A thought for the holidays. Years ago Alfred Adler coined the phrase: It’s not what you possess, but how you use it.”
We always have choices.
I always use the example of Terry Fox, a young Canadian man who lost a leg to cancer. Fox decided to run across Canada – over 9,000 kilometers – to raise money for cancer research. (Although Terry Fox died 30 years ago, the Terry Fox Foundation has raised over 850 million dollars.) Another young man could have the same affliction and complain that life is not fair. They both possess the same thing but use it quite differently. Fox couldn’t do anything about the loss of his leg or the cancer, but what he did was pretty remarkable.
We Always Have Choices
The same is true of you and me. We can’t change anything that has happened to us to this point but we do have choices about what we will do here forward. Think of Covid which we are all experiencing. A question you might challenge yourself with is: Did you just go through Covid or did you grow through it? We all possessed the same thing but how did we use it? No matter how little we might have, we always have choices.
Another great example for me is Nelson Mandela. Here is a man who spent 27 ½ years in jail and yet was able to forgive those who put him there. In the Forward to Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela’s autobiography, Bill Clinton, the former president of the United States, quotes Mandela. He said: “I realized that they could take everything from me except my mind and my heart. They could not take those things. Those things I still had control over. And I decided not to give them away.”
In another conversation, Clinton asked Mandela: ”Tell me the truth. When you were leaving prison after twenty-seven years and walking down that road to freedom, didn’t you hate them all over again?” And he said, “Absolutely I did, because they imprisoned me for so long. I was abused. I didn’t get to see my children grow up. I lost my marriage and the best years of my life. I was angry. And I was afraid, because I had not been free in so long. But as I got closer to the car that would take me away, I realized that when I went through that gate, if I still hated them, they would still have me. I wanted to be free. And so I let it go.”
Most of us will not be called upon to do what Terry Fox or Nelson Mandela did but their example can fortify us when we hit a rough patch. For all of us, it is not what we possess, but how we use it that counts.