Why We Should Do What Scares Us

What’s the one thing you need to do, but it scares you?

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who famously said, “Do something every day that scares you.”

In the our final look at Three Questions for 2015 – Evolutions not Revolutions, I am encouraging you to take more healthy risks this year. By healthy, I mean nothing that might place you in danger or jeopardy, but something that would definitely move you out of your comfort zone.

We certainly grow when we push ourselves (or are pushed) out of our comfort zones. Being challenged, even to the point of being scared, is a great way to discover new abilities within ourselves. Once we find a new ability, it can spur on new areas of growth that ripple through our life. This promotes change. I’m a firm believer that change is good because it’s an excellent way to feel you’re more fully living life.

If you check out my comment to Three Questions for 2015, you’ll see the scary venture I need to do this year is unveil my Personal and Professional Development Videos.

It scares me (in a good way!) because I am taking my business and skills in a whole new direction. I am transitioning from working with people on an individual basis to sharing skills, strategies, and techniques in successfully living with a disability to a much larger audience. Because of this transition, I’m learning new skills, calculating new risks, and breathing through feelings of fear. This has created a new “edge” in my life, which has rejuvenated me and caused me to feel a deeper sense of living fully.

So what is it for you this year? What’s one item, task, or goal that will scare you and give you that edge? And you know you need to do it because there’s so much to gain (skills, experience, feeling more alive) by doing so.

Don’t be shy – or too busy! Share what it is in the comments below. Check out the comments anyway for my three quick tips on dealing with fear of taking risks.

Posted in Confidence Builders, Taking Risks, Transforming Your Life | 1 Comment

How Do You Want to Evolve this Year?

Change, particularly within ourselves, is most effective and lasting when it evolves, rather than being the result of some dramatic shift.

I think of evolving as chipping away at something until it becomes part of you. It involves looking at something, perhaps studying it, allowing it to shape you and influence you. To evolve takes quite a bit of trial and error, not getting things “right” at first and learning from the lessons that experience brings.

In the disability world, I think the concept of evolution is still underrated.

Society at large will integrate people with disabilities into their belief systems and see disability more as a natural difference, rather than a “determent,” through regular contact with people with disabilities. It’s a learning curve and each bit of contact grows and nourishes (evolves) the change in thinking to something more affirmative.

And the world can only do this if we first do it ourselves. So how do you want to evolve this year? Remember I initially posed this question in regards to the umbrella question of how do you want to live more fully this year?

What’s just one area in your life that needs a little focus, perhaps some shaping up, to allow you to live more the life you want?

If you check out my post on Three Questions for 2015, you’ll find in the comment area a very pragmatic answer from yours truly regarding how I can do this in my own life – being more organized.

Yeah, I know, it’s a totally boring answer, but bear with me for a sec. In the last few years my life has expanded significantly – more people in my life, more responsibility, bigger changes, more things coming at me, and more things to manage. Trying to keep up with it all can prevent me from taking the time I need to just relax and enjoy my evenings and weekends. Finding a way to streamline all the pieces of my life is crucial to me taking more breathers. One piece of my evolution to becoming more organized is I have hired a part-time assistant for managing the administrative aspects of Radiant Abilities.

What is something YOU could begin to change that would allow you more opportunity to live life? How can you begin to chip away at it? What would be the change you would see in a year if you did so?

If you’re stuck on ideas, check out my comment below for suggestions. If you know what area you want to tackle, share it below as a way of inspiring others.

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What’s Blocking You from Living More Fully?

How can you create opportunities for yourself to live more fully in 2015?

Two weeks ago, on the verge of another New Year, I posed three questions to spur your thinking about what you could do (yes, taking actual action) to live your life more fully. Today we’re looking at the first of the three questions to help us tackle whatever barriers may be in the way of this.

What’s one area of my life that I can focus on to help me live more fully?

As I said in my last post, I’m all about evolution and not revolution. Lasting change comes in small batches. So what is just one area in your life that you could look at to identify what’s blocking you from living your life more fully? Money, work, relationships, family, your disability?

Here’s a hint to what may be your target point. What area draws the biggest “Ugh!” from you when you go through the mental checklist? That’s the area that is probably creating the most resistance to living your life more fully. The resistance is actually negative energy that is blocking your more positive, creative energy to problem solve the barriers which keep you living more of the life you want.

The best way to transform this resistance is to identify (name) it, own it, and then work with it.

