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Just three little words – Yes. I. Can.
Within them, they hold the energy and power to make monumental changes, overcome the largest of obstacles, stay on course, and never give up. We can take time out to evaluate and make appropriate corrections, but we don’t give up. We continue with reflection, purpose, and intention.
I first discovered how powerful those three little words were years ago when my husband and I listened to doctors tell us that our ten-month old son was “A-mi-tonic quadriplegic,” a term I never heard before or since, but it basically told us that our son would have little to no control over his muscles. Oh, and they didn’t think he had much intellect, either.
For five days the doctors had performed intensive tests, trying to discover why our son couldn’t hold up his head. Phrases like “cerebral palsy,” and “little to no intelligence,” were spoken as casually as if they were a weather forecast. My husband and I struggled with the enormity of it as we left the hospital and tried to think of ways we could share this news with our other two children. How would we meet the needs of our family?
Growing up in a Christian home, I believed in God and the power of prayer. While I had always said prayers, I rarely said them on my knees. I learned a lesson in humility that day. At home, alone in my bedroom, I sank to my knees in prayer. I knew I couldn’t simply ask God to make everything return to normal – my son obviously had a serious muscular and structural problem, even if I could not agree about the lack of intelligence. He was unable to hold up his head, after all.
So, my prayer was for strength, courage, and wisdom to raise our son and to find ways to make his life as normal as possible. As soon as the words were spoken, I was flooded with an incredible sense of peace and confidence, and I rose from my knees energized, hopeful, knowing we could do this.
We were not only given strength and courage that day, but many other blessings as well. Several days later, we were told by an intervening doctor that Don did not have cerebral palsy, nor was he mentally challenged, and he was not a quadriplegic. But he had been born with missing and weak muscles in his neck along with other muscle weaknesses in his body. Although the diagnosis was less severe, his life was going to be a challenge for him and for us as parents.
We created a home environment where he could maximize his talents and abilities. He was extremely creative and had incredible drawing skills.
While the muscle weakness affected parts of his back and shoulders, it did not affect his arms or hands. Don was fitted with a specifically designed brace so he could walk, and he started drawing as soon as he could hold a pencil.
Later in life he had surgeries on the Achilles tendon in both legs and a back fusion when he became a teen. As an extremely gifted and talented artist, he went on to college and lived an independent life as a conceptual artist.
I share this personal life event because I learned two important things.
First, the importance of prayer.
And second, that if God gives us hope and strength, we need to put them into action.
And that is where “Yes I can” became a permanent part of our vocabulary.
Because without a “Yes I can” attitude, it would have been impossible to give our son the independence and freedom it took to live life to the fullest. It meant allowing him to fall, get hurt, and try again. It meant trusting God in the process and believing in our son.
Without a “Yes I can” mindset, Don would never have gained that inner strength and confidence to become a conceptual artist and independent contractor in one of the most difficult industries and cities in the U.S. – Los Angeles.
Throughout his life, Don believed in himself and his ability to do things. He did not let anything deter him from creating a successful career as an artist. Although it wasn’t easy, he never questioned his ability to make things happen. And he never looked at himself as handicapped. He was loved and respected by many and developed a large circle of friends who never saw him as disabled, either. Cancer took my beloved son in 2009.
“Yes, I can” is a mindset that takes whatever life has to offer and turns it into something positive and productive.
Surrendering to God in prayer is an understanding that we can’t do it all by ourselves. It frees up our energy to move forward with confidence in meeting whatever challenges we face. It allows us to be pro-active, resilient, flexible, and roll with the punches instead of becoming resentful and angry. God gave us peace and strength so we could turn that initial shock into a will to make life happy and normal.
“Yes, I can” sets us free from self-incriminating doubts, uncertainty, and on-going anxiety.
Yes, we will doubt. Yes, we will feel overwhelmed. Yes, we will have anxiety and fear. But we can turn all of these into something productive when we choose to focus instead on what we can do instead of what we can’t do. It gives us the will to look for solutions, and the energy to carry them out.
Try it – you might be surprised. We choose our thoughts, our mindsets, and attitudes. These influence our responses to whatever challenge life throws at us.
My book, Make Stress Work for You! 12 Steps to Understanding Stress and Turning it into a Positive Force, outlines ways to overcome obstacles in life.
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