I’m probably going to get fired if I send this text,” I said to my husband, Mike.
“That’s never stopped you before,” he replied.
“You’re right,” I responded and hit send without hesitation.
You see, growing up, I was always an incredibly optimistic person with big dreams to make a huge difference in the world, and nothing ever stopped me. Yes, I realize many people feel this way, but for me it was an overwhelming driving force, dictating and controlling every life decision I made. I felt I had a great destiny, which granted me tremendous confidence and an unwavering need to follow my heart. I always fight for what’s right no matter the consequences.
I’ve abandoned incredibly successful careers, moved cities, spent hundreds of hours learning new skills, and held more new titles than I have fingers, never backing down and never regretting a decision—all in pursuit of my great destiny. The problem was that I had no idea what my destiny actually was.
Time passed and I was working as a fashion makeover producer on a popular television show. I loved my job, but I didn’t always agree with their work ethic. Most of the time, I could tolerate and justify it—the trade-off was that I was making a massive difference in women’s lives. Yet, when I was asked to turn a blind eye to something incredibly questionable, I couldn’t just stand idly by anymore and accept it. However, my protest fell on deaf ears.
Not willing to let it go, I made a final appeal via the fateful text. It was a miracle I wasn’t fired. Instead, a fair and right decision was made. I had won the battle, yet somehow, I had lost the war. Any enthusiasm I previously had for the production seemed to disappear after this day. I was no longer able to look the other way. My rose-coloured glasses were lost, and it was time for me to move on.
Still in love with the idea of working in television, I felt my only option was to set my sights even higher: Oprah Winfrey higher. Go big or go home, I thought. Determined to get her attention and a job working for her, I wrote the most awe-inspiring cover letter I’d ever written, meticulously choosing every word to prove I was unmistakably an obvious choice.
Feeling proud of my work of art, I printed the letter to make one final check for mistakes. I couldn’t risk going unnoticed by a simple spelling error. Yet, the moment I held the letter, an uneasy, anxious feeling swept over me—a hesitation I’d never encountered before. I actually wondered if the confusing feelings were self-doubt. Didn’t I think I could get the job? I thought.
No way . . . you’re a self-professed Type A personality on overdrive, and you’ve never failed at anything you wanted, I bragged to myself.
Then why I am hesitating? Don’t I want the job? I apprehensively questioned. I sat for a few minutes and then an overwhelming rush of emotions came over, “OMG—I don’t!” I gasped aloud.
It was just that fast. In one split second, my overconfident swagger had quickly turned into devastating clarity. It was an unnerving and confusing feeling. If I didn’t want to work for Oprah, but I also unquestionably knew I couldn’t continue working where I was, what was I supposed to do now? More importantly, who was I supposed to be?
For the first time in my life, I didn’t have the answers and felt like a complete failure. It crushed me. In the months that followed, I began to isolate myself. I didn’t eat, I hardly slept, and I cried continuously. I had spiraled into a black hole and didn’t know how to find my way out. Then like a beacon of hope, an unexpected email hit my inbox. An old friend and mentor I hadn’t heard from in years asked to see me.
I was happy to hear from her but felt too depressed to meet. I decided to reply with a dismissive excuse. However, her persistent emails would eventually sway me, and I agreed to meet at her home. The moment she saw me, she knew something was wrong—even with my best attempt to hide my pain.
Before I knew it, I was confessing everything to her: the fateful text, the unsent cover letter, the devastating discovery, confusion, and sheer depression. She just listened.
Three emotional hours later, my friend decided it was my turn to listen. Compassionately, she acknowledged my pain. She told me she admired my determination and tenacity and had enjoyed watching me move from one successful career to the next, always in search of my great destiny, yet never finding it. Then very directly, she admitted she always felt like I’d missed looking in one very important place.
“Where?” I asked, completely oblivious to what she was referring to.
“Inside your heart,” she answered. “You’ve never stopped to ask yourself what you want or what your true passion is.”