If you read my comment to the last post, you’ll see I answered for my own life the questions I posed. To this question about living life more fully, I identified working too much was the area I needed to address in 2015.

There, I identified and named it. Now I got to own it. By owning a trait about yourself or a facet in your life, whether it is something you like or not, your accepting it as part of who you are and your life. This then reduces the resistance to it.

In my case, I own the fact that I have always had a tendency to work too hard. This comes from my drive for perfection and that deep need I still have to prove myself. If I recognize and own that within myself, that becomes more truthful than saying, “I have so much work to do.”

This more honest reflection then helps me develop better boundaries on my time and work load so that I feel like I have a better balance between working and living my life (having fun, enjoying time with family and friends).

That’s how the “Identify, Own, Work with it” strategy works. So c’mon, share with me below in the comment area what is one area of your life you can focus on to live more fully in 2015? You’ll see another share from me down there that will help me enjoy life more.

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Three Questions for 2015 – Evolutions not Resolutions

1. What’s one area of my life that I can focus on to help me live more fully?

2. How do I want to evolve this year?

3. What’s the one thing I need to do, but it scares me?

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. If I make them, usually by mid-January, I’m running late again, papers are strewn across my desk, and I’m eating cookies again. You too?

I believe change, particularly change within ourselves, is most effective and lasting when it evolves, rather than the result of some dramatic shift.

As I look over the last ten years, I realize that each year seemed to focus on a particular area of life – dating and relationships, getting married, my son’s arrival and his care, selling and buying a home, transitioning my business. Each year, sometimes consciously and at other times, not so consciously, takes on a new “project.”

With each yearly project, though, I learned new strengths, abilities, and vulnerabilities about myself. This furthers my own evolution. More importantly, by doing this I experience a true sense of living life more fully.

Living life more fully.

That’s what my wish for you is in the New Year. My challenge to you on the edge of this New Year is to have you ask yourself the three questions above. I would love it if you could take a step further and share the answers below in the comment area.

You’ll see my answers down there.

Beginning January 14 (next week look for the January issue of Tips & Guidance), I’ll be taking each question and dissecting it to help you more effectively apply the question to your life in 2015.

I wish you the very best in the New Year! As always, thanks for reading.

Posted in Believe in Yourself, LIVE your life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Happy Holidays – May They Be Wrapped with Love

I want to thank you for reading and hopefully enjoying this blog throughout the year. It truly means so much to me that you take the time to read various viewpoints and resources each week. I know there’s a great deal vying for your saber attention.

I am currently enjoying some vacation time as I get ready for a host of family gatherings. I hope you are having some down time as well with family. Whether or not you’re with family, I hope you also have some time for rest and reflection.

This week I’m offering a replay of my holiday blog about turning frustration into peace and acceptance. Okay, even when it just pertains to wrapping those gifts.

From Wrapped with Love
Originally published 12/23/11

Despite being up way too late all week with holiday preparations and feeling slightly stressed about getting it all done, I love the holidays!  

To me it’s about all my favorite things – family, friends, food, and most importantly, the gift of love and light in these darkest of days.  

I am a person who is most fed by my relationships with others.  I just love time spent with those I love and care for and the holidays are all about that for me.  It truly feels my soul, while all the irresistible Christmas cookies feeds my body.  I have been so happy this holidays season, even in the midst of trying to check off my endless “to do” list…..except for one thing…

The wrapping!  Ugh, the wrapping!  I just have to say it – I HATE WRAPPING PRESENTS!  Clearly, whoever invented wrapping did not have cerebral palsy or fine motor issues.  I always procrastinate on this task.  Everything about it frustrates me to no end.  

Let’s begin with cutting the paper.  You know those fancy craft scissors they have now that cut a jagged edge in the paper?  Don’t need that with CP; muscle spasms do it for you!  

The easiest part of wrapping is where you just take the long sides and tape them to the box.  However, I am usually either too short or too long because I became so frustrated with cutting the paper.  I usually end up ditching the scissors and tearing the paper.

Then come the ends of the package.  Oh, how I loathe those ends!  I can never fold them nice and neat like my mother taught me to do.  I can never fold two sides the same.   I end up using 800 pieces of tape to get the end to stay down.  Then there’s somehow still a bulge of wrapping paper on the ends.  I assure you, kindergarteners could probably put me to shame with their wrapping skills.

