Redefining Success During Times of Stress & Adversity

By Hacia Atherton

What we can learn from adversity and how we can utilize it to grow and achieve our own version of Success.

From a wheelchair to completing a 100km bike ride

In 2017, I was told by doctors that I would likely never walk again in a meaningful way. Three years and thirteen operations later, I have defied the odds, not only learning to walk again but also completing two 100km bike rides and achieving my CPA (certified practicing accountant) from my hospital bed. I credit my adaptability and resilience and my ability to redefine my version of success, as being vital in the fight to regain control of my legs (and life) which I hope will help others reposition challenges in their own lives.

During times like these, it’s all too easy to think we’ve fallen behind. I had always seen success as a very linear line that you had to climb up. It was black and white -if you hadn’t gone up then you had gone backwards – you were either going up the ladder or sliding down the snake (one of my favourite games as a little girl).

In 2017, I was pursuing my dream of representing Australia at the World Equestrian Games, when I was thrown from my horse during dressage training and crushed as the 600kg animal fell on top of me. In those short moments, the life that once felt routine changed forever.

There is nothing like having a horse crash into your lap to change your perspective on things! I am hoping by sharing my journey, I can help people learn from adversity without having to experience the agony and debilitating pain I have.

By Etty Fidele on Unsplash

It Starts With You

I used to see success as achieving something bigger and better than anything I had managed previously. My definition of ‘success’ was somewhat shaken as I transitioned from being a high-achieving and driven athlete to sitting in my adult nappies in a wheelchair after my accident. I quickly realised my perception of success had to change if I was to ever overcome the dark hole of depression I was choosing to sit in. The change came once I chose to redefine my subjective definition of success which also meant I had a new goal to focus on.

Define Today’s Race

Within seconds, life had literally pressed my reset button and sent me back to square one. Unable to walk, I had to objectively define what success looked like for me today, rather than what it looked like yesterday. My physio used to say to me “The objective of the race has not changed just the distance and requirements.” This made me realise each morning that I had to define what my race was for that day. I had to factor into the equation what was happening in life, in the environment around me and inside my own body.

To do this, I had to check in with what had happened the day before, my state of mind and my physical health. Was I exhausted and in lots of pain from a hard session the previous day? Was I excited for the day or did I want to pull the covers over my head? Do I have open wounds or have I been cleared to start weight-bearing? Yes, this is a lot to consider, and stressful times often feel overwhelming, but learning to overcome the adversity and focus on today was how I began to move up the ladders again.

By Sam Poullain on Unsplash

Success is not Linear

It’s so important to remember that success does not look the same each day. Some days success was just transferring out of bed so I could be wheeled outside into the sun, some days success was standing up unassisted, some days success was walking 100m with a walker and other days success was a 100km bike rides, 3Km swims, 5km walks/jogs. Success is an ongoing journey. Once I had finally recovered from one operation, often another operation was needed and my version of success has to be redefined again.

Find Your Courage

By redefining my personalised definition of success, I have been able to find and develop the courage to step outside my comfort zone, and this is where true growth happens. Remember a flower can not grow without rain. When we are faced with stress and adversity, we are faced with an opportunity to strengthen our courage and resilience, and through this process, we grow.

By Clay Banks on Unsplash

Celebrate the Wins

Not only is it important that you define success as relative to your current situation, taking into account your external environment and what is happening with you physically, mentally, and emotionally, but it is also essential to celebrate the wins. If you have a day where the world is on your shoulders, and you have been able to get out of bed, be proud of that and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small they might be.

© Copyright Hacia Atherton | Created by the team at Great Humans