The other day I was giving a presentation and I started to cry. That wasn’t in the script. It just happened. I was talking about my brother Dr. Matthew McAlees and the difference he made in my life when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 melanoma ten years ago. His guidance set me on a path to where I am today… working to empower others to making healthy, healing changes in their lives. All these years later, that diagnosis is still the ‘why that makes me cry.’ I talk about the ‘why’ a lot when I speak to groups. I think it is critical to being able to make the changes in your life you really want but also to maintain them. We all have a ‘why’ that goes deeper than we sometimes want to look. Let me explain what I mean. If you want to eat better so that you can fit in a dress for your school reunion, chances are you will eventually gain that weight back. If you are dreading buying a swimsuit so you think now is a good time to act, chances are you will go back to your old habits summer is over. Dig a little deeper. The ‘why that makes you cry’ is what will sustain you when things get hard. It will keep you going, making an old boyfriend jealous won’t. And trust me, changing old habits is hard.
Reading labels, buying different things, learning what is toxic to your body… it’s a lot to take in. If you don’t know your ‘why’, stop for a minute and think about it. Really think about it. Beyond the dress size, what do you want from this life? Why do you want to make healthier changes? Here is what I know for sure. We all have a purpose. We are all capable of making an impact in this life. Sometimes our purpose screams out to us in a moment of darkness, amidst turmoil or chaos.. like it did for me. Other times it sits quietly waiting for you to be ready to hear it in the silence of your heart. But it is always there. You just have to be open to following it. When you are living your life with a purpose, it is much easier to shut out the negative noise that can cause you to stop making an impact that you were potentially created for. If you can step out of your comfort zone, face your fears and allow your purpose to become your guide, you can stand boldly and confidentially in all your decisions. Imagine how much less stress you would have if you filtered every decision through the lens of your purpose!
So how do you find purpose?
First, ask yourself what you are most interested in? What gives you real joy? Notice, I said what are ‘YOU’ interested in. This isn’t about what your friends or other family members think. Be prepared that not everyone will agree with you. You might have to prune some people or things out of your life that might not support your new mission. I absolutely know how that feels. But, guess what? There is so much more to offer on the other side. New and refreshing friendships and excitement when you step out and step into what you were truly called to do.
Next, give some thought to how you want to be remembered. In study after study, the happiest people are those who value something larger than themselves. Your purpose should serve people around you and enhance your growth as a person.
Then do something to connect you to that passion. Take action. The world will never change if there are not people willing to be vulnerable and stand for something different and unique. There is no room for fear! It’s time to face the fear and do it anyway. This is where real freedom and success begin.
OK. I know that last part sounds easier said than done. There are moments we all worry. But it’s important to limit the amount of time you spend stressing about setbacks. Accept that there will be some setbacks. Set aside 15 minutes a day to worry. Now that might sound overly simple but give it a try. In that time, write down everything that is bothering you then stop. Replace the negative thoughts with positive ones. Focus the rest of your time on what is good. There is good in every day if you practice looking for it. Yes, it takes practice.. EVERY DAY!
Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t able to do it right away. I encourage you to keep a journal so that you can look back from time to time and see how far you have come. Some research indicates that writing down what you are thankful for right before bed can actually help you sleep better. Being thankful goes a long way to easing any stress you may feel on your journey. Not only that, it will make you feel better. Practicing gratitude can actually boost your immune system and lead to stronger feelings of connectedness. And really, isn’t that what we all want? To feel truly connected to the people in our lives, the job we pour our heart and soul into every day, and the world in which we live.
Just be warned though, you might find yourself fighting back tears.