First let me state the bleeding obvious. Paralympians are first and foremost athletes. When you watch Paralympic sport, view the competitors as hard-core, highly trained, hugely skilled athletes. In this respect, there is absolutely no difference between Paralympians and Olympians.
Now I’m going to add some characteristics to this foundation based on my personal experience of disability, my participation in the Australian Paralympic ski team, and my ten years working in elite sport.
Focus on Ability
People who do well in any domain have learnt to identify and nurture their strengths. This is particularly so for a successful person with a disability. In most cases, their impairment is not something that can be ‘fixed’ and so the best way for someone with a disability to not only survive but thrive in the world is to focus on what they can do well rather than what they can’t. And thankfully there are many disabled athletes who have found a physical skill they excel in, despite impairment in another area. Are you using your skills and talents to their fullest, or wasting valuable physical and mental resources on your weaknesses?
Success doesn’t come easily to most people. Every single one of us faces obstacles and challenges in our life. People with disabilities have their fair share and usually a few extra. If you’re born with a disability, as I was, you learn from a very young age to solve problems. You learn that your choice is simple. You can sit back and watch the game of life play out around you from the relative safety of the sidelines. But if you want to get involved, if you want to experience life in all its richness and variety, you have to be able to cope with challenges and figure out ways to solve problems. Next time you’re faced with an obstacle or a problem, turn it into a challenge, imagine yourself as a Paralympian and try to figure out a solution rather than getting bogged down in the injustice or negativity of the situation.
People with disabilities are often judged by others as being incapable of certain things. Sometimes this is blatant discrimination, but more often it stems from ignorance or even a desire to shield the person from potential harm or disappointment. But how can anyone make a judgement about what someone else is capable of? They don’t have first-hand knowledge of that person’s physical capacity, mental processes or emotional resources. And regardless of whether or not you have a disability, you don’t even know yourself what you can or can’t do until you give it a go. The Paralympians who have succeeded have done so regardless of the limitations others have labelled them with, and more importantly, in spite of their own fears and self-doubts about what is possible. We are all filled with self-doubt. Next time you’re not sure about your abilities, don’t listen to anyone else – don’t even listen to yourself! Try it, and see what happens!
If you’d like help to achieve a Personal Best in some area of your life, or you’d like to help your team or organisation be the best they can be, please email me for a confidential discussion about how coaching, team development or a motivational seminar can help. Don’t forget phone coaching is avaialble if you’re out of town, interstate or just want to be coached in your own comfortable environment.