Getting up after a setback is tough for anyone.
But what if that setback pits your body against your mind in unimaginable ways, and you physically cannot get up?
At age 15, this was Rodney Flowers’ reality. He experienced a tragic football injury that left him paralyzed, and it shattered his dream of playing in the NFL. During his keynote at the NextGen Government Training Summit, Flowers vividly recalled the play-by-play moments leading up to his injury, his mom rushing to the field in tears, and the helicopter ride to Duke Medical Center.
His on-field collision left him with a bruised spinal cord, and a life-altering choice to make at such a young age. In the midst of a diagnosis that he would be paralyzed from the neck down for the rest of his life, he asked himself a profound question: “What were some of the things that I was going to do to even get to a place where I could overcome?”
Flowers, an internationally recognized transformational speaker and resilience and reinvention expert, shared his principles of self-empowerment and positive thinking with NextGen attendees Thursday. NextGen is a two-day professional development summit geared toward government employees.
He challenged attendees to focus on five fundamental qualities that can help them to manage their mindset through immense change and win in every situation.
- Practice mindfulness
How do you overcome a challenge when you’re told there is no cure, no pill or no procedure to fix it? Those were the odds Flowers was up against. He quickly realized that his road to recovery would depend on his ability to manage his thoughts and feelings.
“I had to get to a place where I started practicing mindfulness,” he said. “That is when I began to see the opportunity with what I was dealing with.” He asked himself a series of questions: What could I gain out of the situation? What impact would I have on the world? What if I could overcome this?
“I changed what I thought about my situation,” Flowers said.
- Be true to your core values
Flowers recalled doctors sharing examples with him of people who suffered tragic events but went on to live successful lives after accepting and living with their injuries.
“That was OK; there was nothing wrong with that,” Flowers said. “But it was not a part of my core values.”
His message: “If there is something you want out of life, you go after it with everything.” Your core values drive your behavior, your processes and your life, even when the odds are against you.
- Practice patience
“It took a long time for me to get where I am right now,” Flowers said. “It took 18 years for me to start walking again with crutches. I’m still not completely where I want to be, but patience is a major part of managing your mindset.”
Take COVID-19, a very real threat that we are all facing. We want things to get back to normal, but we are in the middle of a process. When we go through a process, we are able to challenge assumptions and mindsets and ultimately grow.
- Remain flexible
The outcomes that Flowers had prayed for and visualized did not pan out quite the way he hoped it would. He visualized a full recovery, where he was walking and running without crutches.
“We have to remain flexible in our thinking,” he said. Flowers challenged attendees to celebrate and build on small wins, even if those wins don’t look the way they had envisioned.
- Embrace authenticity
Embracing authenticity is not just about being your “real self.” There could be things about your real self that may not serve you, and it is not OK to believe that’s just the way you are, especially when there is something that you want to overcome.
Flowers explained that “sometimes you have to meet yourself where you are.” He does a self-assessment regularly to better understand what personality traits or ways of thinking are getting in his way.
His advice: Identify areas where you can improve and take action.
“These are not the types of things that you do and you are done,” Flowers said of the five qualities. “These are the things you want to address over and over again.”