There are many people living with physical disabilities who lead truly inspiring lives. Some you may know in your own personal lives. I want to share some stories with you and hope they will inspire and challenge you to live your best life.
Probably one of the world’s best-known high achievers with a disability is Stephen Hawking. He’s an internationally renowned physicist/mathematician, who, at 35, was Cambridge’s first professor of gravitational physics. He has written a best-selling book (which was later made into a film) called “A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes.” He’s in a wheelchair and can hardly move any part of his body. He has a mechanism to help him talk, but it sounds like something from a science fiction movie. His body is seriously disabled, but his mind is not. So, he’s committed it to using it at math.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , the 32nd President of the United States, contracted polio in 1921, and was paralyzed from the waist down. Refusing to accept his paralysis, he tried different therapies and methods to try to walk, and did master walking short distances using iron braces and a cane. Men were men in that era, and he wanted to look strong as President. He established a foundation to help others with polio and directed the March of Dimes program which eventually funded an effective vaccine.
My favorite and absolute heroine, however, is Helen Keller. She was an American author, political activist and lecturer… She was also blind, deaf, and mute. That sort of cuts out a lot of input when you’re blind AND deaf. She was the first blind and deaf person to be awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. The list goes on and on.
So, what is it that makes a Helen Keller or a Stephen Hawking? Or an Albert Einstein for that matter (he had a learning disability)? How do they do it, and why do they do it?
I had a caller recently from a man who was 120 pounds overweight. He had aches and pains, and couldn’t find motivation, or didn’t want motivation. It’s not like you can “find” motivation – either you’re motivated or you’re not. I believe those who “can’t” in actuality just “won’t.” But how do you overcome tough, difficult and demoralizing challenges? How do you just not simmer in self-pity or negativity?
Well, the first way is to motivate yourself. Motivate yourself any way you want, but just do it.
Next, calm down and take it slowly. When you’re facing serious problems and troubles in life, you can’t panic your way through something. You can’t think through a panic. You need to find a way to do that. Most people avoid challenges because failure is too embarrassing or uncomfortable, but when you don’t even face a challenge, that’s the biggest failure. Trying something and not being able to do it well or not at all is not considered failure in my book. It’s the beginning of success. Failing can be frustrating and embarrassing, but so what?
Third, simplify the problem. Break it down into parts. Do one thing at a time: what went wrong, what are your options, and what could happen with each option? Simplify each step. One of the reasons people have trouble tackling tough problems is because they tend to make them complicated. Keep it simple.
Finally, you need inner strength, because you have to do the best you can to maintain confidence and a positive outlook, because that’s going to ebb and flow. Some people get freaked out when that happens, but that’s normal!
Last, but not least, is to learn how to live with a little bit of failure. That’s how we learn. That’s the only way to get better.