When you let go of what you are, you become what you might be. – Lao Tzu

Who are you?

No really. Let’s do a quick thought experiment. If I asked you that question, “Who are you?”, what would you say?

Image: A beautiful landscape of green wheat fields on one side and brown wheat fields on the other

Source: PxHere

Are you giving me your name, your profession, where you are from, and perhaps include your favorite pastimes in the description?

So here’s the next question: Who would you be if an accident took away everything that you could do; your profession, your hobbies, and all the self-worth and pleasure they gave you?

One last question: Is a tragedy truly tragic if it is the catalyst for our discovering all that we can become?

In this remarkable TED Talk, we meet the amazing Janine Shepherd, who was training for the Olympics when a tragic accident left her a partial paraplegic. She was once referred to as “Janine the Machine”, so what happens to all that identity when life makes a dramatic shift?

There is so much to say about Janine’s gift to us all. In her story, she frees us all from some heavy burdens we don’t even know we are carrying. Take a look…

So when we are facing an enormous loss, of any kind, is our life dashed on the rocks? Do we have to accept a “broken future”? Check out the short video in the following article if you want to smile all day!

5 minutes

The Boy Who Lifted 33,000 Spirits

Sometimes we meet a child who radiates such otherworldly wisdom and compassion that we have to ask the question, "Where does this energy come from?" Meet a profoundly wonderful little being. (5m)

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Transforming Loss into Opportunity

When I first saw Janine’s talk I thought back to my decades of sharing the lives of thousands of patients who faced tremendous change and loss. (Some of you know that I am the founder of Ever Widening Circles and also a dentist!) I was inspired to think about a few people in particular who have used the same resilient perspective to rebuild their lives in amazingly unexpected ways after tragedies.

Perhaps the spark for this kind of transformation is in us all and we need a reminder like this to realize that infinite possibilities are just waiting for our attention. In fact, the most creative and rewarding project anyone could ever embark on could be to completely rebuild a life.

Life is about opportunities, creating them and embracing them. — Janine Shepherd

If we take that thought process to the next level, should we be asking ourselves why it takes a tragedy to force us to consider more possibilities in our lives?

What if we looked at our futures like a beautiful, unfamiliar landscape that we have yet to cross and we placed our problems (large and small) in that landscape as hills and valleys, not barriers? And perhaps we see our crossing as completely untethered to any particular vehicle or fellow traveler. (A profession, hobby or particular relationships.)

Who knows what marvels and discoveries are waiting!

Back to earth now. How many opportunities are missed because we are defining ourselves with our job description, hobbies, and current relationships?

How often in life do we get to make friendships, judgment-free, and purely based on spirit? — Janine Shepherd

If nothing else, this is a great TED Talk to keep in the back of our minds, at the ready as we face our own inevitable challenges and losses.

Janine is the author of six books, including the newly released memoir Defiant: A Broken Body Is Not a Broken Person. She had one more quote I’d like to leave us with:

Though our bodies may be limited, it can be our spirit that is unstoppable. — Janine Shepherd

Have a great day. Stay open, curious and hopeful!

~ Dr. Lynda

Want to meet more amazing people?

See who you come across in this category!

Thought Leaders on EWC

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  1. “You Are Not Your Body: Janine Shepherd at TEDxKC.” YouTube, TEDxTalks, 1 Oct. 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX32U_hfri4. Accessed 2 Aug. 2018.

Dr. Lynda is a dentist, artist, global traveler, and philanthropist who looks for potential and shares it with the world. Hear her latest conversations with thought leaders on the Conspiracy of Goodness Podcast--new episodes every Wednesday!