Managing my expectations

Been a while since I last wrote some of my ponderings down like this. Much has happened and I have learnt a lot over the last few months.

December just gone I went through a revision surgery on my residual limb. There has been some issues with my stump from the start – basically because I fell over on the first day of my amputation 5 1/2 years ago. Over time prosthetic wearing has been more and more uncomfortable and the powers on high in the NHS said NOW was the time to have surgery so we could sort it out! When it came to my first amputation it wasn’t really such a big thing for me because with all the pain I was in it didn’t feel like I had anything to loose by making that choice. This time I was more nervous! Although definitely not perfect, it still felt like I had something to loose. Life had been so limited for so many years before my first amputation and over the last 5 years I have learnt to manage my energy and time I could be on ‘my leg’. Ultimately I was doing and achieving more then my wildest imagination only dared to long for for so long. But I did it, with all my positive expectations on board -13.December I had the surgery done.

It started so well. I was healing and feeling great. I spent Christmas at home in a wheelchair and started rehab just after. Living in a rehab hospital surrounded by amputees and neuro patients is a story for another time. It wasn’t until I got to try my new prosthetic on for the first time that I thought ‘s ***, what have I done!’ Because it was not a happy pairing, something was definitely not right! Suddenly all I had to loose was very much racing through my mind. I gritted my teeth and painfully got on with the training for a week, after which the doctors and nurses decided that I should do some extra check-ups to make sure I had healed as well as we thought. Unfortunately they discovered some burst vessels and internal bruising. The news was -it will just take a bit longer! No one seems to know exactly how long longer is though.

Through the disappointment and frustration, I was reminded of something really important. When we talk about setting goals, we sometimes have a strong and clear image of where we are heading and what we are aiming to achieve. We set out on a journey and plot the path we are aiming to take. It’s a little bit like following a SatNav -the end destination has been selected and the route to get there has been chosen. But what happens when we hit a bump in the road, when something outside our own power sets us back, when an unexpected (or even expected) obstacle comes our way? Do we give up? Even though the SatNav is having problems finding a way to reroute, do we just head back home or do we try to find another way? Is the destination important enough to keep finding solutions and maybe even a long way round to get to where we want to go? I have certainly learnt, and am learning a lot about managing my own expectations as well as working on my own patience (don’t seem to have a lot of that sometimes). I am not where I thought I would be at this very moment in time, but I am not giving up. I am working with my body as it is healing and taking small steps to move in the right direction.

The good news is that I was discharged from hospital last week, so I could do that slow healing and building up tolerance process (mostly) from my own home -there is something to be said for sleeping in your own bed, being around the family and eating great homemade food!

Black&White or Colours?

The other day I was listening to a New York restauranteur telling the story behind his book ‘Unreasonable hospitality’.

People in the restaurant business was coming up with the most extravagant and out of this world menu choices that he felt he couldn’t compete with, instead he made a conscious decision to focus on the one thing that never changes in their line of business: hospitality. Together with his team they started to work towards one goal: Unreasonable hospitality -giving people more than they expect. Service, he says, is black & white, hospitality is colours!

I love the story of how he managed to convince the chef in their 4 star restaurant to serve what the New Yorkers call a dirty water hotdog. He had overheard 4 guys he was serving saying the only thing they hadn’t had time for on their once in a lifetime vacation, was having one of those hotdogs from a cart on a street corner. He ran to the nearest stand and purchased one of these hotdogs that the chef cut in to 4 perfect pieces, plated them up by adding some relishes and some magic ketchup and mustard swirls fitting a 4 star restaurant. They served it to the boys before their main meal saying: ‘we didn’t want you to leave New York with any culinary regrets’.

Unreasonable hospitality is looking to make ordinary transactions into extraordinary experiences. It’s about making people feel seen, welcome and have a sense of belonging -it’s about serving memories!

All this is advocating one major thing that we can all adapt, no matter who we are and what we are doing; it’s about being present! It’s about doing our jobs, life and relationship in colour and not just black & white. I don’t love the idea of a dirty water hotdog, but I do love the idea that by being present and by listening I am more likely not to miss an opportunity to add a splash of colour, and let another human being feel seen!

Yellow Mini

When my kids were a little bit younger then they are now, there was a car game they got into, of their own free will, that they called ‘yellow mini’. It basically was about being the first to spot a yellow car and slap the person next to you as you shouted -yellow car! The biggest price, because you would be exempt from others slapping you, was to spot a yellow mini Cooper.

Before this game I was sure that yellow cars was a rarity, and at least that a yellow mini would be a once in a blue moon experience. But to my surprise there are quite a large amount of yellow cars around and more yellow minis than I would have ever expected. The more you look out for something, or the more you’re thinking of something specifically, the more you seem to find exactly that.

