Tonya Jahnke could not be far removed from her life now 28 years ago. She was a heavy smoker, running on two packs a day, who could not even walk up a short hill without having to stop. As a high school dropout with a fourth-grade math level, she was ashamed of who she was. Yet her experiences have taught her so much more and propelled her to where she is now. Today, Tonya is known as “The Healthy Habits Girl,” a wellness champion with a Bachelor’s degree, a cardiac nurse, and a full-time health advocate, having run seventeen marathons. She shares her journey with us, from being a zero to a hero and beyond, as she gives real-world practical strategies and tactics that could also help us stay on course and continue working towards a brighter future. Before you give up on your journey, listen to what Tonya has to say as she gives more reasons than one on why you can succeed.
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Keep On Going with Tonya Jahnke – The Healthy Habits Girl
How To Go From Zero To Hero With Positive Self-Talk And Visualization
I was doing the Coffee with Corey and it was called What A Lousy Story. You can go to CoffeeWithCorey.com and sign up to get a morning video that should help you start out your day in a much more excited, fired up, enthusiastic and enlightened way. I was talking about how we fuel our brain sometimes with these lousy stories that say, “I can’t. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough. I’m too old. I’m too young. I’m a woman in a man’s world,” or whatever the story that you fill your brain with, you’re responsible for that story. One of the things that we need to do is we need to change the story in our head if we want to change our lives.
The guest that I have for you is good at this. This is a person that I met many years ago. I watched her go from a high school dropout to a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing. I watched her go from a two-pack-a-day smoker to a marathon veteran. I watched her go from the shy little violet to a person who attracts the best people around her. I watched her go from someone who had no experience in direct sales to a person who pulls in a significant income through direct marketing. I watched her become someone that has bloomed. One of the things I want to share with you is I watched her work harder than I’ve ever watched anyone else work to accomplish those things. That’s why I wanted to share her with you because what I want you to know is that anything is possible. Sometimes you have to start from almost nothing to get where you want to go. This person has my ultimate respect. This person I’ve been married to for many years, her name is Tonya Jahnke and I want to introduce her to you.
Corey, thank you for having me on your show.
I said a lot there about where you were and where you are now. I was hoping you could tell me about the person that I met, the 21-year-old Tonya Jahnke.
When I was 21, I was telling myself that lousy story because I was living a pretty lousy life with not much hope of any kind of future. When I met you, Corey, you gave me that hope. What happened is that I was living this life of three waitressing jobs surrounded by destructive people, who I thought were my friends. I physically had to get up and move. We moved an hour north of where we were currently living and it changed the way I was living life. When I was able to do that, I saw my life in a different way and I saw hope for the future.
One of the things that I remember that was very interesting was it was very painful for you to cut some of those ties with your friends. Can you tell me about the guilt that you felt and how hard that was?No matter how difficult it gets, you have to surround yourself with people who support and believe in you and no matter what, keep on going. Click To Tweet
It was a struggle because I was a support person to them. I felt an obligation even to continue being a friend to them. That was very difficult. When I stopped the destructive things that I was doing, once we moved, I started surrounding myself with different people and then my story started to change. I started to see successful people around me. People that weren’t destructive, that loved me for who I was. That was an amazing shift for sure.
At that point though, you felt like somebody who wasn’t very knowledgeable about anything. You dropped out of school and you went to a waitressing job. You were pretty successful as a waitress. You are bringing in a fair amount of money, but what was happening to that money?
It would go into cigarettes, alcohol, pizza, gas money and to all my friends. Talk about supporting people. I was physically supporting them. I was also supporting them financially because I don’t know if that’s the kind of heart that I have. That is what I felt obligated to do. Once I was able to make that mind shift, move and decided that I wanted a life, a future, I decided to go to nursing school. I was able to surround myself with some positive people around schooling. That’s what helped me go forward because I started to see wins at the school. The teachers believed in me. You believed in me. All my friends in that area, they started to believe in me. I’m looking at myself like, “I could do something else. I could go and help people in a completely different way.” That was super exciting for me. I was drawing on other people’s strengths and their faith.
