Category Archives: Learning to Thrive with a Disability

Blogs about how the Thrive while living with a Disability or Disabling Illness

The Forest of our Brain

Our Brains are like Forests. They develop and change over our lifetimes. They grow, evolve, mature and continue to evolve over our life spans. There are many things we can do to improve them and keep them healthy.

When our parents conceived us there were two cells, neither was a nerve cell. Over the first few weeks those cells multiplied. Some cells became neural tissues. They further evolved to form the various parts of our nervous system. This is like a forest after the ground has been laid bare. Many seeds land on it. Some were blown there by the wind and others dropped by birds.

Some of the seeds will take root and grow; others get eaten by birds and little animals. The birds and animals prefer different seeds. Therefore, only a few remain. This sorting resembles the differentiation of cells, each finding the right conditions to grow and do their thing. By our birth there are so many cells it resembles a tangled mess.

After birth this mass of cells begins to sort itself out. Like little animals scurrying about, some thoughts are common. Pathways emerge. As new cells grow they grow around these paths protecting the cells farther from the path and encouraging the animals to follow the pathways. With use these paths become better established and easier for our animals or neural signals to travel.

If a potential path or part of this forest does not get used another use emerges. This has been noted in children whose eyes don’t function. The visual part of the brain finds other uses by about age 3.

As the brain develops, more sophisticated sets of nerve cell connections emerge and are reinforced with use. Thus the more practice we get in walking the more those neurons and pathways become set. As a child learns to stand, walk, and then run the neural pathways get better developed.

Like a forest our brains get nourished by the rest of our world or body. Nerve cells need energy in the form of sugar that they take from the blood. The specialization of nerve cells prevents them from making energy from other foods or storing sugar. Thus when our blood sugars fall after a meal our brains don’t function as well.

When our brains get a sudden burst of sugar they go a little wild. We see that in children who get “sugar highs.”

The brain cells need other materials or nutrients as well. These are called vitamins and minerals. When they become deficient we see changes. Many such states exist.

A Pellagra epidemic occurred in the US 100 years ago due to such a deficiency. Pellagra is a disease that involves skin changes and other things including mental sharpness. The mental changes can lead to a form of delirium. In the early 1900’s a method of commercially preparing corn meal became common. It removed part of the corn kernel that contained most of the niacin. Poor and institutionalized people ate large amounts of this cheap food. Over time, the lack of niacin resulted in the symptoms of Pellagra. When niacin rich foods were added to the diets these symptoms reversed.

These vitamin and mineral deficiencies take time to occur and resolve. However, certain types of foods can change our moods more quickly. We all have “feel good” foods we seek in times of stress. They may provide nutrients that we need or trigger memories. Family’s often have celebratory menus that contain special foods.

We associate Turkey with Thanksgiving. If Thanksgiving creates happy memories then turkey might stimulate those feelings for you. As adults these family events are often stressful. Thus turkey might not be a favorite food.

With good nutrition our nervous systems continue to evolve.

As the body changes so do the neural connections. For a while it seems easier for a small child to run than walk. As the legs get longer they revert to walking. Trees replace the shrubs and vines in our brains. The trees allow for our thoughts and behaviors to change. We become more mature.

We find that these paths represent thought patterns and behaviors. With effort we can change these thought patterns and behaviors.

Some of the thought patterns that we form don’t serve us. We might have learned these from our parents or other examples. A child who constantly gets the message that he is “bad” will learn that about himself. He will struggle to find a positive self-image. Likewise a child who is never “Bad” will not learn to accept criticism.

While some infants seem very happy and others always irritable, the way they are treated can reinforce or temper these traits. Thus common life events for a child who is susceptible to feeling one way will get that way reinforced.

Events that make us depressed reinforce our depressed pathways. Happy events reinforce our happy pathways. If one of these paths is already better established then that pathway will prevail.

A person who responds with fear when presented with an image can learn to not fear those images. Phobias are a key example. With conscious effort you can unlearn to fear something. That does not mean that the fears will not return but you can overcome them.

This process has been applied to depression and other emotional problems. If we choose a happy path then over time that becomes the path we follow. The unhappy path still exists and when a bear starts chasing us thru the forest we might take that unhappy path again. That is one way we can end up depressed again.