And so over that last few weeks (and you’ll all be aware of what I have been thinking about because of my last blog post) I seem to have been discovering more stories like the one I told you about: the couple in Oslo lending out their hope to young people who needs help to find their way.

It might be because of the books I read and the podcasts I like to listen too (not the true crime ones maybe), or it might be that in a world of chaos I have tuned my mind into spotting what I really need to see: good stories of people with kindness, passion and integrity making a difference. Dan Walker writes in his book Remarkable People about how one woman’s kindness in making a bowl of soup to one young girl, was the start of so many young girls lives changed in South Africa. Then there was this episode on Simon Sineks podcast A bit of Optimism that I wanted to share with you. Please take time to listen to the story of the hairstylist and how he started to give what he had! How his life changed when he realised what he could do for others. So powerful!

Kindness starts with a smile and a Hello, it starts with you and me giving what we have. I love these words by Maya Angelou:

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Without any slapping involved -let’s start a game of our own: Spot kindness -and to make sure there’s plenty of it to spot -let it start with us!

What I have to give away

The Weeping Woman -by Picasso

I was recently home in Norway for a week where I spent time with my family, had some work meetings, drank a lot of coffee and ate great food. I love meeting people and this time on my last morning I had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple who’s work in Oslo with young people is nothing more then impressive. We talked about the reasons and the beginnings, the impact and the legacy. They shared some sad numbers and statistics about young people in the areas they are working and generally just poured out their passion as they explained the way they are working to make an impact through what they have created, as well as challenging some of the traditional ways we do school. The phrase that they shared that has really stuck with me was ‘I just lend them my hope for a bit until they get hold of their own’. WOW!

Picasso once said, and by the way, you don’t have to like his art to appreciate these words:

The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away!

So I have been pondering as I have a habit of doing: What does this look like today? What do I have to give? What is my gift? How do I lend out my hope to someone who doesn’t have any? How do I show kindness through my words and my actions. How do I make sure someone know they are seen and heard, making a bonkers world maybe just a little bit better? Even if it feels like a small thing – a smile can make a difference, a cup of tea made for a co-worker who you know are swamped under, a hug or a helping hand, a listening ear or simply cooking your teenage sons their favourite meal. What do I have to give?

This is MY mountain

Summer has been and gone, and the autumn with some rain and thunder storms has set in. School has started again for my boys, and my daughter has started a new adventure living her best life in Norway dancing her days away.

This summer as well as all the fun and time with family, I also had one big goal I wanted to achieve which isn’t hard to guess if you know anything about me -I wanted to climb another mountain. We booked a week in the Lake District for the end of August were we could hike to the top of Scafell Pike. I have had some issues with my residual limb over the last few years, and am awaiting revision surgery which has meant that I have not been able to do as much walking as I would like to, so I was a bit nervous about it. After we fitted in a bonus practice climb of a mountain in my beautiful home town Bergen in Norway, I felt positive that even with my limitations I would be able to climb a few extra metres to achieve my goal.

At the top of Ulriken in Bergen.

In preparation I did read about the best route to climb up Scafell Pike, downloaded descriptions, maps and some pictures to help navigate and keep us off the trickier routes. When the day came for the climb we set off early to make sure we got a parking spot and off we went. What really surprised me the most was how there was absolutely no easing your way into the fact that you were climbing a mountain, it was pretty much steep uphill from the get go. Yes I know it’s a mountain but I have done a few of them in my time, and normally your thighs seem to get a bit of an easier start to the climb. Not so much with Scafell Pike. It was also a beautiful sunny day as well, which meant my prosthetic became very warm and I needed a few stops to wipe it down and reset the leg. I will admit that there was a moment I even thought to myself, I am not sure I will be able to do this.

At this very moment I asked myself -is it worth it to me? Is it worth going on? The answer was YES and even when the path turned into lots of small loose stones (which really is tricky for an amputee) I pushed through. I could have so easily given up, but guess what -I made it to the top!

At the top of Scafell Pike

On the way down we met many people who would ask ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘How far is it to the top?’ ‘Will it get any easier soon?’. There was so many different tactics used trying to push on an unwilling member of a group, a slightly unfit friend or the absolute clueless to the fact that climbing a mountain would mean an uphill hike. It struck me then, and I have thought about it a lot since; the power of attitude and self-motivation, the internal drive that keeps you moving forward to what matters to you.

Motivation can come in many forms. We overheard some guys who was trying to encourage a friend who was struggling by telling them it’s only 30 minutes left. Even she could see when she looked up that wasn’t true. Some others told a family members that the worst was over when we knew it had barely begun. There were countless of ‘well you’ve made it this far now, so you might as well keep going.’ Who knows -maybe they all made it to the top listening to well meaning encouragement and some false promises, but it made me think that borrowed goals and motivation through incentives (or fear), really makes giving up very easy.

