Once Upon A Female: Clare Desira making happiness a habit one top five at a time


CLARE Desira laughs through the phone; it is infectiously light and warm like a hug.

Her happiness beams through her voice and her tone sounds at ease, content and connected with who she is.

“What makes you have a good giggle?” I ask,

“I laugh at myself. I try not to take myself too seriously,” she said.

Clare believes that happiness is a habit and it is this belief that is the foundation of the Top Five Movement, she is the founder of.

The Top Five Movement in essence is simple tools for a happier life.

Before we dive into the creation of Top Five Movement, with Clare, JSP discovered Clare has a connection to the Mackay Whitsunday region.

“I deferred university and went up there for the summer holidays to work and ended up deferring again and staying up there.

“I loved it and I did a lot of growing up. I grew up in country Victoria with people who were similar in backgrounds and when I was in The Whitsundays my eyes were open to people from all different countries. There weren’t too many Aussies working on the island.”

Clare said many of those on South Molle Island, where she was the activities and entertainment officer, were in “hiding” or “running away” and she learnt to be careful about the type of questions she was asking.

“Here I was this naïve university student up there for a good time not a long time and people were there to fly under the radar, they didn’t want to talk about where they had come from,” she laughed.

“(The Whitsundays) is such a special place,” she said.

In her early 20s Clare discovered the world of Personal Development and fell in love with the idea that a bit of space, time and tools could create incredible shifts that can change our mindset.

From attending that very first course, she joined a team and ran it, then started working on her own and facilitating workshops and after a couple of years she was directing that program.

“My love, interest and awareness of personal development as a concept was born. Since finishing university I have moved into the corporate world but kept really strong ties with the community and now I have my own small business, and every role that I have been in, has been working directly on behaviour change programs and programs that are giving people the space and time to think about where they are at in life and put some actions in place to make some change.

“It has been very exciting and the Top 5 Movement is a business, that is focused on that shift in mindset and positive thinking, people can be very dismissive of it , so I like to think of those practical mindset shifts, the small things we can change about our thinking that make a world of difference.”

A decade ago, Clare, at the end of each day began writing down the top five positive moments from her day.


She said it was a bit about gratitude but more about the little moments during the day. For example a nice exchange with someone, having a little win or getting to the train station and getting on the train with a second to spare.

“It is those little moments of luck that we all experience every day, but we can be too busy to notice sometimes.

“I do know from the research that I have seen that writing a list at the end of day of those positive moments and looking out for them during the day is one of the most instrumental ways to increase our happiness. It is so simple, like those moments, it would be easy to dismiss, but actually are really powerful.”

According to research Clare has studied, as people, we have 65,000 thoughts a day and 90% of those are repeated thoughts. They are not new thoughts, but ones we have had before that are on loop.

“They can also be thoughts that aren’t even our own, things that other people have said to us, that we have taken on board, for years, such as being too short to tall, to fast too slow, too good, not good enough, those types of thoughts that can be on repeat either consciously or subconsciously.”

Clare said that same research showed that of those 65,000 thoughts 65% of those are negative.

“If you have all of these thoughts repeating 90% and that natural disposition of the negative thinking, it only leaves a small window, 10% to add new thoughts every day and so for me, how I see happiness being a habit is, we have that opportunity every single day to add as many positive or neutral thoughts that we possibly can, because if we invest into thinking as positively as we can, see a brighter side or a different perspective today that will go onto repeat.”

And that is what the Top Five Movement’s Positive Thought Starter cards are designed to do.

At first glance they may look like a set of 50 question cards or quote cards, but if you pick them up, what they do is help you see the positive moments and helpful thoughts in all parts of your life.

“They prime you for positivity because if you don’t have an answer to one of the questions it doesn’t matter, but because you have planted that question in your mind you are more likely to be looking out for it.

“And what you focus on grows, part of your brain can really guide your focus and we can train it to see certain things, a simple example one of the cards is, What is your favourite smell of the day ? It usually gets a giggle from people but, and if people don’t have answer the next day they will really tune into their smell, and I have got calls and texts from people, I really smelled my coffee this morning or I noticed my colleague was having an orange and the smell was really beautiful and summery. People tune into and that is really exciting, we can guide our brain into and focus on what we would like to see,” she said.

