Going through a major life change? You’ll want to read this. Rachael Robertson enjoyed a successful career in PR, before seeing a newspaper ad requiring an expedition leader to the Antarctica. She took a leap of faith and applied.  After a gruelling selection process, Rachael was appointed.  What ensued was an incredible journey that she has documented in her book Leading on the Edge.

In the book Rachael describes her experience in leading a team of 18 strangers into the wilderness of Antarctica for an entire year through nine months of darkness.

Every single one of us faces life-changing decision points throughout our lifetimes.  At these times, it can be exhausting thinking about all the permutations and how the decision might play out. And we can drive ourselves silly with worry and concern. My strongest advice is very simple. Step away from the emotion and focus on the practicalities, it will help clarify your thoughts.

When faced with the decision to lead an expedition, and live and work in Antarctica for a year I followed these five steps. These enabled me to separate fact from fiction and focus on “why not?” rather than the “what if?”

1. Very few decisions in life are irreversible – so make some!
I wasn’t looking for a new job when I saw the advertisement for an Expedition Leader to Antarctica. I had a job I loved yet the ad caught my eye. Always look out for opportunities. Fortune favours the brave so be prepared to get out and take a chance. If you make the jump and you realise it was a mistake then make another decision. Very few decisions are irreversible.

2. Adventure is not without risk
Not every opportunity is worth taking and some are so good that we would be mad not to pursue them. But the hardest decisions are those where the risk and reward are both high and finely balanced. Ask yourself “what’s the worst thing that could happen?” to you, your relationships, your finances and then ask, “Could I live with that?”

3. Protect the tribe – so the individual thrives
The Emperor penguins in Antarctica have a unique survival technique. In summer they compete, but in winter they collaborate and share the challenges of this extreme environment. They protect the tribe so that each individual can thrive.

When you make a major life change, protect your tribe: your family, friends and community. They will keep you resilient should things get rocky. Keep your relationships strong and protect your tribe.

4. Seek out wise counsel
Speak to other people who have made a similar decision. Learn from their experiences. Before I left for Antarctica I spoke to Diana Patterson (the first woman station leader) and she got me thinking about things that hadn’t occurred to me yet.  Use the knowledge and experience of others to anticipate the challenge ahead.

5. Break it down
Sometimes a decision can seem overwhelming. Moving to Antarctica for a year sure felt like that. So I broke it down into actions and decisions I needed to take – in the next day/week/month. Making lists of actions to be taken including practical steps (writing a will, storing furniture) and personal needs (spending time with family & friends, buying new cold weather clothes) made the decision less enormous. I then celebrated those moments where I achieved the small things. Those moments created momentum and kept me inspired.

Everyone has their Antarctic decisions – a cross road where action must be taken before an opportunity is missed. Back yourself and remember it’s always better to regret what you did, than regret what you didn’t do.


Leading on the Edge by Rachael Robertson, published by Wiley, RRP $29.95. Visit www.rachaelrobertson.com.au.