Overcoming Adversity- The Paralympian Stories

Overcoming Adversity- The Paralympian Stories

22/05/2017 - Rose Osemwengie
We have arrived at that time of #Rio2016 when we get to watch super humans in action. Humans who have defied the odds and gone against doctors’ and society’s expectations and achieved the incredible.

Paralympians are examples of individuals with a Winning mind-set that former government communications chief Alastair Campbell describes in his 2015 book Winners: And How They Succeed as the tipping point from technically gifted to attaining a legendary status.

For our recent Winning Attitudes white paper, we had the pleasure of interviewing some of these legends who shared with us their inspiring stories of success. Ricky Balshaw, Para-Equestrian (Dressage), who was born with cerebral palsy fought off the limitations of this life-changing diagnosis by taking up horse riding and going on to secure the silver medal for Great Britain.

Following this success however, Ricky has been thrown off his horse at three different occasions, each time sustaining serious injuries- at this point most people would think maybe it was time to give up the sport, I know I certainly would. These setbacks haven’t stopped him, he has a Growth Mind-set (Dweck, 2010), the mental make-up to continually overcome adversity, becoming a stronger force as a result. In fact, after being thrown of his horse and breaking his back, his initial thought was “I just wanted to get back on the horse”.

Speaking in our white paper, Ricky Balshaw attributes his success to his Single Minded Focus- having a high attention to detail and focusing on perfecting the small, daily tasks. Having this Winning Attribute entails planning for both successes and failure and effectively prioritising tasks to ensure the best possible outcome. This is aptly summarised in his quote “Medals aren’t won in the arena, they are won when training at home”.

Martin Hewitt, another of our Winning Contributors was a former Army Captain. He was shot whilst leading an assault in Afghanistan and the injury rendered his right arm paralysed. Nevertheless, he was determined not to let his situation detail his life and went on to form a Disabled Ski Team, representing Great Britain in the Paralympic World Championships. In 2011, Martin walked unsupported to the North Pole with his Walking With The Wounded team and Prince Harry. In our Winning Attitudes paper, Martin offers his insight on how to tap into this super human potential. He shares:

“You have got to believe in what you are doing, find it in you to want to fight for it. You need to push yourself to deliver at all times. You choose to work; it’s about the determination to succeed.”

This Dogged Determination Martin speaks off entails picking yourself up when things do not go to plan. Winners remain mentally resilient through adversity, working hard and trying even harder, even when the odds may not be in their favour.

Another key to achieving the impossible is Realistic Optimism- the ability to turn a negative situation into a positive one, whilst adding a dose of reality- as Martin says “You need to be a realist but an optimist”. Winners are comfortable taking risks and are willing to take calculated risks in order to survive.

The people around you can play an essential part in drawing on your strengths whilst overcoming life’s adversities. The Walking With The Wounded team drew strength and support from one another as they faced severe temperatures and obstacles on their North Pole climb. Although it is important to be a Networker, building relationships and extending your professional network, Martin says it is also important to carefully “…pick and choose the people around you to be successful”.

Drawing example from Jim Roberts who went from being a healthy student at Coventry University to suddenly being diagnosed with meningitis B, it would be naïve to think we are immune from life’s adversities. However, going from the point of wishing for death to competing for the Great Britain Wheelchair Rugby team, Roberts believes that “you have to reach your personal rock bottom before you can pick yourself back up”.

Paralympians are a testament of what we can achieve as humans, we just need to draw on the resilience to accomplish this, as Arnold Schwarzenegger beautifully summarises: “Strength does not come from Winning. Your struggles develop your Strengths. When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is the true Strength.”

To read more around a Winning Mind-set and what makes up a Winning Attitude from the point of view of 42 business savvy corporate CEOs and edgy entrepreneurs, committed Olympic and sporting stars through to charismatic media personalities, please take a look at our Winning Attitudes White Paper.

Written by Rose A. Osemwengie


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