The other night as I began my wrapping, in no time I was struggling with an end and pieces of tape.  My husband walked in the room as I exclaimed my obvious detest for wrapping.  He walked up to me, gently taking the present and the tape, and saying in an understanding voice, “I know you do [hate this].”  

I then smiled and admitted to him I cut myself a great deal of slack when it comes to being concerned about how the present looks.  I said something along the lines of  figuring that people understand wrapping is not a forte when one has CP.

That’s the lesson in all this for me – trusting that beyond my not so pretty packages (and believe me, they aren’t pretty!), people see the effort made and understand the love in the effort.  

Isn’t that what we all hope for?  In the messiness of life and the challenges it brings, when we strive for our best, but miss our mark, and when we’re doing whatever our personal best is at the moment, don’t we hope most of all that others see the love in our attempts?  

And isn’t that one of the many lessons of the season?  Beyond the frantic pace and spending, may we remember the love that each of us brings is what we really need.

May all your gifts be wrapped with love this season, even if there’s a little frustration thrown in there.  Happy holidays!

Posted in All We Need is Love, Lessons Learned | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Two Most Important Factors in Empowering Children

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My parents had no clue how to raise a child with a disability.

They did, however, know how to parent in general. I was lucky to come at the end of the line, after my three siblings.

If you were to ask my parents today, they would probably tell you that while there are a lot of circumstances that make parenting a child with a disability a different parenting experience, the core ingredients remain. These are what every child needs from a parent to feel empowered to face whatever challenges lay ahead:

LOVE – acceptance and honoring your child for who they are; their being and not what they do.

EXPECTATIONS – discover your child’s abilities and building on those to help him create a successful life.

As Kathie Snow’s (Disability is Natural is a must read for parents) quote above reminds us, our belief in our children carries so much more influence than what the medical profession and society would lead us to believe. When we love a child for who he is that lays the foundation for him being better able to meet expectations.

Let me explain further. Think about your own life. When you feel loved by someone that inherently gives you the confidence to believe in yourself and what you want to accomplish, even when it feels very daunting. The love from others nourishes your own sense of value in yourself.

This is so crucial for children and adults with disabilities, because let’s face it, the world does judge us harsher than others. However, the more we are loved by our family and/or our circle of support, the less that matters. Really and truly.

Furthermore, when we have expectations of accomplishing things, having a meaningful life, and doing what makes us happy, we become so focused on those things, we can more easily filter out the judgments of others.

One of the greatest gifts I received in my own life regarding expectations placed upon me was from the doctor who diagnosed me with cerebral. He delivered the news to my parents in a way that offered them hope and a sense that they could determine my success way more than CP ever could. It was a rarity in the late 1960s that a doctor would be that positive about a diagnosis of a disability. (Interest peeked? Grab a copy of Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities to read the whole story.)

Now For You…
Share below how love and/or expectations have changed your life.

Know someone who could benefit from this post? Please share it!

Posted in All We Need is Love, Empowering Children, Parenting Children with Disabilities | Leave a comment

Ended Too Soon, But Well-LIVED

But on my path to reach you, I promise to grab every opportunity with both hands, to say yes as often as I can, to take risks, to scare myself stupid, and to have a shitload of fun.
-Comedian and disability advocate, Stella Young, letter to her 80-year old self

This quote captures how we should ALL live – taking opportunities, saying a big YES to life, taking risks that even scare ourselves, and of course, having loads of fun. If we don’t do those, what kind of life are we living and what will we say to our 80-year old selves?

You may remember earlier this year, I wrote Are we really inspiring about the belief that Stella Young posed in her captivating TED talk that people with disabilities aren’t inspiring for just living their life.

Sadly, that voice of honest wisdom was silenced on Saturday. Stella passed away from what is believed to be an aneurysm at the too young age of 32. There was so much more we could have learned from her about LIVING with disability.

It was just last month that an eloquent letter to her 80-year old self was published. It’s so worth the bittersweet read.

Below you’ll find my reprint of Are We Really Inspiring in honor of Stella, who did not inspire us, but challenged us to look at things as they really are and to LIVE our precious lives, no matter what. Give yourself a gift and watch or re-watch her TED talk and share your reactions below in the comments.

Are We Really Inspiring?
Published: JUNE 18, 2014

Or are we just living lives?

That is the question posed and challenged to you in a video that ended up in my inbox last week. The answer is articulated beautifully by comedian and disability activist, Stella Young in a recent TED talk. This nine minute talk may challenge the way you look at people with disabilities and this whole notion about whether we’re inspiring or not. And that is a very good thing!

