Life can be amazing, yet life can be difficult. Life is abundant with opportunity, yet has many challenges. Life can be full of joy, yet is often painful. At any point in our lives, one of those statements could accurately describe what we are experiencing. No matter the circumstances, however, choosing to live courageously--more than anything--else will determine whether our lives are rich and meaningful.

Cynicism is often the result of unfulfilled expectations of ourselves and others that leads to feeling disillusioned and stuck. And, if our mental nutrition each day comes from the news, cynicism about today’s world is understandable. But, no matter the form, “Ain’t it awful,” is a game where there are no winners. Cynicism shuts down our imaginations, destroys our hopes for the future, diminishes our joy and blocks our view of all the amazing things happening in our world.

Fortunately, in every country, in hundreds of cities, on every part of the globe, people are refusing to participate in cynicism. They are having a different conversation: how do we create better lives for all? And, more importantly, they are taking action. They are choosing to be courageous.

In my book—MARK OF AN EAGLE—I share the story of an NGO called Pencils of Promise. The genesis of this remarkable initiative begins with a young man, Adam Braun, who was inspired to build schools throughout the developing world. Where did the idea begin? From a simple answer to a question. At the age of twenty-one, while back-packing in India, Adam asked a little boy begging in the street, “What you like most in the world?”

The boy replied, “A pencil.”

Adam was stunned, that one answer stirred his soul and gave him the sense of purpose that he had been seeking. Pencils of Promise has now become the manifestation of his commitment to that purpose. It has gone beyond anything Adam could have envisioned. A new school is being built every one hundred hours, and thousands and thousands of children through access to education are being awakened to their potential and given hope.

The world will not advance, and positive change will not happen if we align ourselves with the cynical. Understanding the duality and ambiguity of human existence requires much thought and reflection, but with tragedy there is also triumph, with conflict there is reconciliation, and with sadness there is joy. A fully lived life encompasses all of these feelings and experiences.

And so, the need for courage!

Whenever we face adversity yet refuse to be defeated, we are courageous.

Whenever we choose to live according to our values, we are courageous. Whenever we risk criticism for sticking to our beliefs, we are courageous.

Whenever we define success on our own terms, we are courageous.

Whenever we admit to mistakes and apologize, we are courageous.

Whenever we forgive others for their mistakes, we are courageous. Whenever we totally commit ourselves, we are courageous.

What will you choose today?

 MARK OF AN EAGLE--How Your Life Changes the World is available on Amazon or here.