award-winning educator, mental health advocate, social entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, author/writer, program executive, and radio host
© 2015: Beyond SPRH, LLC / Email: info (at) slyoung.com / All rights reserved
What if a decision you were afraid to, chose not to, or didn’t make could’ve changed your life and others? This might seem to be an unanswerable question, but consider another. What if you didn’t act, decide, or respond because you allowed someone’s considerations to stop you from doing the right thing or pursing your dream(s); were directed away from doing something that might help you to achieve your potential; caused you to doubt yourself due to their questions about your abilities or capabilities? These types of reflective questions can lead individuals to later think... “What if?!?!”
“What if?!?!” is a question asked by many throughout their lives, but the worst time to consider it is on your deathbed. Too many individuals, don’t achieve their potential simply due to fear (e.g., taking a chance/step, others’ opinions, failing). A video about individuals not living up to their potential captures this best, along with adding that dreams sometimes die forever because the individual who could have given them life didn’t pursue them.
In Jim Carey’s commencement address (10:10 - 11:46) at the 2014 Maharishi University of Management’s graduation, he shared that his father didn’t believe it was possible for him to be a successful comedian... so he didn’t pursue it. Instead, he accepted a safe job as an accountant, but was let go from this job; subsequently, his family struggled to survive. During this speech Mr. Carey said, “So many of us choose our paths out of fear disguised as practicality.” He went on to say, “I learned many great lessons from my father. Not the least of which is that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance at doing what you love.”
“What if?!?!” the direction of your life or your life’s purpose wasn’t driven by the decisions that you made, but instead by the ones you tormented over and didn’t make? Could these moments of indecision --- if addressed directly --- have been the catalyst that pushed you toward a direction that otherwise you might not have gone? These tough moments or questions might be presented as a crossroad to determine if someone is ready to live a life that wasn’t or couldn’t be imaged as a possibility.
These types of internal dilemmas and conflicts I know very well. During difficult and critical moments in my life, I questioned my beliefs to determine if the things I said and did were really true to me. At times, someone will proclaim to have strong beliefs about something until their in a position to actually make a choice or decision. Then, once confronted or forced to make a choice, these same individuals will back-away from, question, or attack their own position.
During challenging years, I made difficult choices due to conflicts between my beliefs and my willingness to be complicit to others’ unethical activities. These gut-wrenching choices led to unimaginable tough times that had me within moments of taking my life, but at the same time these visceral moments caused me to grow the most emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Moreover, I learned that my choices reflect my commitment to who I am and who I want to be, but are also driven by my desire to not want to later ask myself:
What if I hadn’t done the right thing and choose to ignore or went along with questionable/unethical/illegal activities for the sake of maintaining my job and financial standing by sacrificing my principles?
By “Choosing To Take A Stand” against actions and behaviors I knew weren’t right, I began to redefine and transform myself into unexpectedly the better man I am today. These types of tough moments (for example: failure, disappointment, and loss) are sometimes the biggest factors and impetus for growth and enlightenment. I could have played it safe (like Jim Carey’s father) and made a very good salary for myself, but I wouldn’t have been true to myself, my beliefs, or also self-fulfilled. The amazing thing that happened during my darkest days was that I really got to learn about who I am, which I didn’t do before --- and maybe in some ways was afraid to do. Today I can honestly and confidently look at myself in the mirror and say, “I know who I am!,” which is a priceless feeling.
Frederick Nietzsche’s quote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how” has significant meaning for my life. If it wasn’t for my ability to determine my ‘why’ during the tumultuous years, I wouldn’t have been able to handle my ‘how’. This would have also prevented me from discovering my passion, purpose, and ability to maximize my personal value, which is simply to help and teach others.
Note: By addressing my life’s challenges directly, I unleased and gave myself permission to: create an educational non-profit that teaches inmates about life, business, and soft skills; become an inspirational speaker who discusses overcoming challenges; help depressed individuals and those who lost loved ones to death-by-suicide to better understand this mental health challenge, educate individuals about workplace bullying; connected with thousands around the world through my writing; learn to live my life on purpose.
The easiest thing to do during tough times is to have a negative perspective, engage in destructive behavior, or sometimes just quit trying. However, this type of defeatist attitude won’t help you to do something that matters for yourself --- and others. While confronted with difficult choices that have a potential to effect my future (and sometimes others), I found solace in one of my quotes from my “It’s a Crazy World... Learn From It” series: “Many individuals are afraid of jail; however, individuals often lock themselves in their own prisons. Be your own warden and set yourself free of unnecessary worry, doubts, and limitations.”
The tough lessons I’ve learned is that beliefs (article) aren’t always as firm as some might think. Too often, individuals proclaim to have a belief (something generally believed to be true), but many times it’s simply a consideration (something true for that person) that might change under certain criteria. Although, many actions are based on convenience (exceptions at a particular moment depending on circumstances), instead of a personal belief (presentation) or consideration.
Individuals can miss opportunities because there isn’t a belief that something is possible, their considerations aren’t enough to drive their desire(s)/determination to act, or it isn’t convenient for someone to persevere to summon their internal strength to move forward despite (sometimes overwhelming) obstacles.
There are so many “What if?!?!” questions that go unanswered due to fear, but imagine the potential impact of pushing yourself to make a tough choice that could positively change your life or others. Might your actions or behaviors be different during challenging moments? Perhaps... Unfortunately, unless individuals make active choices to “What if?!?!” questions, the outcome of these missed opportunities or decisions might not ever be known.
Instead of wondering right now “What if the writer of the piece is correct?”, create a list of “What if?!?!” questions for yourself and answer them. By actively choosing and proactively planning to make decisions about your life, you’ll never have to wonder... “What if?!?!”