Storms strike our forest in the forms of traumatic events. Those traumas might be physical or emotional but cause trees to fall and block paths. It will be difficult to follow our usual paths of behavior. Over time and with effort we can find ways around the fallen trees and back to familiar behaviors.

We see the results of these storms in the form of post-traumatic stress. One or more events sear memories into a part of our brain. Anything that brings our thoughts near that area prompts us to recall the event. By planting and nurturing happy thoughts around that memory event, we can restore that burned area of our brain. The scars will remain but we will find a more normal forest as our thoughts approach it.

Substances our bodies produce also affect our brains. Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol change what parts of our brains are active. They shunt blood to emotional centers and away from the more sophisticated thought areas. This helps in time of danger but over time leads to atrophy of the higher thought areas.

People exposed to constant danger or stress does not perform like their peers. We see this in abused children. For years after the abuse ends, their thoughts and dreams relive these events, sometimes in the forms of conscious thoughts and other times as emotions. They might be less mature.

Drugs and other substances also affect our brains. Some slow the activity of our thoughts and calm us. Others help our thoughts find their way to different moods. Antidepressants keep our thoughts from ending up in Depression.

Other chemicals like alcohol and street drugs also affect our brains. They have immediate and long term effects. Small amounts of alcohol calm us, and lessen depression, but in large amounts impair memory and make us more depressed.

Thus to keep our brains healthy we need to treat them well with good food and nutrition and good exercise. A varied diet will offer the good nutrition.

Exercising our brain is more complicated. We can connect our memories with positive thoughts, replacing negative and depression or fear generating ones.

With practice the pathways that enable us to speak and move our bodies improve. We learn language by exposure and repetition. Dance becomes more fluid with practice as well.

Like a forest change seems rapid at first and then slows. Tall trees take time to grow and bear the scars of events that happened over that time. Older brains are more set in their ways. They can recall more experiences related to the thoughts they have.

They might be better able to weather life’s storms. The damage a storm might cause now will be harder to heal. Yet the ways we learn to heal life’s wounds make us more resilient.

Thus, like a forest our brains change constantly. Our current environment determines how we function and feel. We can influence how they function both in the present moment and over time.

What sort of forest do you want your brain to become?

As all Ways, Seek Joy,

Spirituality Helps You Thrive when Disabled

When Disability grips you and there seems no hope, many find that Spirituality rescues them. What is Spirituality, anyway?

The spiritual world does not seem real to us. As we grow and developed we experience solid objects. They become the reality of our lives. We get hungry and thirsty. We get cold and hot.

Yet in the midst of a disabilities grip we experience more. We feel alone. We feel despair. We seek more.

In seeking more than the physical we enter the Spiritual or mystical realm. Yet this seems so unreal. Unlike the physical reality of hunger and thirst, the spiritual seems transient.

For some the Reality of the Spiritual enters their lives unbidden. Those who have had “near Death experiences” tell us that more than the physical exists.

I recently met such a person, Thomas Gates. A near death experience changed his life. In his story he tells what it was like and how returning to his body became unreal. You can learn more about it at his website.

How else might we experience the spiritual?

None of us wants to die. Yet in the depths of the Abyss of Disability we seek more than the physical.

Our society is at odds with the spiritual. The influencers of our Western Society encourage us to achieve personal profit and power. They provide entertainment to distract us. Entertainment struggles to express many things. Among them is the spiritual.

Religion attempts to institutionalize the spiritual for society. When it can provide a spiritual experience that resonates with the masses, religion grows in popularity.

When Religion fails to meet our personal needs we look elsewhere. Local religious leaders often fail to understand and express a theology of Disability that resonates with those of us who experience it in a personal way.

Many go from one community of faith to another. When we feel accepted and no longer alone, we stay. We have experienced a social bonding. Yet deep spirituality transcends social bonds.

All people can share their experiences of the spiritual. Leaders can try to create opportunities for us to experience the spiritual. Those communities create spaces for people to open themselves to the spiritual. For many, spirituality is not about the place but the mental space.

We receive some of the benefits of a Spiritual connection from Regular Spiritual practices. You can learn such practices from your local religious leader. IF this fails you can seek out your own spiritual advisor or teacher. If you feel comfortable with a particular tradition then look to that tradition.

