How you can be competent with a disability

One of the key things we lose with a disability is our competence. There are so many things we can no longer do. Tasks we mastered years ago are now impossible. How can you ever expect to do the things you used to do? Or even do some of the simple things that would help you get through the day?

I used to feel that way, too. I felt incompetent. Then I looked around and found many people doing many things that I did not think were possible. Yes, blind people don’t drive cars, but there are so many other things they can do. Recently I found a blind internist (that was the role I performed as a physician). If I sought him out I am sure I could learn his tricks and regain my clinical competence. There are ways to get your competence back!

What is competence?

Brendon Burchard defines Competence as, “our ability to understand, successfully preform in, and master our world.” As adults facing a disability most of us still understand our world. Yes, we discover that there are many things we had overlooked. How others respond to my disability has been eye-opening. I feared that others would take advantage of me. Instead I discovered that most people wanted to help.

What disability takes from most of us is our ability to perform many tasks. We don’t lose all of our abilities, but many key ones. The loss of abilities can cause us to feel that we lost our identity. I used to see myself as a runner. Now when I have trouble seeing obstacles and responding to them in a timely manner when walking, I am afraid to run.

Want to regain your competence?

What parts of your identity have been stolen by your disability? Pause and make a list. Include in that list the areas of personal care needs, job talents, and professional/social skills.

Why is competence important?

This may seem like a silly question. As you began the review of your list of lost skills you probably felt a loss of confidence, too. When we find we can’t do something we are afraid to do other things. When I couldn’t run I was afraid to ride a bike. In fact I did ride a bike and managed to crash it and hurt myself.

The loss of competence leads to a loss of confidence. This loss of confidence can also lead to many other things as well. When I couldn’t do one thing I hesitated to try other familiar tasks. There is a light switch that needs replacing. I have yet to try this familiar chore.

I have done many fix up chores around the house. To spend time among others I went on a Habitat “Build” project. There I was teamed up with another man to cut and install the floor molding. He had never done this before. I found myself trying to tell him how to cut the molding. Cutting molding is complicated because you have to visualize how the peace will fit with the others and then figure out how to cut it. Often you have to place the board upside down or backwards to the way it will ultimately fit. After a while I found myself just cutting the boards. Yes I feared I would cut a finger. but all ten fingers are still intact.

This experience gave me some of my confidence back. I found I still possessed a competence that was valuable. I started the day seeing myself as a helper and finding myself as the leader.

With the feeling of confidence we are apt to try new things, or try old things we were afraid to do. I discovered new ways to hammer a nail when I couldn’t see how to hit the nail on the head.

Competence also determines how quickly we bounce back from setbacks. When I watch football, I see this all the time. When a team makes a first down, it is apt to keep making progress. After that, there is usually some event that stops the drive. It is not the fault of the offense, but a sack, penalty or interception. Success breeds success.

Want to regain your Competence?

Make a list of things you know you can still do. Which ones can you do masterfully?

Acknowledge yourself for what you can do. Doesn’t that feel good?

Now let’s build our competencies up even >

A few weeks ago I talked about our dreams. What are your dreams? Now let’s start to make them come true. Make a list of the things you would need to do to achieve your dreams. Which ones are on the list of competencies you just made? Which ones do you need to develop?

Now make a plan to develop those competencies. Here is how to do that.

  1. Make a relearning schedule: Pick small tasks that you feel unsure about being able to do.
  2. Write them down in as specific a form as you can. How can others observe your progress? When will they be completed?
  3. Get a coach to help you. This can be a friend or a professional coach, (those focused upon life, career or health will have the most expertise in helping you).
  4. List those reasons that come to mind that make you feel you will not be able to achieve them. Now, with the help of your coach address each of these excuses.
  5. As you make progress, celebrate. This is very important because we need to see that what we thought was impossible we are getting done.
  6. Keep all this in a journal. That way when you feel stuck you can review and see your progress, reflect on the strategies learned and create new ones to overcome any new obstacles.

Now you are on your way to regaining your competence!

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

  1. Share this with anyone you know who might feel incompetent. Let them know that this is part of my series on how to thrive after a disability. You can find the other blogs by clicking on the category link to the right. If you have not signed up for my Newsletter do that too, and be sure not to miss any of the Upcoming blogs and other helpful materials.


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