Choice not Chance

Editor’s Pick: This popular article by business/life coach Kaarina Dillabough received the most comments by AHS visitors in September.


I have spent most of my adult life choosing: the path less trodden, the people in need of inspiration and support, the places in my mind and soul that beckoned and the profession that has given me so much reward.

When I hear people say, “I have no choice”, I want to rush to their side and help them to realize: EVERYTHING is choice. As the saying goes: “Choice, not chance, determines your destiny.”

When people ask me, “What do you do?” I respond: “What do you need done?” Because if I can’t help them, I’m quite confident I can find someone who can.

But people like labels, so I say: “I’m a coach, mentor and muse. I’m the pat on the back, kick in the shins, neutral objective ally and accountability partner who’s in your corner and on your team, always helping you to become the best you can be.”

When we stop playing the blame game, and accept responsibility for our choices, decisions and actions, that’s when true growth happens. But growth isn’t always easy. That’s why it’s easier to blame external circumstances for our problems, rather than accepting and owning them as our own.

I lead a blessed life. YOU lead a blessed life. There might be times that you’ve lost sight of that. I’m here to remind you…to help you…to guide you.

My intention with this column, “Choice not Chance”, is to remind you of the power of your thoughts, and how those thoughts shape your reality, and influence each and every choice you make. Even to “not choose” is to choose.

When you accept and realize that you are the driver of your destiny, and not just a passenger on life’s ride, you will begin to see possibilities that were always there: you just weren’t seeing them. You will gain a sense of empowerment and pride that will propel you towards any goal you set. And we will talk about setting goals. Believing them. Achieving them.

I will bring a smorgasbord of information to your table, and I will ask you to heed the words of my own mentor, Jack Donahue, who said: “Take what I say and chew it around. If you don’t like it, spit it out. But at least chew it around for a while.”

And the information will be actionable. As a former Olympic level athletic coach, I know the power of visualization. But visualization alone won’t cut it. You will need to TAKE ACTION. The stories I will share will help you to first: decide. Then: do.

I have been an entrepreneur all my life, and it’s been a life of the highest highs and lowest lows. I know first-hand what it feels like to be handed defeat on a silver platter. I know what it’s like when the people you thought were your friends and allies are nowhere to be found when the going gets tough. I’ve created three companies from scratch, one of which I had to close after two and a half years of painful, groundless litigation. I know what it’s like to see all that you’ve built; crushed.

But more importantly, I know what it’s like to wake every day and realize: I’m creating the life I’m living. YOU are creating the life YOU’RE living. Let’s journey together.

Kaarina Dillabough, Amaranth, Ontario

Kaarina is a business/life coach living in Ontario, Canada. For over 25 years her high-voltage energy, expertise and experience has inspired those she has worked with to reach beyond their grasp, to attain great things in business and in life. A former Olympic sports colour commentator and coach, Kaarina parlayed her coaching skills from the gym floor to the boardroom, working with business owners to improve their profitability and prosperity. In doing so, she has seen people grow both personally and professionally. Kaarina is known as an inspiring motivational speaker in areas such as branding, marketing, business growth strategies, and personal growth and prosperity. She is a passionate, seasoned coach and accountability partner with a proven track record, who loves nothing more than helping people achieve their goals in business and in life. Check out her Blog or follow her on Facebook or Twitter. Email contact: kaarina (at) kaarinadillabough (dot) com

Related Articles


(62) Readers Comments

  1. I knew I was thinking of you earlier for a reason. Did not think i would be reading one of the best posts EVER.
    Love this. I agree totally and wish I would (or could) hve written this. We have got to talk or skype or something, one day soon. Thanks so much for this and also for your continued support and encouragement.
    It means a lot. And you make me smile, too.

    Many blessings to you, my friend.


    • Al, you are such a dear friend, and I look forward to that video Skype soon!

      I’m glad you liked this post. I’m excited about the fact that I’ll be doing a monthly column here, as well as blogging regularly on my own site. So stoked!

