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Choosing when you think you don’t have a choice…

My wife and I recently learned from a dear friend that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We were shocked and saddened at first by his revelation. But, he expressed such a positive, optimistic and confident, attitude and message about how he will ‘rise above the disease and use his new predicament to become a better person and make a difference around him’ that I was blown away and inspired by his extraordinary spirit and courage.

This got me thinking – in life we often need to choose between things – between this job and that job, between this partner and that partner, between this field or that field. And, at times, depending on the situation and what is at stake, these choices can be hard to make. But, at least we have options to choose from that seem to be in our control.

But what about choice in situations where certain circumstances are laid upon us? What about choice when your wife or husband just left you, you were just fired from your job, you are financially broke, your doctor tells you about a bad medical diagnosis… What choice do we have in these situations?

We don’t always have a choice about our circumstances. However, we ALWAYS have a choice about our attitude and mindset, how we’ll respond and what we will make of them. We choose whether to relate to a ‘bad’ situation as a ‘problem’ OR ‘opportunity’; whether to accept, embrace and own it – I call that “choosing”, OR to become a victim of the situation.  And, that choice gives us tremendous power.

There are so many heroic and inspirational stories about cancer survivors who took their illness as an opportunity to transform their life. Examples of people who turned a bad divorce into a new and much better life, and people who continued to have a positive outlook on life after going through the tragedy of losing loved ones.

I was recently working with a company that was laying off employees. So, I had multiple opportunities to meet these people, many of which worked in that company for many years and were surprised by their misfortune. For some of the people, being let go landed as a heavy blow. They took it personally and found it very hard to see the silver lining in the event. Others, who weren’t any better off financially and who loved the company and their jobs as much as their colleagues took this turn of events as an opportunity. Some were excited about starting their own business. Others were looking forward to finally getting the promotion or title they wanted, in another company. And, for others it was about finding a job closer to home in order to avoid the long commute each day, or travel less in order to be able to spend more time with their family.

The people who continued to feel victimized by the situation struggled with seeing how being fired could present them with a better path in their life. The people who accepted, embraced and owned their circumstance found multiple reasons for why being fired was a blessing in disguise.

By understanding that we always have a choice and doing our best to view all challenges as opportunities, we can get beyond what should and could have been, and focus on creating a better life for ourselves.

What challenges and predicaments have you turned into opportunities?  How did you choose to stay optimistic instead of discouraged?

Are you counting your blessings or focusing on what’s missing?

In the previous blog I talked about how the rat race to achieve more and meet our life objectives often prevents us from being present and living our life in the moment.  

This is a very common modern life dilemma that many ambitious and successful people face: how to set exciting goals in all areas of our life, work hard to realize them (because that is what it takes), and while doing that fully enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

How do we slow down enough while we are going so fast?  

How to grow as many roses as we want AND also stop and smell them on a regular basis?

This has definitely been one of my life learning curves. I am a visionary and an ambitious person. I have big dreams aspirations in all areas of my life: professionally, in business, financially, staying healthy and fit, having an amazing marriage with my wife of 30 years, and deep closeness with my 3 kids and extended family. I want to ‘have it all’ and I want to be present and enjoy my journey as I go through it, not just when I get there “someday”.

My wife Na’ama has made a huge difference in keeping our focus and awareness on our accomplishments and how blessed we are, in all areas. The conversation of gratitude has become an integrated part of our family life because Na’ama has been a relentless champion for this. She constantly reminds each of us, especially when we face adversity, how lucky and blessed we are in our life. She always helps us shift our focus from what’s missing, wrong, and not working to what IS working and what we feel grateful for.

Several years ago we started a practice of ending each day with ten minutes of writing down (journaling) the answers to the question: “What are four things I accomplished today? and “What are four things I feel blessed and I am grateful for today?” Even if we had a bad day, or felt that we didn’t accomplish anything we still answered these questions.

What I learned from this process was that I had an abundance of things to claim as accomplishments, and an abundance of things that I feel blessed and grateful for. In fact I had many more than 4 each day. And, the more I focused on accomplishments the easier it became to find them and the more fortunate, empowered and energized I felt. Standing in that space enabled me to accomplish even more.

Our writing practice compelled us to have more conversations on a regular basis about what we are accomplishing and what we feel blessed and grateful for. The ‘counting our blessing’ conversation became a daily affair, and as time passed it infected our kids and close friends as well.

As Fr. D’sousa wrote – the events, obstacles and ups-and-downs of our life should not keep us from living our life to its fullest, now. On the contrary – our day-to-day journey, no matter how good or bad, contains in it an abundance of small, medium and large victories, accomplishments and things to feel blessed about.

Living courageously means highlighting these accomplishments, embracing our fortunes and allowing ourselves to be inspired by our own life every minute and day.

If the ideas and practices that I shared in this blog resonate with you I encourage to try them on and share what you learned from that.

If you feel that you are great at living the moment – please share what you do to live in that space.

How Great are YOU willing to be?

Maybe that seems like an odd question to ask. Who wouldn’t want to be Great?

Perhaps it’s not as straightforward as it seems.

It is my life’s goal to ignite, energize and empower people. In fact, it’s my job, and most of it is in the workplace. My work is about empowering people; reminding them of who they are and how great and able they can be. When people are empowered in the workplace, it spills over into other areas of their life – work, marriage, parenthood, family, and social circles.

But I have noticed that often people are not that eager to become empowered.  Despite what they say they don’t seem to be interested in experiencing themselves as powerful, great, resourceful, and larger than their circumstances.

The logic is clear: if they accept themselves as enabled and unstoppable, they are admitting that they have the capability to create and produce much more than they do today. Unempowered people have less opportunity in front of them, and more excuses for why they can’t do things. They experience themselves as smaller than their problems, so they always have a way out.  They do not challenge themselves to change or think beyond their comfort zone. This is an easier and safer way to live. If they become empowered, if they begin living courageously, they have to bring innovation and resourcefulness to all aspects of their life. This could be scary.

However, the cost of staying unempowered is dear.  Self expression and confidence are eroded. And there is a constant feeling that “maybe I am missing something. Maybe I’m not living to my full potential.”

By simply confronting the benefits and costs of living unempowered, people regain their ability to choose. They begin to see that it is possible to choose courageous living, and to regain their self-expression.

Are you afraid to fully express yourself? Are you willing to choose empowerment?

How great are YOU willing to be?