Learning to walk again

Having something to work towards changes everything

The pain was excruciating. Even moving two metres to the bathroom was a huge struggle. I was lying in a hospital bed with complications after leg surgery and getting up was a big deal. My leg was cramped in a bent position and I wasn’t able to straighten it.  

But more than that. I was confused and discouraged. I didn’t know what the problem was. And I didn’t know what needed to happen for me to get better. I felt helpless.

After several days of desperation, I finally learnt what was going on. The simple advice from the surgeon was this:”get up and walk; lots and lots; walk through the pain. You can go home once you can walk and straighten your leg flat on the bed”.  

This changed everything. Suddenly I had a goal: I wanted to get out of hospital. I could see what I needed to do to make that happen. I needed to be able to show the surgeon I could straighten my leg and walk. What’s more, I knew what I needed to do to achieve that: take on board whatever painkillers were needed so I could get up and walk up and down the corridors of the ward. Over and over again. I needed to keep working to straighten my leg a little bit more each time.

Here’s the thing: Nothing had actually changed about my condition, but now I had control over what was going to happen. And that made all the difference.

So I worked conscientiously doing what needed to be done, walking and straightening and pushing through the pain. Next morning the surgeon was surprised to see my progress, comfortable with my recovery and I was discharged that afternoon. I had learnt to walk again!              

Here’s what I learnt: It matters having something to work towards - a goal, a vision, a better future. This then paves the way for more concrete next steps that we can do to make that goal a reality. Having control over our next steps helps build our confidence. We have a sense of agency - we know we can change. Striving towards a goal helps us feel good. And this improved wellbeing spurs us on to achieve more. And herein lies the paradox: healthy goal pursuit can help us live more fully in the present. 

I’m not keen on over-prescribing our goals so they become rigid and inflexible. Sometimes we need wriggle room to learn and grow, to make mistakes and to revisit our intentions. But nevertheless, having something worthwhile to work towards matters more than we realise

What are your goals for 2019?

How can you support others as they strive to achieve goals that are meaningful for them?  


How can you come alongside others in their learning journey and help them gain clarity around their next steps?


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