      Now I must get over to “your place” and see what’s cooking there.

      “One of the best posts EVER”? You honour me. With gratitude, Kaarina

  2. Kaarina,
    I can’t imagine how ANYONE would not feel empowered when being coached by you! I didn’t know you created three companies from scratch! Wow!
    I agree 100% that we are the driving force in our lives and that awareness can make a difference in the outcome of our efforts. Well done and all the best in your coaching business!

    • Thanks, Lori, for dropping by…and what a lovely thing to say:)

      I love what I do, and I’m glad that shows. And I agree: when we realize and accept that we are behind the steering wheel of our life, and not a passenger in the back seat, all things change. Taking responsibility for our choices and actions isn’t always the easy road, but it’s the right road. Cheers! Kaarina

  3. I love this piece here.. ALL of it. That’s rare because I tend to find snippets I don’t agree with.

    The biggest thing I enjoyed here is the aspect of nudging people. That’s important. Accountability is something we could all work on.

    I love how you describe “what you do”. Your answer is much like mine. I’m working hard to develop a network for collaboration and peer support. Embrace the “competition”, I say!

    • Yomar, I’m grinning from ear to ear that you like this piece: ALL of it. Makes my day!

      And if you’re looking for someone to participate in your network for “collaboration and peer support”, count me in! Thanks so much for dropping by and commenting: great to see you here. Cheers! Kaarina

  4. I don’t think I’d get away with a thing if you were by my side! I KNOW people like you!:)!

    • How kind of you Betsy:) Loved your Geocaching/Grateful Dead post the other day! Cheers! Kaarina

  5. Kaarina, you smashed this one good and proper, well done! I felt inspired reading this, especially about the business that you had to close after 2 1/2 years – if you can pick yourself up and fight on after that crushing blow, then any business owner can do the same!

    Thanks for the message bringing me here, a brilliant read :-)

    • Stu, thanks for those lovely words: I’m glad you found it inspiring:)

      I look forward to catching up with you on our long-overdue Skype call. I also haven’t yet had the chance to read all about your Nice vacation…will do so, pronto.

      It’s not the getting knocked down that defines us: it’s the getting back up. Cheers! Kaarina

  6. This made me feel so happy and inspired. I am a firm believer in choice. Jumping at opportunities is a choice. Preparing yourself – building skills, networking, etc – for the next opportunity is a choice. Sitting on the couch is a choice … and sometimes the right one.

    Getting moving is the hardest part. For me, I can change the momentum once I get going. It’s finding that inspiration that is enough to make me realize that I’m currently in a rut. I’m sure if you were by my side, there would be no ruts!

    Thank you for starting my week off on such a positive note!

    • Tammy, I’ll be by your side, anytime/always:)

      I’m delighted that you found this to be an inspiring kick-start to your week. Inertia can certainly be a problem. Like an anchor, the “staying in the same place, doing the same thing” or simply feeling no energy to get moving FEELS like a huge weight. But once we break free and get moving and doing, it’s so much easier to keep the momentum going.

      And yes…sitting on the couch can indeed be a good choice sometimes. As long as sitting on the couch doesn’t become lethargy and apathy, and is a beautiful break in the day, then couch away! Cheers! Kaarina

  7. So powerful and SO true. We truly are the star of our lives – sadly many rely on someone else to write the script …

    Love it! Ride the waves, learn from the crashes but then get back up there and do it all again!

    • Ameena, I couldn’t have said it any better. Can I quote you on that? Powerful images painted by your words. Cheers! Kaarina

  8. Yes, to make no choice at all is still making a choice; but inaction is usually not the best of choices. Also, I would expect a kick in the arse from you instead of the shins.

    We do and we don’t control our destiny if that makes any sense. So many things we have absolutely no control over but when you break it down to an individual level, you, you can control how you react to the uncontrollable events.

    If it’s meant to be, it has to be because of you, right?