Brian Tracy said something that describes what you were talking about. He said that one of the major differences between unsuccessful people and successful people is that unsuccessful people have an extremely short time perspective. It sounds like you were living on a day-by-day, maybe even an hour-by-hour type of an approach. You looked at how can I create a future, which meant that you lengthened your time perspective. You started looking out at what was possible for you. To get there, you had to go over some pretty tough challenges. What happened when you first got to school and what were the biggest challenges there?
School was a challenge for me. I walked into the study skill center at WITC in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. I walked in and said, “I do not know what I want to do or be. Can you help me?” They wrapped me in their loving arms. They said, “Let’s try a math test.” They gave me a math test that I believe was about twenty questions long. I got to number four or five and that’s all the further I could get. I took a deep breath and they said, “No worries, this is fourth-grade math level that you’re at. Let’s work from there.” That’s exactly what I did. The shame and the embarrassment that I felt, I didn’t know if I could go further, but they supported me. They looked at me and said, “You can do this. You can do whatever you want to do.”
I drew on their faith and their strength and their knowledge. They helped me get through that. I realized I didn’t want to become a nurse. I went and kept going forward. I took the next test and enrolled in the next class. The people that I was able to surround myself with were future thinkers. They were long-term goal thinkers. I started to see what I could become if I kept going forward, if I kept trying. It’s an amazing thing when you are able to surround yourself with awesome people and draw from their faith in you. I felt unstoppable.
One of the things that is true is that you were unstoppable. I can remember many a time coming and waking you up because your head was asleep on a book. Taking you so that you could get some decent sleep. I saw you study fourteen hours at a time or so. One of the things that was difficult for you was when we took those fourth-grade math sheets home and we’re looking at equations like 3×3 and you have no idea what the answer is. You pushed yourself through that. Can you please tell the Successful Thinkers out there what you were going through and how you got through it?
It was very hard. What got me through is as I saw the wins and as I imagined what my future could be and how many people I could help. Corey, you were an amazing support to me at that time and you believed in me fully. I was able to dive in and concentrate on that. I kept the vision of my future in front of me. I imagined myself at graduation and then shortly after that, we had planned a Walt Disney World trip. I kept my sights on that. I believe that’s what got me through. It was one hard step at a time. As I kept moving forward, I knew that I could keep going because nothing was going to stop me because it’s almost like this inertia, this momentum. Once you get the momentum going, nothing can stop you.
Momentum is a wonderful thing. John Maxwell, a famous leadership trainer, talks a lot about the Law of the Big Mo. A lot of people when they get stuck on something that’s embarrassing or shameful to them, I remember we were sitting at the kitchen table and we would cut an apple into two pieces. We discussed why one half is one half. We’d cut them again and discover why one quarter is one quarter. It was very embarrassing for you to have to do that with me and in front of me. Would you say that putting that effort in to get through that was worth it and why?
It was absolutely worth it because I believe that I knew that if I didn’t do that, if I didn’t work through trying to calculate those fractions, as I’m looking at that apple, I was totally embarrassed. I didn’t get it. I knew that if I stopped right then and gave up, I would not be able to live with myself. I knew that I needed to keep going more than anything to prove it to myself. I dug deep. I’m not even sure if I can explain it. I knew that I had that belief in myself. That those people around me were almost relying on me and believing in me so much. Having that faith in the Lord as well, you can do this. I can even see me at the kitchen table. It was frustrating. There were a lot of tears. Every single tear was worth it.
That’s important for you to lay out for us because we have a lot of people who don’t feel that they have any kind of support system. I remember one of the times you turning to Christianity. I also remember you doing a lot of what you described as visualization. Can you describe how you see visualization and what steps you take to make those pictures real to you?
