Jeff & Marcia Kwarsick

In the late ‘80s a friend of mine approached me about attending a “You Seminar” (the original name of the training that Drs. Phil and Joe McGraw coined, before it was changed to Pathways at a later time.) My visceral reactions to his invitation were skepticism and judgment, of both the individual who recommended it and the program itself. My friend gushed that he was convinced he witnessed miracles while attending, but coming from this guy — someone who was married and divorced twice and had his vast spectrum of problems — I thought, “Well, yeah, of course someone like him could fall for that!” Besides, I was sincerely convinced that I didn’t need any help. Other than my struggle to find the right woman to share my life with, my world was all but perfect! I had been trying for 13 years to locate her, but despite my sincere longing I had only dated three women seriously. In my perception I had a pretty good handle on my life and did not need a seminar to shake up dust and complicate things needlessly, so I dismissed the suggestion and moved on.

Months after the third girlfriend and I broke up, while having lunch with coworkers, the man who I considered my best friend blurted out that he had been dating my ex-girlfriend behind my back for weeks. It was a painful, humiliating betrayal that was all too familiar, as I had experienced it once before. A dread washed over me that history would repeat itself — that another ex-girlfriend would marry another best friend, just as had occurred with the first of the three girlfriends. I was embarrassed, hurt, and depressed at the realization that perhaps I actually wasn’t on a path to the life I really wanted. Even though I truly loved my job, I seriously contemplated leaving the company to avoid the further embarrassment of being reduced to the butt of my coworkers’ jokes.

As fate would have it, I was again approached about the training – but this time the invitation was extended by that same third ex-girlfriend. Her attitude and temperament had changed dramatically since we’d last spoken months before. Her bitterness from our breakup and her unwillingness to be friends had disappeared, and she was genuinely concerned about me. Near the end of our phone call, she said, “By the way, I went to that YOU Seminar we heard about, and it’s not at all what we assumed it would be. Knowing you as I do, I’m sure you’d like it!” That dramatic change in her demeanor (now a strong, confident, caring woman), coupled with the weight of the emotional low that I was experiencing, were the catalysts that finally persuaded me to swallow my pride and try something I wouldn’t ever have considered previously.

I was still resistant to accept the notion that I might actually need help, but I found some resolution in my cynical heart and registered for the next class anyway. Even though my initial skepticism followed me right through the doors of the Weekend training in November 1989, by the end of the first night, I had “bought in.” The transformations that were first described to me months earlier started to unfold before my very eyes. Remarkable changes were beginning to occur for some of my classmates, even within the first few hours. Hope grew rapidly among us, giving way to openness that quickly evolved into trust. It was palpable. Those three elements – Openness, Trust, and Hope – were so clearly tied together in those formative moments. I was so enthralled with what I was witnessing that, from a place of autopilot, I defaulted to one of my dream-killing specialties — focusing on everyone else’s issues while ignoring my own. By the end of the Weekend I recognized my mistake and turned my focus back to myself during the Walk.

I went into Pathways thinking I knew exactly what I wanted to gain from the process. I came out of Pathways with what I really needed and didn’t even know that I wanted.  This simple, but remarkable (and often difficult) process of taking an inventory of my life to date, uncovering false beliefs about myself and others, and understanding how they led to poor choices and behaviors in relationships helped me to begin making better decisions that created happiness and growth. I was able to identify my own biases and shallow judgments of others, and most importantly, I recognized my folly in thinking there actually was a way to map out a “perfect life” – one that has no risk of heartbreak. Simply identified, this was the Achilles Heel that caused me to subconsciously choose a path through life that (I believed) was free from the potential of future heartbreak and disappointment – a reality that I now know is impossible to attain. My years on this path often led to indecision, inaction, and having missed out on many of life’s joys. Each subsequent training I attended left me feeling even more revitalized, focused, and empowered. I was armed with confidence that I was headed in a positive direction, and my heart was filled with certainty that my life could be all that I wanted and more!

I proposed to Marcia (Class 51), the ex-girlfriend that convinced me to try Pathways, on the evening that I graduated my training with Class 53. She said “yes” and we will celebrate our 27th anniversary this fall. I did not quit my company as I had considered – instead, I continued to pursue my life-long passion for aerospace and crafted a rewarding 40-year career at that company, from which I retired in 2016. Marcia and I have weathered many of life’s inevitable challenges through the years (deaths of parents and family members, and many other happiness-threatening events), and we both believe that the training we received 28 years ago prepared us to navigate these trials and tribulations with grace and perseverance. We have enjoyed travel overseas and stateside in the company of family and friends, and we are just beginning retired life together. We are members of several fine dining clubs, and we both devote much of our time to volunteer work for various non-profit organizations. Marcia and I celebrate the Blessing of Life itself, with all of its ups and downs, and seek to find incredible beauty in the journey. We know with certainty that this is the one and only life on earth that we get, so we embrace the opportunity to enjoy the simplest of things and choose to quickly set aside the disappointments and setbacks. We celebrate the power we really have to create and enjoy a life fully of our own choosing!

One of my greatest joys in life is my work with Pathways Core Training – I call it my “graduate training.” For nine years I have served as a Pathways TA while continuing to learn, grow and benefit from this extraordinary program. Through this continued involvement I have come to learn that, being human, I will continue to make mistakes. However, I recognize that it is my choice to pick myself up, forgive myself, and learn how to do better next time. I know how to be vigilant toward, and honest about, any recurring old (or new) behaviors that could potentially threaten my relationships and, in-turn, my long-term happiness.

Pathways immeasurably helped me to move away from the false truths and wall of fear that kept me from pursuing the life I truly wanted. Though I will never know exactly what my life would have been like had I not attended, I’m certain it would bear no resemblance to what it has become. While I’ve also learned that no one is really qualified to give advice to others, I will offer that if someone introduces you to the opportunity of attending Pathways, consider taking a small risk and give the first Weekend a try. Within those 48 hours you’ll know whether or not there is something in it for you. It could possibly be the threshold to the life you have really always wanted, but hadn’t even imagined, as it was for me. Even if you elect not to attend, you should know that at least one person cares about you very much, and wants you to discover the best life possible!