I was sitting in what was really an epic training session today – part of the Power of Positive Leadership Training program, as I once again immersed myself in the principles that led to my transformation years ago. Once a believer that positivity was far too Pollyanna to create a winning environment or anything grounded in reality, I was thankfully introduced to the way Jon sees the world and my perception was wholly and irrevocably changed. Not only is his vision of positivity grounded in reality, it is so connected to where people are and what they need to move forward to a better future, that it is changing teams, companies, and leaders all over the world at an astounding pace and propelling them to real, measurable results.
Because I went into this training as a refresher, reviewing material I’m incredibly familiar with and prepared to share with the world as one of Jon’s speakers, I didn’t have any expectations of leaving with another moment that would be etched into my core being, but I did.
If you’ve read Jon Gordon and the Energy Bus or heard him speak, then you know this formula: E + P = O. Events plus your perception equals the outcome. In order to share this concept in the powerful manner that it deserves with the leaders I work with, I was searching my heart for an event that really highlights how perspective can change everything. I can think of small things, even the insignificant ones throughout the day that can make our lives more positive, but I knew there was something bigger.
That’s when I remembered, when it clicked, the powerful shift of perspective in the WINDOW.
It was August and scorching hot in Atlanta in 2014 when I went from getting to live my life, to suddenly standing inside, looking through a window, at the world I used to know. One day I was sitting in traffic on the highway, frustrated and feeling negative about the things I didn’t have time for piling up on my agenda and the Atlanta traffic which always made me crazy. I was hot, grouchy, running late and not very grateful for the freedoms all around me. I felt trapped in a life that was owning me. Little did I know about what being trapped could really feel like.
As things often happen, my life changed – altered in a breath, a pump of blood, a small tiny fragment that has brought down people of all ages in a split second. I found myself looking outside through that window at my old life, right over that very highway, and hoping and praying that there would be life outside for me once again.
A blood clot that traveled to my lungs didn’t take me, but it left me stranded in a tiny room on the top floor of an old hospital, with one lone window at the end of a short hallway. I spend nearly 6 weeks walking up and down it, outside my hospital room trying to keep from getting new clots in my legs while I healed. There’s a 1 in 4 chance of dying as the first symptom of a Pulmonary embolism and I had survived, but doctors were worried there could be more.
I wasn’t regulating on the new medications like I was supposed to, so I wasn’t allowed to go home. I was having allergic reactions to the new drugs they tried, I was having massive panic attacks where I couldn’t breathe from hyperventilating. My hair started falling out in chunks from the new medications and the stress. The hospital mixed up my food order and fed me foods I was allergic to and so more specialists had to come in for GI bleeds. I had to have heart and brain scans looking for more damage from the clots.
My complaints outside that window before my life changed direction suddenly seemed very small. My kids had their first day of school, in a new city without me to send them off or ask them about their day, or make their lunches or even see their first day outfits that year because I was stuck walking up and down that hallway. I vividly remember standing at the window feeling helpless, trying to cry as silently as possible so no one would feel sorry for me, as I could see both the outside world that I longed to get back out into, combined with my reflection – hospital gown, messed up hair, IV Pole, and a lot of fear and uncertainty.
Outside that window I could see people living their daily lives. I began to recognize them as they arrived at the hospital to work, or to visit people. I could hear conversations going on around me. Nurses, visitors, doctors. All I could think about was how they got to go home at the end of the day, that they got to leave this stupid hallway. They often complained about school events, traffic, laundry, arguments with their families. I couldn’t believe how much I was longing to be them, the people outside the window who worried about everyday things, who weren’t trapped there. I would have given anything to get to the other side of that window, back to my old problems, my old worries, my old life.
Eventually I made it outside, I was sent back home to rebuild my daily life into a semi-familiar routine. But it didn’t feel the same. There was a fear that had never been there before, a reminder of the fragility of life that was still incredibly raw and fresh. I will never forget my first morning after leaving the hospital. There was some fear of being away from medical care in case I had a new clot, a common piece of the PTSD that often follows an embolism.
I was afraid to go to bed that night, but I prayed myself to sleep eventually. The next morning my alarm went off. I didn’t turn it off. I didn’t hit snooze. The sound that I have dreaded for as long as alarm clocks have been made was like angels singing. I held onto my phone and cried as it relentlessly beeped at me. I had woken up, I was still here.
It’s a memory that I will never forget. It’s not like I love getting up in the morning everyday now, I’ve never been much of a morning person. But even in the uncomfortable moments, in the things I don’t necessarily enjoy doing, there is an element of gratitude that I will never lose.
I’m outside the window, and every time I drive by a hospital, I look at the windows and I remember that no matter what I face, I am free and I am incredibly grateful for another day.
What perspectives influence your outcomes? What life do you want to live and how can you build it?
“How you see the world, determines the world that you see.” Jon Gordon