Suicide rates in the United States have increased by 30% between 2000 and 2020, with men four times more likely to take their own life than women. Despite these disturbing numbers, many remain reluctant to discuss — let alone address — their emotional and mental well-being.
Certified High-Performance Coach and founder of Siena Strategy Partners, Kate McKay, lost her son Will to suicide in 2017, after a cycle of mental health struggles. At that time she didn’t know that this tragedy would mark the start of a transformational journey — one that would teach her to not only make bold life choices but also bring light to the dark places in her own life and the lives of others.
Today, McKay draws on her own experiences to inspire others to overcome adversity and become the best versions of themselves. Significantly, her book Claim Your Inner Warrior: How to Live a Life of Courage and Unleash Your Personal Power aims to shift the discussion around mental health — and particularly men’s mental well-being “For too long, addressing mental health has held people back from being their complete selves,” McKay says.
Claiming your inner warrior — or transforming pain into power — isn’t always an easy process. It requires you to step up and use adversity as a motivator, which can be confronting for both men and women. However, according to McKay, anybody can step into the best version of themselves by taking the necessary steps. Being a warrior requires honesty with ourselves and others, as well as courage to do the required inner and outer work. With this in mind, here are McKay’s three paths to turning adversity into power.
Clarify Your Inner Vision
Since 90% of our thoughts are unconscious, it’s alarming to note that only 10% of us prioritize personal or spiritual development. Inner clarity isn’t just an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, but can also help us deal with difficult situations. According to McKay, all too often we hold on to false beliefs about ourselves that aren’t in alignment with the best versions of ourselves.
Choosing to look within and work on yourself can help you learn what it is that you hold dear and the things you want to release. For example, personal introspection might bring to light feelings of unworthiness, inadequacy, or shame. “Clarity is foundational. It’s about uncovering your core purpose and what you stand for,” McKay says. “People lose their way in life and business because they don’t know what they stand for. They haven’t solidified or considered those ideas or values that define them — the issues they’d be willing to fight for.”
Going inward isn’t always easy — often it requires a close examination of our fears and what it is that’s holding us back. However, McKay promises that the journey is worth it. “Nothing is worse than regret. It’s not an option because staying the same is unacceptable. Everybody has their inner hottie and everyone wants to claim it. I won’t say it’s easy, but it’s possible,” she says. “Figuring out what motivates you from the inside is the ticket to living your brilliance on the outside.”
Make the Effort
According to McKay action is power. Too many of us lose passion for our work, businesses, or relationships. This is usually when the dreaded feeling of feeling stuck creeps in. The truth is that we need to grow to keep our enthusiasm and passion alive. And this is where shaking things up can be a game-changer. Whether it’s pursuing a new hobby or starting a new course, taking the time to find what lights you up starts you off on a new path and help you regain your zest for life.
McKay says that there is one particular fear that often stops us from taking action and that’s the fear of loss. “Essentially, we fear that if we take action, we’re going to lose someone or something that’s important to us. Because we’re going to grow beyond that thing or person,” she says. According to McKay, the other two fears that commonly stop us from enacting change include the fear that whatever it is that’s ahead is just too hard to surmount and the fear that our efforts just won’t be worth the eventual rewards.
Nevertheless, developing positive habits is the only sustainable way of increasing productivity and effectiveness, and bringing more joy into your life, McKay says. Whether it’s something as simple as clean eating or getting more exercise, the right approach can make a huge difference to your productivity and decision-making. “Our mental and physical well-being are more strongly linked than many people realize. This is because our physical bodies are tightly intertwined with our emotional and mental bodies,” McKay says.
Be a Positive Influence
Whether you realize it or not, your presence and demeanor have a profound impact on the people around you. The lives of others are affected by our actions, just like our lives are affected by the actions of the people we interact with. This is why we all need to be mindful of how we engage with others — particularly if we hold positions of leadership.
Embracing our courage and acting on our inner vision — or higher purpose — can have a profound effect not just on us, but can empower others to follow in our footsteps. “We are talking about the things that give your life meaning, the things that make us feel that life really matters,” McKay says, adding that it’s precisely this passion that can change our lives and the lives of others.
Just like seeking inner clarity can help us regain passion in our lives, embarking on a journey outward can help us see how we can serve others. And while very different, both can help us transmute our pain into power. Drawing on her own experiences, McKay is now helping others do precisely this.
“My job is to help people go from good to great. It’s a holistic approach, which encompasses not just physical but mental, emotional, and spiritual work. I go very deep but I always want to evoke a sense of joy,” she says. “I am outcome-based; I’m going to give you tools that you can use to achieve your personal and professional best. It’s about transformation. I want to see as many people living their dream lives as possible.”