Women Following their Dreams # 9 Ellen Jackson, Founder & Principal Potential Pyschology

Ellen Jackson

It’s time again for another interview as part of my Women: Following their Dreams series.  Today we are talking with a truly inspiring and motivating in more ways than one woman, Ellen Jackson. If you are new to this series, my aim in doing it, is to, once a month or so, introduce you to women who all have one thing in common, they have been brave enough to put an idea into action.  Even more than all the food on this blog these are my favourite posts to do and read.  It’s all about supporting women and showcasing talent, achievement, skills and ideas.

Maybe you might be inspired by one of their stories, maybe their story will strike a chord with you, maybe what they are doing is something that you would like to do too, maybe you will find a new interest, talent, idea or realise that these woman are just like you and me. So grab a cuppa and take a seat and see where this series might take you.

Introducing the delightful Ellen Jackson…

Ellen Jackson

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I live in Ballarat in the beautiful Victorian Goldfields with my partner Pete, our two boys Michael, 8 and Hamish, 5, one enormous black cat called Johnny and four chooks. I was born and raised in Melbourne. After school I went to Melbourne University where I completed a Commerce degree with a Psychology major (an unusual combo back then) and went to Monash University for a year of postgrad psychology. I headed to Sydney aged 24 for work and adventure and lived there on and off for 12 years. I worked primarily in consulting, initially for an IT firm as a ‘cognitive engineer’ (making websites user friendly back in the day before most people knew what web sites were!) then moved into corporate HR, then back to consulting.

When I was 27 I remember sitting in my office and imagining my life in five years’ time (an exercise I now use with my coaching clients). I knew instantly that I didn’t want to be working in a corporate environment. I wanted a family and I couldn’t see myself juggling that with long hours in an office and the travel that went with consulting. I decided that I would have greater work flexibility if I gained my full qualifications and registration as a psychologist so I pursued yet more study including a Masters Degree in Coaching Psychology at the University of Sydney. This was a brand new course at the time and it has really paved the way for my current work as a coaching and positive psychologist.

I left ‘employment’ altogether in 2002 to try my hand at working for myself. I figured I would try some contracting and stick with that until I needed to get a ‘proper job.’ Potential Psychology Services was born and almost 15 years later it’s still going strong. I’ve avoided getting a ‘proper job’ and doubt I could go back to working for someone else now.

We moved to Ballarat as a family almost four years ago.


A beautiful scenic scene of Ballarat


Why did you choose psychology and in particular corporate psychology?

My mum studied psychology at uni and as I grew up I realised that I shared her interest in human behaviour. I had to battle university administration to be allowed to do psychology within a Commerce degree but the combination really makes sense. Businesses and organisations are made up of human beings and human behaviour plays an important part in how businesses function, particularly as we become an increasingly service economy.

I was never drawn to clinical or therapeutic work. I’ve always been interested in how the ‘average’ human operates; what drives and motivate us, how we think and work and interact with one another. There was no particular area of psychology that really resonated with me until positive and coaching psychology came along in the early 2000s. Now there is this whole area of really exciting study and practice focused entirely on how we can improve the life and experience of the majority of people and how we can help everyone to flourish. That then extends to how we can create flourishing organisations and flourishing communities. It has really become a passion for me.

What made you decide to go out on your own?

It wasn’t intentional. My role was made redundant. I didn’t want to go back to corporate or an internal role and most HR/psychology consulting practices required an element of business development. I figured if I was going to build someone’s business it may as well be my own!

What have you learnt from setting up your own practice?

Ten thousand things! But probably the most important thing I’ve learnt, and the advice that I pass on to others when they ask is to turn up, do your very best, be adaptable and never burn bridges.

You have recently revamped your website and product offering, tell us a bit about what and why you have done this?

The new website is really reflective of the evolution of Potential Psychology. The bones of it are there but I’m planning to grow it over the next year.

Potential Psychology
My mission is to make psychology accessible. The internet and online world is making that so much easier. I started writing my blog two years ago and since then I’ve really been focused on how to use the online platform to share what psychology knows about making life better. That has led to online courses, coaching programs and sharing resources like tests and questionnaires via the web site as well as writing my blog (with a book in the works!)

Not many psychologists have really engaged with the internet and social media yet but I really feel that it’s important that we do so. The everyday person should have access to wellbeing, personal development and mental health resources that are reputable and well-studied by the experts in human behaviour.

Ellen Jackson

Ellen facilitating a session at a Yoga Workshop


Do you have any advice about working from home? How do you deal with family life and your professional life?
I’ve written a couple of blog posts about working from home: http://www.potential.com.au/new-blog/2015/6-big-tips-for-working-from-home and http://www.potential.com.au/new-blog/2015/work-from-home-hacks

I learnt early on, well before I had kids, that it’s important to set boundaries when you work from home and to treat it like you would any other job. I get up and dressed and ready for work in the same way I always have. I try to keep approximate business hours (9-ish til 3pm-ish anyway) and I try to limit my weekend and after hours work. When the kids are at school and preschool I work. When they’re home, I try to focus on being ‘mum’ and the household stuff.

