In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor describes a mental path that leads us from setback "to a place where we are even stronger and more capable than before” (the Third Path, p. 108). When we feel helpless or hopeless, it’s easy to stop believing that such a path exists – so we don’t even bother to look for it. However, people who can most successfully pick themselves up off the mat are those who define themselves not by what has happened to them, but by what they can make out of what has happened. These are the people who use adversity to find a path forward.
1. Start by resetting your “counterfact” and explanatory style.
- A “counterfact” is an alternate scenario that our brains create to help us evaluate and make sense of what has happened. What’s your counterfact for life with MS? Make it a positive one – one that makes you feel better (for example, that MS is not the “end of the world”) – to help you achieve a positive mindset.
- Our “explanatory style” is how we each choose to explain the nature of past events. Can you interpret adversity in an optimistic way – as narrow and temporary (as opposed to far-reaching and permanent)? Our beliefs directly affect our actions. By interpreting adversity in an optimistic way, you can open yourself up to a whole host of benefits that accompanies a positive mindset. Learn more in The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor.
2. Continue with self-advocacy, which means speaking up for yourself. It refers to our ability to effectively communicate an interest, desire, need, or right — and negotiate to resolve it. It also means making informed decisions and taking responsibility for them. Effective self-advocates understand individual strengths and needs, identify personal goals, and recognize legal rights and responsibilities. The National MS Society provides self-advocacy resources to help you with this step.
The following resources may help you become better empowered to manage the day-to-day challenges of life affected by MS. Start with a personal call-to-action checklist.
- Connect with others with similar interests and experiences through the Society’s online community at MSconnection.org, as well as “Ask an MS Navigator” your questions within the community, or
- With National MS Society self-advocacy resources and online courses, or
- Identify your strengths and exercise them. For example if you love learning, learn about international research projects to stop MS in its tracks, restore lost function and end MS forever on the Society’s website through podcasts and personal stories, or
Discover new strengths and capabilities, like:
- Healthy Living is possible in spite of MS. You have control over your health and well-being even if you can’t make MS go away.
- Travel and Recreation for all levels of financial ability and mobility.
- Function, Independence and Mobility because there is more to staying active than walking (and believing that is empowering and liberating!)
- Activism, or
- Straighten out your Insurance and Money Matters with information and sound strategies for financial and life planning – and you’ll feel more in charge. Or
- Think about family in whatever way works for you – having kids, not having kids, parenting with a disability – or take advantage of Pregnancy and Reproductive resources, or
- Learn about the power of sharing your story as a way to build self-assurance. Visit Julie Stachowiak, Ph.D.'s blog on About.com, Jason DaSilva’s “When I Walk”, blog: Wheelchair Kamikaze, Life with MS by Trevis Gleason, Lisa Emrich’s Brass and Ivory: Life with MS & RA blog or Carnival of MS Bloggers, or
- Make the most of internet search with keywords like “how to become empowered”
- Through the Society’s 50-state network of chapters. Counseling, Support Groups (traditional and non-traditional like supper clubs and hiking) and other resources can be found by calling the Society at 800-344-4867 or by searching your local chapter website, or
- Recreation and volunteering can have a meaningful, positive impact on your attitude – it can also help you gain motivation or sense of achievement, explore new experiences, interests and hobbies, meet a diverse range of people, and be a part of your community. Get Involved with the National MS Society special events, and visit Can Do MS for additional activities, or
- Get involved locally with organizations like community resource or recreation centers, churches, synagogues or other faith-based organizations
Learn more through multimedia