I love standing at the top of a mountain, after years of not being able to, I really love that I can! The sense of achieving the impossible, accomplishing a dream once so far out of reach. It really matters to me, and it makes it worth the extra blister on the stump, the rest day and leg-off day I need after a climb, or a long hike. It is worth it to me! I do not need some false promises or somebody dangling a carrot in front of me (though chocolate is always a pick-me up, and it is good to surround yourself with great people who are there for you and support you when it gets a bit tough). It is my goal, my choice and my achievement. And when I had a little wobble and thought I couldn’t do it, all it took was one question: is it worth it to me?

What is your mountain?

We can change!

Change can be a very hard thing sometimes. Whether we are changing jobs, moving home, learning to drive or have to change a pre-consisting unhealthy mindset, change can be, and often is, difficult. I am sure you know someone who loves a bit of change and then you probably know the opposite too, those who would do anything to steer away from any change of any sort. As a previous sufferer of chronic pain and now an amputee I am aware that change can be very overwhelming, and sometimes even feel impossible.

I love the book ‘What happened to you’ by Oprah Winfrey and Dr Bruce Perry. Worth your time if you haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet! In this book Dr Bruce Perry states one extremely powerful thing ‘Hope lies in the adaptability of our brain’. I am fascinated by our brains and something that is called neuroplasticity -the brains ability to reorder, change and adapt through experiences, memories and spaced repetition.

When my leg was still here, but in it’s chronic crippled spasm, I had three very young children. Having not been able to drive a car for years, we realised that we could get an automatic car adapted with a left foot accelerator. How cool is that, I could have the option to drive again if I wanted too. I could be able to drop any of the kids off to an activity, or even drive to a park. It felt huge and definitely something I wanted. But how do you learn to drive with your left foot if you have always done it with your right foot? It felt wrong to start with and certainly meant a few harder than normal slams of the brakes and some nervous times on the road not to mention roundabouts. The more I did it the more normal it became! My brain was adapting and what once felt overwhelming and almost impossible became normal and second nature to me.

Harvard Business review -the change arc

This image sums it up beautifully I think, because change can be difficult, costly and weird, but over time and by changing behaviour and attitudes, it becomes easier, more doable, rewarding and normal. Freidrich Nietzche, the Marmite of philosopher (for the non British -you either love him or hate him) said: If you have a why to live for you can bear almost any how.

If you have something big or small that needs to change, ask yourself: is it worth it to me? If the answer is yes, no matter how hard it will be, it is possible, because HOPE LIES IN THE ADAPTABILITY OF OUR BRAIN!

What you say about yourself!

This week I have been thinking a lot about purpose and these words have been replaying in my head a lot:

‘What you say you are greatly affects what you become.’

I’ve shared with you before about confidence; the ability to comfortably be you, trusting yourself and having faith in your own strength and ability. This phrase just takes it all a bit further for me. It has made me think about how my words and ‘inner voices’ also frame my future, and that I can positively affect not just who I am now, but who I am becoming. Zig Ziglar famously also said: you cannot consistently behave in a manner inconsistent to the way you see yourself.

Whilst I was pondering all this one of the things I have been working on is writing a mission statement for my life, a summary of my reason for being. (If you fancy having a go at writing your own, do it! It feels good and it’s a good way for you to take personal responsibility for your future). So in the context of believing that what I say about myself will affect what I become, I am sharing my mission statement with you.

My life mission is to:

enjoy life, build a strong family that support and cheer each other on. Embrace adventure and challenges. I want to use my own experiences and life lessons learnt to inspire, encourage and motivate others to believe in their own potential.

Ta-da list

We all have some sort of relationship with a to-do list. Whether we’re a lover or a hater, or somewhere in between. I have met many people who just couldn’t imagine a day without making a list as their first priority every morning, who loves a post-it note or two, and sometimes can be almost addicted to the thrill of a completed list at the end of the day. There are also some who are more of the spontaneous and impulsive no-list kind, or just someone who don’t like to make lists but are all for a good schedule.

Anyways, this is not a blog post from me trying to convince you of how good or bad, necessary or unnecessary I think a to-do list is. The other day I was listening to a podcast when at the end of an episode as a little addendum one of the podcasters said she had started making a ta-da list. My ears pricked up. She said that she can so easily focus on the negatives and she had been encouraged to make a list of things she did that when she looked at it, it would help put her in a better mood.

In my job for LMI we often talk about the importance of keeping a score of our progresses and our victories. I have seen the huge impact this can have on peoples motivation and staying-on track power, as well as just making us feel good. Famously it’s been said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. Often we focus on the I didn’t make it, or the I am so far off my target, that we forget to see the mile we covered today as a success. It is probably not a surprise to you then, that I love the idea of a TA-DA list. A list, not of things I have to do, but of the ‘I did that!’

