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How many choices have you made already today?
How many more choices will you make by the end of the day?
Believe it or not, the power within your choice is astonishing. With your choice you have:
The power to build, or the power to destroy.
The power to listen, or the power to ignore.
The power to encourage, or the power to discourage.
The power to understand, or the power to confuse.
The power to reach out, or the power to turn away.
The power to compliment, or the power to criticize.
The power to hope, or the power to fear.
The power to act, or the power to stand still.
Your choice gives you the power to decide WHO you are each and every day.
Regardless of the choices that you made yesterday, last week, last month or last year, today brings forth a new possibility.
Who will you decide to be today?
~”The Power of Choice” The Road to Lasting Success (found here).

Whatever our circumstances throughout the world, something all women have in common is the ability and the need to make choices. Some choices have more far-reaching impact than others. Some choices are harder to make. Sometimes a choice must be made quickly. Other times we have the ability to research, discuss, and weigh options before a final choice must be made. Universally and comprehensively, all of our choices have consequences for which we must be responsible, and all of our choices have power to improve our lives and the lives of our families, our communities and our world.

In some women’s lives, the number of choices they have power over is limited by social structure, the consequences of their past decisions or the choices of others. Sometimes opportunities pass. But even in the worst circumstances, we can still be self-aware and make the choice to be positive.

One example of choosing positivity in adverse circumstances is Salva Dut from Sudan. Driven from his village as a child during the Second Sudanese Civil War that began in 1983, he walked with a group of refugees through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya just trying to stay alive and be safe. When the trek became too difficult, he was inspired by his uncle to just take the journey in small pieces – to walk just to the next outcropping or group of rocks. Later his uncle was killed, but he kept that lesson with him. He had the opportunity to be included in a group of refugees who were taken into families in the United States, then used his education and the power of his story to start a nonprofit organization, Water for South Sudan. Through his organization, he is able to raise money for and build sustainable wells in Sudanese villages where previously people, usually women and children, had to spend all of their time walking to get water which is often contaminated. Of his experiences he says,

“I overcame all the difficult situations of my past because of the hope and perseverance that I had. I would have not made it without these two things. To young people, I would like to say: Stay calm when things are hard or not going right with you. You will get through it when you persevere instead of quitting. Quitting leads to much less happiness in life than perseverance and hope,” (Park, Linda Sue. A Long Walk to Water. Clarion Books, 2010.)

Perseverance and hope are certainly traits worth working to have. Choosing to have hope and choosing to persevere in difficult circumstances can be incredibly enabling. Voni Glick from IsraAID spoke at a parallel event at the UN CSW in March 2018, and he shared the idea of “Post Traumatic Growth.” He said, “Can we look at a difficult situation, not as something that drags us down, but as something that helps us move beyond it?” While not denying the truth that some do experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, he said that disasters are an opportunity for change, and that by shifting the focus – choosing to see the positive – we can grow from the experiences in our lives. We can choose to not see ourselves as victims, but as survivors.

This positive mentality can also help us to reach beyond what would be our normal or societal prejudices. Salva Dut and Water for South Sudan does not limit well building to only his tribe, but also includes villages of tribes with which his tribe had been in conflict for generations. Voni Glick shared experiences where he saw prejudices overcome as well. He spoke of Israeli nurses assisting Syrian refugees on the shores of Greece. He also shared a story of a Brahman man and an “Untouchable” man being stuck together in the rubble of a building after an earthquake in India for several days until they were found. Those men problem solved together, comforted each other, and helped each other stay alive until they were rescued.

Hearing about people who have faced great difficulty with positivity and who have used those incredible circumstances to grow and help others can be inspiring as we all face our choices and trials in life, whether comparatively great or small.

Choosing to learn from our mistakes can help us to move forward. Choosing to not be afraid as we reach out to help and grow can help us to recognize the power we have within each of us. Choosing to be positive can expand our personal vision and open opportunities before us. Barbara L. Fredrickson, Ph.D., wrote a book called “Positivity.” In explaining what she learned from her research, she said, “What I’ve learned is that positive emotions carry far more benefits than most of us suspected.” She continued:

“I’ve encapsulate (sic) two classes of these benefits into my broaden-and-build theory. First, when we experience a positive emotion, our vision literally expands, allowing us to make creative connections, see our oneness with others, and face our problems with clear eyes (a.k.a. the broaden effect). Second, as we make a habit of seeking out these pleasing states, we change and grow, becoming better versions of ourselves, developing the tools we need to make the most out of life (the build effect),”

As Big Ocean founder Carolina Allen encourages us to think of our life as an infinite number of time slices in which we have the power to choose, we can begin with the choice to be positive and seek positivity, then move outward as our varied circumstances allow. As we do, we can become forces for good, bravely learn from our experiences, and influence our families, communities, and the world.

Written by Lisa Bjornberg