“It is my ultimate desire to empower and inspire others, particularly young
people to choose wisely: in thought, in action, and in words.”
In the summer of 2009, I was having dinner with friends and a philosophical discussion ensued on the freedom of individual choice within life circumstances. The opinions flew back and forth and the range of views was wide. Toward the end of the dinner, one voice silenced the conversation for a moment, “Our parents and grandparents never would have had this conversation. They were working as hard as they could making choices that created opportunities for their families and their communities despite their personal circumstances.”
For the next year, I was haunted by our conversation. I thought more in depth about my personal choices throughout my life. I observed how people around me made choices. I listened carefully to people telling their “choice” stories. Do we really have a full understanding of how powerful the freedom of choice is when we make a decision? If we could see how our personal choices impact our lives, family, community and ultimately our world, would it empower us to stop and think more carefully before choosing?
In May of 2010 I was going to be put to the test on the very conversation I had been having in my head for a year. Out of the blue, I was blindsided with a call that I had breast cancer. I had many choices to make very quickly. I knew the choices I was about to make were going to affect my family and many others associated with my work. I made a list of how I was going to move forward. I chose prayer, chose science, chose help from friends, chose daily exercise, and the list went on. But the most important choice I made was regardless of how I felt each day, I intentionally chose joy! Many days, I faked it till I felt it! The power of my choices transformed a challenging journey into one filled with endless blessings.
At the completion of my chemo, I had the evidence I needed. Our personal choices do have infinite impact. By exercising my freedom to thoughtfully choose joy each day, I was able to take a very difficult period in my life and turn it into a growth opportunity, and my joy was contagious. It comforted my family and friends. I realized just how powerful we are by the very simple choices we make. We may not be able to control our circumstances but we can choose how to respond to them.
My goal was suddenly clear: I needed to get the conversation going again and on a broader scale. The Choose Wisely! campaign had begun. It has never been my objective to tell people how or what to choose – just to remind them to take the time to carefully consider all options and consequences because no choice exists in isolation. There is an undeniable ripple effect that is created which leads to other choices. Most of the time, we don’t see the infinite effect immediately and, unless you’re George Bailey, probably never will.
We all make unwise choices periodically. We all make good choices too. How do we turn our mistakes into lessons that make us better? How do we get back on the right track when we veer off course? How do we learn from our mistakes so we don’t keep repeating them? What does it mean to choose wisely? These are the questions I want to explore. I want to know.
It is my ultimate desire to empower and inspire others, particularly young people to choose wisely: in thought, in action, and in words. But how was I going to accomplish this daunting task? I was guided in two ways: make a hat and go talk to Joanie.