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Don’t wait for second chances

November 26, 2007

by Ivan Raconteur

Happiness lies not in the cards we are dealt, but in the way we choose to play them.

Last weekend, I read Karla Heeter’s latest book titled “If You Think You Can.”

Heeter is a nationally recognized motivational speaker, a Wright County commissioner, and cancer survivor.

The book is a collection of her favorite quotes, observations, and a liberal dose of her philosophy on life.

Some might ask why The Curmudgeon would be interested in such a book.

It is quite simple, really. We can all use a wake-up call now and again to keep things in perspective, and Heeter’s book provides this.

Often, when people hear about Heeter, or those like her, who have had cancer or been subjected to some other life-changing challenge, they say it is a tragedy.

I say the real tragedy is when people go through their entire lives without really living.

They do what others want them to do, or what they think they should do, while ignoring their dreams, and they are miserable as a result.

Heeter’s book is a reminder that we need to make the most of each day.

This involves deciding what things are important to us, and finding ways to spend time on those things.

One of Heeter’s favorite quotes, and the one that provided the title of the book is, “If you think you can, you can, and if you think you can’t, you’re right.”

This is not just a lot of feel-good claptrap.

There are few things in life more boring or annoying than individuals who walk around with pockets full of excuses to explain why they can’t do things.

Heeter and those like her are not looking for sympathy, and they don’t make excuses. Their experience has taught them the value of each day, and why it is important for each of us to decide how to spend it.

Instead of whining about what they can’t do, or about things they don’t have, they focus on what they can do, and are thankful for what they have.

Heeter says one thing that her battle with cancer gave her was “a thirst for positive people.”

There is some sense in this. Do we want to surround ourselves with malcontents who suck the very life out of us, or would we rather spend time with positive, creative people who believe in themselves and in us? Do we want to associate with those who are forever telling us why we can’t do the things we want to do, or is it better to be around those who can see possibilities and encourage us to try new things?

Anyone looking for ground-breaking revelations or earth-shattering new ideas will be disappointed in Heeter’s book. That is not what the book is about.

The book is brimming with Heeter’s spirit and positive energy. It is a gentle reminder that each of us is in control of his own life.

She also talks about goals, and recommends that, in addition to personal, professional, and financial goals, we should set some fun goals.

These are the best goals of all.

Heeter encourages us to think about the things we have always wanted to do, and to come up with a plan to make them happen.

Heeter writes, “This is not a dress rehearsal. This is it. This is your chance, your one go-around. Go for the gusto and pack a little fun in every day.”

She suggests that part of the reason our lives lack fun is that we are creatures of habit and we sometimes get stuck in a rut.

She even provides a list of ideas that we might use to help us get out of a rut.

Perhaps one of the most important things we can take from Heeter’s book is the notion that it is up to us to determine the course our lives take, and we don’t need to wait until we encounter cancer or some other life-altering event to get started.

Some of the concepts in Heeter’s book resonated with me because they are things I had already discovered for myself.

Several years ago, with the ominous shadow of my 40th birthday looming dead ahead, I took stock of my life. I was in a comfortable place, and had a good job, but I wasn’t happy because I was in a rut and was wasting time and energy on things that weren’t important.

I had allowed myself to be carried along a path based on security and perceived expectations.

I finally realized the clock was running, and I knew I didn’t want to get to the end of the game without accomplishing a few things.

I thought about what I really wanted out of life, and wrote down some short and long-term goals. I shared these goals with a few trusted friends to increase the likelihood that I would succeed in attaining them.

Now, a few years later, I have accomplished many of these goals, and am working on others.

I have learned a great deal about what is important in life. I have traded security for possibility, and I am much happier as a result.

I don’t worry about the things I can’t change, and I take responsibility for the things I can.

I have become much more open to trying new things, and I enjoy the exhilaration of not always knowing what tomorrow might bring.

I have discovered that there is a lot less money in living one’s dreams, but if you don’t mind putting up with a bit of poverty, life can be a hoot.

In her book, Heeter talks about some of the things that she has done since her bout with cancer; things she may not have ever tried were it not for that period of uncertainty in her life.

Her experience can be a lesson to others. We don’t have to wait.

As for myself, I have discovered the freedom that comes with taking risks and embracing new experiences, and I am having the time of my life.

When the old man with the scythe comes knocking at my door, I won’t have to look back and wish I would have done things differently, or wonder what might have been.

Heeter is right. There is no guarantee how much time any of us will have, so we better make the most of every day.

Heeter’s book is available at www.karlaheeter.com, or by calling (320) 963-6713.