09/30/2013 02:01 pm ET Updated Nov 30, 2013

The Most Important Decision We Can Make

Lots of things annoy me: being behind slow walkers, bad grammar, people who wear cologne a bottle at a time, reality television.

The one pet peeve I have that immediately shifts me into argument mode is best summed up by this comment on my article, "How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps."

"What happens when you wake up from this dream, and have to live in the real world? I practice these tips every day and i am miserable almost every day. Why? Health issues, spouse, bills, jobs, or lack there of, kids, inlaws, money, no time for physical relationship, to busy for friends, blahblahblah. So you can stick your thumb up your butt and stare at the sky all you want, but that doesnt change the fact that the majority of live is not pleasureable and if it was we wouldnt slave away all year saving for vacation, or get hammered every weekend, or spend money we dont have to buy Christmas presents for everyone to mask the fact that their lives are unhappy also. So your hippie paradise is fine in theory, but then again so is Communism. Depressed yet? Welcome to life."

I don't write much about the specifics of difficult things I've gone through, partly out of respect for other people that might affect, but in a larger part because it isn't what defines me. I don't see myself as the sum of all of the adversity I've faced or problems I still have. I don't look at all the times I've been on the ground as who I am.

I define myself by all the times I chose to keep going, when it would have been easier to quit. I define myself by the fact that I choose -- daily -- that my life is something that I make, not something that happens to me.

I see myself as having gotten back up.

That is the difference. That is the crux of my biggest pet peeve, and quite possibly the biggest decision any of us can make.

We do not get to choose our parents. We do not get to choose what race or gender we are born. We do not get to choose many of the events that happen in our lives: illness, abuses, job loss, relationship problems, the list goes on. We do not choose the hand we are dealt.

But please, don't ever fall for the lie that we have no choice in what we do about it.

How we behave when things are going well is one measure of our character. Perhaps a far better measure of our character is how we react in the face of adversity. One of the things that sustains me in times that are dark, or difficult, is the knowledge that no matter what happens, the choice of how to respond is mine -- and no one else's. It is a privilege and a responsibility to take ownership of your life, to fully embrace the ideal that your life is not what happens to you, but what you make of it.

Life may bruise us. It might even break us. What comes next is up to us. It isn't that we should strive to never fall or fail -- we will. If we are going to do anything there will be many false steps and failures along the way. We get sick -- physically or emotionally. We have losses, setbacks and obstacles. We have heartbreaks. The point of life isn't to avoid these things or believe that we should act like they didn't hurt us.

The point is that no matter how many times we fall, we can choose to get back up.

Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

For more by Kate Bartolotta, click here.

For more on happiness, click here.