Recently many have sought out other ways of accessing the Spiritual. One site where you can explore different types of meditation is The School of Light and Life.

Yet for many of us the Spiritual moments come unbidden and often unrecognized. This is when a spiritual advisor can help you. They can suggest alternatives and resources.

How did you discover the World of Spirituality?

How do you enter it?

As All Ways, Seek Joy

Does Disability give you a Zest for Life?

The thought that a Disability could give you a zest for life seems odd. For most of us the onset of Disability caused the zest we had for life to vanish. Yet, this is the opportunity to put real Zest back in our lives.

When Disability struck it took over our lives. What we thought we were able to do ceased. Weather Disability came in a physical or mental form it consumed us and became our identity.

Those around us no longer see us as more than our abilities. Rather they see us now as only the Disability, the Disability in a personal form.

Most people have no personal experience of human disability. They only have mental images of a disability and those images scare them.

When surveys ask what people worry about the most disabilities usually rank higher than traffic accidents. Yet traffic accidents are more common. The fear of disability is part of the fear of the unknown. Once it takes on a physical form, we become the living image of the disability.

Thus, we become our Disability in the eyes of others.

When others begin to see us as the Disability, they no longer see us for ourselves. Whatever we meant to them before we now become what they fear the most. No wonder so many friendships and marriages suffer with the onset of Disability.

This adds to the Disability spiral. First, others see us only as our Disability. Then we see the presence of Disability taking hold in our own lives and we begin to act disabled. The spiral continues as others see more of the disability than they see of us in our wholeness. It is possible, however, to use the interruption Disability creates in our lives to find the Zest for life!

Naturally we still want to do those things that used to put Zest in our lives. This desire provides us with the impetus to learn the new ways of doing things dictated by the presence of a Disability.

If a disability put you in a wheelchair you are aware that you can’t stand on the river bank any longer and fish. The good news is that there are wheelchair accessible peers where you can find modified boats. You can learn to transfer to a boat and fish with others. These are all processes that life with a Disability requires. These are skills most of us did not intentionally develop or develop as fully as crafting a life with a Disability now demands.

These are new skills we can use beyond coping with a disability.

When a person who is blind shows up to talk about plans for a park, he advocates that all will be able to participate. He forces planners to think of anyone who might come to the park. What would they want to do? How can they do it?

For those of us with a disability we now see that we are contributing beyond ourselves. We see that we are now able to contribute more than we did before.

Now our experience of disability has put Zest in our lives. Disability forced us to learn new things. We used those new skills to live beyond just being “Disabled.” We have reversed the Disability Spiral.

Our disabilities make us pause and look at life. Not only can we use the desire to renew our former activities to put Zest back into our lives, but it gives us the opportunity to try new things.

As we contemplate what to do next, we ask other questions. We ask the big questions of life. Now they have new relevance, as we have a new perspective.

In our adolescence we asked the big questions of life and found answers in terms of doing things. For many of us facing a Disability we found the answers in terms of acceptance.

Adolescents face life’s struggles as heroes. They dream of success and accomplishment. They are the center of their story. That led them to worry about how they will achieve those feats. They often found their lives consumed with stress. In order to achieve they had to do. They had to do more than they were able to do easily. They became overwhelmed by the “To Do’s.”

When Disability took our chance for success and achievement away, it also took our worry away. We can blame Disability for not succeeding an. release the stress. We now will achieve what we can achieve. This will have to be enough. The story will no longer be just about me, but my working with others.

We must accept limitation. Disability limits us. We realize that we had limits before Disability. In fact to be human is to be limited.

In accepting limitation we also accept the future as it will be, not as we want to make it. We can enjoy life. We can accept it as good.

We can find success in doing the little things. An artist friend of mine is learning to paint by holding a brush in her teeth. She is now quadriplegic. Getting the paint on the canvas to look the way she wants is success. That always is success for an artist.

IN What ways does Disability give you a Zest for Life?

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Disability Empowers Creative Contributions

The thought that a Disability might empower your creative contributions might seem like a paradox. Yet for most of us the things that we struggled with lead to our biggest contributions.

Disability can be Your Muse

Muses lead us to create. Disability leads many of us to ask questions others have yet to ponder. Because we ask them much earlier and often feel alone in our questioning, we are more inclined to share our answers.

