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  • Writer's pictureby Diane Watson

Lessons Learned from a Broken Wrist

Last spring, I was working from home on a busy day. I finished a call, checked the time and realized that I had 40 minutes before my next phone meeting. It was a beautiful day and I decided to clear my head with a quick walk. While heading home I passed a neighbor who was walking her dog. She had a lot on her mind and wanted to talk. Not just chitchat but real talk. One topic led to another and in my mind I could see the 40-minute window slamming shut.

I started closing the conversation as diplomatically as possible while backing away to make my escape. A curb thwarted my plans. I fell extending my left hand to break the fall but instead broke my wrist. Oh, the pain … of the wrist, the surgery, the additional medical bills, the wasted time, and the silliness of the whole situation.

And then came the occupational therapy. My goal was full recovery of the range of motion in my wrist . . . overnight! I thought recovery was simply about stretching my muscles, tendons, and fascia. My therapist told me that it was also about rewiring my brain. My friend, the brain, had to realize that it was safe for me to use my wrist and hand accompanied with foreign objects (a plate and screws) planted in my bones. My physical recovery was going to be accomplished by retraining my brain through small, focused steps purposely built on each other. As a coach I could relate and commit to this process!

Through purposeful and painful therapeutic exercises, my wrist began to become more flexible. My goals were to increase the wrist movement each week. I had the added benefit of recovery of my confidence and spirit. In a relatively short period of time I realized that I was using my wrist without even thinking about it. Soon I had full range of motion back without pain . . . all in three-and-a-half months! (Not bad for a 65-year old.)

The steps taken for physical recovery are true for the steps we must take for any goal in our lives. We focus on our desired outcome and commit to consistently take small, purposeful steps toward that outcome. The outcome may require a mental stretch we have never taken before but by retraining the brain with small, consistent steps we can make that stretch . . . perhaps in a shorter amount of time than we thought possible!

I employed the steps I provide for others in coaching them through change. Once again I understood the benefits of coaching as I pulled myself through this retraining situation. It may be helpful to you to explore how a coach works by looking at the steps.

First, I acknowledged the situation that required change and named the challenges I would face: I needed to fully accept my responsibility in the physical therapy process to get back to full working order. Anger was an ever-present challenge as I started the process. This was not good for therapy. Time spent in pulling apart the anger was essential in understanding its source as I moved toward calm. I was not so much angry with my neighbor as myself. If I had been more willing to speak up about guarding my time, I would not have fallen. Lesson learned – anger gone – moving on. My brain got it. Ready to retrain.

Second, I clearly identified my goal – increased wrist movement each week until full recovery of my wrist. It would have been easy to just say I wanted my wrist healed but I needed to state goals for a period of time so I wouldn’t give up after two weeks.

Third, I recognized and charted small, measurable steps necessary to move me toward

the goal. My exercise list and calendar became the best way to see if I was following my steps every day. In “performing” what I had been advised to do I could literally see my steps as I marked my calendar, gradually feel the benefits of being consistent, and becoming aware that I could do more each day.

Fourth, I named my obstacles. Easy. Pain, pain, and pain. By naming it, I knew there would be some pain every time I worked my wrist. And since it was not a surprise I was ready for it. As the pain began to subside I could erase my obstacle from the process.

Fifth, I invited support for my determination from a friend and my therapist. A good friend agreed to nudge me on a regular basis to ensure I was being consistent and honest with myself in maintaining the exercises. I asked my therapist to not let me get away with whining.

Of course, there should be the celebration as you reach your goals. So whether it’s a trip for pizza or a bottle of champagne the real celebration is that you have the quiet satisfaction of knowing you can make changes in your life!

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