The tragedy happened to my daughter Tiffany, but affected me tremendously. During Tiffany’s traumatic experience, other crises also altered my life. For instance, I was in the middle of building a new home and just began duties as a first-time school superintendent. I enrolled in a doctoral program and traveled to a different city nearly every Saturday for three years. Meanwhile, I had a shoulder replacement, and my husband had back surgery. I started a new superintendent position at a larger district. My youngest son got married and his house burned down Christmas morning. In the meantime, I finished my dissertation, studied for and passed comps and orals. Soon after that, my father disowned me, and my oldest son fell and broke his back two months before his wedding. All of these events happened within a three-year time frame, during Tiffany’s recovery at my house.
My life revolved around an addict and my identity soon became “the mother of an addict.” Tiffany’s addiction seemed to consume my whole life. Some of the traits of an addict include lying, cheating, stealing, manipulation, verbal and physical abuse, and unemployment. When I realized I had assumed the role of the victim in Tiffany’s addiction, I escaped through reading inspirational and self-help books. The feelings of being victimized, helpless, and hopeless are what triggered my transformational journey to self-mastery. When I realized my transformation had been triggered by tragedy, I felt inspired to share my story.
Upon evaluation of my situation, I came to the conclusion that the pain I was feeling came from not living intentionally or with clarity. I also realized it was impossible to change Tiffany or my situation, I could only change the way I perceived my circumstances. The suggestions and techniques outlined in this book include the processes I practice to thrive, not just survive. I am now able to maintain a relationship with Tiffany without assuming the role of victim. My journey toward self-mastery allows me to live intentionally and with clarity in the midst of chaos.
The sparks from Tiffany’s near-death experience and life-changing events ignited my transformation and breakthrough to living intentionally. This major life event affected me so deeply it changed my perspective on life. Together my family was forced to reframe our new normal. I now view life from a different lens and celebrate every precious moment.
Throughout this period, I struggled with worry and depression as I experienced personal and family trials. Worrisome thoughts caused anxiety and panic attacks. I suffered for months, waking up at 2:00 A.M. in a panic. Most of the time I was awakened by worries of past experiences, I could no longer change. After worrying until about 5:30 A.M., I would finally get up to read or write. In order to prevent myself from succumbing to negative-thought habits, I would keep my mind constantly busy reading, writing, listening to inspirational talks, or working. My reading diet was a survival technique used to distract myself from the crises in my life.
I have been reading inspirational books for years. Throughout my life, everything I read was a refresher course in what I always believed and practiced. Certain concepts would stand out in my mind, depending on what was going on in my life at that time. My “AHA” moment emerged as a result of being immersed in literature. Years of reading formed the habit of reading, resulting in the practice of thinking about thinking. I finally arrived at a pivotal point when I had no other choice but to apply the principles I had studied. A full year of intense study of personal development provided clarity to the questions I should have been asking, which include:
What wisdom can I gain from this experience?
How can I find clarity in my life?
How can I live intentionally
The answers I was seeking lie in asking the right guiding questions. Thus began my search for clarity and intentional living.
Lying in bed with anxiety provided me the opportunity to practice all the thought-changing strategies I had studied. I struggled to act and not react to the circumstances surrounding me of which I had no control. With lots of practice, I have finally mastered the habit of thinking purposefully and shutting out negative worries. This intense practice has led to a transformation and breakthrough in my life. Thinking intentionally helped bring clarity so I could live intentionally.
I read and studied countless books that were uplifting, spiritual, motivational, and inspirational. The more I read and learned the more clarity I experienced. The more clarity I experienced, the more I lived with intent. As I read, I realized there were common themes emerging from all of the books I studied. As I applied this knowledge to my life, I felt a burning desire to share the emerging themes with others. Taking action transformed my potential power of knowledge to personal power. As I applied the principles and philosophies from the books I read, the more clarity improved my focus of the goals I would need to achieve in order to live intentionally. The contents I share in this book have empowered me to experience a personal transformation and breakthrough.
Clarity has cured me of being a control freak. I slowly progressed on my transformation to living intentionally, but it took a major crisis in my life before I was able to break through the barriers of the need to control and help others. This breakthrough did not happen in an instant. Looking back, the momentum leading up to the breakthrough consisted of approximately nine years. The actual breakthrough process was ongoing; triggered and accelerated by tragedy.
I do not wish a major life crisis on anyone, but if you do experience tragedy and you survive, you will never be the same person. At the climax of this life-changing crisis, I felt as if I would not survive. My breakthrough consisted of stepping outside of myself and the situation to assess the circumstances I could control and those I could not. In the midst of chaos, I realized it was impossible to control anything or anyone except myself. Relinquishing the need to control others or the situation allowed me to focus on self-control. When I was finally able to admit I could not control much less change another person causing the crisis, I felt enlightened and a burden was lifted off my shoulders. My breakthrough came when I realized I could only control how I perceived and allowed circumstances to affect my life. Fortunately, one of the benefits of becoming my own change agent is the clarity to live intentionally.
Another roadblock in my personal transformation was my need to help others. I took great pride in my ability to inspire, coach, and motivate others. I believed I had the gift of realizing the potential in others. I worked to help others see what they could accomplish. I lived vicariously through the success of others. Little did I realize that I was just avoiding my own painful need to change so I could realize my full potential. A paradigm shift caused an irreversible change in the clarity that empowers me to live intentionally. The transformation that occurred during my crisis gave me the ability to apply my new perspective to all areas of my life. What a relief to take responsibility for my own actions and not anyone else; I have enough work to do on myself to keep me busy for a long time. Was the zenith of my breakthrough visible to the outside worldly form of success? No, my breakthrough was a very subtle and humbling personal revelation yet very evolutionary and revolutionary.
