Gretchen Alexander is sightless. But she refuses to allow her blindness to limit her life activities. She enjoys archery, golf, softball, sailing and water-skiing, as well as a number of other activities that those of us who are sighted have yet to learn.
She also speaks to groups about living life fully. When speaking to a group of high school students, she was once asked if there was anything she wouldn't try.
"I've decided to never skydive," she answered. "It would scare the heck out of my dog."
Why do some people rise above their problems and live life fully, while others become defeated? Merle Shain explains it this way: "There are only two ways to approach life, as a victim or as a gallant fighter. And every day the decision is ours." Or put another way, we can believe we're helpless or we can believe we're powerful and capable. And every day we reaffirm our belief.
Another person who knew what it was like to live sightless, not to mention soundless, was Helen Keller. She famously pointed out that "although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of suffering." Does that sound someone who believes she is helpless, or like someone who believes she is capable?
I love the perspective of a shop owner in Nottingham, England. He posted this notice in the window of his coat store: "We have been established for over 100 years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money, suffered the effects of coal nationalization, coat rationing, government control and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed and swindled. The only reason we stay in business is to see what happens next." Though he lifts up a myriad of hardships they've endured, they somehow figured out how to stay in business. Does that sound like someone who believes he is helpless... or capable?
When discouraged some people will give up, give in or give out far too early. They blame their problems on difficult situations, unreasonable people or their own inabilities.
When discouraged other people will push back that first impulse to quit, push down their initial fear, push through feelings of helplessness and push ahead. They're less likely to find something to blame and more likely to find a way through.
For me, it's an important decision about whether I want to live my life fully and with courage or whether I will be forever defeated by harsh circumstances. It's a decision about believing I am powerful enough and capable enough. And it's a decision I must make every day of my life.