The Power of a Strong Woman
By Mel Yianoukos
My Unbreakable story began before I even realized it began. You see, we are who we are today because of a series of events, situations, choices - all good and bad, that we have experienced throughout our lives. We choose our own path in life, the smallest choices effect more small choices which then lead to a path that we’ve chosen. We don’t have to stay on the same path, we can choose a different path at anytime, but what we don’t realize, is that we are in control of that choice, that path. I’m about to share my Unbreakable story with you and you’ll realize that you too, have an Unbreakable story of your own.
Our story never ends, it simply leads us to where we are today, in the present moment. As we evolve our story and grow, we make new choices and continue to build on our story while being guided by our earlier chapters.
Where it began
When I was a young girl, I saw my Mom as this incredibly strong, loving woman. I looked up to her and wanted to be just like her, as most little girls do with their moms. She had a big heart, she always put others first and I was always in awe of how she stood up for herself and tackled life. My Mom had (and still has) a spit-fire attitude and a heart of gold, which let me tell you, is a dangerous combination. I was inspired to carry myself with the same kind of confidence and spread the same kind of love.
As I grew up, of course all little kids have questions, and I began to realize where her drive, ded-ication, love and the most intriguing to me, her strength, came from. She faced some things in her past that were scary and heartbreaking to hear as a child. You never want to picture your Mom in any kind of danger or being hurt in any way. The specific details are unimportant at this time. What was important, was where she was now because of that past. She shared her story with me, always at an age appropriate level and of course as I continued to grow I had more and more questions. But over the years I just couldn’t believe that such a brave, courageous and strong woman would ever let something like that happen to her. But this is where her Unbreaka-ble story comes in and helps to build mine.
My Mom made the decision that, that was not the path that she wanted to be on. She made the choice to make a change and choose a different direction in life. She chose to be brave and do the uncomfortable. She chose to stand up for herself, see her self worth and create a better life for herself. By her choosing to be unbreakable, she taught me all of the strengths that she now had because of her choices. I fed off of those strengths, her strengths became mine.
There are two sides to every story
The other side of my unbreakable story started with my Dad. He lost both of his parents at a very young age and was forced to probably “grow up” quicker than most children because of that tragedy. He’s always been that levelheaded, get it done, whatever it takes kind of guy. Now mix that attitude towards life with love and guidance and that is a recipe for greatness - his kind of greatness. He was always my hero growing up and still is to this day. He was the one who taught me the many useful and logical lessons of life - the “money lesson”, the “work for what you want” lesson, the “I’m selling your care because you screwed up” lesson…the list goes on and on. He was always a hard worker and dedicated to whatever he committed himself to - be-ing of which, one of the greatest lessons he ever taught me - you aren’t done until the job is done.
All kids are like sponges, we know this, and I was no different. I heard what he said but more importantly, to a child and anyone really… I watched what he did. I saw him work from before sunrise to after sunset and never complain, I watched how he treated my mom - with love and playfulness, I watched how he treated me - with open arms and acceptance in everything that I did, I watched how he was serious when he needed to be the boss at work and I watched at how he could light up a room with laughter when he was with friends and family.
My dad was not an easy going parent, there were strict rules in my house but he barely ever raised his voice to me. He’d follow through on punishments (that were well deserved I might add, now that I’m older) but he was always approachable and was always there to talk to and hear my side of things which was always followed up with “well I hope you learned your les-son”. I’m not sure I’ve come across anyone else in life that is as cool, calm and collected quite in the same manner as he.
Although my Mom has played a bigger role in the emotional development of my mindset, my Dad has certainly been the one to inspire me that no matter what it takes, no matter the pain, no matter the length of time that it takes…you finish what you set out to do. Nothing happens overnight, life is a grind and you keep grinding and you get it done. You push yourself to be better. He is the voice in my head when I want to give up.
Nothing happens by coincidence - I’ve been training my whole life for this
I had an amazing childhood. My parents were wonderful and always supportive. I was an only child so they had to put some extra time into me because I had no one else to bother. But life was good. We didn’t have it “all” but we had it all - we had each other and lots of great times. Now with my great childhood came a lot of bad moments too. I was bullied a little in school, typical stuff, nothing too over the top. What’s interesting now that I look back on it though is that, I chose to not give into it. I was always removing myself from situations and I learned at an early age that the other kids’ behavior was about them, not me. And that’s something I got from my Mother. She taught me how to be strong and how to believe in myself. I’m sure I tortured her and put her through hell (well most definitely in my later teen years when I was misbehav-ing…but we’re still talking about the earlier days here). I was a very shy child. So I know that her efforts made all the difference in how my childhood unfolded and how I saw myself. Yes I would cry at times and I would feel hurt but she was always there to pick me up and help me to realize who I was and the rest didn’t matter. She was teaching me how to be unbreakable.
I’m going to skip all of my mistakes and screwup moments that I had through high school and college because well, this is a short story. Instead rather, I’m going to fast forward to my adult-hood. I didn’t always make the right choices as an adult either. Lets just say that when my hus-band and I decided that we were going to have kids I chose to clean up my act. It was time to grow up and start putting someone else first.
We got married fairly young. We had been college sweethearts and had done a lot of growing up together. Shortly after we graduated we started chasing our happily ever after. Which, lets be honest, we still didn’t quite know what we wanted out of life. After we had kids I still made mistakes and poor choices, as we all tend to do. And as I still do today. You’ll see though that I view failure differently today than I did all those years ago - but we’ll get to that soon enough.
