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'Naomi’s Breakthrough Guide'

Naomi Judd’s life has had enough ups and downs to be a country music song. After a teenage pregnancy and an abusive marriage, she was left a single mother of two, living on welfare. She eventually achieved fame as one of the most popular mother/daughter duos in country music history, only to be forced into retirement as a result of a life-threatening illness. But she survived it all and now she'
/ Source: TODAY

Naomi Judd’s life has had enough ups and downs to be a country music song. After a teenage pregnancy and an abusive marriage, she was left a single mother of two, living on welfare. She eventually achieved fame as one of the most popular mother/daughter duos in country music history, only to be forced into retirement as a result of a life-threatening illness. But she survived it all and now she's written a self-help book called "Naomi’s Breakthrough Guide: 20 Choices to Transform Your Life." Here's an excerpt:

Chapter 1: Peace of Mind Is the Goal

Welcome to a fantastic voyage of self-discovery! Fasten your seat belt, because we're going to explore the greatest frontier: our inner space. We're going to take a good look at ourselves, the only place where we have the power to change. We're going to focus on twenty breakthrough choices. These hard-won discoveries transformed my life for the better. I believe they can help you become happier too. Choice #1 is PEACE OF MIND IS THE GOAL. That's the destination of this journey of self-awareness.

If you know anything about me, you know that my life's taken a few unexpected curves and crashes along the way. But hey, at least I can say I took the scenic route! I'm living proof of the saying "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." But because of these experiences, I've discovered a lot about the body-mind-spirit connection. Understanding how these interact and impact health and happiness may surprise you.

You may know that in 1964, at age eighteen, back in the small town of Ashland, Kentucky, I missed my high school graduation to give birth to Wynonna. Then, in my twenties, I had an unhappy first marriage. It did, however, produce my darling Ashley. The inevitable divorce forced me to become a single, working mom struggling alone with my two girls. Without skills or an education, I was relegated to minimum-wage jobs, like clerk, receptionist, and waitress. I even had to resort to welfare and food stamps. It was desperate and demeaning. So I put myself through college in my thirties and got an RN degree.

In 1979, I took a giant risk chasing a preposterous dream. I arrived in Nashville in an old, beat-up car with two young, high-spirited girls in the backseat. At age thirty-seven, I turned Wy's and my preposterous fantasy of becoming recording artists into reality. In my forties and fifties, I've proven medical authorities wrong after they coldly handed me a death sentence because of hepatitis C.

Today I'm radiantly healthy and happier than ever, and I'm using my restored energy to help others learn about themselves. Folks like you frequently come up to me on the street, in restaurants and airports, or at the grocery checkout counter and ask: how in the world have I survived all my broken-heart attacks, whacks, and setbacks? You wonder how my husband, Larry, and I have managed to stay in love since 1979. You wonder how Wynonna and Ashley have both achieved phenomenal success as artists -- and how in the world, despite everyone's hectic schedule, we maintain our all-important familial bond.

It has been unbelievably frustrating for me not to have the time or the place to respond with answers to these questions and concerns, which are so obviously important to you and me. I've learned so much about how easy it is to make smarter choices and achieve greater peace of mind. That's why I'm both relieved and excited to have finally written this book for you.

You know me only through the media, as I am now, so which is harder for you to imagine: (1) that I was once lonely, broke, aimless, and desperate, or (2) that you can discover your own latent talent, enjoy a happy marriage and family life, be financially secure, and even beat your disease?

I hope you will learn more about your potential as I share with you just how I did it. I'm going to explain how I learned to make the choices that allowed me not only to survive but to thrive -- to be more happy, healthy, and content than I have ever been before. I've done it against great odds -- and I'm confident you can too.

When I come to your neighborhood, I hope we can get together to discuss where the choices I describe in this book have led you emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually. Ideas get even stronger when shared.

I thank God for my handicaps, for through them I've found myself, my work and my God. -- Helen Keller

A Dead End Is Just a Good Place to Turn Around

As you sit there reading this page, how happy, peaceful, and fulfilled are you, on a scale of one to ten? Are you outside the door of the life you always thought you should have, desperately banging on it to get in? How about your relationships? Are you, as comedian Caroline Rhea put it, "one bad relationship from becoming one of those women who has thirty cats"? Is there some discrepancy between what you think you are worthy of and how other people are currently treating you? Is your job as satisfying as it can be? Do you get recognized and rewarded? Do you look forward to your day? Or do you feel like you're stuck in a rut? Are you able to handle any crisis, small or large, that broadsides you? Are you feeling lost, listless, restless, or bored? Are you battling an illness?

News flash: There's so much more out there waiting for you, my friend!

