“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
“We are our choices.”
― Jean-Paul Sartre
“We don't get to chose what is true. We only get to choose what we do about it.”
Kami Garcia, Beautiful Darkness
It is the morning of Thanksgiving Day. I have been awake for less than an hour and I have already had an experience in gratitude. When I woke up this morning, I realized I was out of my favorite coffee creamer. I have an alternative, but it’s not as good. As I was using the alternative, my mind went to being unhappy and discontent about it…for just a moment. Then I realized my unhappiness was a choice, just like the coffee creamer. At least I had choices. And if I didn’t, some other choices would have presented themselves.
My coffee “problem” was very minor, a small irritant at worst. But it didn’t even have to be that. The truth is I always have options. With regard to the coffee, I could have used the other creamer. I also have some of those little mini-containers from 7-11. If neither of those choices had been available, I could have gotten in my car or walked to a nearby store and gotten more. Or I could have used milk and sugar. Or I could have had tea. Or water. Or nothing at all.
There are two things that lead to unhappiness:
1. Not being content with what I have at the moment
2. Not remembering that there are other choices
There are always choices. Sometimes those choices require that I act differently. Always those choices require that I think differently. My life really is easy. Here’s what I know:
· The apostle Paul sang hymns in prison and wrote much of the New Testament while in prison, between prison sentences or chained to a prison guard.
· Victor Frankl developed an entire school of psychological thought based on his experiences in a concentration camp.
· Nick Vujicic, a man with no arms or legs, wrote a book.
· Randy Pausch, a man with terminal cancer also wrote a book.
· Stephen Hawking, a man with ALS, is a renowned physicist.
· Joni Ericson Tada, a paraplegic and breast cancer survivor, became an artist, a writer and a wife.
· Candice Lightner formed Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, after her 13-year-old daughter was killed by a drunk driver.
Honestly, I can’t think of anything worse than what some of these people have endured. But all of them chose to create something good out of something horrific. This is, ultimately, the best and only option I have – to change my thinking. When I change my thinking, then my pain, my struggles, my disappointments, even my failures can be transformed into something great, something better than for which it was intended. I can become an alchemist, turning lead into gold.
So when I look at my life, I must be careful to make the correct comparisons. More accurately, I must be careful to make no comparisons at all. If I compare myself to those I think have it better than me, I will always be unhappy. That is obvious. But if I compare myself to those on the list above or others like them, then I miss the point. It goes deeper than that. Yes, I’m glad that I’m not in prison or paralyzed or terminal. But if I were, I would need to create a reason for it. There would be a reason for it and it would be my job to find it.
That is not to say that I wish any of those things on myself or anyone else for the sake of “personal growth.” Life has enough challenges and, to be honest, I don’t handle many of those well. I need to find the purpose in my life as it is now. It’s there, trust me. There is a reason for my life. There is a reason for all our lives. None of us is created by accident.
I need to do only the following:
1. Be aware in each moment that I can choose gratitude or any other emotion.
2. Consider my Purpose and live it.
3. Get Started.
4. Keep Going.
5. Thank God that I always have choices.