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The year was 2006. In April, my father died of prostate cancer after a very tough struggle, and I was having difficulty dealing with him being gone. He was only 70 years old. A month earlier, in March, Mildred, my favorite great-aunt, had also passed away. She was almost 94. As executor of Aunt Mildred’s will and estate, I appreciated her trust in bestowing that responsibility upon me, but it was a tremendous amount of extra work for me to take on, especially while grieving for her and for Dad.

In addition, in May I finalized the sale of a business that we owned, and I was very busy throughout the entire year working with clients on a variety of challenging and high-effort opportunities. Then, in the fall, another family curve ball was thrown my way as a health issue was discovered that required my wife to have surgery. I had a lot going on that year! Not to mention helping around the house and doing my best to keep things sane for our two kids. I was feeling stressed and frustrated, overworked, and picked-on by life for the triple-whammy of painful family events.

I suppose I might have been justified to get enveloped in "why me?" thinking and self-pity. I could have "punted" any number of personal and professional responsibilities and carried about in a foul mood…and most people probably would have understood. But doing so wouldn’t have been true to myself, or to what my family, friends, clients, and colleagues expected of me. So I made a conscious decision to work on my attitude, look on the bright side, and try to find the best in these difficult goings-on. That decision, and my positive outlook that resulted, made all the difference in my life during that year and the subsequent months. William James said, "The greatest discovery of this generation is that a human being can alter their life by altering their attitudes." It certainly worked for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no poster-boy for positive attitude; I have my good days and not-so-good days, like everyone else. But staying positive is very important to me and something that I work on every day. As the saying goes, "Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance."

We all have choices in life, and one of the most important decisions that you can make is how you’re going to live your life. Are you going to be sour and bitter, and let bad events and grumpy people get you down? Are you going to blame your boss or coworkers, the weather, your spouse, God, the economy, your kids, or bad luck for your current state? Or are you going to choose to be happy and find the silver lining, no matter the situation? So, in case you’re wondering, the answer is "Yes"; and the question is "Can you really choose to be happy?" In the book "The Millionaire Real Estate Agent", Mary Harker, a real estate agent in Dallas, TX, notes the following as a personal item of inspiration: "My Mom lived to be 95. Every morning I would ask her, "Are you going to have good day?" She would always answer, "I choose to have a good day. I don’t have enough days left in my life to have a bad one."

Some choices are not going to be pleasant or easy, and some are not going to be popular. However, choosing to be cheerful and optimistic is going to give you the best chance to be successful and fulfilled in your life. So work hard, love what you do, help others, surround yourself with others of matched values, be healthy, continue to grow and challenge yourself, and strive to be the best you can be. And make a conscious decision to do so, don’t leave it to chance. Gary Collins said, "We can try to avoid making choices by doing nothing, but even that is a decision." So don’t let life just happen; make it happen, and make it great.

How are you going to live your life? The choice is yours.