The following is an inspirational Toastmasters speech written by Bob Ferland, who has learned to rise above any challange thrown his way….
Rising Above Perceptions
How do we define ourselves and others? How do we rationalize what is truly important?
Do we define ourselves by our appearance or looks?
How about physical strength, abilities, intelligence, or intellect?
What about material wealth?
All of the following factors play some role in who we are individually; as well as how we view others. It is up to us to personally prioritize what is truly important.
Let us begin by looking at first impressions. Based on how we feel when we first see somebody, we may unintentionally evaluate by appearance, or even by socioeconomic status, considering how neat or clean a person appears, as well as the condition or style of attire they are wearing. Whether we like to admit it or not, we are all prone to treating somebody who appears to be better off with a higher level of respect compared to somebody who does not appear to be as well off.
How about other factors, such as physical strength and abilities? How often do we inadvertently treat somebody better who is in shape, compared to somebody else who does not appear to be as physically fit.
We are all guilty of having preconceived ideas about people within certain areas, based on our own perception of normality.
What do you think about when you think about me?
Growing up with a disability, I’ve dealt with a number of perceptions. Let me help you rise above your perceptions.
No matter how hard I tried to walk normally, or play along as a youth with others, I had the perpetual feeling that no matter how hard I tried, I would never be able to participate or even compete at the same level as others without adversity. Negative thoughts that others potentially had about me was also a concern.
It is challenging to deal with things beyond your control.
However; allowing personal trials to govern your life, inhibiting you from reaching your full potential is NOT an option!
Since the age of five, I had a physical therapist who pushed me very hard. I learned how to set goals at a tender, young age. Each session consisted of muscle stretching and strengthening, as major leg muscles were spastic or perpetually tight.
Following the stretching, we would work on functional exercises; which would be little to no effort for a normal person, but was consistently an intense workout for me. These exercises involved standing out of a chair or attempting to walk within a straight line.
What made each of these exercises exceptionally challenging, was the fact that after my spastic muscles were stretched, I no longer had the strength, previously depended upon. I needed to supplement with my opposing non-spastic muscles, which are very weak, seeing the non-spastic muscles do not have an opportunity to work, consistently being overpowered by my spastic muscles.
From late grammar school through high school, my physical therapist had me work on running laps within the gymnasium. This was challenging enough with a balance problem. After each therapy session, having my leg muscles aggressively stretched, no longer able to utilize spasticity, I had no choice but to supplement with my weaker non-spastic muscles.
Each therapy session happened on a weekly basis. I would also train in the gym, nearly every day, prior to school, pushing myself to go further and further.
Initially when I first started, I was barely able to successfully complete half a lap around the gym, prior to feeling completely winded and no longer able to continue.
By the end of the school year, I was able to accomplish 10 laps around the entire gymnasium, even after feeling the effects of a cumulative therapy session.
Growing up and even now, I work so much harder than just about anybody else to simply get around.
In addition to physical therapy for my legs, I spent time in high school, college, and even today working out at various gyms on my upper and lower body.
Considering my past, I thrive on aggressive personal goals. My workouts begin with strength training, where I need to achieve 12 repetitions, twice in order to achieve goal at moderate weights.
The end of each workout is dedicated to cardio, spending “quality time” on the Elliptical. This simulates a natural running pattern that I am unable to acquire on my own. When I first started on the Elliptical, I used a consistently low ramp level with no resistance. My standard cardio goal was a full mile within 20 minutes. As time progressed, I steadily increased the ramp level and now run on Interval, where the ramp level and resistance changes every two minutes from ramp level four with no resistance to ramp level 10 with resistance level 8. Yes, I am tired after each workout!
No matter how challenging life becomes, I have learned to rise above, remaining focused on maintaining a positive attitude, even within challenging circumstances.
Life gives us two options.
One option is to accept defeat by quitting early.
The second option is to persevere and push through, no matter how challenging the situation appears.
The only limits that truly exist are the limits we establish for ourselves.
To summarize this speech, we all perceive things differently upon looking at ourselves and others. We may even think we are better off than somebody else, based on our own abilities or qualities we possess. I simply ask that we all look beyond what is seen on the outside and attempt to look at the heart of each person on the inside, determining what truly drives and motivates each of us to accomplish our daily and lifelong goals.
– Bob Ferland
Thomas B. Dowd III books The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World and From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide are available under “Products” on www.transformationtom.com. Book and eBook purchase options are also available on Amazon- Please click the link to be re-directed: Amazon.com