When we look ahead to our elders we see their abilities waning for us. When a disability hits we find ourselves with lessened abilities and are inspired to act like our elders.

We are guided by them to try to adapt and compensate. These efforts lead us to develop new skills. Skills which we can share with others.

If you pause for a second you can name someone in the middle of any creative endeavor that struggled with a disability. When we read or hear someone’s story we often find that their disability served as their Muse. The passion of Vincent Van Goh emerged from his depression. He felt it so intensely that it came out in his art.

Many musicians struggle in some way and that leads to their passion. Think of Stevie Wonder and his music.

In fact, playing a musical instrument helps to overcome dyslexia. Part of the problem that leads to dyslexia is the unbalanced communication between the right and left sides of the brain. The discipline of coordinating the right and left sides of the body forces better communication between the right and Left sides of the brain.

The obvious struggle of reading and writing also helps. Many writers struggle with dyslexia. The effort to master the written word made them better able to express themselves. Steven King explores a deep and terrifying world. Agatha Christi wrote about the twists and turns of human passions that lead to murder.

Why is disability a Muse?

Disability makes us stop and look at ourselves more deeply. Sport coaches are rarely the top performers. Rather the coaches are the ones who have to figure out how to perform better, just to stay in the game. They also can support athletes and other coaches who are tempted to quit. The coach learned to turn a failure into a “Learning Experience.” The star athletes rarely taste failure or have to change their natural ways.

Failure and despair come to all of us. Those of us who face our disabilities experience more of this than most. To survive we must create new ways to cope and express our creativity.

Louis Braille took his need to communicate without sight and created a way for Napoleon‘s soldiers to communicate at night. The soldiers no longer needed to give away their location by shining a light to read their messages. Thus he contributed from his experience of disability to support others.

Disability also forces us to look at life differently. As we age our abilities change. A disability changes our abilities sooner and often more dramatically than our peers. This can lead us to refuse to accept our limitations.

With the need for wider doors, wheelchair users have opened spaces for all of us.

As disabled persons seek to remain part of the community they force other changes. Using Wheelchairs forced bus designers to find better ways to get on and off the busses. Now many busses are lower and need no steps. Parents can get strollers on and off. Kids no longer have to step so high. And shoppers can roll their carts on and off the bus with ease.

We write about our pain. There are many works including a book of the Bible called Lamentations and many Psalms that express the language of disability.

For many questions arise. Why did this happen to me? What is the meaning of suffering? And these questions were the source of the Old Testament book of Job.

At first our questions cause us to turn to others including our elders and then to reflect on the spiritual. Like Job, we argue with our peers and then with God. Some of us will reject God and others of us will find solace in God’s answers.

Many of us have found a loving God. The view of an angry and vengeful God made us feel guilty. We looked anew at the texts and found other ways to understand our relationship with God. The message of a Loving God now dominates mainstream Protestantism.

Unlike our elders, we expect to live many more years. We often use Disability as a springboard to thrive. Many motivational speakers point to an illness or other disabling event that lead them to their insights. The insights they now share with others.

Previously, I mentioned Brendon Burchard. He tells of an auto crash at age 19. He realized that he could have died without really living. In that moment he found the three truths that he now shares, to have fully loved, to have lived fully, and to have found meaning in life.

How has disability forced you to create and contribute?

As All Ways, Seek Joy

Disability, an adventure requiring innovation

Seeing life as an adventure when Disability causes it to crash seems almost impossible. It takes innovation and effort. How might we get the energy to find adventure within Disability?

We used to like adventure. In fact theme parks and other vacation sellers promote it. Can adventure occur in our daily lives?

Where is the adventure of getting thru a day of misery?

Adventures are new and novel. If you do the same thing every day, no adventure exists. You end up with little hope or any prospect for a better tomorrow. When you think today is miserable why should you look forward to tomorrow?

Take this failed day and make it your springboard to a better life. Trash your failed strategies and innovate. .

Let Disability lead to innovation and adventure!

Disability means we can’t do things like others do. Even when we used to do things the same way others did, we now need to innovate.

We innovate by understanding what we are trying to do and collecting the materials to do it.

