The pity pit. This dreary destination is carved out by negativity, home to the hopeless, filled with fear, lined with doubt, and unfortunately, is a trap many people with a spinal cord injury (SCI) fall into. When Covid-19 hit, overnight an entire year’s worth of work was wiped off my calendar. I felt like the virus bought me a one-way ticket to this aforementioned depressing place. I’m sure every one of you reading this has your own story about getting blindsided, so let’s talk about a few practical tips you can use to confront seemingly insurmountable change.
If you find yourself buried deep in the pity pit or even teetering on the edge, you are not helpless. Let me tell you about the ladder I built to get out of the hole and start moving forward. The FACTS is an acronym I created to remind myself of the variables that I always have control over. These are examples and observations of what the FACTS look like in my life. What could they represent in your life?
FOCUS: We seem to wind up getting what we focus on. Stick out one of your thumbs and pretend it represents the biggest challenge in your life right now. Close one eye and move that thumb so it’s one inch from your open eye. What can you see? Now stick your hand out and give me a thumbs up! Is your view a little bit different? Your problems did not go away, but changing what you focus on can make the challenges you’re facing right now seem less overwhelming.
ATTITUDE: Attitude is contagious; a negative attitude infects others, while a positive can affect others. If you’re thinking, “but Jake, it’s all the people around me who have a negative attitude.” When you want something to change, where is the first place you should always start?
CHOICE: I found this poem and it reminded me of something Hulk Hogan would say. For maximum effect, read it out loud in his voice! “As you go through life brother, whatever your goal, keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole.”
THANKS: The legendary speaker Zig Ziglar was right on the money when he said we must have an “attitude of gratitude.” When I’m starting to get frustrated, I strategically make the choice to zoom the lens out and find something I’m thankful for. This can be a powerful tool to keep you from spiraling downward.
SMILE: I’m a manly man. When my diabolical nurse gave me a hot pink wheelchair, I knew I was really in for it with my friends! “Hey Jake, it’s so good to see you. Looks like you’re doing great, but what’s up with that pink wheelchair?” snickered one of my buddies. “What do you mean?” I asked. “The color is actually manjenta.”
I would be lying if I claimed just having a smile and a positive attitude will make all your problems go away. However, if you make a commitment to ask yourself which part of the FACTS could help you in this moment, it will give you more personal control over the day to day challenges that come your way. Like most things SCI related, personal change takes time. Research shows from six months to a year. Practice makes permanent, so remember to keep your eye on the donut, not on the hole!