I define happiness as a state of well-being, full of the joy that comes from being satisfied with whatever you have and enjoying every day to the utmost. Health, happy marriage, good friends, well-rounded kids, financial security, comfortable lifestyle, and a purpose that allows you to express your talent and pay your bills -- that's my definition of success. What's yours? One way to identify it is to ask yourself: If I won the lottery, what would I change in my life? What would I keep the same?

The concepts in this book will help you find your own unique path through the issues you're facing and make the choices that will bring greater satisfaction. Within these covers are questions to increase your awareness of the answers that are locked inside you. Hopefully you will come to understand just why you act and react the way you do -- and why you aren't quite living the kind of life you'd like. You'll recognize people around you who are traveling the same path. You'll also begin spotting others in your life who are going off in completely different directions. You'll learn how to say to them, "Bless you as you go."

As we set out together, let me go on the record now and say that there is nothing different or special about Naomi Judd. I'm not an expert. An expert is just somebody from out of town with slides. I don't do slides or flowcharts. If anything, I've been an expert at making mistakes. I've lived out there on life's highways for twenty years as a touring entertainer. I am a "Road" scholar with a Ph.D. from the School of Hard Knocks. I majored in crisis management. This entire country's my research lab. You could say that I'm a student of human nature. I go wherever my questions lead. I'm always learning whatever I'm trying to teach.

I'll reveal some of my own personal mistakes and calamities to show you, by example, how a dead end is just a good place to turn around. I'll report cutting-edge research on health and the psychology of happiness. There's also commonsense wisdom I've absorbed over the years from everyday folks as I've traveled coast to coast. To quote Woodrow Wilson, "I not only use all the brains I have, but all I can borrow."

I'll be revealing stories of famous people throughout this book since I know them personally and you know about them. I'll give you a behind-the-scenes peek at how they've been able to evolve on their voyages of self-discovery. I'm convinced you'll see how much alike we all truly are. Also, I want to prove to you that no one's born with their destiny stamped on their forehead. Nobody's born a great anything. We make the choices to fulfill our destiny.

The lowest ebb is the turn in the tide. -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Crisis Means Danger and Opportunity

It has been a decade now since I wrote my candid autobiography, Love Can Build a Bridge. Since then, as difficult as these last ten years have been, I'm satisfied that every obstacle I've faced has been part of a much bigger plan. Suffering makes sense if you can step back and view it in a larger context. Everything in your life and mine is exactly the way it's supposed to be. This was a huge revelation for me! Discovering this lets me breathe a lot easier, gives me greater peace of mind, and allows me to expand instead of contract.

Stop now and give this insight time to register with you. Every crisis offers a treasure trove of information about ourselves. (That's why they call it an emergency -- you emerge and see.) A crisis prompts us to raise our consciousness and choose to open up to more of who we're meant to be. It also shows us just how many more dimensions there are to living. In the Chinese language, the word "crisis" is made up of two characters, depicting "danger" and "opportunity." It's always up to you and me to choose, at every crossroads, which path we take.

Consider your latest crisis. What was the nature of the impending threat, and what was the potential opportunity? What path did you go down? Why? What did you learn? How will you react next time?

During my crisis with hepatitis C, I chose the opportunity route. I made the choice to tap into a reserve strength that was deeper than I ever expected. Call it resilience, will, or moral fiber. In the process, I discovered what it takes to persevere in the face of the loss of what I hold dearest -- and to stare death squarely in the eye. If I hadn't chosen to go for the opportunities to learn from my predicament, I'd probably be dead. Surviving isn't as complicated or mysterious as you're probably thinking. What it takes is (1) a great deal of faith in oneself, (2) an openness to taking in new information, and (3) a belief in a higher power.

What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality. -- Otto Rank

Dare to Fulfill Your Birthright!

I was feeling terribly ill and, of course, mentally depressed when doctors announced there was no known cure for hepatitis C and I'd probably die within three years. The only available treatment was interferon, and my first round of interferon injections didn't have the desired effect. Instead of submitting to despair, I chose to step out in faith and trust in God. Hebrews 11:1 states, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." I promised God, myself, and my family that I was going to learn everything I could about this mysterious disease. I vowed to figure out a way to beat it. I also made the decision that I would eventually share whatever I learned, to somehow help others.

I was one angry patient when I experienced firsthand the grim reality of what's wrong with our health care system. (I refer to it as the "wealth care system.") I naively expected managed care to manage to care! Rather than asking how I was feeling physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, the first question anyone asked was "Who's your insurance carrier?" Even though I'm a nurse, I was shocked. I'm now fully aware that our medical system needs healing. I want to be part of helping medicine treat the whole person and teach prevention and wellness.

You may not be facing a medical crisis. But whatever mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual challenges you are now facing, I'm offering information, hope, and comfort in these pages. I'm sentencing you to live.

