Written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, M.Ed, MSW, LCSW
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement, nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – Helen Keller
Several years ago I was facilitating a group and the topic of discussion that day was personal strengths. I asked all group members to identify at least one personal strength or something that they were thankful for. As we went around the circle, giving each person an opportunity to share, several individuals could not come up with one thing about themselves that they viewed as a strength. The last person to share sat to my left in a wheelchair. Looking eager to finally have his turn to share, he stated, “I am happy that I still have my right leg.” There he sat in his wheelchair with only one leg and a smile on his face. Although he had lost a leg years ago, he was thankful to have the other. The group discussion then changed. Group members who previously thought that they had nothing to be thankful for, realized that they had two legs and could walk, two eyes and could see, enough food to eat each day, a bed to sleep in each night. It was amazing to see the group member’s perspective change due to one man’s optimism.
We all can learn from the man in the wheelchair. I am sure that losing his leg was not in his life plan. And I am also pretty sure that he was not so optimistic immediately following his accident. But I do believe that he learned to accept his loss and move on with his life. Life can be tough. Things don’t often go the way that we plan. We may have to grieve losses and work on forgiving ourself and others. We will have days where we just don’t feel good. We may even have days where we just feel defeated. But if we can open our minds to a new perspective we may become aware of strengths that we did not even know that we possessed.
Things may happen and our lives may not be the same as a result. But if we can learn to accept our past and figure out what we can still do, we will not allow the past to wreck our future. If you find yourself thinking about what your life use to be like, how good you use to have it, and how other people have it better than you, you will remain stuck. It is never too late. What can you do moving forward?
The happiest people don’t always have the best of everything, they make the most of what they have. – author unknown