem.” So she went back to college, took work experience in a reputable estate agency “emptying full bins, vacuuming, anything to be useful”.

At every stage, she said, she was beset by doubt and nervousness – from picking up the phone to ask for her placement, to getting the keys to work in the doors of houses she was showing to prospective buyers.  Bit by bit, slowly, she settled in, found her feet, got her license – and her confidence.

Waters + Wild: Persistence and Belief

Joan Woods and June Housden had successful first acts – in fashion and music production respectively – before hatching an idea at a party a few years back, prompted by the overwhelming cacophony of competing fragrances the women in the room were wearing. 

That led to an adventurous collaboration and a new chapter for both.  Passionate about the beauty of their local area, West Cork, they set out to create fragrances that would capture the essence of this wild, pristine landscape. They decamped to Grasse, the French capital of fragrance making, where they learned their trade, but found the synthetic aspects of fragrance creation to be off-putting, and returned to Ireland to immerse themselves the study of aromatherapy for over two years, in the quest for a more organic alternative.

This January, their first trio of organic fragrances, Waters + Wild, the name borrowed from WB Yeats' poem, The Stolen Child, was launched at Dublin’s Showcase.

They hand-make their scents in an ancient stone barn using age-old traditions of perfume-making with a 21st century twist, and the delicate fragrances have found their way into one of France’s top organic supermarket chains.

Their advice to women starting out on this path?

Over to the audience:

Irish Times journlalist Hilary Fannin came along to the event and contacted us with her inspiring story afterwards:

“Something that occurred to me re creativity; three years ago myself and two friends of mine began a writers' group. We were all three over fifty, although we all had careers in the arts, none of us had had a book published. We focused simply on supporting one another through the pitfalls of negotiating a domestic and writing life. Within three years we had all been published by major publishers, all had second book deals and had variously been translated and nominated for different book awards. The other two writers are Michele Forbes (Ghost Moth) Maureen White (The Butterfly Shell) and I wrote Hopscotch. I'm telling you purely to give you an idea of how writing creatively and with support can reconfigure a life, at any age.”

Others shared their stories and reactions as follows:

“I was very interested in the stories told at the Merrion, since I, too, made a huge change in my life, leaving fulltime work with a multi-national to go out on my own. My daughter was eight years old at the time, and I felt I was missing her formative years. While I often wish I had found such great job satisfaction earlier, the reality is that without the years of corporate life, and the serving on so many boards (including many interview panels), I would not have had the experience that enables me to do what I do now. As the prophet says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity”. Late summer/early autumn can be a wonderful season!”  



“I was struck by the honesty and the openness of all the speakers. They were speaking off script, sharing the stories you don’t often hear from women who start businesses or new careers. I was really encouraged by their vulnerability, their doubts and fears, their nervousness and lack of confidence – and how they found ways around that. It’s a very common theme for women our age – lack of confidence - we seem to become invisible – to the world and to ourselves. Tonight, I got a little bit of that confidence back. It's comforting to know everyone has to work through being stuck at some point.”



“I thought it was a very powerful event – amazing women, incredibly supportive atmosphere, lots of ideas and encouragement shared. I woke up next morning really revved up!”


"Just wanted to say a huge thanks for last night's seminar Aisling. It was perfect timing for me as I'm looking to make changes in my career and like lots of women in their 50's I was lacking the confidence of youth smile  The speakers were truly inspirational and helped remind me of what I can achieve.  I'm going to make my 'list' now smile Thanks again and I look forward to more seminars in the future."


"Thank you so much for the superb organisation of last Thursday's event. It is my first occasion to come to one of the events, having discovered My Second Spring just last month (while searching for perimenopause!) and I was delighted to encounter such a lovely group. The line-up of speakers was most stimulating and I particularly enjoyed the first three (that includes yourself!). Mags' icebreaker exercises hit just the right note (during which I was pleased to get talking to your colleague Anna) and I enjoyed Fiona's sample sharing.

I don't have many female friends my age as I didn't grow up locally and in my job most women are a lot younger than me, so the meeting, in such a stylish venue and comfortably organised, was a great enjoyment and I look forward to more!"


"Hi Aisling, so glad I came along to the event last week - pressing a lot of buttons for me . Great work from you ... keeping us all on our toes!" Helen 

"I have been feeling low and quite lost. A friend suggested that I come to your event. I'm so glad I did. I got a great lift from the event especially from hearing breffnie's story which gave me hope and energy for the future. " Noreen 

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