Choices are critical to our happiness and future

Reflections: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer, It sings because it has a song.”

‘WHAT’S IMPORTANT when you lose, is not to lose the lesson.’ (photo credit: WALLPAPER FLARE)
‘WHAT’S IMPORTANT when you lose, is not to lose the lesson.’
(photo credit: WALLPAPER FLARE)
What is the “good life”? Is it jet-setting; mixing with the beautiful people; wearing Prada and Gucci; and living in a villa with an ocean view? These are all the benefits of wealth, but has it ever been proven that money buys happiness?
Life is a matter of choices... something like the customer in a cafeteria who chooses dishes as he passes along the line. But the choices we make in life are critical to our happiness and our future.
The good life” means different things to different people, and the older you get, the less you define it in material terms. I feel I am living it now because of what I have acquired throughout my very long life – not riches, but choices I made because of lessons people taught me along the way. I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’ve always loved the proverb: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer, It sings because it has a song.”
Never laugh at anyone’s dreams
I learned that when I was 16 and met a Scottish lady in Australia named Esther Paterson – a famous artist and a member of the Royal Academy. Apart from my mother, she was the only person I confided in about my dream to be a writer. She gave me so much encouragement and support that I was able to follow the dream for my whole lifetime, taking rejections in my stride and confident that I would one day reach my goal. I have never forgotten this wonderful lady, and my novel Esther is dedicated to her memory.
Identify and pursue your true passions
If you want something badly enough, you’ll attain it. The world is full of amazing people who achieved their goal despite difficulties. Take US Army Gen. Colin Powell, who became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He is a black man who came from one of the worst slums in America. But he is proud of his heritage, and instead of letting it be his problem, he let it be other people’s problem – if they were racist. He never allowed himself the victim mentality, which implies that nobody is personally responsible for his life. He lives life in his own skin.
Great achievements involve great risks
Back in 1990, in the Wimbledon tennis tournament, 16-year-old Monica Seles had to play Zina Garrison. Because she was scared, she was going for the safe shots only. Her opponent played an offensive game that resulted in advantage, game, set and match to Garrison. Monica Seles said it taught her a lesson – it’s better to perform to your potential than to concentrate on minimizing your losses.
Cus D’Amato, a legendary boxing trainer, once said: “Heroes and cowards feel exactly the same fear. Heroes just react to it differently.” If you focus on the positive, that image in your mind fires the nervous system the same way as actually doing it.
Learn from your mistakes
We all make them, but you should take immediate steps to correct them. Disappointment always precedes success. What’s important when you lose is not to lose the lesson.
THERE ARE many small steps that have contributed to my feeling of living the good life, and all of them have been learned from people I met at various times. Generosity makes the giver feel good, so cheerfully give people more than they expect. Say “I love you” when you feel it in your heart. Learn the three R’s – respect for self, respect for others and responsibility for your actions.
To engender good feelings, stop and have a conversation with an elderly neighbor or a lonely child. Be gentle with the earth and enjoy the beauty of growing things. Pray when you need to, not just to ask for more but to express gratitude for what you have.
Almost 2,500 years ago, Socrates uttered: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” So reflect on yours; and where you see you could have done better, try to make amends.
Treasure your friends, as The Beatles put it: “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
You will feel that you are living the good life if you have accomplished more than you ever thought you could. It should be an exciting adventure that constantly challenges, rewards and rejuvenates you. We have only one life to live. Let’s try to leave the world better than we found it. 
The writer is the author of 14 books. Her latest novel is Searching for Sarah.