When psychology researcher Jeffrey A Kottler asked people to tell him about a major transformation they'd made that continued to the present, most people had a quick response. Try it yourself and see whether something comes to mind—an experience you had, an insight someone shared with you, maybe a book you read—that grabbed you by the shoulders and guided you toward a new direction.
“The vast majority of cases occurred after recovering from a challenging or even traumatic event—the death of a loved one, a major failure or disappointment, a crisis or catastrophe, a relationship or job ending, a threatening illness or something similar,” Kottler writes in Psychology Today.
“It is precisely these strong emotional reactions that can act as a catalyst to increase motivation and commitment,” Kottler continues.
Why wait until life knocks you square in the jaw? You can develop your emotional awareness anytime you want, according Mary Beth Janssen, trained by Deepak Chopra and health and wellness consultant to this month’s Healthy Hairdresser sponsor, PARODI Professional Care.
Most commonly called “mindfulness,” the state of paying attention to your mind/body/soul connection makes healthy change available to you, Janssen explains.
“Really, we’re talking about habits,” Janssen says. “When you’re changing your habits in any of the typical areas—deep healing, creativity, commitment, integrity—it requires mindful awareness.” Janssen says often the trigger for seeking change is as simple as a need to reduce stress, which frequently points people toward meditation.
“Health is not just the absence of illness and infirmity; it’s a state of wholeness—mind, body and soul deliciously connected in harmony with each other rather than in opposition to each other,” Janssen says.
It was a diagnosis of high cholesterol that launched Emily Climer on what she calls “my healthy journey” while she was still finishing high school and simultaneously enrolled in cosmetology school. “I was your typical high school kid,” Climer says. “I wasn’t taking care of myself.” Not wanting to put a teen on medication, Climer’s doctor advised her to try lowering her cholesterol through diet and exercise.
“I went on a low-fat diet, and I started working out three days a week,” says Climer, now a stylist and colorist at A Perfect Hue, a salon in Henderson, Nevada. “I lost 15 pounds in three months. Then I added weight training.”
Climer discovered kettlebell, a sport that challenges athletes to use techniques to lift weights for as many repetitions as possible in 10 minutes. She has been successful in competitions and continues to build muscle and pursue this passion.
As she learned more about fitness and nutrition, Climer partnered with her boyfriend, who has a strength-training background, to launch Healthy Pair Lifestyle on social media. The initiative offers followers high-protein recipes and general health advice. Climer now appreciates the cholesterol awareness that moved her onto unexpected paths.
In 2011, Stephen Posta received a more urgent diagnosis—thyroid cancer that had spread to his lungs—and has been battling the disease ever since. After seven surgeries and intensive radiation, he’s following up with chemotherapy.
Posta, co-owner of Dyer & Posta Salon in Kennesaw, Georgia, says a clean diet isn’t the most significant change in his life. Cancer has turned him into a health advocate, and he says he’s grateful to be in an industry that reaches so many people with information.
“I’m a big outdoor sportsman—I kayak, ride motorcycles—and this has made me enjoy life more because, well, you never know,” Posta says. I think I’ve changed other people’s lives, too. My story opens people’s eyes to the possibility that this can happen to anybody. Be aware, do your research and go to the doctor when you’re not feeling right. You should have blood work done every year, even if you’re healthy.”
Posta focuses on being positive, and his wife has observed that he’s become more spiritual. “I have a great support group around me of family, mentors, clients and my team. I won’t let cancer control my life that way, he says. “I’m going to be the person I’ve always been, push through and fight it.