We have a friend who never ceases to catch people by surprise with his simple but sincere reply to that standard greeting, “Hi, how are you?” While most people answer with a quick and mindless, “Fine,” our friend always answers with a quick and enthusiastic, “Fantastic!” People may roll their eyes at this overzealous response, but they know neither our friend’s story nor his wisdom. Being “Fantastic!” is not a feeling but a choice.
Our friend’s story is nothing short of a miracle. As a teenager he was in a terrible car accident, putting him into a coma from which he was not expected to recover. The days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, during which time his mother maintained a constant vigil in the hospital while others lifted up prayers. The doctors tried to temper her hope with a dose of reality: even if our friend did wake up, he would probably be a vegetable.
The doctors were wrong. Our friend not only woke up, like Rip van Winkle, but he went on to live a healthy, full, and productive life replete with family, friends, and career. That was decades ago, but our friend has never since taken for granted the gift of life nor lost perspective on its difficulties and hardships. He chooses to be “Fantastic!” What about you?
We have another friend who’s made a similar choice, only she chooses to use the word “Blessed!” That reply can cause as much of a stir as “Fantastic!” “How are you?” “Blessed!” People may think she’s some kind of religious nut, but she too has a story to tell. After suffering for years as a cocaine addict, she was eventually turned around, cleaned up, and straightened out.
As most recovering addicts know, this transformation is no less a miracle than waking up from a coma. In fact, there are a lot of similarities. Being strung out on cocaine is not unlike being in a coma. The chances of waking up, in your right mind, are slim. Having done so, our friend chooses to give credit where credit is due. She chooses to be “Blessed!” What about you?
We spent years living and working with another friend in Chicago. We were urban missionaries together, living and working on a very tight budget. There were never adequate support staff or resources to get the job done. As a result, the problems that walked in the door had to be dealt with directly.
Our friend went through a stage of resentment about these constant interruptions. “I could get so much done,” he used to say, “if I could just stay on track with my to-do list.” Then one day it occurred to him, “Dealing with these interruptions is not getting in the way of my job, it is my job!” He chose to go with the flow. What about you?
Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who spent three grim years in Nazi concentration camps, made a similar discovery. “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:” he wrote in his classic work Man’s Search for Meaning (New York • Washington Square Press, 1959, 1963), “the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
This choice, this spiritual freedom, is what enabled Frankl to triumph over his oppressors and to absorb the deep wounds of his terrible losses, including the extermination of his wife. He had an inner liberty, value, and strength that the Nazis could not destroy. And it all came from making a choice. It had nothing to do with how he was feeling. It had everything to do with how he was viewing life. As Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”
What about you? How do you view life? Is the glass half-empty or half-full? It’s your choice as to how you will relate to your situation. And your choice makes all the difference in the world. Choose to be Fantastic! Choose to be Blessed! Choose to Go with the Flow! Choose to be Free!
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May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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