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How a Brain Tumor Made Me More Thankful

Seven years ago, two words turned my world upside down. How I found purpose through survival.

With two of my four grandbabies, Bryce and Skylar.

Thanksgiving seems to get a smaller sliver of attention every year, but to me, it’s more than a holiday: It’s a never-ending mindset.

Seven years ago, two words turned my world upside down. Time stood still for what seemed like hours as my doctor uttered the unimaginable: “brain tumor.” I’m sure many other things were said, but in that moment, the future—namely, if I’d have one—was a big question mark. All of my plans, my dreams, my hopes for what could be, were blurry and uncertain.

It shook me to my core.

I’d always been relatively healthy, and I took it for granted. But right then and there, I vowed to make my health—my whole health—a priority. Intense and risky surgery followed, and my doctors weren’t sure I’d survive. When I did, I made a series of intentional choices to focus on keeping my mind, body and soul as healthy and fulfilled as possible—and eventually, helping my team members do the same.

You never know when you’ll need to rely on good health to get you through a challenge. Since my recovery, “Health and Wellness” became one of only three core tenets of our employee value proposition at Taylor Morrison. I truly believe in giving your team the time and opportunity to care for themselves, just like I had.

As scary as my diagnosis was at the time, I can look back now and appreciate how the experience sharpened my perspective and recalibrated my priorities. When you don’t know what tomorrow will bring, you aren’t thinking about the meeting you need to schedule or the proposal you need to review. You’re thinking about the people you love.

As we near one of my favorite holidays, and as I celebrate the seven-year anniversary of my surgery, I’m so thankful for my wonderful family—my three kids and four precious grandbabies—for anchoring my life and giving even greater purpose to my work. (In fact, just this week while on a family vacation in Maui, I learned that grandbaby #5 is on the way. Talk about a Thanksgiving surprise!).

I’m also grateful I never had to choose between the family I always wanted and pursuing success in my career.

For decades, I’ve worn many hats both in and out of the office—wife, mom, CEO, grandma, chairman—and the balancing act hasn’t always been easy. Each role has had its unique blessings and challenges, and I wish I could say I was wildly successful at all of them, all of the time. Were there moments I felt like I was failing spectacularly at both family life and work? You bet—more times than not. And I certainly had to find ways to compromise along the way. But for me, the ultimate sacrifice would have been giving up one or the other and that just wasn’t an option, so I made it work, as hard as it might have been.

I know many women struggle with how to balance career and family. I wish I could share a magic formula for “having it all.” But the more I’ve lived, the more I’ve come to realize how important it is to embrace the season of life you’re in and give yourself the grace to just let your best be enough. Some days your work takes the driver’s seat and other days are devoted to family. And you know what? That’s the best balancing act any of us can do.

I’m convinced part of why I was able to carve a path to the top of a traditionally male-dominated industry, while also having a family, is that I’ve always been nimble. Looking back, if I would have taken the path that seemed natural or easy at the time, or if I hadn’t been open to the unexpected or unconventional, my life would look very different. It’s not often you hear a CEO in the homebuilding business say they started out in special education, but that’s what I did. So I’m thankful for this winding road I never knew I’d take, and for having an open mind to get me here.

And finally, I’m eternally grateful to be a part of Taylor Morrison and the homebuilding industry. When I say family means the world to me, I have to include the exceptional people I work with and the deeply fulfilling purpose behind what we do.

When it comes to our careers—and I feel like sometimes we forget this—we all have a choice. Passion, talent and work ethic, sprinkled with a bit of timing and opportunity, are the drivers. But we get to choose the kind of work we do and where we do it. Life is too short to do something that doesn’t give you real joy or, even worse, makes you unhappy, so my hope for everyone reading this is that you have the courage to make a change if you need to. It’s never too late. Be bold. You’ll be thankful you did.

Now it’s your turn: What are you thankful for? What life experience has made the greatest impact on you professionally or personally?

Originally published at www.linkedin.com

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