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By Michael J. Zappa, MD, FACEP
Comprehension of the secret to life starts by knowing the facts of life. No, I am not referring to where babies come from! I am talking about the indisputable facts of life – the exciting reality of birth and the inescapable eventuality of death. When most people think of life, they are envisioning what happens between these fixed points of birth and death. Not only is the distance, or time, between these two points uncertain, so is the kind of life one will have. Neither the situation you were born into, nor your current circumstances dictate who you are or what you can do with your life; it is completely dependent on what you choose.
Simply stated, the secret to life is choice. Where each of us are currently is a result of the choices we made, not where we started. Imagine two equivalently successful professionals, one born into a family that was able to sacrifice and help them with cost of a professional education, while the other, coming from an equally supportive family just could not afford to help their child pay for their professional education. Each of these individuals had choices to make: the first one deciding to commit to a professional career, and then deciding to excel at their studies, the second one making the choice to pursue a profession, and deciding to sacrifice their social life to work while attending school in order to succeed. Today, both individuals are in the exact same place.
We are faced with choices every day, from seemingly small ones to obviously major ones. You choose your attitude, you choose the easy path or the challenging one, you choose to just do something or excel at it, you choose what to devote your time to. Wouldn’t it be great if we made the perfect choice every time? We are human, so that’s not possible, but as intelligent humans, those less than perfect choices should help us make better choices going forward.
Among the choices we all must make in life is what we will focus our lives on – what is our primary driver? For some it is strictly providing for their family; others it is accumulating and enjoying the comforts of life. Nothing wrong with either of those choices.
Personally, I have always been more inspired by those that have taken their lives beyond success to significance, such as those who have chosen a life in healthcare or education.
Significance in this instance is being defined as having a positive impact on humanity beyond your social circle: i.e. positively impacting strangers. If what you dedicate your life to improve the lives of people you only interact with briefly, or perhaps never meet personally, you have gone beyond personal success to significance.
Go ahead and unlock the secret of life – choose what you want your life to be. For those who seek even more than to live a successful life, but one of significance, that is your choice as well – and the world is a better place because of you, even if they forget to say thank you!
About Michael J. Zappa, MD, FACEP
Dr. Michael J. Zappa is the president of Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, and Cape Fear Valley Health System Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Officer. He balances business acumen with clinical expertise, and shares his thoughts on leadership and the healthcare industry at mikezappa.com.