By Heather Barrow
February 16th is a day of both celebration and pain for my family. It is the day my water broke in 2009 when I was 24 weeks pregnant with my son Hill. It is also the day our family founded High Risk Hope in 2011. It is no coincidence these pivotal events share the same date. This was a calculated effort on my part to turn the worst day of my life into the best day of each year. The heartbreak and devastation my family felt on this day in 2009 has evolved into great joy for every one of the 3,500+ families touched by High Risk Hope. As I reflect on our accomplishments over the past five years, I can’t help but wonder: what if I had chosen a different path? You face the same question on the choices you have in your life on this day. Whether it is the loss of a job, relationship change or illness in your family, you can turn tragedy into success by conquering these five what if’s:
1. What if I let this negative event consume my life? You may be surprised to hear this, but I believe negative consumption precedes positive outcomes. It took me two full years to get to the point when I was ready to explore the thought of turning our family’s three-month hospitalization into something that could potentially help others. Like more than 60% of families with premature infants, I experienced post traumatic stress disorder as a result our crisis. I could not even drive by the hospital that saved my son’s life, much less walk through the doors to help others. This negativity consumed my life for two years. Only when I made the choice to attempt to turn it around did I begin the healing process. Now I can walk into the hospital with my family and deliver doughnuts to our favorite HROB nurses or HRH bags to patients without breaking into a sweat.
2. What if I do nothing? If you do not make an effort to shift the trajectory of your life then your tomorrows will look a lot like yesterday. Make the choice to do something, knowing that the first step will be the hardest but also the most rewarding. The most difficult thing I have ever done in regards to HRH is having that first conversation with my husband in 2011 telling him the idea. Before I made the jump I wondered, what if he thinks I can’t do it? What if he won’t support me? He not only supported me, he was all in. The person you confide in with your future plans will have the same reaction. You just need to take the first step and tell them.
3. What if I fail? If I let every setback get me down at HRH, we would not have been around for more than a few months. Failures are just one way not to do something. They get you one step closer to success and should be recognized as what they really are, an opportunity for growth. When a donor or corporate sponsor tells me no after I ask for a donation I hear not right now. Many donors who told us no in 2011 are now contacting us asking to join the HRH family. We not only welcome them to the family, we roll out the purple carpet!
4. What if I don’t fail? It sounds counter-intuitive, but the fear of success is often more overwhelming than the fear of failure. HRH’s motto is the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf quote, ‘If your dreams do not scare you they are not big enough.’ If I wake up in the middle of the night at least once a week because of something big we have in the works for HRH, I know we are on the right path. That feeling in the pit of your stomach that you get before something big (a public speech, a promotion, a wedding or a major life change) is the same feeling for every person. It is how you label it that will separate you from being a success or failure. I label that feeling as excitement about an opportunity rather than nervousness and anxiety about a potential failure.
5. What if this is not my life’s purpose? What if it is? The truth is you will never know until you try. Mark Twain said it best, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” For me, February 16th is the day I found out why I was born. If you don’t have the same feeling about a special day, you certainly aren’t here to continue on the path you are currently on. Make today your most important day by taking one step closer to figuring out why you have been put on this Earth.