Life Isn’t About What Happens To You, It’s About How You React To It
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”
I am sure many of you would have encountered this famous quote by Charles R. Swindoll. Swindoll, who was born on October 18th, 1934, is an author and an educator. He emphasizes the importance of our attitudes in life, and how each morning when we wake up, we have a choice as to which attitude we will choose to embody that day.
For Swindoll, attitudes are “more important than facts”, “more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes.” They are more important than what people think, say, or do, “than appearance, giftedness, or skill”. According to Swindoll, attitude can “make or break a company… a church… a home.”
Our attitudes shape our feelings, beliefs, and very often our behaviors. Our attitudes, whilst sometimes indifferent, are often either positive or negative. They play a big part in life – which at times can be immensely harsh. Things and events will happen over which we have no control.
For some – they will accept the harsh reality of their situations, blaming their circumstances for their shortcomings. For them, the event and the outcome are seen as equivalent. They will make rash decisions, clouded by emotions. Decisions which they will regret later on.
For others, harsh realities are not accepted. These people are remarkable individuals. They succeed, despite. Despite what has happened to them, their past, and their difficulties. They overcome chronic diseases, disabilities, and human injustices (among others). They overcome despite adversity. Why?
Because they recognize that they always have a choice as to what attitude they want to embody. Each and every day. They have a positive mentality, and a lot can be said for developing a positive mentality. For example, studies have shown that your perceptions of your age, have a direct impact on your life expectancy.
They also recognize that they have a choice as to how they react to everything that has happened in their past. They have control over their emotions. They overcome the odds, despite their situations.
Consider the following examples:
- Jim Carrey, dropped out of school to support his family when he was 15, and at one point he was homeless living in a caravan. This did not stop him from achieving his dream of becoming a comedian.
- Bethany Hamilton’s arm was bitten off by a shark at age 13. She was back on her surfboard one-month later. Two years later she won first place in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships
- Benjamin Franklin dropped out of school at the age of 10 as his parents could not afford the fees. This did not stop him from educating himself.
- Richard Branson has dyslexia. At school his grades were poor. Yet he has achieved mega success.
- Stephen Kings first novel was consistently rejected by publishing houses. His wife retrieved the manuscript, urged him to complete it. It has sold 350 million copies worldwide.
- Oprah Winfrey gave birth when she was 14, lost her child and ran away from home. She was also repeatedly molested by her cousin, uncle and family friend. She has achieved despite this.
- Thomas Edison failed a lot of times (there are debates that this figure is anywhere from 1000-10000 times) before he created the light bulb. Imagine the world without a light bulb?
- Kriss Karr was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 32. Instead of feeling sorry for herself she tackled the disease. She created a new nutritional lifestyle and created several self-help books and documentaries.
- Franklin Roosevelt was paralyzed from the waist down, at age 39. This did not stop him from leading his country.
- Charlize Theron at age 15, witnessed her own mother shoot her alcoholic father in an act of self-defence. This painful experience did not stop the actress from becoming the first South African actress to win an Academy Award.
Countless other examples exist, not only in terms of celebrities, but also in terms of people you may know personally. The fact remains, these people recognize that life can be hard, things and events occur that are out of our control. But we always have a choice as to how we react.
And ultimately we are responsible for our own lives
“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain, and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” -Walter Anderson