My life has been an interesting journey that almost ended abruptly.
I grew up poor. My father committed suicide when I was nine. I was molested as a child. The first time I had sex, I was raped. These stories became what fueled me as an adult. I wanted to design a life completely different from my childhood—and I did.
After working my way up the corporate ladder, I started my own company and grew it to over a million dollars, within 18 months. I wrote a book and got it published, then I became a sought after conference speaker. For all intents and purposes, I was successful.
I looked happy—and I thought I was. I had achieved everything I wanted.
Yet, it still wasn’t enough.
It seemed that it didn’t matter what I achieved, I always had to raise the bar and achieve more. I couldn’t stop to appreciate any of it.
When my company hit a million dollars, I set my sights on 10 million. When I got onto the speakers circuit, I set my sights on becoming a highly-paid keynote speaker. When I got published as an author, I set my sights on the New York Times best-seller list.
Work, work—and more work.
But then it caught up to me—in March of last year, I had two minor strokes.
I was told I had a 60 percent chance of a having full stroke within a year—one which would either incapacitate me or kill me. My neurologist told me to slow down, or my body would force me to. And that’s when my journey to happiness began.
I found myself at the crossroads between success and happiness, with a choice to make. I could either be successful, or I could be happy. But I knew—I couldn’t be both.
I chose to be happy, but I knew it wouldn’t be a painless journey. I would have to eliminate all of the bullsh*t in my life.
I started a period of deep introspection to find out who I really am, and more importantly, who I wasn’t. I had to let go of all the roles I had ascribed to myself—mother, wife, CEO, speaker, author. Those roles couldn’t define me anymore.
There was too much pressure to be a “great” mother, a “great” wife, a “great” speaker, a “great” author. I realized that “great” would never be “great” enough. I had to look at myself in the mirror and love myself without any of those labels.
I had to let go of my attachments—money, success, status, achievement, loving and being loved—and to everything I believed to be true.
I had to let go of my aversions—dealing with my past, my father’s death, my molestation, my rape. I realized that while I felt like my trauma didn’t define me—it had, in fact, defined me, and it would continue to unless I faced it head on.
I had to let go of my mask. I saw that I was wearing a truly thick mask, pretending to be what I wanted to be—what I wanted people to think I was—but what, in fact, I never was.
I had to let go of my marriage. I understood that it was a relationship created from obstruction, and while I had love for my husband, I was not in love with him. When I envisioned the happy future I wanted, I noticed that he was never there.
I had to let go of my children. I had to accept that they are designing their own experiences, and while I could be there for them, I didn’t have to be there. I could walk away. If I stayed, it would be because I was inspired to stay, not because I had to stay.
I had to let go of my company. I saw that all of my stories of success, status and achievement were wrapped up in my company. I understood that my company was created from obstruction, based on a character I wanted to be, but that didn’t represent who I am or what truly inspires me.
I had to let go of me.
Ultimately, I had to let go of everything I thought I was or will be. Everything I thought I wanted or would want. Everything and anything that was part of who Nichole was or would be.
I didn’t just have to get off the hamster-wheel, I had to realize there was no hamster wheel. I had to accept that I had created every experience I’d ever had—and they were all perfect. They all led me here.
To this beautiful place of infinite peace—infinite bliss, infinite love, infinite gratitude and infinite perfection.
We can’t win when we are on the hamster wheel. It’s an unwinnable game.
We will always find something else to achieve, to acquire, to strive for.
And as long as we are putting distance between what we want and what we have—we will always have to put in effort to get it.
We can be happy right now, without any of those things we think will make us happy.
When I leaned back and trusted in the universe to deliver my truest desires, it delivered—effortlessly.
And it can for you, too.
Author: Nichole Kelly
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/B+ Fouzy