In January 2012 I had a stroke while exercising in the gym. As the symptoms progressed during my admission, it occurred to me that the whole experience was funny: a bit like being drunk – slurring speech and difficulty controlling walking. I woke up the next morning and found that my right side was paralysed – no control or movement in arm or leg. My first thought on discovering this was to check out the left side – it worked. My second thought was that I seem to be thinking and a short sentence said I could speak. At this point I realised I could be viable, changed but viable. I was in hospital for a month being nursed back to independence and with regular physiotherapy. My physio and I had so many laughs during this period over things I couldn’t and could do that our sessions became the highlight of the month and the succeeding three, I think for both of us. By mid-May, I had learnt to run short distances again and I realised the immense mental effort it takes to take exercise and even more so to succeed as paralympic athletes do.

It became clear to me that two of my core values, which I had taken for granted before, are cheerfulness and non-attachment. Cheerfulness is about seeing the positive, being able to laugh about yourself and situations and seeing the potential in any situation however bleak it may look. Non-attachment is harder, but equally important to me. I have a saying, “it is what it is”, which helps me to free myself from ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’. This allows me to let go of things I can’t change, accept what is, and work on what I can do without pre-condition. Fortunately they are both so deep inside me I don’t often have to think consciously about how to behave in order to honour them. But if ever I find myself being pulled in a different direction one easy question helps me to re-orient myself: “what’s needed here, right now?”

By John Campbell

Executive coach, coach supervisor and consultant
Barrett Values Centre Accredited Partner


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