In the fall of 2007, I went for a run on a beautiful lake path. While enjoying the run, a 40-foot pine tree fell directly across the running path, hitting me in the head. My life was forever changed in that moment.
Both sides of my brain suffered severe damage, as well as my brain stem. My spine was compacted, damaging my low back. I lost my motor skills, peripheral vision, balance, cognitive processing skills, many memories and my mobility. My recovery included months of therapies, doctor’s visits, and years of healing.
Before the accident I was a woman who identified herself by her motherhood status and executive position. I was the quintessential multi-tasker. The accident gave me an opportunity to see life and myself differently. The recovery journey provided me a complete life do-over.
The accident left me with the mental processing of a small child. Physically, I was challenged in a different way. I wasn’t able to use the left and right side of my body at the same time, making it impossible to do something as simple as clapping my hands together.
For the better part of a year, I observed adults and tried to understand why they behaved in certain ways. What I noticed most often was how hard adults were on themselves.
Ironically, the individuals with functioning issues, like mine, behaved very differently. We had our child-like wonder back and approached life without the heaviness of self-sabotaging behaviors that striped others of their happiness.
As my recovery improved, eventually I was able to communicate and share my observations. Even though my do-over robbed me of so much, I gained even more and hope these four lessons I observed throughout my healing help you address any self-sabotaging tactics you may face today.
Enough of the Enoughs: Individuals with limited functioning issues, including myself, never questioned their capabilities. Despite the fact they had tremendous limitations to their capabilities, they saw themselves lacking the ability to go anything they dreamed up. Around adults who were without serious limitations it became apparent that ENOUGH was a very popular vocabulary word. Many adults around me seemed to believe that they were not enough in one way or another. Smart enough, bold enough, thin enough, young enough, old enough, strong enough, pretty enough. Just not enough. Enough of the enoughs already. Live your life fully able to achieve your dreams. You are enough!
I Can’t: Those around me in therapy weren’t afraid to try. There was no such word as can’t in our vocabulary. Can’t was just not an option. We had the mental capacity of children again and our child-like wonder was strong. We hadn’t learned limitations or the fear of failure. As I healed, I observed adults stopping themselves from experiencing the fullness of life just with a little four letter word. CAN’T holds so much power over too many people but not individuals with limitations. I had the can’t knocked out of me. Living without the concept of can’t has provided so many great benefits.
Unhealthy Self Talk: We talk to ourselves all day long. There’s a huge difference in the choice of words adults use when talking about themselves compared to the words someone in a child-like state would use. I’m not able. I’m an idiot. That’s so dumb, I can’t believe I did that. What’s wrong with me. They may seem like harmless words. They are not. Unhealthy self-talk is habit formed. As I was healing, I learned that when people think you are unable to understand, they let down their guard and talk out loud freely. As an observer to this over and over, I paid close attention to every word and could see the link between happiness, confidence and self-talk. If you want to be happier, be aware of what you say about yourself. And then change your word choice.
: Once adults learned of my circumstance, they poured pity over me and tried to drown me in “woe and sorrows.” Understandably, who could actually blame me if I was brimming with negativity after my accident. I was simply grateful to be alive and my childlike optimism rooted me in happiness. In order to heal enough to write this article is, in part, because of not weighing myself down with negativity and refusing to allow others to saddle me with it too. Adults often forget to live in gratitude. Cutting out people and situations that weigh you down is an essential part of your journey to finding happiness.
While my healing journey gave me a do-over in life, my hope is that my story allows you to see life through an unique lens and get deeply rooted in your own happiness.
Tina has been a Senior Human Resource Executive and Leadership Coach for more than 20 decades. After a serious injury, Tina found herself in a life do-over. She uses her professional experience, healing journey and story of resilience to inspire others to continually seek a life rooted in happiness.
Her book, “Rooted In Happiness, Living a Life You Love” is due out next year. www.RootedInHappiness.com