Being human is tricky because life can be both magical and messy from one moment to the next. Ultimately part of it is because we never chose this life. It’s not as if one day we decided to be born and, next thing we knew, we were taking our first breath. Nope. That’s not how it worked. But just because we didn’t choose to be born doesn’t mean we don’t get to choose how to live—our ultimate choice.
We have all heard the saying “life is full of choices.” I can hear the game show Let’s Make a Deal ringing in my ears now: “What’s behind door number 3, Johnny?” The average adult makes over 35,000 choices per day. Over a year, that’s over 12 million choices—over a lifetime, just under 1 billion. Of course, many of these decisions don’t have a profound impact on the direction of our life. I’m not sure if whether I wore black or blue socks one day will determine much about my future. However, many of our choices do directly impact us and, in many cases, we unintentionally chose wrongly.
The reason I say “unintentionally” is because I believe that we all want to live long and healthy lives. I don’t hear many people say, “I want to be super unhealthy and die at a young age.” I also believe that we want to be happy and create a meaningful life filled with love, gratitude, kindness, connection, belonging, and purpose. The challenge, however, is just because we want that life it doesn’t mean we actually have or create it. I believe this is largely the result of the important choices we make:
We want love, but we guard our heart with everything we have.
We want connection, but we spend hours a day on social media instead of truly building relationships.
We want to be inspired, but we dread Mondays and thank God for Fridays as if we only get two days a week to actually live. Well, really 1.5 days a week, because the second half gets ruined in anticipation and dread for Monday.
We want to be healthy, but we go too hard, stress too much, sit in traffic or at our desk too much.
We want to contribute, but we mostly focus on ourselves.
I don’t mean to sound harsh, and I am certainly not picking on anyone. If anything, I was just describing myself for many years after completing graduate school. I was building a career, checking off the boxes of success, following the plan “I was supposed to.” Sure, I was able to afford things, was well respected, and had a great title. But the biggest gift I got from all of these choices with a massive emotional breakdown that turned into chronic anxiety disorder and a deep depression. And, as hard as it is to admit, I needed to own it… and I did.
I chose to put in the personal work to understand my brokenness and to survive those dark days. I chose to better understand my choices and the reasons for making them. I chose to start living a life that wasn’t solely revolved around me, rather one based on service of others. And, most importantly, I chose to redefine why I matter and to finally live a life that mattered too.
I believe we all can make these choices, if we are willing to change. There is nothing wrong with nice cars, a house on the hill, job titles, corner offices, big social media followings, and red carpets, but I am here to say this is not why we matter. At some point along our journey of a billion choices, we equated the idea of “success” with identity and purpose, and we lost the meaning of life. This life. The one that we didn’t choose to have, but get to choose how to live. And, if we are so bold to think the reason each of us was brought into this world is to achieve personal “success,” then we needn’t be surprised by how we feel today and how our culture has crumbled.
Today, I write books, speak on stages to tell my story, and started a not-for-profit organization. As an organization, we work with companies to help them create better work cultures. We created a K-12 education curriculum that currently reaches over 1.5 million youth nationwide to help them understand how much and why they matter. Through this, I get the privilege to speak to convicts in prisons, women in domestic abuse shelters, corporate leaders and employees, influencers at trendy conferences, and educators and students at education conferences. What’s interesting about this, is the underlying message is always the same regardless of the audience —you matter.
So, that is my message for you. You matter. The life you choose to create matters. So ask yourself this one question: “What matters most to you?” Then finally make choices that align with your answer. My hunch is that you just might happily create that meaningful life filled with love, gratitude, kindness, connection, belonging, and purpose you’ve always wanted. Enjoy it. You deserve it… and so does the world.