    Nice blond wig however, I didn’t know you trained with a blog wig on……………..sweet…………..they say blondes have more fun, right?

    Good to see you and thanks for the heads up.

    • Bill, I can always count on you to brighten my day with your quick wit. And yes…I would kick you in the arse.

      I like how you framed individual responsibility. Of course there are things/circumstances over which we have no control. But the one thing we’re in complete control of is our thoughts, and our reactions to each situation. How we handle anything, from adversity to euphoria, is up to each of us individually.

      And yes…I was skipping in cognito, haha! Cheers! Kaarina

    • Hi Kaarina!
      I decided to reply to Bill’s comment because this was along the lines of what I was going to say. People often feel that they don’t have a choice and a lot of things are happening TO them. It’s really how you react to these situations and what you do with the NEW situations you’re given that defines you.

      • That Bill guy is pretty smart, isn’t he?

      • Now see what you’ve done, haha! There are signs in parks that say please don’t feed the bears…in this case, please don’t feed the Bill:))))))) Just kidding. Thanks for the comment Alicia, and for keeping the conversation rolling. Cheers! Kaarina

  9. Love this post, Kaarina. That is so true, we make our own choices and even when we don’t have many and feel stuck, there is always something we can do better or worse if we decide that is the way to go.

    • Brankica, thanks so much for stopping by. I really appreciate you doing so:) And I’m so glad I finally got over to read your birthday blog. Wow, you are one amazing lady! So many talents. Any time you want to add Finnish to your languages, just call on me:) Cheers! Kaarina

  10. I just can’t close my eyes and get a mental picture of you kicking ANYONE in the shins Kaarina. However, the symbolism is not lost on me with that statement. The power of positive thinking is something few people seem to know and understand. I look forward to learning more about it through your wise words. Thanks for a great post.

    • Oh my goodness, John, I’m laughing out loud on the kick in the shins comment. You are so right about that! Glad the symbolism shines through, because I could not do it literally. Well, maybe I’d make an exception for that Bill Dorman, haha!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. I look forward to our continued connection. Cheers! Kaarina

  11. This really resonated with me. Last night my son and I had a long talk about what we are capable of doing versus what we cannot do.

    I am determined to help him create a mindset that isn’t built upon negative imagery. I really liked your opening because we always have a choice. Sometimes that means choosing bad over really bad but it is a choice nonetheless.

    And choosing not to choose is still a choice so we might as well try to take control of our lives as best we can.

    • Jack, I so admire all you do as a parent, never mind all the admiration I have for you as a writer.

      And I love your line: “sometimes that means choosing bad over really bad”…so true! It is just so important that everything IS choice…we are not victims, we are…artists, creators, craftsmen, builders, and we are “enough”.

      Bravo to you for helping your son build a mindset on positive, productive “glass half full” thinking…kinda’ like the pony and the manure pile story, huh? Cheers! Kaarina

    • I was going to write something…until I read Jack’s comment and realized he said what I wanted to convey, and quite a bit better than what I had rattling around in my head. I agree with Jack. :-)

      I found your article motivational. Sometimes I choose to NOT take a nap and be productive on a day off, after a hard week. I am always happy I did, but I don’t always take the path less nappy.

      I guess I ended up writing something anyway. Great Post, thanks for sending me the link.

      • Brian, it took me a nanosecond to connect: Brian, bacon, extremelyavg…thanks so much for dropping by:) And I shall remember to take the path more or less nappy, as the case may be.

        Quite the gravatar here, my friend: but I must admit, I’m captivated by the black and white gravatar and hat: one of the best in the blogosphere, in my opinion. Thanks for chiming in. Cheers! Kaarina

        • In truth, I have no idea where that avatar is being pulled from. I use the black and white everywhere, but it seems to be left over from my days of being a Second Life builder. I would swap it with the black and white one, if I knew where to go. I’m glad you like it though.