One of the things that I do every single morning, even now, I’ve been doing that for quite a few years is writing out the “I am” statements. Every single morning when I wake up, I say, “I am a lifelong learner. I am surrounded by amazing, lovingly successful people. I am a daughter of Christ who loves me fully.” When I’m able to write out those “I am” statements, it makes it true. When you put pen to paper, that is amazing. It gets imprinted into your brain in a completely different way than just to think about your goals or think about what you’re grateful for.We need to change the story in our head if we want to change our lives. Click To Tweet
When you’re able to write that down, it makes you believe it’s so much more like it’s real. When you write it in the present tense, “I am this. I am that,” it is so real to yourself and into your brain that you can’t help achieving your goals because you have it written down right there. It’s an amazing mind shift that I have done. It’s been working. It keeps me focused more than anything. It keeps me focused on my goals. I write them every morning and every night. I also have affirmations usually between six and seven cards that I write out my affirmations. I changed them out every month or so. These affirmations are amazing affirmations that keep me centered and keep me focused on my goals, and where I want to go and who I want to help.
There’s something else too. If I were to walk into your bathroom, what would I see there?
I have three vision boards. These vision boards are fine. I cut out different images of places I want to go, people I want to meet, experiences that I want to experience and who I want to experience that with. I always have a word of the year as well, which is a lot of fun for me. I’ve done that the last several years and that keeps me focused all year long.
One of the things that I noticed about you is that you are tremendously focused on where you wanted to go. A lot of people get hung up in the day-to-day dramas that are going on in the world. One of the things that I was thinking about is that you don’t spend a lot of time hung up in world news or things that distract your focus. Can you talk a little bit about that?
I can’t remember the last time that I watched the news except in my patients’ rooms. A lot of my patients like to watch the news. I don’t because I don’t want that into my brain. I want my brain to be filled with amazing information that’s helpful, loving, kind and successful thinking. That’s why I love The Successful Thinker because that is exactly what I want my brain to be thinking all of the time is to think success, think how can I help the next person? How can I make a difference and leave a legacy? What I love to do is listen to podcasts and I do all of the time. Corey, yours is my favorite. I love The Successful Thinker Podcast and the Coffee with Corey’s every single morning. They become one of my favorite things.
The reason I liked that so much is that it does keep me centered. It keeps me focused on my goals because I always learn from what other people are going through. I feel like I’ve read a lot of self-development, self-help, leadership books and they’re all amazing. Some of the issues that I have read, I’ve read that before, but there’s always something new, like a new gem, new little diamond in there that I missed the last time. These podcasts that I listen to are all amazing, inspirational. When I’m able to stay in that space of inspiration, of love, in joy and peace, that’s what I’m able to portray out in the world. I love that.
One of the things that is interesting was when I first met you, you were the one that I thought were super cool. You were a Grateful Dead fan. You were cranking music so loud that it about would melt our ears. It’s a different story. You say that you listened to podcasts. It’s 100% true. Tell them when you’re listening to podcasts because people always say they don’t have time.
All of the time I listen to them. It’s a podcast app that you can get. It’s a free app. You can search for any podcasts that you want. I listen to it as soon as I wake up in the morning. I listen to it in the gym when I’m working out. I listen to a podcast when I’m doing dishes, when I’m doing laundry. I listen to podcasts all the time. Even if I’m going to be in the car for five minutes on the way to the gym, a podcast is on. It’s very seldom do I listen to music anymore. Once in a while, I will turn on elevation music and listen to a couple of songs, then I’m like, “I need to get on podcasts because I don’t want to miss anything.”
One of the things that happen is that I get to listen to them by attrition. One of the things that I personally didn’t know is that there were so many people out there focused on lifting people up. Can you mention some of your favorite podcasts?
Rachel Hollis, she has an amazing podcast. I love Joel Osteen. He is an uplifter through and through. Steven Furtick, he has Elevation Church in South Carolina. He’s a pastor and his podcasts are amazing. Bishop Jakes, he’s a very dynamic speaker and a lot of fun to listen to. Brendon Burchard, he’s got a great podcast. I could go on and on.
How much do you pay for these podcasts?
They’re free. It’s a free app. It’s getting me excited thinking about them like, “I need to get off this podcast to listen to a podcast.”Sometimes you have to start from almost nothing to get to where you want to go. Click To Tweet
That’s one of the things that is funny because people say to me, “I don’t have the money to get any kind of anyone to help me. I don’t have the money to hire a coach.” One of the other things that you do, and this is funny, as the husband, “I’ve got a couple of things at the library. Pick them up for me.” Can you tell me a little bit about the library?