Ellen Jackson Family

Ellen and her gorgeous boys


You work with people about putting their ideas into action and managing small businesses, do you follow you own advice? Also what is one piece of key advice you would give for anyone thinking of starting out on their own?

Everything that I do with clients I do myself; every questionnaire, every exercise, every activity. I think you need that level of personal experience to be genuine.
My key tip for anyone starting out on their own – in fact for anyone transitioning to anything new – it’s to spend some time getting to know yourself and how you operate. Psychology has so many resources for learning about your strengths, your values, how you like to work, how you get your energy, what motivates and drives you. You can then use this information to work out how you should structure your time, which activities you should do yourself and which you should outsource, whether you should work on your own or with others, which projects or clients you should take on and which you should avoid, what your business goals should be.

This isn’t something that is talked about often but it really can make or break you. If you can be clear on who you are and what you are trying to achieve and why it takes away a lot of the trial and error and increases the changes that you will be focused and energised and successful in your endeavours.

What is your families favourite meal?
We’re big taco fans and homemade pizzas are always a hit. I’m fortunate those all my boys are great eaters so we have a pretty wide repertoire of family meals.

What do you do in your downtime?
I maintain the nanna arts; knitting and gardening are top of my list. We like to camp and hike and bike ride as a family too.


Downtime with the family



What are you currently reading?
I’ve just finished ‘Confessions’ by Jaume Cabre. It’s over 700 pages long and weaves 500 years of European history into a really intriguing narrative. It’s a brilliant novel but I didn’t do it justice because I took over a year to read it! I’m now reading ‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’ by Nayomi Munaweera. It’s a fabulous novel set in Sri Lanka during the civil war and I’m really enjoying it.

Ellen Jackson quote


Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself today Ellen and your enthusiasm for positive psychology.  It shows we really can make a fundamental difference to our lives by working with our positives.

You can find out more about Ellen and her services from her website Potential Psychology, plus you can follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instragram.

If you would like to read about other entrepreneurial women in this series you may like to check out; Johanna May – Pilates business owner & instructor, Flavia Julius – Artist & Author, Katja Gaskell – Travel Writer & Website founder, Kim Spiteri – Designer & Blogger, Kate Reed – Sister Circles Facilitator, Coach & Author, Lauren Brown – Founder of Lollaby & professional nanny, Catherine Harris – founder of Party Pax, Kathryn Donaldson – founder of Growing Talent.

Are you inspired by Ellen today? Have you got a passion you are following? 

*disclosure I am an affiliate of the Book Depository which means nothing for you but if you buy a book through them by going through a link on BE&S I get a tiny commission that may keep me in coffee for a day or so!



16 comments on “Women Following their Dreams # 9 Ellen Jackson, Founder & Principal Potential Pyschology

  1. Amy @ HandbagMafia
    October 11, 2016 at 8:14 am

    Love Ellen- I’ve learned loads from reading her work!

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      She is very clever isn’t she and I love the practical implementation of her work.

  2. Natalie @ Our Parallel Connection
    October 11, 2016 at 9:36 am

    What a great outlook on life and being ale to share this with other people. I have not seen her work but will read more about Ellen now. Thanks Vic for sharing. #teamIBOT

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm

      My pleasure, I like Ellen’s practical implementation of the tools that really do work in everyday life.

  3. Karin @ Calm to Conniption
    October 11, 2016 at 11:50 am

    “I figured if I was going to build someone’s business it may as well be my own!” – this line had me sending Ellen a virtual fist bump! I love this mentality on people, especially women. Ellen is the utmost professional and it is great to watch her journey over the past couple of years. 🙂

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 1:02 pm

      I love that mentality too and I’m also loving watching Ellen’s business evolve and think she is really clever to utilise the internet in the way she is too.

  4. Michelle
    October 11, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    I love her positivity and yes these are my favourite posts here on your blog 🙂

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm

      Ellen has a knack of making good sense. Thank you for liking the series, I’m working out ways to do more of this type of thing in the future, thinking cap is on!

  5. Hugzilla
    October 11, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    This is a fascinating glimpse into Ellen’s life for me, particularly because I am an ex-psychology student (aka the psych drop-out). It’s almost a bit of a sliding doors thing, to see where in life that could have taken me. Hahhaha now I regret giving it the boot! Awesome woman, beautiful family – what’s not to like?

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 1:04 pm

      I know, she is awesome. I’m an ex-HR person so I find it also particularly interesting to see how she has morphed her career.

  6. JF Gibson
    October 11, 2016 at 1:05 pm

    Lovely to hear more about Ellen and her work. Very inspiring. I always wonder if I should have studied psychology – human behaviour intrigues me endlessly.

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      It’s fascinating and I think something that you can never stop learning something new about either.

  7. Maxabella
    October 11, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    She’s a lovely lady and a smart one to boot.

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 8:28 pm

      I wholeheartedly agree.

  8. Sammie @ The Annoyed Thyroid
    October 11, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I’m a big fan of Ellen, she knows what’s what!

    • Vicki
      October 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm

      That she does. I’m always learning something from her.

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