Have you ever reflected on something bad that’s happened to you and found some positives from it? Earlier this year I put together a piece on some of the surprising ways Type 1 Diabetes has made me Better and it was published on a diabetes focused site called Thriveabetes. So I thought it would be worth sharing out here. Now don’t get me wrong, managing type 1 diabetes is not easy, however having it, and knowing there is no cure (yet) means you have to take control and face it head on. Here’s what I wrote. Hopefully it might get you thinking about something in your life that’s had some hidden benefits.
My grandfather used to say, “your health is your wealth” and like most of these common sayings, there is a lot of truth in them. However, like most twenty or thirty somethings, I took being healthy for granted. I might hear of others getting sick or being diagnosed with this or that. But never thought that it would happen to me.
When I got diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2012, it all of a sudden became very clear that the wealth I was chasing, financially, at work, and in all those other material pursuits were in fact not the real wealth at all. My real wealth, my health, now was at risk! It took this diagnosis, this wake-up call, to bring it firmly into focus.
At first, I was in denial. Surely there must have been a mistake? Then, I convinced myself I could find a cure. But after a few months, I started to realise that the only way forward was to embrace it: Talk about it and, if possible, start looking for the upsides, or positives, in my broken pancreas syndrome.
Now, 7+ years into my own Type 1 Diabetic journey, my life is a whole lot better than it was back then. The diagnosis marked a very real turning point in my life. A catalyst for real positive change. I’ve been reflecting on this for a while so this piece is a great excuse to get what the benefits have been. And as I put this piece together, I took to twitter to ask if others with Type 1 Diabetes can relate or if I was just crazy. The response was (and continues to be) huge. Benefits like improved patience, greater empathy, better planning, increased compassion, more responsibility, project management skills, and connecting with other like-minded & like-pancreas people are just some of the other benefits that came back. Here are the key ones I’ve notice.
- Developing a Better more Positive Mindset
Nobody wants to get Type 1 Diabetes and, of course, I’d prefer not to have it at all. It’s not fair, but it could be worse! I consider myself lucky in lots of ways. We live in a time when the disease was (and is) more manageable then ever. Technology breakthroughs have advanced management and control drastically and with more exciting advances on the horizon. Getting the disease gave me a bit of a wake-up call. I’m not immortal after all but I can still lead a full life. That’s a positive. It’s made me realise much more what I have and look for the positives. This mindset takes practice but if you look for the bright spots, you’ll find them.
- A Better Whole Life Grid
Diabetes was a big factor in making me step back and create a better life balance. In the coaching work I do, I like to use a tool called the ‘whole life grid’ (check out more on it here). I would have struggled to populate half of this in 2012. I prioritized work over everything else, yet it wasn’t making me happy. I was pushing hard, close to burn-out but I didn’t have a clear understand of who I was and what I valued. Getting diagnosed was a point on my timeline where things started to turn. It made me re-evaluate and look at other areas of my life that were suffering and needed to be addressed. Since then, I’ve made a much more conscious effort to have a focus on the 9 boxes that make up my whole life and it’s turned out great.
- My fitness is better
Exercise and keeping fit were always on my radar. I had started running long distances about year before the diabetes blessing but after coming to terms with the news, I realised now that keeping fit and healthy were no longer optional. It became a must do! Since then, I’ve completed 3 Marathons, many adventures races, and learned to swim properly (at last). I get to exercise 4-5 per week. When the only real choice is to exercise on a regular basis, my inner gremlin voice doesn’t get much of a look in either.
- My values & sense of purpose is better!
Having Type 1 Diabetes motivated me to get a better and clearer sense of purpose. It forced me question what I stood for more and to challenge my own limiting beliefs. In 2015, through some professional development, I worked with an executive coach. This was a transformative experience. The work encouraged me to understand my ‘why’ better, clarify my values, and helped in identifying my identity and purpose. It also gave me a greater sense of self-confidence and self-acceptance. It further helped me realise that diabetes was something I should embrace.
- My Dry18 (and Dry19) journey
I’ve always (from the age of 18 of course) been fond of a few drinks. Thankfully, I had the vast majority of craziness out of my system by 2012. When I was diagnosed it didn’t impact my social life too much. I still gave the nights out a good go over the following few years. However, the downside of the day(s) after began to far outweigh the upside. Add in the challenges of managing blood sugars on a night out, and the day after, made drinking less and less appealing as time went by. So, I decided to make that ‘I’m never drinking again’ statement a reality and since 1st January 2018, I’ve stopped drinking completely. It began as year-long challenge with a good friend. This became a two-year-long abstinence. Having Diabetes, while not the main reason, was a contributing factor in helping me achieve this goal. (I tracked the Dry18 journey in a series of posts that I shared out in an eBook – it’s free here).
My 1% Better Podcast Idea
Getting diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes set off a chain of events that have put me on a different path since 2012.
Having a more positive outlook helped me take on new challenges. This led to an increase in exercise. As I exercised more, I started to listen to more podcasts. I was hooked. I learned so much, all helping feed my curiosity. In parallel, after embarking on the coaching journey, initially as a client and them becoming an executive coach myself, my confidence and self-belief grew. I started to play with the idea of starting my own podcast, instead of just consuming them. It was a big audacious goal. One that scared the hell out of me but one that I felt I might be able to pull off.
So in early 2017, after months of planning and despite being wracked with self-doubt, I launched the RoboftheGreen platform and with it the podcast ‘1% Better’. Now, 140+ episodes later, still dealing with and pushing through the fears on a weekly basis, the podcast is growing bigger and better. It’s given me a platform to share stories, lessons learned and insights from a broad range of leaders across the globe. And also it’s been an channel where I could share interviews with other Type 1 Diabetics like Eoghan Quinn and Emma O’Toole. Both clearly show that Type 1 Diabetes can be an enabler instead of a disabler.
If I wasn’t podcasting, I wouldn’t have connected in with Thriveabetes. It was that connection that lead to this post. I’m really glad it happened as it’s helped me clarify a few things that were rolling around in my head. There can be a lot of positives to be taken out of almost any situation that might seem negative or bad initially. It will probably take work, effort, soul searching, but if you challenge yourself to look at things from a different perspective, I believe you’ll find a positive or two.
So, as it’s nearly the end of 2019, and a time for some reflection, what one thing could you identify that is your Type 1 Diabetes? That’s had some upsides from the initial downs?
Thanks for reading & till tomorrow,
Rob is a qualified Executive Coach (ICF) and has been Mentoring and Coaching over the last decade in various roles held during his career. In 2017, Rob launched the Rob of the Green Platform which hosts the 1% Better Podcast. Rob currently is a director of Project Management and Leadership Coaching at Dell in Cork, Ireland. Rob also publishes articles on productivity, leadership, goal setting, meditation, and other topics, like this one! Rob recently published an eBook on giving up alcohol for 2018 called ‘Dry18’ and can be downloaded for free here.
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