Years ago, I discovered that the library had books, CDs, tapes you could listen to. We started to homeschool our son when he was quite young. We lived at the library. I started to discover this and that I can put it onto my iPod. I don’t know if they’re still around. I was able to put them on my iPod and onto the computer. I listened to books on CD before there were podcasts. I listened to them all of the time because I have a Type A personality where sometimes it’s very hard for me to sit down and read. It’s very easy for me to put in a book on tape or a book on CD. There’s Audible right on your phone. The library was awesome. The library is free. I was able to receive all of this awesome information and education for free. I couldn’t believe it. It was amazing.
One thing that is fun to watch is when you listen to a podcast and they all mentioned, “You should check out this book by so and so,” you’ve got your pen right there. You’re writing it down. Before we know it, we’re picking it up at the library. What you’re doing is you’re constantly exposing yourself to great ideas and great motivation and so forth. I’m very proud of you for that because a lot of people give lifelong learning lip service, “I’m going to read this book or I should do this or I should do that.” One of the things that is important to you is your healthy habits program and your healthy lifestyle. Can you share with people where you’ve come in your physical journey since I’ve met you?
I remember one of our first dates you said, “Let’s go play racquetball.” I was 21. I hadn’t put on tennis shoes probably since I was fifteen. I still had that pair. Gym shorts? I didn’t have any. I didn’t even know what a gym was. I remember going there and playing racquetball. Now, going through the process of learning how to exercise, how to eat right, how to make those healthy habits, it’s all a shift. It’s a mind shift and a heart shift for sure. I started to learn about the different foods that you can eat that make you feel better. Instead of pop, drink water. It’s simple switches you can make. Instead of white flour, use whole wheat flour. I started this years ago just going, “If we did this, we can switch this out and it’s healthier. It makes us feel better.” I started to do that. We read lots of books on how to exercise, different ways to weight lift and it’s been compiled. It’s year after year, I’m still learning how to take great care of our care of myself.
Our first house had a little bit of a hill in the backyard. I remember you’d have to stop halfway up the hill and catch your breath. How many marathons did I say that you ran?
I’ve run seventeen marathons. I loved them. I love to run. It’s my favorite thing to do.
One of the things is that you’ve created an intense morning routine for yourself. Can you give our readers a little bit of what the morning looked like for you before I even got up?
I’m usually up by 4:00. I like to get to the gym by 5:00 because that’s the time it opens. I did an upper body workout, shoulders. I did the elliptical for a half hour because that’s the training regimen that I’m on. It’s amazing. I wake up, I write on my journal, I write what I’m thankful for, I write the “I am” statements, I read my affirmations and then make my daily positive posts on Facebook as well because I love to do that. I share my heart and share the joy on Facebook as well and social media because people are watching. I want people to wake up and feel that amazing energy that I feel, that awesome joy that I fit feel.
Mel Robbins, she’s a famous author and speaker. She had a TED Talk on how she went from depression to energetic living. Before she got up in the morning, she counted from ten to zero. By the time, her feet hit the floor at zero, she was standing up pretending that she was a rocket ship and launching out of her bed. That’s what got her out of bed in the morning. From there, it snowballs. Once you can get your feet on the floor, then it’s all good from there. You’ve got to keep moving.
It’s important because one of the things that you have seen in your personal life and in your profession as more or less a cardiac nurse now is what happens if you don’t practice as you practice. Can you share some of what you’ve seen and how it’s affected you?
Sadly, my dad died from heart disease. He suffered terribly for years because of that. It was because of unhealthy eating. It was because of stress that he dealt with in his life. I see it on the cardiac floor. People are becoming younger. They’re getting sicker and younger. It’s so important for us to take care of ourselves right now so we can take care of the future generation.
