“We cannot change the direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails.”

I first came across this well-known quote in my late 20s and it literally changed my life. I suddenly realized in this unpredictable world of good and bad things that life throws your way, the one and only thing you fully control is your reaction. You always have a choice to be positive or negative, to be angry or forgiving, to deny or accept, to fight or retreat.

The reactions you choose can change the way you experience life—whether it is a series of trials and obstacles or opportunities for growth and appreciation for the good things.

Once I realized I could control my emotions and perceptions, I became more conscious of the reactions I was choosing.  By observing my reactions, I was better able to make adjustments to them when they didn’t serve me well. If I caught myself thinking, “Why me?” I felt helpless and victimized. When I adjusted my reaction to “Why not me?” and realized cancer can happen to anyone and there are many worse conditions that others must confront, I became empowered and ready to fight cancer for myself and for everyone else who has it.

I don’t know how long I will live, but I’ve come to realize it is my choice to make my days fulfilling and joyful or anxious and miserable.  What you look for is what you see.  Do I focus on the kindness others have shown me and the beautiful aspects of everyday life or do I focus on discomfort and pain, uncertainties about my future and regrets from my past?  The exact same circumstances can be experienced differently depending on a person’s chosen reaction.

In a world we can’t control, controlling our own responses changes how we experience our world.  I’ve made the choice to be positive, thankful and hopeful.  Since making these choices, my life has become richer, more fulfilling and happier.

What choices will you make?

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DonnaLee Caringella is an Instructional Design and Delivery Consultant living in the northern suburbs of Chicago with her beloved husband and two rescue dogs. Her pamphlet on managing cancer is available at no charge at www.quicktipsformanagingcancer.com. Read her cancer blog at www.donnaleecaringella.blogspot.com.