Stella captured what I have been thinking about for years now. Are people with disabilities viewed as typically inspiring for simply living pretty ordinary lives? Is it somehow inspiring when we grocery shop, pay bills, or go to work? If so, why?

“Because we have been told a lie about disability,” Stella says. “The lie is that disability is a bad thing and to live with one is exceptional.”

I love that statement. It so ties into I give on Releasing the Myth of Disability, which essentially teaches people to develop an awareness of the false societal belief that disability is a horrible fate. Stella claims (rightly so) that many people have a tendency to look at people with disabilities and think, “No matter how bad it is for me, it could be worse.”

There is so much teaching to be done to flip this attitude around and let society know there is joy and peace in living with a disability. Sometimes this serenity comes from the very fact we are different, that we don’t easily “fit in,” and we’re just fine with that. There’s also a lot of education needed about how people with disabilities often just lead ordinary lives and there’s nothing exceptional about that.

As I had the idea for this post rolling around in my head and was taking my evening walk with my son, who is still in a stroller, a man stopped along the trail to say to me, “I see you walking him (my son) here quite a bit and I got to tell you how inspiring you are.”

I thanked the man. I was not necessarily offended because I could tell the compliment was from the heart. He even touched his heart as he spoke to me. My belief is that if I can touch people’s hearts, then that’s the doorway to changing beliefs and attitudes.

After I thanked the man, I said, “Well, I have to get my exercise in somehow.” What I thought was how I was just doing a very ordinary thing – exercise – because heart disease does not discriminate against disability….and that I love this life of mine with a disability and want to keep living it for another 45 years!

Enjoy Stella’s talk, I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much; it’s so worth the nine minutes. Take her up on the challenge to question what you think you know about disability.

Posted in Confidence Builders, LIVE your life, Taking Risks, The Power of Disability | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What My Disability Makes Me Most Thankful For

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In order to make peace with the adversity in our lives, we first have to learn to appreciate its lessons.

In this week when we’re hopefully trying to stay more focused on what we’re thankful for, rather than the Black Friday deals, I’d like to talk about being grateful for our disabilities, or any adversity we face for that matter.

Naturally, living with a significant difference in my ability to function in the world, has brought me oodles of blessings. I more deeply appreciate the accomplishments I have made. I believe I have a greater understanding of people I otherwise would not have. In my adulthood years, I have learned the art of surrendering to the things I can’t do – and actually being at peace with that.

All these are wonderful gifts that a life with cerebral palsy has presented me, but they’re not what I’m most grateful for.

On a very basic level, I am most indebted to my disability because it makes me me. I would not be Kathy O’Connell as I know her without all the complexities of living with a disability – and I would miss her. My personality would probably be very different, my perspectives would be altered, and I really believe I would relate to others differently.

I would not trade that for all the gross and fine motor skills in the world, because I just would not be me.

On this Thanksgiving week, share with me below what your disability or any other adversity you face makes you thankful for.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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How to Believe in Yes When They Say No

Do you sometimes believe in the impossible?

So do I! It has helped me in incredible ways throughout my life to believe in things that people say cannot be done. This is true whether I succeed or fail.

Let’s actually look at failing first. Looking back over my life thusfar, I have come to learn when I believe in something and it does not come to fruition, I learn an awful lot about myself and the experience in the process. Trite, but true.

The recent campaign of Living Fully with Disability is a good example of this valuable learning experience. The campaign was generously funded by 28 people and over $2,500 was raised. That’s great and will fund a few free personal empowerment videos for people.

It is far from our goal of $11,700. Yet I learned so much about the art of fundraising, my views on appealing to people for funding, and the genuine kindness and generosity of people – all of which is so valuable as I further the goals of Radiant Abilities.

Now for a slice of personal success against the odds.

This is also trite but true. If I listened to every person who told me that something I wanted and believed in was not possible or within my reach, my life would be very different than it is today. I would not have the real significant things I treasure most in my life – being an entrepreneur, owning a home, being married, and having my son.

Of those four, my son was the biggest “impossible” that came into my life because I believed so strongly that my husband and I were meant to be parents. I am going to try to give you the abridged story here.

I married later in life and the biological clock was winding down by the time I did marry. Motherhood was something I could never remember not wanting. My husband, Scott, could also not imagine life without children. We were delighted when I became pregnant at age 42. Four weeks later our joy turned into heartbreak when I had a miscarriage.