It’s interesting because what you said about your father, for instance, he died relatively young. Both of his parents lived to be in their mid-90s. You’re about to know that it was those things that you mentioned. I remember he liked to put bacon grease on his eggs and things of this nature. He was an interesting guy because he was so strong in so many ways. Unfortunately, stress took him down. I wonder if you could share a couple of strategies or things that you do to help yourself, being a Type A person, to help yourself deal with stress and to motivate yourself to get through those what we call ugly times.When we stop, we wither. Click To Tweet
I did have a little bit of an ugly time. I had to reach out to her friend. She had to call me down, talked me off the ledge because it happens. Situations in life happen all the time. Some are bigger situations to have to deal with than others. Drawing from friendship is key for me. My faith is on the top of my list. What I’m able to draw on that faith, I’m able to calm myself down. Breathing, taking those four nice deep breaths in and trying to relax is key. One thing I’ve been doing with my nutrition, I’ve been sharing as a supplement called Juice Plus for years now. That has helped my nutrition and how my body has been healing and recovering. It recovers much easier. Once I started taking Juice Plus, I was able to eat better. I’ve started to crave more healthy foods. I started to drink more water. I started to sleep better. There are so many things that we can do in our everyday life. One thing is to stress less. Stress affects people in all different ways. There are so many different ways that we can support each other when we’re going through stressful times.
That’s one of the things. Sometimes people say, “I don’t have any friends or I don’t have many friends.” Part of that is because they expect the world to show up at their own door. One of the things that you do well, especially as I said because you were this shy little violet when I first met you, is going out. Juice Plus has helped you learn to work on this and making new friends. Can you talk a little bit about how you go about making friendships or connecting with people that you maybe have been disconnected from for a while?
That is my most favorite thing to do. Harvey Mackay’s dad said that he made a living out of collecting friends. I heard that and I’m like, “That’s what I do. I collect friends.” That’s what it’s called. I absolutely love connecting with new people. It’s become easier for me because I am not caring so much about how I show up. I show up as me. If people want to accept that, that’s great. I show up with a servant heart and with a joyful outlook in life and people are drawn to that. I truly believe in being kind and being joyful and leading with your heart and people see that. That’s what I’ve been doing. I’m in a lot of different networks for women. I reach out through Facebook and social media.
It is one of my favorite things to do because it’s so easy. Everybody is on social media and everybody loves to be reached out and touched in some way. That is what I’ve been doing more successfully is being able to reach out and say, “How are you doing?” Making it a genuine message to them, like a specific message to them saying hello. I started picking up the phone and saying, “How are you?” I did that the other day with a friend. She was like, “I so appreciate you picking up the phone and calling me. You really do care.” It’s true because people don’t pick up the phone and call anymore. It’s not something that we do. Showing up and making that phone call or showing up on social media in a genuine way can make a huge difference in somebody’s life.
The way I would sum that up is if you want to have a friend, then you have to be a friend. Tonya, you have worked hard on yourself. It’s important for the readers out there to understand that although we made this sound easy, it’s been a struggle. There were times when you were in fits of frustration and tears and things of that nature. Can you help me understand what you do when obstacles present themselves as they always do and how you try to break through?
They do. It takes a lot of self-strength. It takes a lot of self-belief and a focus on what you can become. When I have about three years ago, I had a situation where I was devastated is what happened in my job situation. I was devastated about what happened to me. I seriously did not think I could overcome that. The shame, the guilt and the embarrassment of what I was experiencing. I wanted to crawl under a chair and die.
It was because you had been abruptly fired.
I was. I had been working since I was sixteen years old. I’m very successful with everything that I did. When I was fired from that job, it was the most devastating thing I think that had ever happened to me because I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know where to turn. It was taking those little steps, calling you, Corey, calling two of my very best friends, and my aunt and talking, praying and waking up the next day. I think that was key. We can get into this depression and then say, “Forget it, it’s not worth it.” When I woke up that next morning, I told my little doggy, “We’re going for a run.” I had to keep moving forward. It’s like running a race. You have to put your foot in front of the other. You have to keep going. You’d need to draw the strength from whomever or whatever you possibly can because if you stop, if you give up, I knew I would wither away.
