8 Tips For Success From Someone Living With Cerebral Palsy

Dustin Adams
Dustin Adams

1. The wonder of epiphanies: How a moment in time can change us

Do you ever have a moment in life, and think: “how will this change me?” It would be pretty odd if that were how we thought. We wouldn’t be able to enjoying anything. I think our bodies are programmed to experience life, not to think about it. It’s our minds that like to analyze each scenario. The problem is, our minds often go too far. We can read so much into a situation that we forget our original feelings about the experience.

We need to really let ourselves enjoy what is happening. In those moments odd things can happen: one thought can be so clear that it is as if we are in a state of higher understanding. By not trying to overthink, we can ironically gain a greater insight. Epiphanies, we call them. When a revelation comes to you because you are ready to hear it, ready to see it. There is no slapstick, no sugar coated half-truths. Everything you ever knew existed lies before you. It was always there, but obscured.

My epiphany happened in flashes lying on a stone cold, metal plated operating table. For others, it may be while lying on a beach or while driving. It is not in the searching of a revelation that you will find one. It is in quiet reflection that epiphany reveals itself. Your truth will come to you.

2. Being the “odd one out”

I bump shoulders with friends and walk into doors. I am jealous of the strong and feel for the weak. I try to push myself each day, to stand a little taller, to be a little stronger. This is the life I lead as a disabled girl in an able-bodied world. Whatever quirk makes you stand out; whatever trait defines you as a “misfit”, embrace it. It will never go away.

Most people you come across will be accepting of your difference; because they know what it feels like to be the odd one out. Sometimes we see only perfection in those around us.

Nothing is flawless. Those who aren’t accepting of your difference probably don’t know the meaning of the word “empathy”. Those who aren’t compassionate haven’t lived long enough, or full enough, to appreciate the trait of decency. No matter what you need to be the model of decency.

3. No Pain, No Gain?

The motto “no pain, no gain” has been around for decades, yet I haven’t talked to one person who finds the idea of it appealing.

Why does pain have to be consistently tied to success? As a society, I think we do quite well in avoiding unnecessary pain. More importantly, I see many people succeeding personally and professionally without the endurance of an epic loss or life failure. They succeed sometimes by luck, sometimes by determination. Although hardship certainly has a role in molding human fortitude, it does not have to be the sole factor in determining our success.

People seem to take for granted that we gain a wealth of experience, knowledge and understanding from positivity and the invigorating experiences in our lives. At the end of the day, it is the hope for the good that helps us make it through the tough times and allows us to be successful.

4. Transition: Facing your new reality

Transition is the process of changing from one state or condition to another. Any daunting task we must face, any major life change we go through opens up a new set of life circumstances. New possibilities surround us if we face our new realities with courage. There can be days of crying and avoidance, but sooner or later, what we must accomplish will catch up to us.

When we’ve made clear our willingness to adapt, change will come. It could be good or bad. Regardless of the nature of transition, all change needs to be handled the same way: keeping calm. Keeping calm is especially important if the transition is sudden or change needs to be made without warning or preparation.

I’ve seen many people deal with change in a graceful and cool-headed fashion. Usually, when you are fully ready to accept a change, panic will not ensue because your mind has prepared for it. Our bodies are excellent at handling situations our minds have already accepted

The amount of time it takes to fully accept something challenging is different for everyone. What I have learned personally is this: if you force yourself to accept something your mind is not prepared to handle, you will not succeed. If you don’t believe the transition will be smooth, and you push through anyway, you’re going to flounder.

5. Self-destructive habits: why they surface and how to rid yourself of them

The nature of self-destructive habits scares me. When carrying out a habit, the mind goes on autopilot. You carry out a habitual routine mindlessly, not questioning its impact or consequence. This impulsivity lacks sensibility. Consideration should be given before action is taken – a sensible caution is needed. We all ponder our choices and actions.

I don’t think I go through one hour in a day where I don’t wonder if I “did the right thing”. I am constantly debating over what I have done, or what I think ought to be done. The times in which I am careless are times in which I am very angry. Anger is dangerous, and so, we like to lock it away inside ourselves and deny its existence. But we cannot sit on angry feelings forever. They have to be released or pent up angst evolves into a habit.

