Once upon a time, there was a man who wanted desperately to run in the 2014 Boston Marathon – as many runners did - for the simple reason that it was the first Boston Marathon after the dreadful 2013 bombing. But the Boston Marathon is different from most marathons, in that you have to qualify in order to enter it. Namely, you have to have completed your previous marathon in a certain amount of time, depending on your age category.

Well, the man in question was 23 seconds short of the qualifying time he needed in order to enter the marathon. But here he was, in Boston, now what?

He had a number of options.

1. He could get angry. I mean, after all, what’s 23 seconds? And who makes up these qualifying times anyway?

2. He could blame, well, pretty much, anything and anyone. The weather the day of his previous marathon, the shoes he was wearing, the argument he had with his S.O. the night before, not to mention the arrogant marathon elite who made up these (stupid) qualifying times in the first place.

3. He could get depressed. There was only one 2014 Boston Marathon, there would never be another. This was going to be an historic run, and he was going to miss it. Serious bummer.

4. He could beat up on himself. Why, oh why, wasn’t he swifter? What was wrong with him that he couldn’t even qualify for the Boston Marathon? How dare he think he could run the thing?

Any of which could easily have led to his turning tail and going home, angry or depressed, take your pick.

Instead, Ken Nwadike attended the Boston Marathon in his own way. He made a “Free Hugs” sign, and with that and a camera on a tripod, he gave out hugs and smiles to the runners that passed him by, his way of encouraging and supporting them. No self-pity, no blame, no anger.

From that humble beginning, Ken began his widely acclaimed Free Hugs Campaign, which states its purpose as follows: “Continuing the nonviolent movement of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the mission of the Free Hugs Project is to spread love, inspire change and raise awareness of social issues.”
When things go wrong in our lives, as they do from time to time – sometimes seemingly all the time! – we have a choice. We can dwell on the “ain’t it awful” part, or we can pause, take a deep breath, assess the situation, and find a positive direction in which to go.

Sure, there are times when it’s important to mourn, grieve, get pissed, and otherwise allow the bad feelings to have their way with us. But it’s never in our best interest to stay with those feelings, to let them run rampant through our hearts and minds as we rehash the awful/unfortunate situation over and over again.

Whether it’s something relatively small in the scheme of things, like missing a marathon, or large, like losing a loved one, let Ken’s story inspire you to take that breath, re-orient yourself, and move on to doing something worthwhile with the experience.

Life rocks! So can you.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., is a psychologist, relationship expert, popular speaker in the U.S. and abroad, and author of over a dozen best-selling books. Dr. Nelson focuses on how we can all enjoy happy, fulfilling lives while accomplishing great things in love, at home and at work, as we appreciate ourselves, our world and all others. She is the author of “Happy Healthy…Dead: Why What You Think You Know About Aging Is Wrong and How To Get It Right” (MindLab Publishing). You Matter. You Count. You Are Important. Visit www.noellenelson.com, https://www.facebook.com/MeetTheAmazings, #MeetTheAmazings, @drnoellenelson