One of the most helpful coping skills I have is to always look at the possibilities for achieving my goals, rather than focusing on what isn’t happening. Having the miscarriage sent me into grieving for months. I sensed that the pregnancy I loss was my sole chance at having children biologically.

I delved into researching adoption. What came to me was a surprise. After four months of research, I told Scott I believed deep within me our path to creating a family was foster care. I never thought I could be someone to take children into my home, care for them, and be able to let them go if needed. However, something within me, shouted this clearly.

When we have an inexplainable sense within us that something will work, we need to follow that.

So Scott and I began the six month long process of getting approved to be foster parents. Throughout the process we continually indicated our preference for a baby to foster. We were told repeatedly there were few babies needing foster care and we would probably wait years for one.

Despite the improbabilities, I believed that something was going to work out. I kept going back to this belief with every no we got.

On a cold January morning in 2012 I received a call from our intake worker that at last our application process was complete and we were approved to be foster parents. Now we just had to wait for an unknown length of time for that magical phone call, asking if we would take a child into our home.

We did not wait long. ONE HOUR later we received a call for a four week old boy who had been placed in the county’s care when he was five days old. That little baby turned out to be our Jaden, the miracle we were believing in.

I write this post today in honor of National Adoption Day this Friday, November 21, 2014. A year ago we adopted Jaden on National Adoption Day and officially became the family we always believed we could be. This was because we listened to our YES when others said no.

Sometimes you just need to do that. If you feel something is truly right for you, keep going back to this belief with every no you get. Who knows? A miracle may happen.

Now tell me what you’re believing in that feels impossible and how you handle the noes?

Posted in Believe in Yourself, Confidence Builders, Lessons Learned, Strategies/Techniques | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

What’s Your Firewalk?

Wanna hear my story of walking on a bed of hot coals?

As many of you know, my book, Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities, is essentially about my life experience of learning how to lîve happily and successfully with a disability.

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Here’s the story about how I really got the lesson in learning to live fully and happily with a disability. Several years ago I was invited as part of a group training I was doing to take part in a Firewalk.

The group didn’t know walking across hot coals was one of our exercises until right before it was presented to us. While the group leaders made it clear that no one had to do the firewalk, as I listened to them talk about it, I thought, “Well, of course I’ll do this.”

As the group broke to walk outside to the firewalk ceremony, one of the group leaders approached me and said, “You do not have to do this.” I began to cry when he said this because I knew the willful place in me that was going to do it, was coming from my ego, which said, “The girl with CP is going to prove to everyone I can do this.”

Our leader just said, “If you do do it, come and get me and I’ll hold your hand.” This was a great relief to me because I was already imagining falling and burning my face or something. Weren’t my feet enough to worry about?

The core philosophy of a firewalk is that if it’s done with the right intentions, one won’t get burned. Well, I knew if I did the firewalk from my ego, my feet would surely feel the pain.

So I preceded outside to join the firewalk ceremony which included drumming and people walking around the bed of coals, meditating on their intention. As I began watching my colleagues take their thoughtful turns on the firewalk and celebrate their process, I realized I wanted the experience of doing the firewalk more than the fear of what would happen if I did it.

I also realized throughout my life of living with a physical disability, I lived with the fear of what might happen if I did things – falling, not being able to do things, needing help – and I was tired of it.

I knew at that moment I had my right intention to do the firewalk.

So I approached my leader and took his hand. Now I was naive enough at the time to think he would actually do the firewalk with me and I led him to the coals, he stopped alongside the coals and I realized he was just there to walk alongside the path of coals and help me balance but I was on my own.

I took a deep breath and place my bare foot on the 1500 degree coals. I did feel an instant hotness, but after that I just felt how very alive I was in that moment and that I was literally walking on my fear toward greater freedom in living my life.

Doing the firewalk changed me and how I approach taking risks and fear’s hold on me.

I’m here today to encourage you to take the firewalk (obviously not an actual one) that is facing you today. It may be applying for a job, trying to return to school, making friends, living on your own. Allow the experience to help you discover how you can live more freely from the fear that holds you.

Make a comment below and tell me what firewalk you’re facing and what fears that brings up in you.

Posted in Confidence Builders, Firewalk: Embracing Different Abilities, Lessons Learned, LIVE your life, Taking Risks, The Power of Disability | 2 Comments