“This breakdown, Heidi, is no more than a gift for you to finally discover what you’ve always been looking for,” she explained.
“I wouldn’t call what I’m going through a gift,” I wept, feeling very sorry for myself and deflated by her response. I also insisted I didn’t even know where to start.
“Give me a minute,” she answered and left the room. When she returned, she handed me a pad of paper and two blue pencils. Puzzled by the items, I asked what she expected me to do with them. “Start by getting to know yourself a little better. Make you a priority and schedule a meeting with yourself every week,” she explained.
I had journaled in the past, but I was unsure of my friend’s meeting advice. Yet, so desperate to feel better, I agreed to try it. The following Wednesday I met with myself for the first time. I actually wrote non-stop for an hour. My words were raw, painful, and incredibly vulnerable. I wrote about how angry I was at myself, my job, my life, and the overwhelming pressure I felt to make a difference. I questioned my confidence, my decisions, and most of all, I questioned Why me?
How is this is supposed to be helping me? I cried to myself. The meeting had felt more like torture.
The following week, to avoid the same torment, I decided to eliminate any and all emotional thought. I was determined to keep it extremely professional. I created several pro/con lists, wrote about my likes and dislikes, and set numerous goals. It was a left-brain fiesta party that even my emotionally-driven right- brain enjoyed.
Huh. Maybe this could work, I smugly thought.
For weeks I continued the meetings. For some, I was able to keep them super organized, whereas others still fell off track and left me feeling emotionally weak again. Yet, something was changing. I started to notice that random conversations and opportunities began feeling more like coincidental messages, each one guiding me like signposts to understand who I was and what I was meant to do.
Then, as if the answer had always been there, I knew what I was supposed to do. It was unbelievably clear, and I couldn’t wait to tell someone.
“I feel I’m supposed to start a blog,” I confessed to my husband.
“Really?” A blog about what?” he asked, a little surprised by my announcement.
“I believe I’m meant to share my stories,” I answered, feeling really sure about my path.
“Cool! You have amazing stories. What are you gonna call it?” he questioned, always being my biggest fan and supporter.
“I hadn’t really thought of a name,” I answered and looked down at my notepad for clues.
Surprisingly, three words immediately stood out like neon signs from random places on the paper. As I wrote the words on the bottom of the page, I said the name aloud, “Positive People Army.”
My husband chuckled, “Well, I didn’t expect to hear that. What’s the Positive People Army?”
As I stared at the words, an overwhelming rush of both fear and excitement took my breath away and made my skin tingle.
“Heidi, did you hear me? What’s the Positive People Army?” he asked again, trying to get my attention.
When I finally exhaled, I felt like I’d let go of a lifetime of holding my breath. It was unbelievably powerful and exhilarating. I felt awake.
“Are you okay?” Mike asked, looking a little confused by my reaction.
When I finally composed myself, I admitted to Mike I’d never been better. A few weeks later, I launched the Positive People Army blog with its first story. I still didn’t understand what the PPA was, but I had faith the answers would come.
In the coming months, hundreds of people found the website. It felt amazing to connect with so many people and to make a positive difference together. I felt alive. What I’ve come to learn is we are not born with a perfectly clear answer as to what our purpose is. It’s a struggle almost every person goes through—a struggle because we become so distracted by work, daily commitments, goals, and other people’s opinions. Our awareness of our unique life purpose is easily dimmed, leaving us feeling lost, lonely, unfulfilled, and depressed.
No matter how noisy the world gets or how hard the darkness seems, we need to remember there is always a small voice whispering. That voice is you, waiting to be heard and acknowledged. Just like Glenda, the Good Witch told Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
I did eventually leave my job, and the Positive People Army has grown into an incredible positive movement. All because I chose to listen to my heart and my purpose, my destiny appeared. So, I ask all of you, are you ready to listen to that voice inside you? The world is waiting to hear.