While many of us find it easier to relate and speak about the negatives in our lives rather than the positives, it is refreshing that the Top Five Movement is breaking those barriers of negative talk and casting a more uplifting light to how we see the every day.

“Writing a top five every day becomes a routine exercise for your thinking muscles. Doing a set of five is really building those muscles and I can promise you they come in handy and are useful”.

Speaking with Clare about her belief in happiness being a habit and changing our mindsets, is very relevant to our society which, at present is living with many mental health challenges. The mental health of our country is suffering and it is important that we keep the discussion open, to helping those in our communities suffering with mental illness.

Clare said for a long time people spoke about health being the foundation for everything and when we spoke of health it was physical health, whether someone was sick or unwell.

“It is known now in Australia that 45 % of people are likely to be affected by mental health challenge in their lifetime which is huge.

“So if you are not affected yourself, there is no doubt that you will be touched by it, it really is the foundation, and your mental health really casts a lens over your life.

“If you are feeling really healthy and resilient what you see on a day-to-day basis and what you feel is going to be completely different if you have that dark lens or claustrophobic or fear lens all the time”.

Mental health is a topic very close to Clare’s heart.

Her brother is a returned solider who tried to take his own life.

Clare said he was medically discharged from the army after he served overseas and was back in Australia training to join the Special Forces and on his last parachute jump, the last thing he needed to do, he smashed his ankle into many pieces, which was the end of physical career in the army.


“Having to sit still, go through recovery and rehab and frustration, a lot of the things he experienced while he was just in operation mode, caught up with him, things that humans really shouldn’t see or be a part of.

“He tried to take his own life, he was unsuccessful, it was a miracle.

“I guess I share that story, because it is easy for people, when I am out there rattling on about positive thinking, mindset shifts, they might think they are different to me, but everyone has their challenges and life throws up lots of hurdles for us and it is inevitable.

“I talk about investing in your mindset and investing in positive thinking and resilience , your own mental health is important, so that when life throws us those curve balls we are better able to deal with those and for them to not be as consuming or a bigger hit as they could be.

“On the day we found out that he tried to take his life, I made mum and dad sit down with me and I made them write out a top five for that day.

“Some on that list were things like getting a car park right in front of the hospital; it was the lady at the hotel, who could see that something was going on and as a family unit that we were distressed and gave us a late checkout.

“Tiny little things where people were looking out for people and how much weight that had, or what positive emotional energy that brought to us.”

Among the ever change landscape that is our mental health and mindset Clare believes along with writing a top five breathing is an important tip when trying to remain positive in life.

“Don’t forget to breathe and centre yourself and your breath again.

“I think we try to over complicate happiness, often, there is an industry built around it, so many things we

need to do are simple. Never underestimate taking time out and taking five big deep breaths, eyes closed or open, it can be dynamite.”

Along with breathing making sure you stay as present in your daily lives as possible is another important step to making happiness a habit.

“The words be mindful and be present are thrown around a lot and what does that actually mean?

“I think it is easy for people to picture going and sitting on a yoga mat at the beach to be able to meditate, but for me if I am feeling scattered or overwhelmed and I have a lot going on, or I just need to centre back on what I am doing, I just breathe and talk myself through what I am doing at the time.

“For example, it might be I am doing a load of washing, or I making dinner for that night, I can just breathe and the only thing I need to do is chop up these carrots”

And Clare’s final tip for creating positive vibes in your life is to keep a list handy of all the things you enjoy doing if you have 5 minutes, 15 minutes or an hour. She suggest to write freely and don’t think too much about it.

“If you are feeling out of sorts there will be something on that list that will give you some positive energy back, just the little things like putting on a song having a daggy dance around the house; going for a swim or calling someone, or taking the time to write a card to someone you haven’t connected with for a while, these are the tiny things that fuel you.It is a resource you can draw on when you need it”, Clare said.

For more information visit www.topfivemovement.com

Photo Credit: Alex Carlyle