I know and knew in my heart that there was more out there. God is not finished with me yet. I needed to keep moving forward. That is exactly what I did. I kept going forward. I would call the friends I needed to call. I kept posting on social media positive things. I kept writing in my journal, “Lord, this is what I’m thankful for.” When I did that and kept doing that, I was able to survive. I was able to go, “I’m onto the next positive thing and the next goal. Let’s put that goal in front of me and let’s crush it.” That’s what got me through. I didn’t let that depression surround me to a point where I couldn’t move forward. I got up and kept going.
It’s brilliantly said because I think that that is the number one thing that’s happened to everyone. You all get hit in some ways. Something knocks you right down to your knees. One of the things that I know, because I was there at the time, is that we did get a professional resume writer involved, someone who knew what they were doing. Ultimately, getting fired turned out to be probably the best thing that ever happened to you for two reasons. Can you please share what happened and why I’m saying two reasons?
I took a couple months off. I wrote up my resume. I went out and did quite a few different interviews. I was accepted on this cardiac unit that I’m working on now. I love working on that cardiac unit. Our team that works on that unit is amazing. The people that I work with were not people that show up at work. We are a family that helps each other out. I love my patients. When I go in, I feel like I can make such an amazing difference to my patients and their families. I show up in everybody’s room with joy, love and servant-hearted. I love it. I became the wellness champion of our floor as well. That’s been so fun. I make a new board every single month, a fitness board. Most of the time, it’s not even about fitness. It’s more about wellness overall, how to live in a space of love and joy. I love that unit.
Those are two reasons. There was a third one that I was thinking about because it was a requirement to keep that job. What was that requirement? What did you have to do and how did you do it?
I’ve been an Associate Degree RN for over twenty years. The request is all associate degree RNs to achieve our Bachelor’s degree. I almost forgot about it. I graduated from my Bachelor’s degree and it took me a year to achieve, but it was a difficult time because going back to school after being out of school for over twenty years was a challenge.
One of the things that I thought was great about you that a lot of people won’t do is that let’s say for example, the class that was the hardest was your statistics class. Whenever you got stuck, rather than staying stuck, you would do something that most people won’t do, which is?
I called the teachers. I kept working on it. I wanted to work on it until I passed. I did fail the first exam for the statistics class. I said, “I have to get through this.” I called up the instructors again. I kept working on it. I kept going.
That’s critical. That’s what Successful Thinkers do. They just keep going. This is a great episode because what we’re talking about here is basically that giving up is not an option. You set your sights on where you want to go. You visualize. You practice positive self-talk. You struggle, you fail, you pick yourself back up again and you visualize. You practice positive self-talk until you get where you want to go. Once you get there, you set where you want to go next. Tonya, how can our readers get in touch with you if they need some inspiration and some help? I know that you’re a busy girl. You do have some fun things going on outside of Juice Plus, outside of your nursing career. I’d like you to share that with the readers and set them off on a good day.
I’m developing TheHealthyHabitsGirl.com. When you go to Healthy Habits Girl, you’ll receive the free Healthy Habits blueprint. That’s seven healthy tips for achieving a positive mindset.
That’s excellent because of a positive mindset is everything in this world. I know that if you review this podcast a couple of dozen times, you’re going to find so many helpful things. It’s inspiring to me to watch Tonya, to have seen her journey from nowhere to everywhere and to know that it can be done. It was an amazing situation to watch when she was in nursing school the first time and spent twelve, fourteen hours studying, crying. She would take her first few nursing classes. She would barely squeak by after trying so super hard because one of the things you got to do in life is you got to learn also how to be a student. Once she got that way, there was no stopping her. Successful Thinkers, thank you so much for your time. Remember, I believe in you.
- Tonya Jahnke
- Elevation Church
- Mel Robbins’ TED Talk
- Juice Plus
About Tonya Jahnke
Tonya Jahnke is known as “The Healthy Habits Girl”. She is a Full-Time Cardiac Nurse, Juice Plus Representative, and woman’s healthy living advocate. Tonya has gone from high school dropout to college graduate and from smoking and drinking to running and coaching. Tonya has overcome her shyness and negative self-image to successful networker and Successful Thinker. Tonya has the gift of encouragement and inspiration. She works constantly to improve the health of everyone in her universe.
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