At first glance, selecting a person living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) as your guest speaker may seem an interesting choice for a state conference whose focus is workplace change management.
However, after further consideration it actually makes sense. Someone living with a spinal cord injury has experience not only adjusting to life with a disability, but ever changing roles and needs. In March, Darron Shields from PBF Australia shared his story and motivated outlook on life with over 450 TAFE Queensland employees, who are about to embark on their own journey of change within their organisation.
“Darron spoke of the importance of safety and had an inspiring story of how to accept and move on when a large change occurs in our lives” – Ana Rodger, Executive Director Education and Training, TAFE.
We all deal with change through our lives.
Having the will to change is merely the first step. Adjusting to a spinal cord injury is a life-long process. In the beginning your adjustment focuses on dealing with the loss and learning about your new body. Over time you find the will to accept the changes, learn and master the new skills required, and how you can integrate them into daily life.
The next step is re-assessing your roles in life. The role that you had (as dad or mum, at work, as a partner or a friend) in comparison with the new role that has been given to you. There is no question that the level of change is significant, but depending on what stage you are at in your life when the spinal injury occurred, having the mind set to adjust or remove certain life roles is different for everyone. The only way forward is to deal with the frustrations and develop ways in which to make these new roles practical, productive and meaningful. You may lose some old responsibilities but also gain some new ones along the way.
When addressing your changing needs your mind set has a huge impact on your emotional state. Specific cultural and mental adjustments may arise that require constant work every day. These emotions affect not only you but everyone who is involved in your life and the adjustment process. It is vitally important to accept support from your family and friends but still maintain some control of your future. Just like you should accept support from your work colleagues when undergoing changes in the workplace. If left alone emotional reactions can become an issue that limit or prevent you from taking part and moving forward with these changes.
People who are living with a disability are more willing to accept change because of the journey they have already been on. They have learnt not to sweat the small stuff or let things break you, so they can still move forward with their lives. During his presentation Darron shared with his audience the most prolific thing that was said to him in rehab – “you are not ill, you are here to learn how to deal with the changes in your life.”
PBF presenters are fully engaged in the world around them. Leading active and meaningful lives and spreading PBF’s message of safety in their local communities. Yes there is a period of adjustment after incurring a spinal cord injury. Just like there is a period of adjustment with any dramatic change in your life. But it is important to see the whole picture as you are more than just one part.
“I walked away from Darron’s speech feeling inspired and wanting to better myself both in my work life, and personal life” – TAFE Queensland Employee.