After four fulfilling years as a soldier, Janey McGill suffered a serious back injury that ended her future in the Army Legal Service. With the loss of such meaning in her life, Janey sought to fill the void with a purposeful adventure. She completed a 630-mile track of the Southwest Coastal Path and planted sunflower seeds to honour soldiers wounded in the war in Afghanistan.
This journey was the beginning of a new purpose in Janey’s life. Today she enjoys leading physically, culturally and socially challenging expeditions around the globe. One recent adventure was an 800km walk of Oman’s formidable Rub’ Al Khali, the largest sand desert in the world. There Janey’s mission was to refind her purpose and bridge gaps between culture and gender.
What does it take to find meaning and purpose in your adventures? Is it possible to find these things again when all seems lost? Take a look into Janey’s experience and discover the answers for yourself.
Take Action to Replenish the Soul
With two years of rehabilitation from five fractured vertebrae, Janey drifted and struggled to cope with the emptiness. With her army dreams dashed, she searched for something to fill the gap.
Janey found her solace in a walk down the southwest coast path, deciding to commemorate the soldiers who came back severely wounded, mentally or physically, from the war in Afghanistan.
“I ended up walking with a lot of commandos who had lost people and had friends injured,” Janey says. “They would actually plant some flowers and they would tell me who they were planting them for. It was poignant for me, all of that. I slowed the walk down and stayed with them, which was lovely.”
Despite losing what had been the main purpose of her life, Janey found meaning in an adventure that combined her experience with her passion. Moreover, Janey was able to meet people and make priceless connections. Janey is an example that even if your life takes you down a different path, great meaning can be found there if you persist on your journey and create adventures that mean something to you.
Remember Those Who Have it Harder
Janey’s interest in adventure was sparked and so her journey began. Next, Janey decided to walk 90 miles non-stop in honour of the marines. The event ended up being a very painful 39-hour trek.
“There were a lot of times when I wanted to stop because it was so painful,” Janey remembers, “but I know there are a lot of people out there who have done harder things in the name of our country. They're out fighting. So I think about those people when I'm hurting and think some people don't have a choice. That keeps me going.”
To get past the pain of walking, Janey connected her motivation to her cause. Her great passion for those who protect reminds her why she must continue. This is the power of meaning. It can help drive you forward even when you want to stop. How will your purpose motivate you to move forward through pain?
Reframe the Struggle to Push Forward
While each walk was greatly fulfilling, Janey could never sit still for long. Soon after she planned her next expedition, walking across the Oman desert. “I have no desire to be the fastest person across the desert,” Janey shares. “It's not about that. It's about the conversations I want to have. I want to learn about their culture. Because from a Western point of view, I don't necessarily think we have it all right. We're very quick to judge other people.”
Think slowing down is easy for Janey? Think again. “I think patience is the hardest thing,” she says. “For me, it’s saying there's no rush. There's no right or wrong way of doing anything. I'm always knocking on doors and exploring.”
Talking about her adventures is actually one of the most difficult things for Janey, who isn’t interested in self-promotion at all. “It has to be done as part of an expedition,” Janey says. “Maybe it's just about reframing it. It's not really about self-promotion at all. It's just sharing the journey, sharing what you've learned to make other people think and to give them hope to see that they can be inspired.”
Janey’s final words of advice are for her fellow adventurers who bite off more than they can chew. “I’m very good at overwhelming myself,” Janey relates. “For the past three years, I made a commitment to myself to do one positive thing a day. I do one thing just to get me to where I want to be. Slowly, that one thing a day adds up to quite a lot.”
For more inspiration from Janey’s journey of meaning after loss, listen to her episode on the Tough Girl podcast.
Website - www.janeymcgill.com
Twitter - @JaneyMcgill
Instagram - @gijaneyadventures
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