When I was a kid, I used to build houses out of blocks. I would first get the idea of what I wanted in the house and then I would spread out the blocks. Which pieces would make for a good foundation? What pieces would help to outline the door and windows? Which blocks would top the window or door? How would I make the roof slant and not collapse? There were different pieces that worked best for the different purposes.

In getting thru each day we have many options, too. Have you ever stopped to consider what those options are?

I just paused and for a minute was overwhelmed. So let’s take a brief look at them.

First we have to get our bodies going. That means putting our night time things behind us. Physically we have to get out of bed and change clothes. So dressing becomes a tool to get us thru the day.

Then most of us wash our faces and care for our bodies. That means self-care.

Next we eat and drink. Food and hydration are essential tools. Our bodies are about half water. Most of the things that happen in our bodies happen with water. Thus adequate amounts of water are essential for proper functioning of our bodies. Don’t worry, our kidneys are designed to fine tune our water balance. They can’t work if they don’t have enough water. So drink as much water as you can during the day.

Our food provides the nutrients that our bodies need. Many of us don’t get the variety of foods that will provide all those nutrients. The traditional Western diet seems to not be as balanced as our bodies would like. A diet higher in fresh vegetables and fruits provides a better balance for our bodies.

To help our bodies use those nutrients we need to exercise. When we are stationary blood tends to sit in our muscles and other organs. By moving and exercising that blood moves about and the stuff that pooled around and in our cells also moves. Our bodies get to re-balance the fluids in and around the cells.

Stretching our bodies moves the fluids around. Getting the muscles to contract and relax with more vigorous exercise gets the materials that have accumulated in the cells to rebalance. Our muscles are like coiled springs. In their normal state they are tense and ready to contract. If they sit in the ready position too long they become stretched and like a spring will not release as much as they could. Thus they need to be put thru their paces.

After exercise we all feel the need to rest. Some rest and rehydration will let our bodies complete the rebalancing.

Times of rest are good opportunities to exercise our minds. Like our muscles, brains need exercise to function best. This is where we can innovate. We can ponder the things that don’t work well. What might we do differently? How might those new ways lead to better outcomes? Maybe we need to use these times to read or study.

Reading and study are just two ways to let the outside world in. Meditation also lets the world in, and communicates with our brains. While most prayer is a semiconscious dialogue with what is spiritual. Meditation opens our minds more fully. If you don’t know how, I would suggest that you look for training in meditation.

There is a more immediate source of energy and innovation. That is friends. They have different experiences and abilities. What can they provide?

Life Coaches will push you to look in new directions. They are skilled in asking the questions we are afraid to ask. Those questions get us looking in new directions. That can be a major source of innovation and adventure. They also help us to see the attitudes and beliefs that disable us.

For some of the things that disable us there are medications. Medications help to restore or maintain the balance our bodies need. When I was a physician it seemed that was all people wanted. Now as a life coach I see that there are so many other tools to get us out of Disability.

Which one will you choose to try first?

Then when you get out of Disability, were will you go?

For most of us our pre-Disability lives failed us in many ways. Using the pause that Disability provides can let us overcome them in our future lives. Here too life coaching can help. But, that is a topic for another blog, or many blogs.

As all Ways, Seek Joy,

I try to be friendly, but Disability repulses others

Each of us need friendships in order to thrive. Yet many people are repulsed by Disability. So how can we be friendly?

Every time we meet someone new, we naturally look for commonality and differences. We monitor others for opportunities for connection or threat. Gestures we view as friendly toward us are potential opportunities for connection. The gestures that trigger our fears we interpret as threats.

Disabilities can remind others of things they fear. We all fear death and spend a lifetime avoiding it. Disability often precedes death in life. Thus when we sense a disability we protect ourselves by responding in a fearful way.

When we see attractive people we view what attracts us as what we seek to become. Those things are the best we see in ourselves. This reminds us of our potential and not what we lost. We do not fear this, but are overjoyed by our awareness of our new possibilities.

Disability is an imperfection that is not hidden from us. Does anyone function constantly at their ideal level? Not even super Stars can avoid a bad day. Yet for those of us who struggle with a disability anytime we need to function in a – disabled – way it would be a bad day.

So how can those of us who battle constantly with a disability be friendly and not feel like frauds?

