Late in 2002, I had the pleasure of attending a Beverly Hills fundraiser for the Children's Environmental Health Coalition (CHEC). CHEC is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the public, and especially parents and other child caregivers, about environmental toxins that negatively affect children's health.
CHEC was founded by Nancy and Jim Chuda to honor the life of their daughter Colette, who died at age 10 from a form of cancer almost certainly connected to her mother's exposure to pesticides while she was pregnant.
Out of this tragedy, these grief-stricken parents created a wonderful organization to help all parents and all children. From the CHEC website, a quote from the Chudas:
"Of course, at the time it was all we could do just to survive the overwhelming loss. We were dazed. But the seed of an idea was planted; one that has actually helped us over time transform our pain into a hope that we can do something to help others avoid what we went through."
Jim and Nancy have managed to convert their almost unimaginable grief and loss into an incredibly positive and powerful enterprise. It was a truly exciting and inspiring evening.
On my way home, I thought about the Chudas and the many other examples of people who have experienced really terrible events and have chosen to transform their pain into something positive and valuable to others.
What can you and I learn from these "real-life heroes" about how we handle our problems – big or small? We can learn that events are just events until we add to them our own personal beliefs, feelings, and attitudes, and that we are in control of our responses.
The next time you are faced with a challenging life event, asking yourself the following questions may aid you in generating a beneficial, growth-oriented response:
- What belief will I form or reinforce or let go of as a result of this event?
- What emotions am I feeling and do I want to feel in the future?
- Will I fall victim to my reactive mind or will I move to choice?
- What behaviors will I choose — private and public?
- What will the impact and consequences of my choices be on me and others in my life?
If you can accept the premise that you can't always control events but you can make choices about your resulting beliefs, feelings, consequences, and actions, then following these guidelines might be very useful in choosing to live an extraordinary life:
Your expanding awareness allows you to gain a richer, deeper understanding of the events in your life. It is only with that awareness that learning and growth can begin. The question "Why did this happen to me?" can be asked in a whining, victim tone, or it can be asked as a genuine inquiry that includes a space for your own accountability. Approaching challenges from the latter perspective could represent the beginning of an incredible life adventure. It's a choice — your choice.
In our early socialization, most of our teachers and our culture of entitlement and victimization all support the reflex to blame someone or something for the events of our lives. Yet real personal power comes from taking responsibility. Shifting from a core belief of "I am a victim" to "I am responsible" will do more to change your experience of life than anything I know. Again, it's your choice.
Lastly, listen and speak from the heart. Miracles flow when you choose to truly communicate.
Unexpected, upsetting, painful events will happen in life. It is strategically sound to learn how to better handle them for your own personal satisfaction and happiness. As Jim and Nancy Chuda and many others have shown, you can choose to use those events to make a positive contribution, to do some real good in a world that increasingly needs examples of people who choose to live an extraordinary life.
The events in your life represent a kind of test of the fabric of who you are. It is a challenging and often unwelcome test, but it can ultimately be an exhilarating experience. I invite you to join me – and Nancy and Jim Chuda – in embracing "bad things" as opportunities for growth and development into your full potential as a human being.