The Devastation That Lead to Motivating Others

Kalliope Barlis©

Some years ago, I moved from New York City to the West Coast to pursue what some people thought was an irrational goal. The move was set in motion by a few life-changing moments, during which I had a clear vision of becoming a professional golfer. This vision overlapped who I was and everything I was doing at that time. All I saw was a “pro golfer” in my reflection in the mirror.

I didn’t grow up with the game, and the closest I had been to a golf course was on the living room television, projected by its inner tube. However, because I had heard of intuitive visions like this one transforming the lives of people who had the courage to work toward the vision—coupled with the devastating passing of my beloved brother—I decided to go for it.

That one move thrust me into this future moment, now: with three bestsellers; audios for meditation to sleep and recharge; training others in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) seminars, workshops, and talks; writing for Thrive Global; and working with a good-natured film crew—all to improve lives by changing how people think.

The most evident lesson that supersedes everything from that moment until now is: the content of thought has structure.And, for that reason, the quality of our thoughts equals the quality of our life. Above all, this truth is timeless, and it’s found in the details. And, for some of us, facing the truth is scary but truly liberating. 

Admittedly, driving from the East Coast to West Coast with only simple necessities in small boxes in the trunk of my car was scary. But the long drive across thousands of miles taught me how to manage being alone. I also recalled Mother Teresa’s visit to New York City. At the time, she had said that the greatest suffering she had ever experienced was not that of the sick and starving around the world but that of the lonely seniors in New York City living by themselves. It made me think, How can I connect more?

During the drive across country, I randomly introduced myself to people—sitting on porches with their families in Mississippi, for example, and in places of worship in every state, including temples, mosques, churches, and more. I made dozens of friends in my pursuit of connecting with others. “Stay real,” said the grandma I met on a squeaky porch. (And, soon, there will be a reel about how to keep it real.)

When I arrived on the sunny West Coast and started my golf lessons, the priority was seeing the target—clearly, boldly, and in vivid color. With every golf shot, practiced or played, it was always a winning experience because no matter how the shot ended up, there was always something to learn from it for the game to improve. For this reason, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback to know what to do next. 

Performing your best is dependent on your state of mind—no matter what the task is. Getting pissed off on the course only leads to tense muscles, which weakens movement. If, for a moment, I lapsed in my productive attitude, I’d say, “NO,” stop, and then do something else instead. Some people say it can’t be that easy, but it is when you decide to have the belief that you can manage your life and how you think so you think better to feel better. It’s about saying “YES” to feeling good. 

The biggest stress in pursuing the life of a pro golfer was being alone for so many hours during the day. But my drive across the country, meeting people and learning how to be happy alone, prepared me for the alone time while traveling from one tournament to another. I was married to the game, and people could sense that. Golf became a true test for me in gaining intimacy with my own thoughts. Thoughts not only shape life in general, but they also shape the outcomes on the course.

Golf is the most difficult sport because it requires precise movement, starting from a point of stillness. And, if you can be still, the details of thoughts come to the surface to build beliefs that are most practical. It’s a matter of paying attention to what feels good. 

Anxiety and stress come from not facing the thoughts that make people feel the way they do. When you face the truth so that you can change your attitude to a more useful one, you can manage your life, your state of mind, and your future. Sometimes, all it takes is breathing rhythmically, in and out, not just in; you have to let the air out. In fact, the most useful stress-reducing technique is breathing deeply, softly, consciously so that it happens automatically the same way. Breathing naturally hydrates the body with an increase in oxygen and a decrease of waste gases.

My NLP mentor for more than a decade, Dr. Richard Bandler, points out that anxiety comes from not breathing out. “They” always say take a deep breath. People do that and wonder why they don’t feel better. Breathing out ends the loop to start another breath of fresh air.

When you know that you can always connect with yourself and others when you want and need to by taking the time to breathe (in and out) and remembering you can always change how you think to change how you feel—anxiety evaporates into comfort. This is what I train people to do. They become smarter and happier because they have more productive thoughts. By deciding to say no to thoughts that don’t build in better beliefs, you can build a better life. 

People often ask me if I’m glad I made the move out west at that time. Of course I am because everything I learned is making profound positive changes in people’s lives now through seminars and private sessions.  Some stress is necessary to keep us on edge to learn the most. It proves we are alive and feeling our environment, not just living it through the screen in the palm of our hands. 

You can always change adversity into triumph, feeling bad into feeling good, from forgetting to remembering to breathe. The more you manage your life, the less it manages you so you feel good more of the time.