Studies seeking to explain friendships have found that relationships form among those who have contact with others, find familiarity in the connection, and find those connections to be positive.

So hiding in a cave or corner will not help you make contact and develop friendships.

Next, if your contact with another is unpleasant for them, they will seek to avoid future contact with you and thus friendship. How can we make our contacts with others enjoyable for both of us?

First, we need to keep Disability out of our relationships as best we can. For me, it would mean removing the cap that shades my eyes and protects my head. What obvious signs of Disability do others see when they look at you?

Second, we need to foster opportunities for connection. It can be useful to connect in different ways. Are you attuned to what others are seeking in friendship?

There is a concept in neurology called, “mirror neurons.” The neurons in our brains will “mirror” patterns similar to the neurons of the people we meet. Thus when we are around happy people we feel happy, around sad people we feel sad, and when we are with those who are afraid we feel fear. .

If it is true that Disabilities engender fear then we have created a barrier to friendship even before we first speak or smile. This makes it harder to leave a personal encounter feeling positive. Our anxiety that the encounter will end poorly will reinforce our fears.

What fears get triggered when we meat others?

We all fear rejection. We all want to “reject” Disability. If we see ourselves as disabled then we are rejecting a critical aspect of our lives and thus living in fear.

In what ways has Disability been good to you? Does it give you a reason to shed other things that were not good for you? Does Disability give you new opportunities? Can you see Disability as a gift that you can enjoy? Recall these positive aspects of Disability when it enters your thoughts.

Next, let’s try to connect what we are encountering with what we have experienced. When I was growing up I could never get a word out when trying to talk to popular and pretty girls. Over time I came to view pretty women as sources of rejection and danger to my self-esteem. Could this be why we have so many jokes about “dumb” blonds?

Since we know that all of us are sending out signals of our mood how can we send out positive ones?

Looking someone in the eye and Offering them a warm smile or shaking hands are all ways we signal that we are open to others. These are physical signals. What emotional signals are we also sending?

Most of the time our mental chatter goes all over the place. Both our mental chatter and the emotional chatter our mirror neurons pick up from others sets our mood. The good news is we can control this.

If we look for the positive and unthreatening in others, our minds will begin to chatter about those things instead. When you ask yourself, “what do I like about this person?” Your brain usually comes up with something positive.

If we share our positive feelings with those we meet, they will follow our lead and their minds will become happier.

We all want to be accepted. The smile and handshake helped to meet this need.

If we complement others on their appearance they will feel appreciated. Additionally, they will hear that you see them as attractive.

Also, they are seeking to find others with whom they have common experiences and expectations. This is why most initial conversations begin on topics such as places visited or activities. Most of us have visited or know others who live where the strangers we are speaking to have been.

People also seek to find commonality in social status and life styles. The way we dress and our mannerisms communicate these. While clothes may not make the man, they do project the man. So choose what you wear by giving some thought to what others might also be wearing. If you arrive being the only one dressed in a suit you have just set yourself apart from others.

So, in summary, if you want to be friendly (and thrive)

  • Make your disability as small as possible and only part of what others see about you.
  • Greet others openly and warmly.
  • Seek to find something attractive about them and let them know it.
  • Explore the new relationship for common experiences.
  • Finally, enjoy the new people you met and the company they offer you.

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

If you don’t like challenges, you’ll never thrive.

Life is full of challenges, but when a disability strikes there are even more. Then it can be challenging to like challenges.

If you don’t like challenges what are you to do?

You can crawl in your cave and hide, but cave dwelling went out of style a long time ago. I wonder why? Could it have been that caves are sort of cold, dark and damp?

Then maybe you could crawl out of the cave and enjoy the sun. There are so Many things you can enjoy when you take on the challenge of getting out of your cave.

This is how you start enjoying a challenge. Pick a simple challenge to start with, one that might even bring you some joy. Remember though, you need to realize that you took on a challenge and prevailed. Then remember how many days you couldn’t even do it?

Next you can set a bigger challenge like gathering some firewood while you’re out. That way you can warm your cave. Doing this will also light your cave and cook your food.

Next time you go out you might even see if you can get some food to cook on the fire.

After having the first hot meal in a while you can sit back and enjoy how it feels. You set some goals and now you are enjoying the benefits of taking them on.