It’s easy to validate your bad habits if you feel they are relieving you of some discomfort. When we experience overbearing negative feelings, all we want is alleviation. Happiness, we think, can come later. We often believe that practicing our bad habit is the only way to ENSURE future happiness. What we don’t realize is that a self-destructive habit will never bring us happiness; and the sense of security it may bring is false. It’s ironic because practicing unhealthy habits will only keep us chasing happiness.

The solution: Looking back on your past unhealthy AND healthy habits can help you see your current habits in a mature fashion. Take little steps to extinguish any bad habits you recognize.

Start by accepting that they exist. Your mind and body needed a way to gratify itself during a difficult time. It is not something you should be proud of, but you shouldn’t be ashamed of it, either.
Next, think of healthier ways to relieve your anxiety. It is comforting to have a habit, (even if it is unhealthy) simply because of its nature. To simulate this consistency, develop other routines, which will become habits. By doing this, you will not only be relieved from troubles, you will also gain confidence!

You are not alone in facing your negative habits. There are people all around the world who are stuck in bad habits. Chances are, if you are prone to unhealthy habits, you have built up negativity inside of you. Find constructive ways to release these negative feelings.

6. Dealing with Loss

I associate the word “loss” with something that is taken and never returned. There are probably more things in this world that can be taken from us than we’d like to admit. Loss can mean many things. We can lose our hope, our honesty, our dignity, and our vitality. If losing something or someone results in a feeling of emptiness and despair, we need to produce emotions and initiate active strategies that will not only help soothe the pain, but which will re-build our senses inside. All the goodness that was sucked away (along with our loss) can be reclaimed.

Aspects of our lives that bring happiness are not stand-alone agents. They are part of a network of positivity. You feel happier because of the collaboration and attachment between things. The good news is, when ONE of these aspects is lost, you still have others to turn to. Even if you think you’ve lost it all, search harder. There are people and things remaining in your life that are a blessing.

Above all, remember you are not alone. Millions of people around the world are all too familiar with loss. More importantly, the majority of those people have found the strength within them to reclaim their lives. Appreciate what you still have, take comfort in others, and remember the abundance of goodness still dwelling inside of you.

7. Sharing yourself with others: the benefits

Sometimes it is so easy to believe that what others think of you is what defines you. We gravitate to holding our friend’s, and our parents’ opinion of us in high esteem. At times we choose to expose only parts of ourselves. Even people closest to you have not been witness to all that you are.

When we choose to act a certain way around someone, it might be that we are afraid of showing all of ourselves. It has been a tendency for many people I know to close off, or shut down around a particular person because they don’t feel comfortable around them.

Self-expression is vitally important in building the foundation of confidence. If you can build yourself up one block at a time, by doing things you are passionate about you will find that self-expression becomes an important part of being you. The only problem with that is the fear of being judged. It seems to me, however, that people in the world normally don’t think about YOU or what YOU’RE doing, as much as you assume. People are generally more concerned with themselves than any one else. Petty, insecure people might gossip or say mean things for lack of stability in their own lives. But if you don’t include those kinds of people in your inner-circle, than you don’t have to hear their nonsense.

One of my favorite quotes is “Be who you are, and say what you feel, because the people who mind don’t matter and the people who matter don’t mind.”

We all have covers that are in plain view of anyone who passes us by. These covers are the only things that the general public has to judge us by. They weren’t getting the full picture in the first place. What is beneath our cover is under lock and key; hidden, until we allow people in. We decide who gets to read only a few chapters of our lives, and who gets the full novel. Only a few people will pick up our book and read it. Even fewer will read it through to the end and grasp our worth. What truly matters is how you decide to write your book, and to whom you give the honour of reading every single page.

8. Living Your Life: No Acting Required

A person living their life, on a structure of full and complete honesty is not common because not every moment we have lived is one we can be proud of. If our good and bad choices didn’t define who we were, we would forever remain a blank canvas, an actor simply going through the motions. Instead of wishing away our past, we should embrace it as the foundation of our growth.

The best thing we can do for ourselves is to accept what has been done. There’s no point in mulling over how ‘things could’ve been different’. Because they are what they are and will remain unchanged. What we can change is our response. It’s not easy to find equilibrium in all of the complexity. But as long as we find ourselves along the way, balance will come. TC mark

This essay is excerpted from Rachael Hana’s memoir-in-progress.

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Image Credit: Dustin Adams

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