Stories of Gumption is a regular column that profiles individuals who admirably demonstrate Gumption as we define it. These are the stories of real people who exhibit gumption in overcoming personal challenges, and validate the spirit of Gumption during their journey. Let’s take inspiration from those who seize 100% personal responsibility and show us how to live a life that exhibits Gump-like character traits worthy of applause!
At the end of October I met a remarkable woman and fellow speaker Lois McElravy. The first thing I noticed about Lois was her energy and the way her presence brightened up the room. Her enthusiasm was infectious. We instantly bonded and are now friends.
About 20 years ago, a utility truck crashed into Lois’ car. Lois suffered a brain injury that changed everything and destroyed her life’s plan. Two years after the accident, doctors told Lois her brain would not improve but her abilities could improve if she learned compensatory skills. Over the next decade, Lois developed creative systems and strategies to counterbalance her organizational, planning, and memory deficiencies. She also learned how to protect her brain from the outside influences that caused rapid cognitive wear-down (i.e. If she doesn’t take care of herself she gets exhausted easily and can’t function effectively).
About 6 years ago (or 14 years after her injury), noticeable improvements to her brain functioning started to occur. The doctors attributed her brain’s regeneration to her ‘consistent effort of doing many small things over an extended period of time.’ Lois’ persistence and perseverance in learning compensatory skills was paying off.
Today, Lois’ motivational speaking business Lessons from Lois teaches others to ‘hang on with humor when life looks ugly.’ Her personal character demonstrates that ‘things are not always as they first appear.’ For these reasons, Lois is proudly featured in this edition of Stories of Gumption.
From Lois’ original quotes I learned “One of the burdens of living with a brain injury is that we don’t always know…that we don’t know. That is also one of the blessings. Because we don’t always recognize when things are not going well, we don’t get easily discouraged nor give-up. We keep trying, until we figure it out.” Integrity starts by being honest with yourself, your situation, your reality, and not giving up.
How can you be honest with others if you’re not honest with yourself?
Lois is acutely aware of her functional limitations (not to be confused with goal limitations). She understands when she’s getting tired and the effects that fatigue will have on her ability to function effectively. In order to meet her goals and maintain her sanity, Lois has made the choice to remain present and aware of her cognitive levels at all times.
What if we all became a little more like Lois in our awareness of our thoughts and actions? And how would that awareness affect our goals and sanity?
Adopting humor as a way of dealing with life’s ugliness is the greatest testimonial to Lois’ ability to be open and accepting. Being receptive to using humor to cope with a situation that instinctively calls for anger, frustration, and/or resentment shows openness. Lois says, “Laughter is your pressure relief valve.”
Are you open to using humor to thwart life’s disappointments?
Lois had a choice when the doctors said, “Your brain will not improve but your abilities could improve if you learn how to compensate.” She could have gone into despair and given up … or she could persevere for more than a decade before any significant improvement was detected.
When faced with misfortune, do you have the strength of character to choose to persevere for a decade? … or even a lifetime?
The utility truck crashing into Lois’ car destroyed her life’s dream. Over the next 14 years, she developed a new life dream and a new passion for living. Lois never lost hope and “when she least expected, something wonderful happened.”
Do you regularly look for the silver lining in a storm cloud? Do you make lemonade when you have nothing but a basket full of lemons?
As Lois’ friend, I’ve seen the frustration she experiences on a daily basis; the frustration of not being able to do simple things that others consider normal and take for granted; the frustration of constantly having to work within her limitations.
Lois’ universal message of “never give up or lose hope” motivates herself and others to keep doing the small things, overcoming the challenges, and achieving your life goals one day at a time.
Do you easily give up? … lose hope?
From the minute I met Lois she was 100% open about her abilities and limitations. She cautioned me as we started our friendship, “I will tell you if I can’t fulfill on a commitment and you can bail out on me if my limitations will hold you back … no hard feelings, no expectations.” Wow! Straightforward candid talk from the beginning … Simple is as simple does!
Do you enter friendships without expectations?
Lois told me that she relates to Forrest Gump because Forrest was a little slow; he was fully able to understand and have feelings … he just was a little slow to comprehend some things. Lois feels a little slow at times. At times it’s frustrating for her but she accepts it … she has chosen to accept it by “hanging on with humor when life looks ugly.”
What if we all were as fortunate as Lois and perfectly understood our functional limits?
Just because one has some personal limitations in their functioning does not mean they need to put limitations on their life goals.Lois is an inspiration because of her perseverance, her clear understanding of her personal limitations, and the good humor she chooses to utilize along her personal journey.
Lois McElravy is my friend and demonstrates vividly the spirit of Gumption!
Next Blog Title: The Swinging Pendulum of Opportunity and Adversity
Next Blog Date: December 16, 2010