What started out as a family tragedy has over time evolved into a motivational speaking career that has inspired thousands of people across Australia and now eastern Idaho.
Kate Fitzsimons, 26, an international motivational speaker from Sydney, Australia visited Rigby and Ririe High Schools Dec. 10 and 11 to share her journey that started with heartache but that ultimately lead to an endeavor to share what she learned from her experience and what helped her get through it.
“It was a journey created from our family’s greatest heartache,” she said.
In October of 2012, Fitzsimons’ sister Nicole was killed in motorcycle accident in Thailand. Being only 20 at the time, Fitzsimons’ world was flipped upside down.
“I went through the usual emotions of ‘how am I going to move forward from this,’” she said. “I would have moved Heaven and Earth to save my sister.”
Through her grieving process, Fitzsimons developed an eating disorder and didn’t know how to cope with her emotions. But despite all of that, she discovered that she had a choice of how she can respond to hardships and what she will become of them.
“I was determined to draw something positive from the situation,” she said. “Every day it was about choosing the love I have for her, more than the hate for what happened.”
Shortly after the tragedy, Fitzsimons’ family established a charity that raises awareness about travel safety. Since then, she has spoken to more than 70,000 students across Australia, sharing her sister’s story.
Starting off with raising awareness about travel safety, Fitzsimons’ presentations quickly evolved to speaking about resiliency.
“Student after student would come up and say ‘how did you do that,’ but they would always finish their sentence with ‘I never would have been able to do that,’” she said. “That’s what really lighted my spark to begin speaking about the motivational side of things.”
After being certified as a life coach in Sacramento, Calif. Fitzsimons began the process of becoming the inspirational speaker she is today.
“They (students) want to hear it from someone they can relate to and also feel inspired,” she said. “I’m a big believer in people may forget what you say, but they’ll never forget the way you made them feel.”
During each speech, Fitzsimons stresses what she calls the “Three R’s;” recognize, reflect and redirect.
“The biggest part of what spirals into things like anxiety and depression is that idea that I have no control and I’m helpless. So if we can recognize that the most dramatic part of any situation is the story you tell yourself; it’s not the facts,” she said.
After reflecting on what may have happened or what is causing one to stress, Fitzsimons said she likes to reflect on the matter.
“The biggest thing that I ask myself is ‘am I proud of how I’m showing up in this situation,’” she said. “What do I do when I think and feel this way and am I proud of that.”
The last step in the process is to redirect.
“We redirect by asking empowering questions,’ she said. “So the three questions I have is: what possible positive things can come from this? What can I learn from this to benefit my life or the life of someone else? How will I think about this in five years time?”
Fitzsimons said she ended up coming to Idaho, after Idaho Falls High School Principal Robert Devine contacted her asking for her to present to high school students in the area.
“Once I got to know her a little bit, I realized she had the right motive,” Devine said pointing to his heart. “Which means everything to me; she had the right motive; this is her reason.”
In the end, Fitzsimons said her goal with each and every one of her presentations is to assure that kids don’t feel hopeless in the wake of a tragedy or while dealing with the daily struggles of life.
“My biggest goal with these presentations is to assure that these kids no longer walk out feeling helpless,” she said. “I can’t solve all their problems, I can’t take away their struggles, but I can make sure they know that they’re not alone.”
In addition to Rigby, Ririe and Idaho Falls, Fitzsimons also spoke at Skyline and Emerson Alternative High School.
“The glass ceiling I didn’t even realize was there has just been completely smashed,” she said. “Every day I get on Earth is another day Nicole doesn’t. So it’s up to me to make the most of it,” she said.