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M. J. Ryan on Making Change Easier
Since some of our listening audience may not yet know who you are, would you please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am an expert on change, both change you want to create and change that comes unexpectedly. I've written many books on the subject, including AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For, This Year I Will…How to Finally Change a Habit, Keep a Resolution, or Make a Dream Come True, Attitudes of Gratitude, The Happiness Makeover, The Power of Patience, Trusting Yourself, and other titles. A member of Professional Thinking Partners, I work with individuals around the world and am the life-coach columnist for Health and a contributing editor to Good Housekeeping.
You are a great success. Because of what you've accomplished and where you are in life, what would you tell others to Inspire them today, regardless of where they are in their life?
You have a gift to offer the rest of us. The more you know what your talents are and what really matters to you, the easier it is to know where and how to offer that gift. The world needs what only you can give!
We all know that inspiration can change lives. Can you share a personal story of someone who inspired you and made a difference in your life or a defining moment or experience that inspired you or changed your life?
I've mostly been inspired to change from my own misery or mistakes. For instance, when my 14-year relationship broke up, I had to see how my anger was a contributing factor. That was not easy to face because I've always wanted to be a saint and owning up to the suffering I caused was very painful. But it spurred me to learn the neuroscience of anger and to begin to practice relating to my difficult feelings rather than exploding or suppressing them. I also was very negative and pessimistic until I decided to change about 15 years ago. I still can fall into that rut, but it's much easier now for me to look up. I'm proof that a person can fundamentally transform her outlook and become happier.
You make it look easy, but I'm guessing you've experienced challenges in your life. Can you share with our listeners how that has strengthened you to reach success? In other words, how do you overcome adversity?
When I was in my early 20s, I hurt my back very badly. Eventually I spent a year lying down. That was bleak—I was basically destitute emotionally and financially. Looking back 30 years later, however, I can honestly say it was one of the best things that ever happened to me in terms of lessons learned. I learned patience, acceptance, to believe in a positive future even when it didn't seem possible. I learned that some gifts come wrapped in sandpaper, which has enabled me to search for the gift in the other challenges I've faced since then.
Everyone has ideas on how to improve their lives, whether it be a new job, moving to a new city, or finding love, but change can be a bit scary sometimes. Can you please share an experience with us where you "stepped off the ledge" with only faith, and took a big risk, based only on your belief that you would succeed?
In the late 1980s, I started a book-publishing company with my then husband with no money whatsoever. We succeeded with our very first book and continued to flourish for 14 years until the downturn in the book industry, which happened around the same time as our decision to sell the company. I'm not a big risk taker so I was terrified. It helped that my husband was very confident. I would never have done it without him. I also did it with a bit of a safety net—first I worked at it part-time while holding a full-time job. I'm not afraid of hard work and can't tell you the number of years I've worked seven days a week. I'm not sure I even want to figure it out!
That risk enabled me to truly become an entrepreneur and I've now been self-employed and making it up as I go along for 20 years.
How can others do what you did?
I think each person has to understand what talents she has and what kind of support she needs to take a risk. And don't forget a safety net!
What process, steps or exercises do you recommend that our listeners could do right now and each morning, to improve the quality of their lives?
I like this very simple happiness practice of asking myself three questions at the end of the day:
- What am I thankful for? (This activates gratitude, one of the strongest uppers and resiliency creators there is.)
- What did I enjoy today? (This gets me paying attention to what I can savor in my life, another component to happiness.)
- What do I feel satisfied about today? (This gets me out of the endless striving to do more and do it better than before and focuses me on what I did well so I can continue to do well.)
What's the greatest joy in your life?
Helping people create lives of purpose and happiness and delighting in my daughter on a daily basis.
If you had to wrap up the wisdom of your life to leave as your legacy—call it YOUR BRILLIANCE—what important things that you've learned would you want to pass on to others?
How to understand, nurture and support the flowering of the uniqueness of each human being.
If you had just one more thing that you could accomplish in your lifetime, what would it be?
Such a big question and I don't want to sound pretentious. Honestly I have no idea. My way is to open myself up to what is presented from the outside world and respond as well as I know how.