Gabi and her husband, Marcelo, came to the United States from Bolivia seeking help for their 12-year-old daughter, Marcela, who was suffering with brain cancer. Gabi and Marcelo sold their thriving refrigerator design business to raise the $50,000 for their daughter’s surgeries.

During post-surgery recovery, Gabi and her husband would take turns stepping out of the hospital building for a smoke. This continued until the third surgery when, while looking at Marcela with wires and tubes coming out of her arms, head, and mouth, and machines monitoring her blood pressure, respiration and aeration, Gabi wondered: “Why am I going out to smoke?” “What if Marcela were to come-to and we weren’t with her?” “What if this habit prevented us from being there when Marcela awakens?” “Why?” These questions haunted Gabi.  After many years and many attempts to stop smoking, after all the warnings about personal and secondary health hazards, and now this moment of yearning for the outdoor “only smoke here” section of the hospital, brought the message through. Gabi’s desire, her sense of purpose, her need to be by her daughter’s side was more important than a nicotine fix. Gabi faced a “Bigger Why.”

Marcelo didn’t quit at that time. He didn’t even believe Gabi could do it. For him, it was almost unbearable sitting helplessly watching his beautiful daughter struggle with cancer, not knowing when or if she would open her eyes. The cigarettes were his coping mechanism. Months later, Marcelo caught a bad flu that hit his lungs hard.  He wasn’t able to smoke for some time because he was so sick.  His daughter had survived.  His faith restored but now ill himself, Marcelo began to realize he needed to survive for his daughter and wife. This was Marcelo’s “Bigger Why.”

We usually don’t make big habit changes because we know it’s better for us. Statistics show that this “better” motivation is short-lived.  We make habit changes when the sacrifices are tied to a stronger emotional connection, a stronger sense of meaning and purpose: a “Bigger Why.” Gabi wanted to be there in the room for her daughter when the anesthesia wore off. Deciding between a smoke-break and staying with her daughter became a clear and simple choice for Gabi. Marcelo’s simple choice was being there for his family long-term. In the five years since that brain-surgery, Marcela has fully recovered. Gabi hasn’t smoked. Neither has Marcelo.

What’s your “Bigger Why?”


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