I won’t mince words: 2013 was pretty shitty.*
I came home from holiday in January to find my home destroyed. The months that followed brought indescribable stress as Esteban and I struggled to understand the insurance process, salvage our possessions, and rebuild our house.
But only recently, with the clarity of hindsight, did I discover something profound: While the disaster was unavoidable, perhaps the stress was not. How much needless misery did I cause myself by catastrophizing? And how many relationships did I damage by assuming the worst intent?
It’s an inevitability of life that we can’t always control what happens. But we can always control how we respond to what happens. Victor Frankl said it best:
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.
Frankl wrote these words after having his property seized, being deported with his family to a ghetto, eventually losing most of them to the ovens at Auschwitz, and finally barely surviving five months of slave labor.
He had every right to be bitter after the war. No one would have blamed him, had he given in to hate or despair. And make no mistake, he did wrestle with these feelings: He did ask, “Why is this happening?” and maybe even, “Why me?”
But the important thing is that he found a way to re-frame those questions, and to emerge from his experiences not as a victim or a broken man, but as a fervent evangelist for the human capacity to grow — to learn, to love, and to heal — that lives inside us all.
Over the past year, I’ve learned in both big ways and small that the stories we tell ourselves shape our lives.
I have a tradition on HBlog of illustrating a little story about two wolves each New Year’s Day. But this year, I’m seeing the little story with new eyes: as a reminder that I can’t always choose what happens, but I can always choose how I respond.
I wish you and yours a very happy new year.