Recently someone shared this quote with me:
“I am not a product of my circumstances, I am a product of my decisions.”
– Steven Covey
It has been rolling around in my head ever since. I like this quote a lot as it gives us no opportunity to use our circumstances as a reason to be stuck in unhealthy situations or to justify negative behavior toward others. It takes away our excuse to be neglectful and holds us accountable.
Being a chronically ill person is one of the circumstances of my life. Only one circumstance. It does not define me and I can decide not to use it as an excuse to justify unhappiness, nastiness, laziness or negativity.
A lot of times I do not feel physically well. I am short of breath. My joints hurt. I am foggy headed from the medicine I take for my sarcoidosis. I get fevers and my bones often hurt. My legs muscles are weak so I am prone to falls. Having gotten this disease has changed my life. There is no way around that.
It is part of my life now and I must learn to accept it and to cope with it. I have the ability to use it as an excuse to sit on the couch and dwell feeling sorry for myself. Or, I can decide to do whatever it takes to do my part to minimize the effects it has on my life. I chose the later. I chose to take care of myself and I chose to eat right, exercise, manage my stress, get enough sleep and take inventory of my behavior on a daily basis.
Having a chronic disease that creates its fair share of challenges does not give me a free pass to act like I was dealt an unfair hand and it does not justify my lashing out at others.
Lately the idea of excuses vs. explanations has also been rolling around in my head and this quote speaks perfectly to the challenges of not using excuses to justify unhappiness or negative behavior toward others.
If I am a product of my decisions rather than my circumstances than I am always responsible for my behavior regardless of my circumstances. There is freedom in this concept but it also requires personal responsibility. So if I am having a bad day from my disease, I have a chose. I can lash out at others and be unhappy or I can try to do the things I need to do to minimize the symptoms of my disease.
I do not have a right to take out my pain on others. And I do not have a right to use that pain as an excuse to act in ways that are counter productive to my emotional well being and my physical health.
If I use my circumstances as an excuse to lash out or not take care of myself, then I have no one to blame for the outcome of this behavior other than myself. And I will live a lonely unhappy life.
The fact that we are actually products of our decisions rather than our circumstances gives us far more control over our lives than if we allow circumstances to turn us into victims.
Circumstances may sometimes explain our behavior but they never justify bad behavior on our part. They are never an excuse to hurt people or ourselves.
I may have an illness that has effected my life but it’s my decision how to handle it. And I don’t want to be a victim of it. I am not a victim of it. I will not allow it to define me. I will not allow it to justify being stuck in unhealthy places in my life.
The decisions I make every day about how to live with my disease are what define me…not the disease itself. So I chose positive decisions.
I chose physical activity despite pain.
I chose eating a healthy diet.
I chose to reach out to others instead of self isolation.
I chose joy over self pity.
I chose personal responsibility over excuses.
I chose kindness despite discomfort.
I chose living over existing.
I chose happiness over a constant need to be right.