I’ve been keeping a distant eye on the recovery of Gabby Giffords after she survived a gunshot wound to the head in 2011. As someone working in rehabilitation, I admire her persistence and determination to keep setting goals. Although she continues to have difficulty with finding words and lifting her right arm, she sets goals for herself that ensures she keeps pushing forward.
Obviously, I don’t know Gabby Giffords myself (although I would love to have a chat), but I have seen enough of traumatic brain injury rehabilitation to know that it is a hard slog – emotionally and physically. In that context, what a remarkable thing it is for her to keep lifting, in spite of what must be a heavy load. So how do we keep motivated to improve when the odds are stacked against us? In the context of therapy (for ANY kind of speech/language difficulty), what can help someone to keep plugging away?
Here are my 5 Rehab Motivating Be’s:
- Be SMART. We all love a good acronym, but this one is particularly helpful. Goals should be Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. Imagine constantly setting yourself goals that were not realistic, or could only be achieved in a few years time. Long term goals are GREAT, but that is a long road. Setting short term, smaller goals in order to get to the major stuff is vital for keeping up motivation.
- Be inspired by tiny triumphs and major milestones. I ride horses. Before I learnt to gallop, I had to learn how to get on a horse, control the horse, trot and get off a horse. The same thing applies for rehabilitation. Small triumphs are significant in the direction that they take us. In speech and language rehabilitation, persistence pays – but often not with sudden changes. Find a way to celebrate each step.
- Be focused. Have a strategy. When it is working, stick to it. BUT…
- Be flexible. Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.” “The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Sometimes things won’t go as planned. Be prepared to re-evaluate how things are done and where you want to go.
- Be part of a team. Find a speech therapist that you enjoy working with, and one that makes you work. I have also found that surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family is also important. Share plans and share ideas.
Here I am going to hark back to one of my favourite concepts, as articulated well by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do, not that the nature of the thing itself has changed but that our power to do is increased.” This principle can apply to all of the 5 Be’s.
Gabby Giffords is just one of many who are working incredibly hard to achieve their rehab goals – some of which are not directly ‘rehab’ related. Earlier this year Gabby Giffords did a sky dive and just yesterday threw the opening pitch at a softball match. Big things; but they required every small step to get there. To quote Churchill: “Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small.”
Watch the first pitch here: Gabby Giffords throws first pitch at softball game, delivers ‘some high heat’
For further information about TBI rehabilitation – here are a few more inspiring (and sobering) stories from our previous blog ‘The Young Faces of TBI’
Results focused speech therapy in Sydney
If you have questions about difficulties with speech, contact your local doctor who will arrange for you to see a speech pathologist.