By Mark E. Smith
Have you ever wondered how NASCAR drivers maneuver their cars with such precision at such death-defying speeds, slipping between each other, inches apart, at 190 MPH?
It turns out that in their professional training as drivers, NASCAR racers are taught a vital psychological skill: When driving a race car, only focus on where you want to go, blocking out everything else from your mind.
Now, if you realize how you, yourself, think when you’re driving a car, you likely take the opposite approach, telling yourself, “Watch out for that pothole,” or “Don’t sideswipe that guardrail!”
Put simply, professional race car drivers focus on the positives in front of them, while everyday drivers typically focus on the negatives.
Of course, we don’t need to be race car drivers or psychologists to realize that what we focus on plays a major role in our success in any situation. If we focus on the positives, the successes that we seek are more likely to occur, and, conversely, if we focus on the negatives, we diminish our odds of success. In other words, if we focus on the smooth road ahead, that’s where we will go, and if we see nothing but potholes, surely we destine ourselves to a bumpy ride.
I’m amazed by those with disabilities who take a bleak outlook toward their mobility products, only seeing the negatives, where they’ll tell you that since the day that the began using wheelchairs, their lives have been nothing but potholes. “Every provider is a jerk, wheelchairs stink, and it’s all part of a system out to get me,” we hear people say.
Along these lines, I ran across someone recently who remained upset about an experience that he had five years ago, where he explained to me that his provider had done him wrong. No, I wasn’t involved in the situation, and I have no way of knowing the whole story, but clearly the man was upset, even after all of these years.
As one who always looks in a positive, forward direction, I asked the man if he had a sound wheelchair now, and if he had a good provider? “Yes I do,” he told me. “But, that doesn’t matter. At any moment this chair’s going to break, and my provider is going to stick it to me.”
On the road of life, the gentleman was doing nothing but looking for those darn potholes. He was so bitter about what had once happened, that he simply refused to trust a provider or wheelchair ever again, unable to appreciate the mobility and support that he now has.
Sure, you might be thinking to yourself, “See, Mark, poor provider experiences ruin our lives.”
Yet, I ask you, does a bad provider experience or an unreliable wheelchair truly have the ability to ruin our lives, to make us forever bitter, to despise every moment that we spend in a wheelchair?
Only if we let it.
I didn’t choose my disability – or the fact that I have to use a wheelchair – but I sure as heck can choose the attitude that I use toward dealing with it. And, I can tell you that bitterness and disdain never got me anywhere, not in life, nor with mobility. Heck, if I were to follow the lead of some with chips on their shoulders about wheelchairs, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I mean, I was a kid stuck in bed, who couldn’t go outside, who missed school because my wheelchairs were so poorly made and the industry was so unregulated when I was growing up.
But, I never got discouraged, I never wrote off the world and focused only on the potholes in my path. Rather, I realized that there were still great people who were a help, not a hindrance – as with those who ultimately repaired my wheelchairs. I realized that wheelchairs were a liberator, not a restriction – as they allowed me to pursue my passions in life. And, most importantly, I realized that when I simply focused on the positives of my mobility, my life became better than I ever dreamed.
Surely, disability experience proves a difficult emotional struggle for many, and issues with our wheelchairs and providers can prove painfully distressing at times. But, holding onto that distress does nothing but hold us back. At some point, we have to stop viewing our wheelchair issues as lifelong afflictions, and regard them as what they are, temporary situations. We mustn’t ask ourselves, ”When will my wheelchair break again?” or think, “I need a new wheelchair – here I go again dealing with nightmare providers.” Instead, must wake up everyday looking forward to where our wheelchairs will take us, how they will allow each and every one of us to fulfill our purposes in life.
No, I can’t guarantee you that your wheelchair will never break down – they’re physical products, and issues occur. Similarly, I can’t guarantee you that you’ll never have problems with your provider – they’re real people, where some have real problems.
However, what I can guarantee you is that your perspective ultimately rules every aspect of your life, including your mobility. While we all face the ebbs and flows of life, with low points occurring – as with issues with our wheelchairs or providers – we must remind ourselves of the old adage that these times, too, shall pass, and refuse to allow temporary situations to become permanent afflictions.
Be confident in the smooth road ahead for you by banning bitterness, trusting in the goodness of people, and believing in the awesome power of mobility to foster your life on a superhighway of success.