After living with a long-term condition, serious illness or injury for a period of time, have you ever taken a decision that feels momentous to you in some way? Maybe you committed to doing something physically challenging. Or you just redid your CV and completed a job application in an effort to return to work or volunteer. Or you set yourself a rehabilitation goal to walk to the post box up the road from your house to get you out of your house and moving.
You feel excitement at the possibility of implementing your decision along with the very real scepticism of your body’s capability. Will your body be able to do what you want to do? Will you push your body too far?
I know that feeling all too well. Because I did something earlier this week I consider daft and brilliant in equal measure. So read on to find out what I did, and the 10 things I’ve used successfully in the past and will use again to make a big dream become a reality.
What I did
I entered the public ballot for the 2017 London Marathon. This is big, for me.
Why my BIG dream is a daft idea
I had my anterior cruciate and meniscus ligaments reconstructed in both knees.
Three years ago I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my right knee. The doctor said a knee replacement would eventually be needed. That’s when I shelved the idea of doing a marathon.
It’s ok if you are thinking, ‘She’s an idiot. There are other ways of getting fit and achieving something.’ I am having that same conversation with myself.
Yet sometimes, certain goals or commitments stay in your head and heart. They tug at you, inviting you to achieve them, looking so alluring you can’t help but have a go.
It’s been like that with the London Marathon. I’ve been supporting the Transverse Myelitis Society’s runners in the marathon and loved supporting them on their journey, the buzz of the crowd, and watching ordinary people of every shape and size having a go. It’s fun and I want to have a go too. But I am also mindful of my knees.
Why my BIG dream is a brilliant idea
I had an episode of Transverse Myelitis and live with ongoing residual symptoms. I get on with things ok including walking. So I’m going to use the abilities I have.
I like doing what I think might be impossible for me – accepting challenging jobs for which I didn’t have certain essential skills, or quitting smoking which I wasn’t sure I could, or taking part in the London Marathon. A big goal and the process of working towards it in small steps motivates me.
The London Marathon goal gives me an even greater focus to regain fitness, something I’ve been taking small measures to do the past two years.
But the goal has an additional purpose: to regain freedom of movement. Due to pain in my knees, I am more hesitant in how I walk and climb steps. Sometimes more than the situation actually warrants I think. Based on previous experience, when my body is more fit, the pain in my knees lessens, and I am freer in my movement.
How to make your big dream a reality
Based on my previous experience of quitting smoking, here are 10 things I learned to address to make a big dream a reality. I’ll be using them again and invite you to apply them to a big dream of yours.
1. There is sufficient motivation inside of you. You are making this dream a reality for you, not for anyone else (although others may benefit).
I knew I had to quit smoking for my health as I could feel my insides changing in a way I didn’t like. I was afraid of the long-term consequences. (Note: Fear doesn’t have to be your primary motivator.)
2. There is an element of challenge to your dream and so it feels big. You may be asking yourself, ‘Can I do this?’ Break down your dream into small goals. This is crucial.
Quitting smoking was my equivalent of swimming the English Channel. I had already tried quitting several times. I feared I could not do it. So I took it one day at a time, even one hour at a time. It was about making an active choice in the morning and throughout the day not to smoke.
3. Choose your support network
This is important. You need family and friends who will be your champions and cheerleaders. Choose people who are suited to helping in this way. I selected two friends who I was going to visit the weekend I chose to quit.
I chose them because they are some of the most accepting people I have ever met in my life, role model what they believe in, and don’t smoke. Being with such lovely and supportive people doing fun things in those early days helped. When I returned home, I kept them and their support close to me and it helped immensely.
4. Use what neuroscience has to offer in making consistent change.
5. Willingness to learn and use that learning.
This will support you through the challenging aspects of making your dream a reality.
6. Keep going. Tell yourself repeatedly, ‘I will do this. I am doing this.’
Persistence is a necessary ingredient to keep going. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Take it a day at a time and a small goal at a time.
7. Remind yourself of the progress you are making, however small.
I quit smoking cold turkey and chose not to use patches or gum. I have not smoked since despite experiencing cravings and some truly difficult times in the early weeks and years. In the difficult moments, I would tell myself how well I was doing by choosing not to smoke. I will be using that sense of pride in those achievements to help me on this journey.
8. Adjust the goal.
Moving forward to the London Marathon. If I don’t get a place in the public ballot, on the day, I can do the route on the side instead.
Also, I don’t plan to run. I will walk, a necessary adjustment.
9. It’s about the journey, not the destination.
If I get a place in the London Marathon, I might not finish it.
Or I may find in the course of training, that my knees are just not capable of walking 26 miles in one go.
That is ok. Finishing the marathon would be great. Not achieving the original dream, but learning, making those small incremental achievements along the way, and adjusting the dream will also be great.
10. Acting on your big dream reinforces your self-belief.
If you don’t believe in yourself,
if you don’t believe in your capabilities,
if you don’t believe in your ability to learn,
then who else will?
Believing in yourself first and acting on those beliefs enables others to believe in you.
What’s it like for you?
What big dreams are tugging at your heart? Have you made a big dream a reality? If so, what did you do that worked for you? Or are you just starting to take some early steps? Share below as I would love to hear about your experiences.
Pass it forward
Although these blogs are written in the context of living with serious illness or a chronic condition, the ideas contained within are applicable to everyone. So if you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading it, or you just want to share it with the world, share this post using the icons below.
I have started to research the concept of ‘acceptance’ within the context of long-term conditions and serious illness/injury. If you or a loved one experienced the onset of a long-term condition or serious illness/injury in the past 2 years and are struggling or wondering with what acceptance means for you, I would love to speak with you. Click here to find out more.
© Copyright Barbara Babcock 2016