Try it – start a Ta-Da list of your own – I am loving mine!

Confident and Outgoing -is it the same?

One of the best part of my job is the privilege I have of guiding young people through a program called ‘The Making of a Champion’. This program is all about helping these fantastic young people develop skills, habits and attitudes needed to pursue dreams and worthwhile goals, and to help them be the very best version of themselves. I love it!

One of the lessons in the program is about Courage, and facing challenges with confidence. A few times when I have facilitated this session there are great conversations about all things confidence, and what this means and also what it looks like. It has struck me many times how confidence so often is defined by how outgoing someone is. If you are the one in a friendship group who is the loudest and most likely to ask for the bill or stop a stranger to ask for direction, the one who seemingly without any nerves stand up and make presentations in front of the class, you are most likely being defined as the most confident person in the group. Is this a great measure of how confident someone is, or is it telling us more about how comfortable someone is in a social setting and in dealing with new people. Off course this can be linked to someone’s confidence, but if it’s the only way to define how confident someone is we are excluding introverts from anything to do with this.

So what is confidence? To me it is about trust, trust in yourself! Being comfortable enough to be you, whether that is an outgoing person or not. To be your authentic self, having faith in your own strengths and ability, not letting the judgements and opinions of others hold you back and make you try to be and act differently, that to me is Confidence.

As with so many things we often define ourselves as this is me or not, and that’s that. But I love that you can work on and grow in so many of the things that we often exclude our self from -we all have potential! Anyone can, and should be, their own number one fan, their own Cheerleader. The root to confidence seems to be positive thinking and positive self talk. Confidence in your ability happens through practice and work. Every week we get the young people to set a goal, one for school/work and one personal one, why? Because goal setting is about moving towards something that you have defined as important to you, something that matters. When we accomplish a goal it makes us feel good, makes us proud, it breeds positivity, and it has been proven to be good for, amongst other things, building confidence.

Set a goal today, or over the weekend, do something that matters to you, or something you are good at. Write something positive to yourself, make a list of your accomplishments, and work on eliminating the negative language we have made far too normal. Learn something new, be curious! Confidence doesn’t happen in one moment, but it happens by all the little things we say and do everyday!

What to do with all the madness?

There are sometimes in life when I feel so little and helpless. I have a roof over my head, I am warm (might sometimes wish we had the heating on a bit more), I am surrounded by my nearest and dearest, I have food to eat and can take a stroll through my peaceful village and the beautiful countryside whenever I want.

Since the 24.February the pictures we are seeing on the news from Ukraine is a nation torn to shreds by Putin’s aggressive madness and his special ‘military operations’. The reality of his war means that Ukrainians have had their lives turned upside down, peace has been shattered. Millions are now fleeing their homes and their country, having to leave behind their belongings and more importantly, all the men who has to stay and fight the ‘western paranoia’ of a man who wants to remake the Soviet Union. We have read of, and seen horrible images, of the evacuations of civilians being halted because in the midst of ‘agreed’ ceasefires, we learn that we can’t trust the words of a big bully like Putin. I feel anger, frustration, sadness, and my heart is breaking for the children, the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, the young and the old who will be scarred mentally and physically by the injustices done to them by a neighbouring country. I also feel immensely proud of the strength, bravery and fight the Ukrainians are showing. I am amazed by Zelenskyj, a leader who is courageously fighting alongside his people, who is standing up for what is right, who is uniting, motivating and inspiring.

I am also proud of the bravery of the Russians who despite the fear of their own government and the repercussions, are standing up for what is right and taking to the streets to protest this war. So far over 12 000 brave men and women in 66 cities across Russia has been arrested trying to show their disgust at what is done in the name of their country.

Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev’s writes the message ‘No War Please’.

Apart from supporting organisations who works on the frontline in this humanitarian crisis, I do feel very little when I look at what one man and his protégées are inflicting on their own people through propaganda and fake news, and on their neighbours through bombs and bloodshed.

‘War is contempt for life’, is a line from a poem we did in school when I was younger. Nordahl Grieg wrote it to the youth, the generation growing up in 1936. ‘What is my shield against violence, what is my sword? Faith in this life of ours and the value of humanity… Don’t turn your face away from the need of others, reach out a helping hand… Defend the beautiful, the gentle and innocent…’

I might be little, but if all us little people stand up to injustice and show kindness, fight the good fight against hypocrisies and ‘dirty’ money buying it’s way into society, politics and sport, then our little bit becomes bigger. Together we are stronger! Together we will stand up for what’s right and reach out our hand any way we can!

PS. Don’t get me started on how little the UK have done for refugees so far. Makes my blood boil.