There have been times in life when the pain of suffering was unbearable, and I believed my only options were to break down or break through. The suffering seemed endless because it was caused by factors completely out of my control. I felt that my problems were just too big to comprehend. Every breath was devoted to survival. I was slowly suffocating and it felt as if my spirit was slowly dying as this ongoing crisis seemed to consume me. The light of my spirit was dimming, and it was not an option for me to extinguish the light. Instead of playing the victim, I made up my mind to take action and change my circumstances by changing my perspective. Finally, I had to choose to either succumb to a breakdown or plan a breakthrough. I did not want to become a casualty to adversity so I chose to emerge a better, stronger person in spite of tragedy. I realized the “time in my life” when I was overwhelmed with trials was actually “my life.” Facing this moment of truth was the beginning of my transformation breakthrough. I had discovered the why which provided the fuel to endure the how.
I personally experienced the miracle of serenity that came, not from changing the circumstances around me, some of which I could not control, but from applying the principles of living intentionally. When I created a plan to break through the suffering and get on with my life, I asked myself why I wanted to move on. The answer was to help others transcend suffering when there seems to be no way to control the circumstances.
Numerous methods could be applied to changing my life, but before my life could change, my mind had to change. Being very spontaneous and impulsive, I used to believe I could not help what I thought. “I am not responsible for my thoughts because they just pop into my head,” I used to claim. Through self-control, self-discipline, and lots of practice, I eventually learned I could choose my own thoughts, and I could think intentionally. I realized that I can accept or reject the thoughts that pop into my mind. If negative thoughts fill my mind, I quickly replace them with positive ones. It takes time for this practice to become a habit. Intentional thinking is a constant endeavor, especially when I have trouble discerning which thoughts are helpful warnings or just useless worry. I constantly make choices that begin with my thoughts. My thoughts become my words and eventually my actions.
During a tumultuous time in my life, I was faced with making serious decisions with serious consequences. Separating the important from the not important decisions was one step toward living intentionally. For many years I had been saying I want to change, I really want to change. I really felt a strong desire for a better life, so I assessed my daily habits. What did I do every day? I came home from work and turned the television on and spent the rest of the evening “winding down” watching mindless shows. Once I became serious about changing my life, my motivation to improve my circumstances transformed into a burning desire. I knew I had to gain more knowledge in order to fulfill my potential. I turned off the television and enrolled in college.
I describe my enthusiasm to accomplish something as a “fire in my belly” or a burning desire. I get all fired up and motivated when I visualize something I really want to accomplish. Igniting that fire in my belly produces the fuel I need to work toward something bigger, better, and more fulfilling. The fire in my belly is the emotional fuel my thought impulses require to take action. Taking action is what initiates the transition from being to doing. In essence, the fire in my belly is the feeling experienced when living intentionally.
An abundance of basic fears exist, making it impossible to recognize its presence or its influence in my life. For example, the first year of my literature review in preparation for writing this book was very cathartic and therapeutic. Fear did not raise its ugly head until it became time for me to write. Analysis paralysis prevented me from writing as I was immobilized with fear. What was I afraid of? Criticism? Self-doubt? Failure? Success? I was paralyzed by fear which was mentally and physically debilitating. The only way I was going to get to the root cause of my fears was to finish what I started and confront my fears head on. I finally decided to use the power of fear to face my “what ifs” head on instead of avoiding my unnamed fears. This book will engage you in exercises to name the paralyzing fears preventing you from taking action toward your transformation and eventual breakthrough. Looming fears physically and emotionally paralyze you from making the proverbial leap to finding clarity and living intentionally.
Each day I strive to seek out the good things in life and celebrate the good days. Some days it takes longer and I have to seek harder to look for the good. My recent experiences have been like the darkness of the night, but ironically when life is dark like the night, I can see the stars more clearly. Looking back over my life, the times I showed the most growth and gained the most wisdom was during times of darkness and adversity. Those times were also when I received some of the greatest blessings.
I experienced the flywheel effect as I capitalized on the momentum built up over time while pursing my doctoral degree. I took advantage of the energy and enthusiasm that propelled me to finish the program and rechanneled all the energy into reading and writing this book. My spiritual strength never waned and actually increased as I conducted a year of book study which prepared me to write this book. I did not realize I had achieved a breakthrough until I looked back. Once I realized my momentum helped launched my breakthrough, I kept the flywheel going and completed this book. I had to apply the principles of clarity and intentional living to achieve my breakthrough.
One of the goals of this book is to inspire you to transform your dreams into reality. Why does it take so many years to have your dreams come true? Marriage, family, college, and career are all dreams that come true for you, but your subconscious mind will never forgot that little dream tucked away and trampled under by daily life. Your dreams never left, but are buried deep within you. The chapters in this book will prompt you to identify your dreams and evaluate your reality.
Based on the experiences of overcoming my own trials and tribulations, I have outlined a few simple techniques throughout the book that are simple and effective for living intentionally. You will always be faced with adversity throughout life. When confronted with a problem, you will search for a solution. When faced with an obstacle, you look for ways to overcome. The learning curve can be shortened when you learn techniques others have used to successfully overcome adversity.