          • I must find that out for you Brian. Although this random avatar does have a slight “rugged” appeal, with its blazing background and goatee’d guy…oh yes! You’re the goatee’d guy. But the black and white photo is, as I said, my fave:) Cheers! Kaarina

  12. You sound a lot like me Kaarina, I’m constantly telling people that life is a choice. Stop with all the excuses because they are just that, excuses. You can do anything you put your mind to, the problem is, you really don’t want to do it so that’s when the excuses start.

    It’s also true that sometimes things are out of our control but it’s how we react to those things is what matters. There goes those choices again. Oh I’m not prefect at this myself, I know shock! I’m always a work in progress but at least I’m aware and I don’t sit on my rear end.

    Thanks for letting me know you are writing over here and I’ll look forward to your next post. Appreciate you sharing and I love this topic.


    • Adrienne, thanks so much: looks like we’re kindred spirits on the “get off your rear” team!

      We’re all a work in progress, and that’s what makes life rich, meaningful and splendid. Whenever/if ever we tend toward blaming external circumstances or making excuses, I recommend a 3-step process:

      1. Catch yourself thinking those “blame game” thoughts
      2. Flip the switch – replace that thought with an empowered thought
      3. See, feel, breathe and experience that empowered thought, and SMILE…raises the endorphins, gives you the feel-good feeling, and sets the stage for productive thought and action, not a pity party. Cheers! Kaarina

  13. Kaarina, you are all over the place, kind of like a certain Mr. Bill we all know. And what’s with all this kicking? I thought you were the non-violent type :)

    I used to take stress, anxiety and apprehension to the extreme. This led to inaction, so right now I feel like I’m making up for lost time. I knew what I needed to get done back then, but was submitting to the resistance and really looking up every excuse in the book to not work, push all the way through, and own it!

    Every day you have the power to change your outlook from negative to positive. I finally got that through my thick head. Of course there is chaos (not the Maxwell Smart kind) and life does get in the way sometimes, but your perspective makes a huge difference. Also being really good at something and excelling almost always involves a certain level of discomfort to, right? But most importantly, Just Do! Thanks for the message.

    This post makes me think of something I might want to write about in the near future.

    And … three companies from scratch! I’m starting to think you are some sort of super woman! I look forward to picking your brain and learning more. Anyway, every time I read one of your posts I come away inspired. Very glad I know you! Love Jack’s quote too.

    • So glad to provide inspiration, Craig. And I dig your Get Smart reference…very clever, from Agent 99.

      Your new blog is simply superb, and I wish you continued success with it. You may claim to be an introvert, but I’m seeing you all over the blogosphere too, my friend.

      Here’s to making up for lost time! And you are right…I am the non-violent type, so that kick in the shins – or in Bill’s case, the arse – is purely metaphorical. Just sayin’….Cheers! Kaarina

      • Will try and squeeze in a Get Smart reference whenever I can :)

  14. I’ve always wondered how to write a tough, convicting post that was at the same time loving and caring.

    You just did it Kaarina. A wonderful job of it too.

    Choices are something we all have – making the right ones is always the trick.

    I can’t wait to see more of this column in the coming months – I’m already hooked!

    • Woohoo! I’m glad you’re hooked Frank:) Loving and caring and tough and convicting…mighty powerful words that are truly appreciated. I will aim to deliver each and every month here. Cheers! Kaarina

  15. Lovely post, Kaarina! Thank you for sending me a direct message about it.

    Life is about the choices we make. I’m actually working on a post that runs in a similar vein. It’s weird how that happens. I had a similar incident happen with John Falchetto last week. Great minds, perhaps? Fortunately, each of us is unique and has our own way of talking about topics. I certainly enjoyed reading your view. :)

    • I like that: “great minds”:)

      There does seem to be a lot of synchronicities/coincidences in the topics we share, but we do indeed come at them from our own unique perspective. Birds of a feather:) Thanks for dropping by. I’ll look forward to reading your post. Cheers! Kaarina

  16. Kaarina,

    This is so true — a little kick in the shins in and of itself. I have to say “I have no choice” has become a pet peeve phrase for me. 95 out of 100 times I hear someone say it, they are using it to justify not making a hard choice and making a tough change. We might all resist those tough choices on occassion, but hiding behind “I have no choice” is lying to yourself. It is actually adopting a victim mentality.

