Bizarrely, injury reminded me of when our babies were born. Initially you’re showered with so much attention it’s almost overwhelming. Then, without warning they’re gone. Except with a baby you’ve gained, well, a baby. In the case of my injury I gained a surgical boot.
There are few things that give us the opportunity to get to know ourselves better than a long term injury or illness. Because friends and family, no matter how supportive and considerate they are, have their own lives to live. That means, as you move away from being overly dependent and able to do more for yourself, you’ll find yourself alone a lot of the time. This means you’d better figure out a way to enjoy your own company for a while. And it can be one the most crushing or liberating learning opportunity you’ll ever experience. Which one it becomes is up to you.
First up, Discipline. You’re going to have face up to your weaknesses. You know what they are. And believe me, it’s at times like this they’re waiting to pounce. You need to take control at a time the so many things usually under your control have been taken away. How? Follow Rule #2. Create fresh purpose for yourself.
The footballer, Per Mertesacker, told me that when he suffered a long term injury to his knee that meant he would be effectively be bed bound for the first six weeks of rehabilitation, his first commitment to himself would be that he would lose, rather than gain weight. Every gift of his beloved white chocolate he received he put straight into a drawer and refused to touch. That was my inspiration.
In my case, I resolved that, where I could, I was going to come out of my injury better than when I started. That was my purpose. As soon as I had decided that, I needed to figure out some goals that I could work towards that, once achieved, would fulfil my rehabilitation purpose. I adopted Per’s ‘no chocolate’ rule. A rule that I was severely tempted to break several times in the first week of (a) feeling sorry for myself and (b) being presented with multiple chocolates from well-wishers. By reminding myself that I was considering placing more importance on my tastebuds than my health I overcame.
Sticking to that one simple decision created a huge domino effect. By resolving to refuse chocolate, every other eating decision I made became about getting the right nutrients to aid my recovery – rather than guzzling sugar and fat to salve my misery.
My physical goal, I addition to doing everything my injury would permit me to by way of exercise, became about being leaner and cleaner. Five weeks in and not only is it working but I’m getting the additional benefits from the buzz of achieving a goal.
I did’t stop there. I looked at all sorts of reframed purpose. Dealing solely with my body was’t enough to fill the hours. I had a thinking and an emotional self to deal with. I’ll explain a bit about those in other blogs but for now, what about you? I suggest you have a go.
If you want to follow a self-imposed ban on chocolate be my guest but what is it you can do that the uninjured or healthy you simply wouldn’t or couldn’t do? Read a particular book? Maybe write a book?! Brush up on your holiday Spanish? Touch your toes? Play guitar? Fill your boots (that’s to a purpose, just a turn of phrase).
Find yourself a fresh purpose – it’s the best gift you could give yourself. Of course, once you have chosen your purpose, the usual rules of goal setting apply.
Finally, don’t worry if you’re already several weeks in and feel a little lost. Like anything else in life it all starts today. It’s up to you to make the most of it.
I’d love to hear your own experiences . Please send your stories and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is part of a series
This article is from the Performance Life channel.