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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
I like this very simple happiness practice of asking myself three questions at the end of the day:
Helping people create lives of purpose and happiness and delighting in my daughter on a daily basis.
How to understand, nurture and support the flowering of the uniqueness of each human being.
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.
M.J. Ryan is a member of Professional Thinking Partners and is recognized as a leading expert in change. She specializes in coaching high-performance executives, entrepreneurs, individuals, and leadership teams around the world to maximize performance and fulfillment. Her clients include Microsoft, Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Hewitt Associates, and Frito-Lay. She bases her work on a combination of positive psychology, strengths-based coaching, the wisdom traditions, and cutting-edge brain research. Her new book, titled AdaptAbility: How to Survive Change You Didn't Ask For was recently published by Random House’s Broadway Books. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and daughter.