Maybe something big, so big it makes the news. War, an act of terrorism, a natural disaster.
Or maybe something more personal, yet every bit as devastating. A terrible accident, a daunting diagnosis, a death in the family.
Crime, abuse, layoffs, divorce . . . The list goes on and on. Life throws a million challenges at us, tries hard, real hard sometimes, to turn us into victims.
But here's the key.
We may not always get to choose what happens to us. But we always get to choose our response.
This is the big lesson I learned from the Cedar Fire. One day I was living my normal life. The next day I was homeless, and the world suddenly saw me as a "fire victim."
This didn't make sense to me. I was alive. My husband and I, our two giant Newfoundland dogs and Chelsea the cockatiel drove through fire and came out of it unscathed.
Unlike 12 of our neighbors.
As one of our other neighbors put it: "We buried the victims. The rest of us are survivors"
But not everyone affected by the fire felt the same way. A lot of people identified with the “victim” label. They even introduced themselves as “fire victims.” And most of them were bitter, accusatory, awash in self-pity, regardless of how much or how little they'd lost in the fire.
That’s when I realized: It’s a choice. You can be a victim. Or you can be a survivor. No matter how terrible your circumstances, you get to choose.
Assuming that you decide to survive, as most of us do, you’ve taken the first step on a sacred journey—the journey from survival to significance.
It’s good to be a survivor when everything around you is on fire, when the ship is going down, when the odds are flat out against you. It sure beats the alternative. And, in fact, much of the world exists in permanent survival mode.
But there’s more to life, and we know it. We can feel it deep inside. We don’t want to simply survive, hanging onto our life rings and floating among the flotsam and jetsom forever. We don't want to camp out on the ash heap that used to be our home.
We want to reboot and rebuild. We want to thrive. We want to come back from adversity even stronger than before. Something in us tells us it’s possible, because it is.
So for many of us, that’s the next step in our journey. We evolve from SURVIVORS to THRIVERS.
We discover life can be richer than before, in spite of, perhaps even because of the adversity we've overcome. We've learned what's truly important in life. We don’t take as much for granted. Life is good.
But some of us don’t stop there either. We feel so fortunate to have come so far. We’ve learned so much from our struggle. We just can’t keep all that to ourselves. So we start to share it with others in all sorts of ways.
Now we’ve moved on to the next step in our journey. We’ve become GIVERS.
It’s a form of alchemy really, turning adversity into blessings—for ourselves and others. Thank God for the givers. They make the world go round. It’s a wonderful thing to be a giver, a lovely way to live. There’s really no need to travel any farther.
Unless you feel the call to keep going.
Some of us do hear that call, and a few answer it. I’m talking now about those rare individuals who leverage their personal catastrophe into broad benefits. They pour themselves into the effort, starting businesses, nonprofits, global movements.
They go big and leave a legacy. These are the CHANGEMAKERS.
So that’s the roadmap, the stops along the way from survival to significance. I’m guessing this makes sense to you. I'm guessing you’re somewhere en route. You’ve realized that your life is your story, and you’re making it a great one.
Keep going. The world is waiting.