Being a new wife and a new mom, I began to lose myself. I got caught up in the mommy role, I put myself on the back burner and I pushed “me” aside. That caught up to me over the years and soon I was looking back and wondering where the time went and what had happened. I won-dered when I became so miserable and sad on the inside? Where did all of my energy go? How did I get so overweight? When did I stop enjoying life around me? I didn’t even know who I was anymore as an individual. I wasn’t at a job that I loved. We were stressed and living paycheck to paycheck. My husband was never home because he was busy working two jobs just so that we could make ends meet. I was playing single mom during the week with two kids. We were caught in this rat wheel with no end in site! We had our blinders on and we were just doing what we had to do to survive. I lost sight of HOW to be unbreakable or rather, I didn’t know HOW to incorporate unbreakable into my adult life. It was almost as if I took a break from writ-ing my story for a few years.
Finally I decided to dust off that old typewriter and start writing again (unknown to myself at the time of course). I then got a little more mind strong and knew that I had to make a change. At this point it was about me; about feeling better, having more energy, getting my body back…it was selfishly, about me.
I decided to bring fitness into my life and start trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Within just a couple of weeks I felt like a brand new person; more energy, happy, excited, I was seeing physi-cal changes. Whatta’ya know!? I was even being a better Mom and Wife. I was seeing the world in a whole new light! In fact! I felt as though I could conquer the world and couldn’t wait to inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle too. So I became a Fitness Coach. I quickly dove in and couldn’t wait to help others feel exactly what I was feeling! I was on top of the world!
I had no idea what I was doing exactly or what direction I wanted to go with this new entrepre-neurial role - all I knew was that I was excited and I had incredible ideas and I finally felt like I had found my purpose in life. Besides being a Mom, which was of course my number one priori-ty and joy, I was here in this life to help others create a better life for themselves.
In due time I created my own vision of what our future as a family was going to turn into and what I BELIEVED that I could do within my business. I was determined and focused on my path to create a better life for ourselves and for those around me. And that’s just what I did.
Within 10 months I retired myself from my full-time job and began Coaching full-time. I was so passionate about what I was doing that I just couldn’t do it all fast enough. That’s an amazing feeling, to wake up every morning ready to race and put your ideas into actions, ready to conquer the world. I didn’t slow down, I had a plan and I was determined to make it happen. After a year and a half I retired my husband from his second job. We now are not only creating financial freedom but we are also creating freedom of time, time to be together. Isn’t that what life is all about!? Being able to share your time with the ones you love? Again, just like in my childhood, we don’t have it “all” but we have it all.
I say “we” because I did not do this alone. This did not come easily, this success was not hand-ed to me. I work for it, I sacrifice for it and so does my family, they are my rock. These are MUCH smaller sacrifices than what we were sacrificing before - our time. Certainly there are good days in my business and there are bad days. There are good days with my health and fit-ness and then there are other days that I have trouble mustering up the motivation to get active. There are goals that I crush and there are goals that I miss terribly. I have succeeded but only after I have failed. During it all though, I had the support from my family. I was able to never give up because I always had my “why” in the back of my mind. On those “bad” days I pushed through those obstacles, those walls, because my family was counting on me, my team was counting on me, my clients were counting on me! And because I loved what I was doing! The “bad” didn’t matter because the vision, the goal, the WANT to do this was still there. I just had to dig a little deeper on those days to find that the belief was still there.
Our mindset will either make us or break us
Our mindset plays a bigger and more powerful role in our every day life than we can even imag-ine. Our mind controls our actions, our attitudes, our choices, our ability to grow, our ability to see beyond what is the here and now and dream bigger. It wasn’t until I took ACTIONS to change my mindset, that I noticed my world around me change. Like with many things in life - you don’t have to be great to start but you have to start to be great. This mindset shift isn’t something that happened overnight for me. In fact, this is something that I still train myself on daily. Developing a positive mindset is no different than developing your muscles at the gym or developing your lungs to withstand a marathon. It takes time, practice, failure, persistence and so much more.
Let me touch upon failure for a moment - because this was a huge part of my mindset shift. I use to see failure as exactly that, plain and as simple as the word is - F A I L U R E. We tend to frown upon failure, fear failure, punish ourselves for failure. We’ve got it all wrong! Failure is a chance to grow! It’s a chance to try again and do it even better the next time! One of my favor-ite sayings is “failure is a bruise, not a tattoo”. Our failures do not define us. Our actions after we’ve failed define us. Once I opened my mind to this theory, NOTHING could stand in my way. I no longer view failure as a door closing, rather, I see it as a new door opening. I stopped putting limitations on myself from my failures and used them as opportunities instead.
Every day we choose what path to take. Our choices throughout our day creates our day. How we choose to see that day determines whether it was a good day or a bad day. When we fail, we choose to give up or we choose to take it as a lesson, get back up and try it again. When we have fear we choose whether to let it control us and restrict us or we choose whether to face it, over-come it and grow from it. Every single choice that we make is shaping our path. Your mindset will determine your path because we make choices based on how we perceive things.
I train myself every day to have a positive and stronger mindset. It’s easy to get caught up and get swallowed by the situations around you and think that you have no choice. It takes a con-scious mind to stay in control and understand that you are actually in control and you can deter-mine the outcome. You have the ability to be unbreakable. The choice to be unbreakable, is up to you.
As I write this, I’ve now been a Fitness Coach and Business Mentor for two years and I still feel like this is just the beginning. There is so much more to come, so many ideas still to run with, so many lives out there to still help and change, there is still so much more to my vision. Piece by piece, day by day, I continue to build on my Unbreakable story.