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One of the biggest obstacles to having it all and living a happy life – or living a happier life – is something over which we likely have 100% control…

When we stop complaining and embrace life’s ups and downs, we take back our personal power. This inspires others and we find living a happy life easier than we ever imagined.

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining – it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.”  Zig Ziglar

As I write this week’s e-zine I am sitting in my hotel room in Addis Ababa. The sun is rising illuminating the waking city. A mixture of fog, smoke from cook stoves, and polluted haze hangs in the air carrying the sound of early morning prayers.

This is such a profoundly vibrant city. It is rich in heritage, national pride, and culture. I am here to spend the week with my adopted daughter, Margaret, or Maggie as she now prefers. This is a girl I rescued from a shelter six years ago – a girl who is now defying the odds and living a happy life.

Maggie is now in college. She now has tuition costs, room and board, and money for other incidentals. In a country where only 12% of girls attend high school and only 1% of the population have post-secondary education, it is easy to see why this girl is already exceptional.

Maggie is a young master of overcoming challenges. She knows that having it all is within her reach and really totally up to her.

For those of you who are not familiar with Maggie’s story please indulge me with a brief re-cap of her amazing story of personal power.

Maggie, and her two older sisters, were born into a rural village in Malawi. This is a country that borders Tanzania in the southern part of Africa. At an early age, Maggie became an AIDs orphan and went to live with her grandmother. Her two older sisters were already married. One day, Maggie’s uncle came and decided to take her to Lilongwe, a city in the southern portion of the country.

Maggie’s uncle also decided that she was his property. Whenever his wife was out he would rape Maggie, threatening to kill her if she told anyone.

Maggie became pregnant and began to show. Her aunt decided that her niece had seduced her husband. Blaming Maggie, she threw her clothes into the latrine pit and banished her from the house – naked.

Maggie was fourteen.

She wandered the street, eventually passing out from malnutrition. Orphans are not uncommon in Malawi. Sadly, emaciated pregnant young girls are not overly uncommon either.

An aid worker came across Maggie and begged the local women’s shelter to take her in. Even though it was unconventional since Maggie was still a child, the shelter director decided to allow her to stay. That night she went into labor and miscarried the baby.

At the shelter, Maggie slept on a dirty mattress atop a concrete slab. In the morning her bed was covered with cockroaches.

After rising, cleaning the latrine, and getting herself ready, Maggie walked over 3 miles to school. There she worked hard and walked 3 miles back to the shelter to do more chores.

Even though her life appeared hopeless she would not resign herself to what many would consider a bleak fate. On the contrary, Maggie held on to a strong belief that all things are possible – that one day she would go to university, study business and accounting, and have a loving family.

It was at this point that I was introduced to Maggie and became her guardian. At that time Malawian laws prohibited foreigners from adopting Malawian children, so I sent her to Joyce Banda’s all-girls boarding school. I also found a loving family who would foster Maggie on breaks.

Over the years Maggie has decided to call me ‘Mum’ and Chris is ‘Dad.’ She considers Avery, AJ, Sarai and Emery to be her siblings and we are her family.

Having it all is possible. All things are possible. Maggie held this knowledge near and dear to her always.

Maggie always new – despite the hardships she faced – that she would one day be living a happy life. She knew that she would continue to overcome challenges as they came her way, and that she would truly have it all – have everything she had always dreamed of…

For the last six years, Maggie has never once complained about her past. Every few days she sends me an email thanking me for her new opportunities. Today she has just completed her first year of studies for business administration. We are working on having her transfer to a school in South Africa.

While here on our mother-daughter vacation, she handed me her five-year life plan – coil bound and written in near perfect English. Chris’ remarks were, “She is definitely your daughter.”

During this visit, I have reflected on all the complaining we do in our lives. We complain about our weight, our finances, and our relationships. Sadly, these are problems that others – with pasts like Maggie’s – would gladly take on instead of their own.

Living a happy life has a lot to do with how we choose to view the things that make up our lives.

What gives us this right to complain? Nothing. If a girl, who has been orphaned, raped and witnessed many of life’s atrocities can eschew complaining then why can’t we?

Over the years I have thought that I rescued Maggie however what I now see is that she has equally rescued me. Like many of you, I too have been abused both sexually and mentally, faced bankruptcy, divorce, infidelity and more and yet if Maggie isn’t complaining, why should I?

Putting things in perspective, no matter how bad it is, there is always someone going through something worse. This past week, I heard about a family of fifteen children, many adopted from Africa, who tragically lost their mother in a car accident. As I write this her husband, whom I met briefly, and their beautiful children are mourning their mother – in comparison, if we are able to read these words, how could we complain?

Another friend had an accident, at work, which required emergency surgery on his eye. The family does not have insurance and had to find the money to pay for a necessary procedure. A number on the scale or a partner who is in a bad mood pales in comparison.

One thing is for absolute certain – complaining takes us out of balanced living. The more we complain, the worse we feel. The worse we feel, the tougher it gets.

Resisting the urge to complain immediately sends a signal that we are not going to succumb to the seduction of the pity party. It says we are not going to allow ourselves to get caught up in verbalizing our disappointment in a situation. Especially when that takes our attention away from focusing forward.

I encourage you to find inspiration from Maggie’s story and let go of the desire to complain. In her words, ‘yes things were hard however I kept on dreaming of my future.’ Today my oldest daughter is living proof that life can turn around. If it can for her, then it can for any of us.

balanced living expert on work life balance Susan Sly - discusses living a happy life Susan is a balanced living expert and work life balance coach.  She is an author, speaker and self made millionaire.  She has appeared on ABC Family, the CBN, written for Dianne Magazine, Oxygen Australia and many more.

Susan dedicates time to philanthropy and projects that benefit women and girls all over the world.  She is married to her best friend, Chris, and together they have five beautiful children.


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