    As you so sagely point out, most of the time we do have a choice. Fortunately, you made the choice to write a great blog post! :)

    • Thanks Adam:) And you made a choice to write a great Guest Post over at my place today. It rocks!

      When we lie to ourselves and take a victim mentality, the only person we’re fooling is ourself. To empowered thinking and focus-forward action. Cheers! Kaarina

  17. Two people performing the same action can have vastly different results caused by their thoughts at the moment. I very much appreciated this post, Kaarina, thank you.

    • Oooh, that is so good and so correct Shakirah. It makes me think (pun intended)…what am I thinking when I’m doing this? A good reminder to stay in the moment, for it’s the only moment we have. Cheers! Kaarina

  18. You. Rock.
    Love this post, Kaarina. It’s so true and I can say first hand you’re definitely the person to have in my corner and cheering me on! You’ve been such a blessing to me this past few weeks and I so appreciate you for it. This post sums up why very nicely. We all have choices. We’re all empowered to make them and yes, we’re all very blessed.
    Great reminder, my friend.

    • Thanks Erica: it’s been my pleasure to be “in your corner and on your team”, and hope I will remain on your team:) I love your energy, spirit and writing. Rock on! Cheers! Kaarina

  19. Hey Kaarina,

    This is such a beautiful post! Kudos to you for being so wonderful with words!

    I am so glad you are going to be doing this on a monthly basis! Yay for you!

    Choices might be tough for some, because there are so many things which influence whether you can make a choice or not and cultural relevance makes a very dominating factor. IT is tough but then you just have to find your way through it all!

    Great job! :)

    • Thanks Hajra: your support means a lot.

      And I really must thank you, belatedly, for being the person that really tuned me in to cultural differences, when I talked in a post about using your non-dominant hand. I had an ah-ha moment when I realized…right! That would not work for everyone:) Thanks for the quick education. And I look forward to getting you to Guest Post soon. Cheers! Kaarina

  20. Hi Kaarina,
    Look at everyone over here at this new place. Hi!!!
    So I have to share a story and I’ll do my best to make it brief. I dated a guy and broke up with him because he didn’t treat me the way I deserved to be treated. Well, I let him back into my life, and sure enough, he let me down HUGE shortly thereafter. We were having an argument over it and I took all the blame. He looked at me astonished. I said it was completely my fault, I made the wrong choice. :) Now I know. Anyway, that was a looong time ago, and a really good lesson for me which is why I couldn’t agree more; we make our own choices, and we choose to be happy, and to leave an intentional life. This column is going to be fun!

    • Hey Lisa, so great to see you here! Sorry to hear of the unpleasantness of your story, but bravo to you for choosing what you deserve: happiness.

      They say we learn from the things we do “wrong”, not the things we do right…that we learn from our mistakes. Although that’s quite often painful, it is so true. When we seize control of the life that is ours to create and live to the fullest, even our “bad” choices are part of the journey. The important thing is to recognize that there’s always another choice that can be made: one that is in our highest and best interest. Cheers! Kaarina

  21. Wow, Kaarina, what a powerful and eloquent post! You beautifully expressed exactly how I feel. My girls aren’t allowed to say the word “can’t”. There are always choices, even if you don’t like the choices. I don’t have a lot of patience for those who give up and don’t give it their best.

    Kaarina, I can completely understand how you became an Olympic level athletic coach – you’ve got what it takes! Thanks for reaching out, I thoroughly enjoyed this article!

    • Carolyn, thanks so much for taking the time to drop by and comment: I really appreciate it!

