living without sight
So, there I was, sitting in the hospital room, having just been dealt the blow that my eye operation had failed – that I was now completely blind, and likely to remain so for the rest of my life. Often people have asked me how I was feeling, what was going through my mind, as I tried to come to terms with this new position in which I now found myself.
As I said in the very first article in this thread, it didn’t take me long to realize that I had a choice – to go home and give up, and be angry, bitter, dependent and depressed for the rest of my life… Or to go out there and see what life still had to offer me.
By choosing to see what life still had to offer me I took back control of my life – and also acknowledged that the only person accountable for whether or not I would move forward with my life in a positive way was me.
In effect I refused to grant my blindness the right to dictate my decisions.
And taking back that control was a very powerful step that enabled me to start moving forwards towards the rest of my life and my future.
So often we become overwhelmed by our challenges and the obstacles we face in life. Maybe, like me, taking back control of your life and your destiny will help to give you the power and the energy you require to start tackling those obstacles.
Continuing the series about what it took for me to overcome the challenge of becoming blind, here are a few thoughts on the role played by positive attitude.
Attitude refers to a default tendency or orientation of the mind. It manifests by influencing the way we react to things that happen to us, usually either in a positive or a negative way.
If my default attitude had been negative, I probably would have responded to the news of my blindness by going home and giving up, being angry, bitter, dependent and depressed for much of my life. If my default attitude had been negative, I would have seen first those things that I cannot do and limited my possibilities accordingly.
But, because my attitude is generally positive, I was able to see beyond the devastating experience that had occurred, to pick up the pieces of my life and continue moving forward.
How do you respond when facing a challenge? Do you react with a negative attitude, and see first the problems and the difficulties you need to fight through? Or do you have a positive attitude and seek for whatever good may come out of that challenge, focussing on what you can do rather than what you cannot?
In my speaking, I tell the story of what happened in the aftermath of being told by the doctors that I would be blind for the rest of my life. It didn’t take me long to realize that I had a choice – to go home and give up, and be angry, bitter, dependent and depressed for the rest of my life… Or to go out there and see what life still had to offer me. Obviously, I chose the latter option.
Often I have been asked how that decision was so simple for me – why I felt it was the only decision that was possible for me to make.
I believe there were 3 main factors that influenced that decision.
- A naturally positive attitude that fuelled my desire to keep moving forward
- My refusal to let the blindness dictate my options, and to take back control of my life.
- My belief that my skills, strengths and resources would help me to deal with the inevitable day to day challenges of being blind.
In the next few articles on this thread, I will look at each of these in turn – starting with my positive attitude.
It’s a little over 14 years since I was declared blind. In that time many people have asked me how I coped when it happened, and how I continue to cope as a blind person living in a predominantly sighted world.
Looking back over the years I can’t recall much of what I was thinking at the time, but I do recall feeling overwhelmed and confused because I didn’t even know how to start building the skills and knowledge I knew I would need in my new life – or where to turn to find that information.
A speaking colleague, Aletta Rochat, said recently in a workshop (and yes, I’m paraphrasing) that feeling overwhelmed is not a sign that we do not know what to do, it is rather a sign that we do not know what to do next.
I think that can be adapted to be a useful strategy when you are facing a challenge – you don’t need to find a solution to the entire problem… you simply need to figure out what you need to do next – and take it one step at a time.
Remember the old adage of how you eat an elephant? You do so one spoon at a time. Well, I believe that overcoming challenges is a bit like that.
So that’s the approach I took to overcoming the challenge of learning to live without sight– I didn’t try to figure out my entire life, what I was going to do, how I was going to do it, how I was going to solve the day-to-day problems that arose. Rather, I sat down and tried to figure out what my first steps needed to be… and just focussed on taking those very first steps.
Next time you’re facing a challenge and feeling overwhelmed by it, remember that you don’t need to figure out what to do… it’s that you need to figure out what to do next… and take it one step at a time!