If your ship doesn't come in, swim out to it. -- Jonathan Winters

You Are One -- Body, Mind, and Spirit

I had already begun studying everything I could get my hands on about hepatitis C, this "silent killer" that will kill four times more Americans than AIDS in the next decade. But it was journalist Bill Moyers's groundbreaking 1990 PBS documentary series Healing and the Mind that launched me into an investigation that wound up saving my life and expanding my consciousness. Bedridden, I watched one expert after another talk about different paths to healing. This was TV at its finest -- "tell-a-vision." The award-winning Moyers special encouraged me to search for a different path to healing.

It was one of the most fascinating learning experiences of my adventurous life. As I delved into understanding how we are whole beings with emotions, lifestyles, and spiritual needs, I learned how our lifestyles can cause all sorts of mental distress and disease, and that good health is much more than the absence of disease. I was shocked to discover that 85 percent of all illnesses are stress related. In fact the World Health Organization has proclaimed stress to be the number-one global epidemic.

As a result of choosing to be proactive in fighting my disease, I had a physical breakthrough instead of a breakdown. It was a bitter, frightening battle, but I've won! In 1995, Dr. Bruce Bacon, a leading liver specialist and former medical adviser for the American Liver Foundation, pronounced the hepatitis C virus completely gone from my body. I represent the "body of evidence" of what I've learned.

This book represents another phase of my insatiable curiosity. I no longer consider myself to be simply an entertainer who's miraculously survived a life-threatening disease. I've graduated. I'm an "infotainer." I have always been a communicator -- whether writing or singing a song, acting, giving a lecture, chatting with a stranger, or writing a book. I'm living proof that your choice of how to respond to a situation constitutes your ultimate power. It's time for you to find that power and begin getting all you deserve.

Each time we squarely face and successfully handle a problem, we become aware of even more options. My hope is that somewhere in these pages you'll recognize just how broad your range of choices is. Psychologist Abraham Maslow once said, "When all you have is a hammer, you see everything as a nail." In these upcoming pages, you're going to assemble your very own personalized toolbox full of emotional, physical, and spiritual tools. That way you can reach for them anytime you desire to fix something in your mind, body, or spirit.

When we stand together

It's our finest hour.

We can do anything

If we keep believing in the power.

-- "Love Can Build a Bridge," Naomi Judd

Winning the Peace Prize

You don't have to be going through a hard time to benefit from the messages in this book. You might just have a yearning to become even happier. As your guide, I'll recommend that you slow down and turn down the volume of background noise in your life. Also, get ready for an epiphany as you come to understand how your self-esteem affects everything. We'll be working primarily on your relationship with yourself since it predicts the kind of relationships you'll have with others.

And if we win, we win the grand prize, the peace prize. That's because peace of mind is the ultimate goal. I've met kings and queens, world leaders, presidents, movie stars, rock stars, Nobel laureates, sports figures, and every other kind of famous personage. I can tell you we all want the same thing -- peace of mind. That is why it is Choice #1.

Peace of mind isn't the absence of problems; peace of mind comes from your ability to deal with them. Peace of mind is both the first and the ultimate choice we make through exercising the other nineteen choices in this book. The more we understand ourselves and what's standing in the way of our being as happy and healthy as we can, and the more eager we become to risk following our dreams and offering our gifts to others, the more worthy we feel, the more we choose peace of mind.

This doesn't mean we will ever have all the answers. As humans, we are always in the process of becoming. But when we trust ourselves and the process, we evolve. Once Wy was lying in my lap on our couch in the kitchen crying about her divorce. "Mom, am I ever going to have it all together?" She was hoping to hear a soothing "Of course you will, sweetheart." Instead, I responded, "No, 'cause that would be like saying you could breathe, eat, or sleep once and for all. Life is a process. Let's stick together and do the best we can. We either find a way or make a way, one day at a time." There was a long pause. Wy sighed, "Yeah, 'cause if it ain't one thing, it's your mother."

Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is usually more than the outcome. -- Arthur Ashe

Life Is Short, but It's Wide

Today is the first day of the rest of an altogether more peaceful and fulfilling life. You can consciously choose a better way of relating to yourself and others. You can attract more of what you desire and discover brand-new opportunities.

We get only one go-around in life, so let's get it right! Don't waste another single drop of your potential for happiness. If you've been sleepwalking through parts of your life, this is your wake-up call. Open your eyes now to the truth all around you. Open your heart and mind to what really matters to you. Begin to ask questions. Begin to think and behave like the person you want to be! I know you can do it.

Select a spot that is quiet and comfortable for you, as my kitchen table is for me. Designate that space your own sacred "growth place." Pretend that I have just made you your favorite comfort meal, and picture me sitting in an empty chair as your companion and support.

Excerpted from Naomi's Breakthrough Guide20 Choices to Transform Your Life by Naomi Judd. Copyright © 2004 by Naomi Judd. Published by Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.