      I always say: “no apostrophe t’s…no can’t, won’t,shouldn’t's, and definitely no coulda,woulda, shoulda’s” :)

      Good for you to banish the word “can’t” from your and your girls vocabulary. In sports, there isn’t even a hint of the word “can’t” permitted: everything comes with a can-do attitude. And that’s an attitude that serves us all well.

      Great to see you here. I always love your comments, especially over at Bill’s place, and now must get over to yours more frequently. Hope to see you here monthly. Cheers! Kaarina

  22. Some days my bed is made; on other days it isn’t. Kinda goes hand in hand with choice, right? We lie in our bed.

    If life was as easy as changing the dirty sheets, we’d not be molded into the individuals we get to be. I don’t know what makes some elect a path of love over others who elect a path of disaster. I only know that my path is the former, and it wins every time.

    I’m teaching my child to live from the heart, be caring, be warm, be loving, smile, be genuine…it will get you farther than the alternative.

    • Jayme, what wonderful imagery you paint in your comment. I believe that’s a blog post in itself!

      I know what a great mother you are, and how seriously you take your role to parent your daughter to be the best she can be. And I know what a great writer you are, because we all benefit from your words. Plus that original video blog on your site: priceless! Your sense of humour is, to use your words, ‘da bomb. Keep on that path of yours:) Cheers! Kaarina

  23. Kaarina,

    You do lead a blessed life. What an outstanding piece. It is a blessing to be in your circle and to share in your wisdom. No one wins the blame game. It is our destiny that we control and we must take responsibility for our actions. Thank you for the wisdom and I look forward to many more gems from you. Cheers!

    • Jen, you know the feeling is mutual, my friend:) I’m really looking forward to my monthly column here, and hope to provide more “gems” in future. Cheers! Kaarina

  24. Beautiful post, Kaarina! I think we all need to hear this rally cry every now and then. Excuses are the easy way out. If we want to be successful, we often have to make difficult choices. And, as you mentioned, it IS a choice. Thanks for the excellent reminder! :)

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Laura: I really appreciate it! Happy to provide a reminder, and glad you enjoyed the post. Cheers! Kaarina

  25. Kaarina,

    We share views: In every situation we have a choice.

    I appreciated knowing a bit more about your background and achievements. We all are reflections of our lifely events, and how we handle them. You have a diverse set of experiences, and I admire your determination and perseverance.

    More, I value your ability to consistently step away with the positive outlook. That, is where I must work.

    You are a pleasure, and an inspiration — Thank you!


    • Keri, thanks so much for those very kind words: I’m honoured.

      And I guess my diverse set of experiences, with their share of the highest of highs and lowest of lows have brought me to a point where I do, (due to, or in spite of) maintain a positive outlook.

      Just went over to your FB page and Liked it (I don’t know how I missed that before), and look forward to staying connected with you. Thanks for dropping by and commenting here, and hope to see you back again for next month’s column. Cheers! Kaarina

  26. Kaarina!

    Sheesh, I finally made it! I’m home and catching up now! May I say, my dear and blessed friend, Wow. I feel, as I read and now, after I read the entire post, that you were writing as my much more talented self.

    As I became aware of this entire post in real life, everything changed. Some of it changed instantly, some more gradually, some was a source of pride – in the knowledge of the growth that occurred and some of it was very hard and very sad.

    Every single day it is a struggle… to be this new me, to be a better me. I wonder I will ever really BE this new-ish me..? This was a beautiful post. I love reading the posts that touch my heart, inspire and motivate me to keep working, keep practicing and to keep trying. So thank you, Kaarina, you always do all three for me.


    • Welcome home Amber-Lee:) You are such a bright light and wonderful spirit: we all benefit from your words and friendship:)

      Growth is not necessarily easy, but so worth the journey. I’m honoured if my words can touch your heart, inspire and motivate you to keep on your journey.

      And I look forward to a video Skype call with you soon. Cheers! Kaarina