Everything has its wonders, even darkness and silence, and I learn, whatever state I may be in, therein to be content. ~Helen Keller

Life is unpredictable. One day you can be healthy, the next you might learn from your doctor something is amiss. One day a friend or family member is with you, the next they are gone. One day you are married, the next day you find out your partner has cheated and they want out. Life is not all pleasantry, nor can we control it. Much like a roller coaster, life has it’s ups and downs; its sorrows and pain, its joy and excitement. Things can happen suddenly or slowly over time, but all of these experiences have the power to change your life.

Let’s take the example of divorce. The stress from divorce ranks right up there with homelessness and the death of a spouse. Many people are aware of the catastrophic effects of divorce but they elect to go through the process anyway. Sometimes, it works out for the best and the decision to go through a divorce turns out to be beneficial. Sometimes, that is not the case. How many of us have come across a revengeful, spiteful, angry ex-spouse who is still holding onto the pain even years after the split? In the divorce support group I used to attend, several of the women were still holding onto the anger and pain years later. I commented to my therapist that it made me uncomfortable to attend the meetings because the room quickly turned negative after a few moments of hearing about how they were wronged. She insisted I stay and learn from them. I’m glad I did. I learned how to deal with another’s negativity without taking it on and I also learned that in spite of the fact that I too was wronged, I had a choice: I could choose whether I wanted to grow from the pain or stay stuck in it. I chose the former option. The latter, stagnation, is not a path toward growth or to happiness, but it is a sure path to misery.

Helen Keller could not see and she could not hear. Her experience of life was limited by these two handicaps. Yet, in spite of these, Helen went on to do amazing things. She learned that it did not matter what life handed to you, what mattered was how you chose to deal with it. Deafness, blindness, illness, divorce, death of a loved one, abandonment, abuse, alienation–these things exist, yet they can exist in a way that can create meaning in our lives. We do not have to remain angry or bitter, sad or depressed because these things happened to us. We are powerful beings–we do not have to resign ourselves and define ourselves by what happened to us. These experiences can make us better, or we can stay the same, or we can get worse. How we react is under our control. Ultimately, when we realize that we are 100% responsible for our lives, we will begin to live a fully actualized life because it is then that we will take our power back. When you let go of the anger, bitterness, and resentment–not denying it but processing it and letting it go–you can begin to live a life of freedom; freedom from the control of outside circumstances, people, even thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Being 100% responsible for your life means examining all of your beliefs and throwing out the ones that no longer define or support who you are as a person. It means ridding yourself of addictions that help numb the pain or bring you a false sense of pleasure. It means standing up for yourself in abusive situations and loving yourself enough to walk away from them. No one has power over you, but you. That’s a lot of responsibility, but if you are willing to accept it, there is ample opportunity to define your life by your terms. Relationships take on new meaning; life takes on new meaning as you live your life being 100% responsible. No more blame, no more deflection, no more complaining, no more shame, numbing, addiction; no more weight gain or being out of shape or unhealthy, no more giving your power away to someone or something else. You set the rules and you are accountable to them. You live in integrity because you have to live up to your standards and answer to yourself instead of putting it off on another person.

Do negative experiences happen? Yes, but they do not have to be negative. You get to define how they will end up. You get to decide what type of attitude you will have toward them or how your story will be told. You are 100% responsible for your life, even if you don’t want that responsibility. You can pass it off to somebody or something else, but it still falls on you whether you realize it or not. You may not have caused the experience, but you are the creator of the outcome. That outcome will be slanted toward whether you view yourself as a victim or a hero of your own story of that experience. You get to decide. That’s powerful!

In the end, it’s not what happened to you, it’s what happened afterwards; it’s how you have decided to handle it and how you have defined it. Even though things may happen to you, you still have power over the authorship of your life. You still have power over your attitude and how your story ends up. Does it have a happy ending or a sad ending? You ultimately decide. All experiences have meaning in them, what meaning have you given to your experiences?

Author's Bio: 

Nicole Nenninger is a coach who specializes in transitions. She is also the author of "Transforming Divorce--How to Get Back on Track and Create a Life You Love" and the "Transforming Divorce Workbook." Nicole's websites include nicolenenninger.com and mydailymotivator.com. She and her family live in New York with their 2 dogs and a cat. Nicole and her husband are currently working on their program "Parents as Coaches" and their book "Conscious Connection for Couples," both of which will be completed in the fall.