Optimist, Realist or Something Else?

It has been two weeks since my accident. I fractured the back of my head; my chest and torso seemed to be filled with blood and my back is broken in three places, I think, plus some ribs.
I don’t know why the fall let me away so lightly and I am still trying to work out how I am still alive. Now, two weeks on, I do not feel like I am in danger of dying. But the question of what I should feel is on my mind now…

For the past 10 years I have been helping companies to redefine how they approach challenges and take action to deal with them. I tell people to deal in facts, make it happen and build the right team around them for the job.

It worked when I went blind and it worked for the South Pole, Gobi desert and all my adventure races. But right now I am nervous about applying my own code to my current situation.

I have no feeling from my belly button to my toes. Right now I cannot even turn onto my side. I am flat on my back in the most specialised spinal unit in the world and I am surrounded by guys who are currently paralysed from either the neck, chest or waist down. I am better off than many of these guys and worse than some. But the question that I cannot answer is – am I one of these guys at all?

The first step for me in a crisis is to start dealing in facts. But I am struggling to work out what they are. are my legs temporarily asleep or am I just in denial? If I embrace and accept that my legs are not working then will I shut off the power of the mind to fix what we do not understand?

I read a book called ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins once. He spoke about the Stockdale principle in relation to long term P.O.W. prison camps and how optimists were not the ones who survived. Realists did.

The reason was that the optimists kept thinking they would be free soon but they never faced the reality that they may never get out. As a result they were constantly disappointed and many died in their cells. But the realists dealt in facts. The reality of their current circumstances. They were the ones to survive.

I can deal in the reality of today. My legs don’t work, I am in hospital and the doctors cannot tell me if I will get any feeling back. This is the current reality.

What I do not know is should I be super positive and say I will make a full recovery or do I risk being a Stockdale optimist?

Or do I start preparing myself for never walking again?

Where is the line between being realistic and giving up. I am going to fight this but I don’t yet know what the fight is with. Operation, rehab, walking, wheelchair, north pole? I do know that I will eventually work it out. The only issue is time now…


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