By Kim Krueger

IT DOESN’T MATTER WHETHER motivational speaker Christi Andringa is talking to a group of five or 500, her preparation ritual is always the same: 30 minutes before walking on stage, she drinks a glass of room temperature water. She reviews her notes. She does breathing exercises—the same ones she teaches in her yoga classes.

At 20 minutes to show time, she’s in her zone, “The last butterflies are gone. All that’s left is genuine excitement—the kind that can only come from doing something you’re truly passionate about. “I love it,” says Andringa, 45. “I feel like I’ m exactly where I should be.”

Andringa, with her glowing charisma and glass-half-full spirit, inspires audiences across the country to go after their dreams and to live rich, full lives through the pursuit of health and happiness.

It’s a message that has fueled her own journey for years. Her first job out of college was in pharmaceutical sales. It was the kind of job she was “supposed” to have—one that checked off all the boxes: Good pay. Stable. A respectable next step out of business school.

But while the job fed her family, it didn’t feed her heart. So when the opportunity to step down and spend more time with her kids arose, she took it. “The change ended up being even more liberating than she’d expected.

“Things really flourished once I let go of the rules. Once I decided to just be Christi,” she says, “blocks were removed, and the energy to make the connection to what I really wanted to do was set free.”

As it turned out, “being Christi” meant pouring herself into one of her true passions: fitness. She’d been teaching group exercise classes for years, but soon found herself traveling the country as a master fitness trainer, teaching fellow fitness pros how to train.

She had a realization: “I was talking to people about being inspiring, about being totally authentic. And I thought, ‘Why am I just giving this message to group exercise instructors?'”

“The transition to motivational speaking felt perfectly natural—and perfectly Christi.

“It’s a composite of the skills and wisdom and passion that are uniquely mine,” she says. “I love that I’m able to express them in a way that also happens to be my job.”

Her emphasis on self-actualization informed the name of her business, which she launched in 2008: Candringa! Productions— a fusion of her first and last names. In essence, the business, her life’s work, is distinctively her. And that’s the whole point.

Her family wasn’t immediately thrilled about the idea. “Who wants to live with a motivational speaker?” Andringa says, laughing.

Friends were skeptical, too. It wasn’t like Andringa had survived breast cancer. She’d never been in a plane crash, never lost a child or spouse.

But as Andringa explains,”I think that’s why I resonate with people. I’m nothing special. I’m just a woman who made choices that made her happier. If I did survive breast cancer, that’s inspiring, but not everyone has breast cancer. Everyone wants to be happier, though. Everyone wants to follow their dreams.”

And that’s something Andringa can definitely put her personal stamp on.

In her talks, she urges others not to settle, either. “When you’re not living a complete life, you have a hole in your soul,” she says, “Then she pauses to laugh at herself and her “yoga language,” which comes so naturally thanks to countless hours in the yoga studio.

Another big piece of Andringa’s message: Keep chasing happiness. Take responsibility for the process. “Happy people are not lucky,” she says, “They work very hard at it.”

Andringa credits three things for her own day-to-day happiness: her family, including husband Rob and their three kind, funny, compassionate kids; the positive impact she’s able to have on people’s lives through her work; and her ability to make choices that leave her feeling thankful.

It seems only fitting that her three key words—family, impact and thankful— create the acronym FIT. Really, it’s very “Christi.”

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