Taking on too big a challenge can lead to failure and frustration. So set a simple challenge to begin. One that will reward you when it is done. It also needs to be measurable. So be sure to measure things like how long you are out of your cave, the amount of firewood harvested and the amount of food collected. I doubt that you will get fat and sluggish anytime soon.

While you are out of your cave you might also see other people and invite them to join you. That could be fun and might get you invited back to their caves.

But don’t focus on the fact that some days it might be cold and rainy when you leave your cave. As you collect firewood you will have to go farther and farther from the mouth of your cave. That means you will have accomplished more just to make the same fire each day. Celebrate that you are growing stronger and more capable by venturing out of your cave.

While you are out look around and see what else you might do. Can you set a goal for next week or month?

If you can do this you will learn to like challenges.

You will have:

  • taken on a real and achievable challenge
  • measured the challenge
  • enjoyed the feeling of success
  • gradually increased the difficulty of the challenge
  • shared the success of the challenges with others
  • set harder and harder challenges
  • Then you’ll learn to like challenges.

So why are you still in your cave?

What challenge did you meet today?

What challenge will you set for tomorrow?

As all Ways, Seek Joy,

Can the Disabled “You” Thrive?

It may seem like an oxymoron to say a Disabled person thrives, but is it? Disabled may mean not “able”, but it does not mean dead. “Thrive” refers to how we are living. Can’t we live a full and abundant life with fewer abilities than most?

Can a person with a disability have the same traits as other Thrivers?

Let’s go thru the 8 traits of Thrivers and see.

  1. Thrivers are aware of their situation. Often we get so caught up in our inabilities we forget what is happening around us. Is this good for us? Pause for a moment and think about what is going on with you. Close your eyes and tell yourself what is happening to you. Then notice how the people around you feel? What do they need. If you can answer these questions you can be aware of what is happening around you.

How did you feel as you created this image? If you are like me your aches and pains subsided if not ceased. So, not only can you do this, it is more pleasant to adopt this trait of thriving.

  1. Being optimistic or just oriented to the future: when we struggle to get thru the day it is hard to contemplate the future. Yet, as you pause to look back, can you see that things have been worse? I certainly can. The things I struggled to do a year ago are now easy. I have made progress. In the last day I have found a resource to do something I struggled to do several times over the last month. What difficulty have you resolved in the last month? Is it safe to expect that you will overcome some of the things you now struggle with? You, too, can see a better future. You can be optimistic.
  2. Enjoy a challenge: That thing you struggled with and overcame in the last month might not have given you joy while you were struggling with it. Can you find joy in the fact that you overcame it? I certainly can. Let’s learn to see obstacles as chances to thrive.
  3. Friendly: what does it take to be a friend? Is it not about taking a moment to focus upon those around you and see what they are doing and what they need and then trying to meet those needs. A simple smile can go a long way toward being friendly. You don’t need to have deep heart to heart conversations with everyone. If you tried it might wear you out very quickly.
  4. Willingness to try new things: this can be hard when you struggle to do just the simple things. Could we change this to, “being willing” to try doing things differently?”

Doing things differently is a must when we can’t do things the way we were used to doing them. Willing or not we must do things differently. Sometimes simply not doing things at all is different from trying and failing.

  1. Willingness to share our creativity: Creativity is the trait we use to survive. There is no one around us telling us how to do it. Yes there are resources but we must seek them out and find a way to use them. Are you like me; willing to share your ways to be creative with others?
  2. Can find a purpose in life; this is challenging when we often wish to escape the pain we find ourselves in each moment. For example, the way Brandt Morgan found the purpose in his life was by reaching out to others. By doing this he found that he was overcoming the pain of the moment. See hiss podcast episode in disability Freedom.
  3. Are connected to more than just the physical reality: this means we are spiritual. When the physical reality in which we live fails us, where else are we to turn. When I turned to the non-physical I found such warmth that I longed for more. Since then I have glimpsed it in several moments. I have learned to just pause and let God connect with me. How have you experienced the spiritual dimension of life?

In what ways do you know to Thrive?

When do you feel you are Thriving?

As All Ways, Seek Joy,

Coach Dr. Dave

PS, this is the first in a new blog series, learning to Thrive with disability