Don’t Just Overcome The Odds—But Thrive as a Result

Last night I watched an amazing segment on 60 Minutes about an architect that lost his eyesight at the age of 45 when he had surgery for a brain tumor. His social worker told him that he might as well start considering different career options. His architect friends told him that it had to be the “worst thing imaginable,” to be an architect and to lose your sight.

However, instead of buying into the vision of his life that others seemed to have, he was determined to continue to thrive. He started by finding new tools. For instance, he found a printer that would emboss architectural drawings that he read like Braille. He also found a way to sketch his designs using malleable wax sticks–a simple children’s toy. He also developed heightened senses in other areas. Without his sense of sight, he began to hear the buildings and spaces around him.

He has spent the last ten years designing spaces that accommodate people with disabilities but that are just as appealing to people without them—called universal design. He not only found these new opportunities exciting and engaging, he is filled with joy that he was still alive to be with his wife and son. Convinced that he is a better architect than when he was sighted, he said that if he were to get his sight back he would be afraid that he would lose what he’d gained!

There is so much to be learned by his story about not just overcoming, but actually thriving against the odds. The two parts that stood out to me was the idea of finding new tools and opening to wisdom that had been inaccessible before.

Find New Tools

Sometimes the old tools just don’t work anymore. The response to the pandemic by businesses is a perfect example of how people are learning to do things in a new way. I worked for years in workplace wellness trying to convince people of the benefits of letting people work from home. Now, when forced to do so, many managers are finding out just how productive people can be when they are given such flexibility!

I taught online classes over Zoom for three years before the pandemic and it was always a challenge to help people get connected at the beginning of the class. Now, everyone knows how to Zoom! Since May, people in my classes don’t have any problem utilizing this online service. And Zoom is not only saving businesses, but is being used to stay connected to family and friends.

Many people are re-thinking how and when they buy products. Delivery services are expanding exponentially. Curbside pickups are available at many retailers. And, shopping is more planned and happens less often.

Of course, new tools can also come in the form of learning new skills, engaging in new forms of self-care like learning to meditate, staying connected to family and friends in ways that are safe, and developing new activities to help you stay grounded and healthy. My recent solo trip to the Buffalo River in Arkansas was such an activity. Both time in nature and being alone inspired new tools and skills that I could use when I re-engaged back home.

Opening to Wisdom

When we are faced with difficulty, the initial response is often to close down instead of open up. The fight-or-flight response is triggered and our defenses are up. However, this is the worse possible way to face many of the problems that face us (unless you are running from lions, tigers, and bears).

Instead, allowing yourself to relax into the middle of a problem is much more likely to help you gain better understanding and leave yourself open to solutions that you don’t have available to you yet. In fact, you never know where answers arise. The solutions you’re looking for might show up in unexpected places.

Case in point–I recently had a doctor’s visit and made a joke with the reception who was checking me in about paying with my library card. Her response was quite odd and resulted in my asking the doctor about a new treatment for a back issue. I will be pursuing this new opportunity and have yet to find out whether it will help. But, I feel like it was one of those moments of synchronicity that you don’t want to ignore.  

The idea of synchronicity rests on setting an intention to manifest something into your reality, and then being open, present, and relaxed so that when messages and events happen that might move you towards your desire, you are able to notice and act on them.  The power of synchronicity is contingent on your willingness to act on the messages you receive.

Mindfulness qualities that help you thrive: Here are some qualities that, when cultivated, can help you access new tools and wisdom

 Presence. Pay attention. You never know when wisdom will be offered to you and what new tools might be available to help you thrive despite the odds.

Trust: Open to these difficult times with an expectation that you will be given what you need when you need it.

Patience: You might not get everything you want in a particular time frame that you’ve decided things need to happen in. Cultivate the patience for thing to unfold according to a greater intelligence than yours.

Beginner’s Mind. When you show up with a mind that doesn’t already have it all figured out, you are open to learn new tools and skills. The architect mentioned above said he felt like a ten year old again. Be that young and curious in mind.

People are facing tremendous hardship in our world today. May these words bring some light, direction, and healing to those in need. Many blessings to all!

Do.The.Work: VOTE!!!!! Let your voice be registered.