Four years ago, I wrote an article about the deep divisions in our political system, the mighty challenges facing society and the pervasive negativity of the people.
Although the article was written in 2016, the content is, unfortunately, even more relevant today.
My friends, as you step into your Monday and begin your week, determine to control what you can and let go of what you can’t. As you prepare for the unknowns ahead, choose to unclench your fist, let go of your anxiety and open wide your heart. Recognize that powerlessness fades when we embrace the brilliance, the miracle, and the influence within our attitude, decisions and lives.
The choice will fundamentally change your world. And in that, you’ll be liberated to improve the larger world, too.
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“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
– Viktor E. Frankl
The overarching narrative this political season is about American anger.
The 2016 race is already historic thanks to the frequently belligerent tone and unpredicted surge of populist candidates who are winning primaries and caucuses across the country. Talking heads suggest that irate voters are helping drive the rancor and rejections of the status quo. Many of those pundits tell us that people are mad because they’re tired of feeling like powerless victims of the Washington insiders and the wealthy elites who ignore or even actively work against the best interests of regular folks.
As a dad, husband, business owner, and happily regular guy, I understand the frustration. But I take issue with the idea of powerlessness.
What would the 2016 presidential election be like if the phrase “It’s not my fault!” was erased from our collective vocabulary?
What if politicians started not only claiming responsibility for their own mistakes or for current circumstances, but also offered specific, viable steps on what to do next?
Perhaps more importantly, what if we, ordinary citizens, began not only claiming responsibility for our own mistakes and for circumstances, but offered specific viable steps on what we were willing to do next in order to correct them?
It’s significantly easier to point fingers outward, yelling about the flaws within others or the collective brokenness of an entire system, than to own mistakes made, commit to deliberately doing better, and celebrate the mighty opportunity before us each of day.
In other words, it’s easier to be powerless victims to circumstances than empowered victors with solutions.
But we have the freedom to shift our mindset, alter the current conversation, and embrace the opportunity before us. It’s a choice. And it is one we must own.
Of course, we can’t control everything that happens to and around us. Industries change and jobs are lost. Relationships erode and occasionally crumble. Children make decisions that confound or even terrify us. Economic recessions hit, natural disasters strike, and sweeping change continues leaving us feeling lost.
And yet, we are not powerless.
Choosing to hold ourselves accountable ignites possibility and liberates us from helplessness. When we hold ourselves accountable, we are free to stop fixating on the things we cannot change, to begin fighting hard for what we can make better, and to fully appreciate every moment in our lives.
I learned this the hard way.
When I was just a kid, I suffered burns over 100% of my body after I blew up my family’s garage. I was not expected to survive. In the emergency room, lying in a hospital bed, in searing pain and terrified, I turned to mom for comfort. She had always been there for me and I knew she’d make this ok, too. So I asked her if I was going to die.
The way my mom responded changed everything.
She gently took my hand, stared into my eyes, and replied, “John, do you want to die?” There was a brief pause before she added, “It’s your choice, not mine.”
My choice? How could she respond with such a vicious, hateful question? Where was her love, her hope, her help? I was only nine, was terrified, in pain and only wanted reassurance. She instead insisted I own my choice.
It turned out her question was a turning point in my life. Mom gave me a life-changing gift that day that taught me when life changes, we can either waste our time yearning for what we’ve lost and wait for someone to make it better, or we can own the life we have and the possibility within it going forward.
I remember answering that I didn’t want to die–that I wanted to live. She responded, “Then, John, look at me, baby. You are going to need to take the hand of God and fight like you’ve never fought before. You’re not alone, but you need to fight.”
Her fearless question, and my subsequent decision to fight, guided me through five months in the hospital, years of recovery and into a life ripe with possibility.
Powerlessness fades when we embrace the brilliance, the miracle, and the influence within our attitude, decisions and lives.
It’s imperative to understand that every day we all choose to either vibrantly live or to passively die. When we choose life, we embrace gratitude and abandon entitlement. All of that energy that we’d otherwise spend angrily yelling outward or staring bleakly inward is channeled toward celebrating what we already have and then striving to make it even better.
So back to the political season: What we truly need is not so much a new election or better candidates, but a populace boldly proclaiming and actually living a declaration put forward almost 230 years ago. An announcement of true power reminding us still that “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The pursuit, the fight, and the ultimate victory does not begin on election day or in Washington, DC, but commences today and within your own life.
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My friends, with Covid-19 continuing to spread, recessionary winds continuing to gust, political infighting continuing to mount and social injustices continuing to occur it’s possible to lose your hope for tomorrow and your joy for today.
Which is why the sage advice from a Holocaust survivor provides context not only on the challenges we currently face, but for the possibility still present within it: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Give into divisiveness, anger and pessimism? Or fight for unity, love and possibility?
It’s your choice.
This is your day. Live Inspired.