• "With every knock that comes, you build strength, wisdom; you build clarity around who you are, who you want to be, and who you don’t want to be." (Flickr)Source: Flickr
Fitness trainer Michelle Bridges turns to her own personal set-backs to dispense advice on how to live your best life.
Caitlin Chang

7 Mar 2016 - 2:58 PM  UPDATED 7 Mar 2016 - 5:12 PM

It’s hard to give advice without the life experience that goes with it. Which is why, taking just one look at Michelle Bridges, and you can feel pretty comfortable knowing that her health and fitness advice is ‘tried and tested’.

But what about advice when it comes to career, family, relationships or your personal life? That’s what the personal trainer offers up with her latest book Make It Happen: Live Your Best Life. Her 12th release, there’s no meal plan or 12-week fitness program in sight as Bridges, 45, draws on her own personal stories to motivate readers to achieve their goals.

“People love to connect. And they also love to connect to other people’s stories. In most of my books there are anecdotes or stories I’ve had with clients, contestants or people I’ve worked with. With this one I’ve decided to put a lot more of my own personal story from my teenage years all the way through to today,” she tells SBS. “There’s a fair chunk of me in there, from my lessons learned. I’ve never written a book like it before – it was very challenging.”

Some stories in the book are deeply personal. Bridges shares one account of experiencing a sexual assault at 18, and her decision to tell her story in a magazine interview four years ago. She writes in her book:

“I recall facing my attacker in court and thinking, ‘I am not going to let you get away with this’, so I talked about it in the interview, in the hope that other women would find the courage to bring issues like this into the open.”

Bridges admits there were times during the writing process where she struggled to share stories like these, but it’s her personal investment – and her candid account of these life experiences - that resonates with her many followers. “There were moments where I thought, ‘that’s a bit of a tough story, but I’ll go there’,” she says.

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If there’s one recurring theme to Bridges’ success; it’s resilience. Throughout the book she shares stories of being bullied in school, career set-backs, and the occasional heartache. “I’m a big believer that with every knock that comes, you build strength, wisdom; you build clarity around who you are, who you want to be, and who you don’t want to be.”

According to Bridges, self-belief is what built her empire, which has seen her help Australians lose over one million kilos with her 12 Week Body Transformation Program, and become one of BRW’s richest self-made women in 2015. “You’ve got to be ready for it, you’ve got to want it, and you need to have what I would consider a fair whack of self-belief. That’s when amazing things can happen.”

There were moments where I thought, ‘that’s a bit of a tough story, but I’ll go there.

Having a strong sense of self-belief is easier said than done, so what’s her advice for people who lack the confident to push themselves out of their comfort zone? Whether it’s a lack of self-confidence or practical restrictions like work or family commitments holding you back, Bridges suggests looking within your community for support. “Go back to the strength that’s within your culture, because it’s there. Go back to the self-belief of your community and culture, and use that as a form of finding inner confidence, or that inner power, to move yourself forward in a positive way.”

While the advice in Bridges' latest book is packaged up neatly into easy-to-follow toolkits, giving birth to her son Axel in December 2015 has taught her that not everything in life is within her control. And she’s certainly no longer moving at the same lightning speed as before. “Everything feels a bit different and looks a bit different when I’ve got Axel in my world,” she says. “There’s no such thing as [work-life] balance. So I’ve had to make adjustments that I am more than happy to do. I may not get as many things done as I had in the past, and that’s A-OK.”

Make it Happen: Live Your Best Life by Michelle Bridges is published by Penguin; $34.99.

Image courtesy of Flickr/ Geraint Rowland