“Where you are a success or failure in life has little to do with your circumstances; it has much more to do with your choices.”

– Nico Qubein

I recently came across the above quote in a book by one of my favorite authors, John C. Maxwell. The chapter is on growth and change, and though the reference is pretty straightforward, it resonated with me on a deeper level. As I continue to learn and grow myself, I’m astounded by how much power is held in the choices we make. I’m even more surprised by the extent to which we carry their consequences with us over time.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it’s worth reiterating that my loves teach me an insane amount every single day. Some lessons are intentional and others inferred. Some exciting, others sad. When it comes to our choices, I’m realizing that it’s not only the obvious ones that stay with us; things like a healthy diet and regular exercise are important and can certainly shape our future, but the others – the emotional, social, psychological decisions – are just as significant.

Nico’s remark is incredibly wise. I recently had to sit down with one of my neediest residents. Despite tireless efforts to make her happy, she is constantly cranky and drafts lists of complaints. In my eight months at our community, I’ve seen her smile once (and it was at Rosie). It’s easy to assume when interacting with people like this particular nonna that they’re just miserable; they’re unhappy and there’s nothing that can be done about it. I’m realizing that though this assertion is partially true and that I can’t control her feelings, she has the ability to change them. I explained to her that while her living arrangements are less than ideal (no one wants to move to assisted living – I don’t take it personal), she has the choice when she wakes up every morning to make the best out of her day and her current situation or to wallow in self pity.

It’s not always easy on the other side of the curtain, either. We had a mandatory team meeting a month or so ago in the midst of what is best described as a corporate systems nightmare. Much of the stress and responsibility was falling on us as leaders, but the outcomes were beyond our control. It was killing our morale and draining our spirits. At our SOS lunch, we made an important, game changing pact: we’re in this for the long haul (and for our residents), and since we refuse to throw in the towel, we’ve got to adjust our mindsets. We can’t control the chaos, but how it affects us is in our own hands. What a shift there has been since.

Choices, when made consistently, become habits. Positive, healthy habits breed success. According to her son, the nonna referenced above has been unhappy her entire life, and that’s been her decision. It’s difficult to break bad habits at 90, but I’m thankfully finding it easier than expected at 30. Start right now. If your circumstances are unwavering, make the conscious decision to choose positivity. Oh, and if you insist on making lists, please write down what you’re thankful for.

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