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Everybody thinks they know what YOU can and can't do.

They are wrong.

Message 14, January, 2021

Dear Guest,

In my last message, I told part one of the story of healing after my car accident in 2008 (it’s message 13 - read it here or listen to it here - I got a little emotional in the recording, I know).

Today, I have to tell you part two of the story, which was what happened after one of my doctors told me they expected I would have a limp for the rest of my life. This is when it started to become so clear to me that mostly, people feel compelled to tell us that we have limitations. And that we are supposed to believe in their limitation stories. I’m not exaggerating at all when I say this changed my life completely.

I remember so clearly the day my orthopedist looked at me with his most stoic expression. He said, “Kay, we have some bad news for you. We think you’re going to have a limp for the rest of your life.”

I sat for a minute, just thinking through his words, and then I said to him, “You know what? I don’t do limitations. So you tell the team that I want to be pushed, because I’m not going to live with a limp.”

Those words just popped out of my mouth and they surprised me a little. But you know who they really surprised? My doctor. And that appointment ended in a big hurry after that. He told me he would put a note in my file and make sure everybody would see it, and then he left.

At the time, I was confused by his reaction. I just didn’t understand that the default for most people is a conversation that goes like this instead. Doctor (or mother or sister or boss or whoever): “We think you won’t be able to do this.” You (or any typical human): “Okay. What do you think I can do?”

Over the next few weeks, every person on the team taking care of me - more doctors, a lawyer and all the paralegals, my physical therapist and my yoga teacher - made a point to tell me how it stood out to them to see the note in my file: Patient doesn’t want to have a limp, wants to be pushed to full mobility. My lawyer, who  had been in practice for 30 years, actually said, “I’ve never seen anything like that in a doctor’s notes before.”

My physical therapist told me that he had never worked with a patient who actually did their recommended therapy exercises at home. A lot claimed to be doing their therapy, but nobody - and he said nobody - actually did. Except me. I didn’t do it because I was trying to be perfect, but because my purpose was driving me to physically recover from my accident.* I believed I could recover. So, I did everything that was within my power to make it happen.

Maybe I’m a fighter (that’s another thing people like to say to me: “Oh, you’re strong, you’re a fighter”) but I really want to give myself some credit for cracking the code. For seeing through the layers of garbage and realizing that nobody has the right to hold me to their expectations of what I can and can’t do, or should and shouldn’t do.

And giving myself permission to choose my own beliefs and to go after my goals and dreams. 

I’m no unicorn. There’s no magical reason I can do this. If I could figure it out and do it, anybody can. But I do know that one of the first steps you have to take is very hard. You have to be willing to question it when someone who cares about you tells you what they think you can and can’t do. It's just an opinion. Knowing it’s ok to disagree and push back and be uncomfortable means I am willing to face some mighty awkward conversations like the one with my doctor.

These days, my most meaningful moments happen when I get to remind someone that they can do anything, no matter what somebody else believes. As a caregiver, I remind my mom that she’s not too old to do anything she wants. As a mom, I remind my teenagers that the only things standing in their way are the things they believe are standing in their way. And as a coach, I always catch my clients telling me stories about their limitations, and I get really curious about what they believe.

The only limitations we have are the ones we choose to believe in. If this makes you feel worked up, and like you want to argue with me about your limitations, great, I welcome that! Because that’s the first step - notice it and question it. Tell me what your limitations are so we can get this conversation started. Your dreams are too important to let your beliefs about what you can and can’t do get in your way any more.  

I think you're really going to like the next message in this series. Because I'm going to tell you why it's ok to be thinking and feeling whatever you're thinking and feeling.

Please let me know if you can relate to this, or if you have any thoughts or  questions, by leaving a comment here.

Kay Coughlin

*My mental recovery is another story. I had PTSD until a couple of years ago. I would be in a car, driving or as a passenger, and have a panic attack. I learned to use my coaching training to coach myself through it and it’s just not a problem any more. I’m able to be at peace with it most of the time now, instead of resisting it and making it worse. Thankfully, now I only have to deal with a PTSD attack very occasionally. If you want help noticing your thoughts so you, too, can be at peace some day, take a look at my free “Thought Download Cheat Sheet” for caregivers.  


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Copyright 2020, Facilitator On Fire, Galena, OH, 43021, 614.426.8062

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