Tim’s contribution: How life can change dramatically. Insights: A car accident and loss of a limb.
When I wrote my book Survive and Thrive after Trauma in 2012 a section shares interviews with those now thriving after emotional challenge. In this case the challenge was emotional and physical. Those I interviewed shared their message and will have continued along their path of increased learning, self joy and self awareness. We are not alone; should we choose we can learn from others, take and use information generously shared, be encouraged and in some cases enlightened.
“In 2001, I had a ‘successful life’: nice house, car, wife and children and a successful business, and then bang, my life was turned upside down. I had a serious car accident resulting in the amputation of my arm. My business partner terminated my directorship whilst I was in hospital and MRSA (the superbug bacteria) and other complications meant that my physical recovery took two years. A costly litigation exercise fortunately enabled me to get a fair recompense for my shareholding.
These are my lessons learned from the different experiences along the way.
- The 7 steps to the meaning of life: When the shit hits the fan, your priorities change: In normal life there can be seemingly hundreds of different things to worry about, yet as soon as I had a major car accident and was fighting for my very survival, all of the hundreds of little problems disappeared in an instant to be replaced with laser sharp focus on a minimal number of priorities. It’s a matter of perspective. When you know what’s really important for you and you make those the priorities and nothing else, the resultant clarity and effectiveness can produce some stunning results,
- When you spend a lot of time in hospital you gain humility: I used to be self- assured and very arrogant. After weeks in hospital struggling for my life I realised we are all the same and all have our own crosses to bear from the lofty consultants to the next person to leave the ward in a body bag. At base level despite all the different societal labels, we are human beings trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got. Once you understand this at a knowing level, it’s difficult to be so arrogant again.
- Sometimes you need to move away from bad energy sources: However despite being all flesh and blood we tread different paths, and when someone’s negativity is so great, it’s best to simply move away. I had a particular experience in an amputee clinic waiting room when a particular woman (double leg amputee, very obese and stuffing herself with food) could do nothing but complain with bad attitude about anything she could find to complain about. I found it necessary to physically move as far away as possible so as not be contaminated and influenced by her behaviour. The old adage about being careful of the company you keep is certainly true.
- Sometimes a simple compass point goal and baby steps is better than SMART goals: One day when returning from weeks in hospital I was so weak that it took me five minutes to climb a single flight of stairs. This was a wake-up call. I quickly decided to get fit. That was it, nothing specific, measurable or time bound, just a simple compass point to aim for, something that gave me some direction and purpose in a time of great weakness. What I then did was take baby steps in that given direction as and when I felt I could without any laid out plan. This started with getting to the letterbox at the end of the road and back. Gradually I moved further and faster in a non-linear way until two years later, I completed an Olympic distance triathlon. I achieved far more than I could have possibly thought realistically achievable at the outset. Such is the power of simple goals and baby steps.
- One man bands don’t work: None of us have a full skill set. And to run any business requires the full set. What’s more, for most people it’s easier to be accountable to someone else than to ourselves. For this reason, I believe it’s essential to design and create partnerships and teams, virtual or otherwise, to support you in your business venture.
- Make conscious trade-offs: Perhaps this is the summation of all the experiences above. Trying to ‘have it all’ is guaranteed to disappoint because to get the benefits of focus and prioritisation, the tenacity to keep the baby steps going in the same direction, the compromises created when working as part of a team, you have to make trade-offs. When you’re young you make them easily because you’re often blissfully unaware of the negative consequences and also don’t have as many options available to you, but even as it gets harder as you get older, conscious trade-offs are needed all the same. The allure of ‘having it all’ is all the stronger but don’t let it fool you.
- It appears that life can give you setbacks which allow the opportunity to make better conscious choices: But in my experience don’t expect these choices to become clear in an instant. If it were that easy we’d all have life sorted! Revisiting steps 1 to 6 will help, as these steps are easily forgotten when life is going well!”