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Thriving Starts With a Choice

Amanda Sollman

Last week, I had the chance to catch up with my dad, who is a high school agriscience teacher. I love getting to talk to him. He's a great critical thinker and makes you examine your opinions in new and different ways. A conversation with my dad is always guaranteed to make my brain work in overdrive!

Like many of our discussions lately, we got talking about how hard his last few years in teaching have been. He has so many students with no drive. Who put forth no effort in class. Who show no commitment. As someone who has been in the classroom for almost 30 years and has seen the positive impact that agriscience education and FFA can have on kids, it's extremely frustrating for him to have room full of students who don't even want to try.

I shared with him some similar frustrations we hear from managers in ag companies all across the country. We talked about the lack of clarity and vision among young people. The shortage of certainty or confidence in themselves. And finally - an overarching issue across our society - that people don't take ownership of their choices, their future and where they want to go in life.

On this last point, he shared a story with me that I thought many of you could appreciate. It went something like this:

"You were about 10 or 11 and we were at one of the first gymnastics meets of the year. Vault was your first event and you totally crashed and burned. Balked at the springboard. Took a 0. You'd been having rough practices and butting heads with Joe [the vault coach], so it wasn't any surprise the event didn't go well.Thriving is A Choice - Gymnastics Picture

The biggest issue wasn't that you crumbled on vault, though. The biggest issue was that you let it affect the rest of the meet. Floor, bars, beam. All of them sucked. And it was because you let the outcome of that first event ruin your whole day.

Now, I know there are a lot of parents out there who - after the meet was over - would have given you a hug and told you it would be alright. That it didn't matter. You'll get it next time. But I clearly remember deciding to take a different approach.

As we walked back to the car after the meet, I asked you:

Did you like how that meet went?

You said you didn't. So I took a leap of faith and challenged you:

I didn't think so. I want you to think about something, though. For the last few months, you've been butting heads with Joe at practice and refusing to take his coaching. Now, I'm not saying you have to like him. But, if you want to get better at vault, I think you're going to have to start taking his coaching. But that's up to you.

Did you like what I had to say, that tough love comment? Probably not. But you know what happened? In that moment, you made a choice. You made a choice to listen to the coaching Joe had to offer. The result?

You won vault at the state meet that year. And you won it at states the next year.

You went from a 0 in your first meet of the year to being the best vaulter in your age group in the state of Michigan. Why? Because you made a choice to get better. To listen. To work hard. I couldn't make that decision for you. Even at 10 years old, you had the capacity to choose what path you wanted to take."

I don't remember this meet or this conversation at all. And I don't share this story to point out how awesome of a parent my dad is (of course, I'm biased in that!) or how amazing of a kid I was. I share it because, as I was hearing the story, it occurred to me - it doesn't matter if you're 10 or 100, choice is something we all have available to us. The difference is whether or not we choose to take advantage of it.  

Claiming responsibility

You are 100% responsible for the situation you are in. Good or bad.

This is the first lesson we teach all of our clients. That, before you can change your life, you have to take ownership of where you are today.

Regardless of how good that sounds in theory, though, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that there are at least a few of you saying, "That's bulls***. There are lot of things that happen in my life that aren't my fault!"

Got in a car accident. Not my fault.

Got laid off. Not my fault.

I've got kids and work and a husband, etc. and don't have time for the gym. Not my fault.

It's easy to blame others or our situation for where we are in life. Much easier than saying, "You know what? I am here because of my decisions in life."

So, what does that look like for these things that seem so out of our control? A little like this:

I may not have gotten in that accident if I had driven 5 mph slower or faster, or had taken the side roads, or had stopped for Starbucks. I am 100% responsible for being in that situation at that exact moment.

I may not have gotten laid off if I'd signed up for that challenging project that allowed me to grow my skills, or if I'd been willing to move for that position they offered me, or if I'd taken a completely different job 5 years ago when it was on the table. I'm 100% responsible for being in that situation in that exact moment.

I might be able to make it to the gym if I'd watch one less hour of Netflix, or I could take my kids with me to do some situps or run laps, or if I got up just one hour earlier in the morning. I'm 100% responsible for being in that situation in that exact moment.

Does the idea of taking responsibility for a shitty situation piss you off? Maybe. And I totally get it. It's way easier to wash your hands of it and say, "Not my fault," or blame it on someone else.

But is it the best option for your future?

Thriving is a Choice

Just like I had a choice as a 10-year-old to get better or keep crashing and burning on vault, that same ability to choose a different option is available to all of us. We all have the capacity to say:

  • I'm going to stop blaming the guy driving that other car and move forward with my life.
  • I may be laid off, but I'm going to apply for every job I can find and, in the meantime, do some volunteer work to build my resume.
  • I'm going to wake up an hour earlier every morning so I can get 30-45 minutes of exercise in.
  • I'm going to quit settling for living paycheck-to-paycheck, get creative and figure out a different way to support myself and my family.

It may not be easy and it probably won't be fun. But I don't care if you're 10, 30 or 60 – each and every one of us has the ability to say, "I got myself into this situation. But I'm also the one who can get myself out of it."

So the next time you're pissed off, disappointed or things aren't going your way, ask yourself, "Do I want to continue to be stuck in this place? Or do I want to thrive instead?"

If you choose to thrive, that's on you.

If you choose to stay on the same path of complacency and settling for less than your best, that's on you too.

Thriving starts with a choice. You just have to make it – and then take ownership of the result.


Living a thriving life is something we all can achieve. Learn more about what it takes by clicking the image below.

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