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Despite efforts to control, plan and shape our futures, no-one can escape the reality that some things are simply outside of our control.

Facing Life's Challenges (What We Can Learn From Richie Parker)

As a family we have a regular film night where we use our Netflix account to project onto the wall our movie of choice. One of my personal favorites has been A Series of Unfortunate Events.

The story sees the near perilous and unfortunate events that follow three orphaned siblings whose uncle, Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), is determined to kill them in order to acquire a huge inheritance left by their deceased parents. What’s clear throughout the film is that the children have no control over the events they experience.

Just as with the three orphaned children in the film, life has a way of presenting each of us with a series of unfortunate events that can — if we allow them to — derail us and prevent us from becoming the best version of ourselves.

Life presents challenges to us all

Like the children in the film, you have no control over the totality of your life experiences, and have in some way been on the receiving end of some degree of misfortune. I don’t know about you, but though I’m grateful to have been raised in a loving home, I didn’t determine when, where, or to whom I’d be born. That was definitely beyond my level of competence!

Neither was I able to predict traumatic events, ill-health, bereavement, or periods of depression that would impact relationships, motivation, and performance. I’d no idea, and my guess is that when facing trauma, you didn’t either. Each of us could identify areas of life and experiences that seem unfair. Unfortunate things happen to us all, so despite your best efforts, there’ll be  times when you can do very little about it — if anything at all.

There is some control over life’s challenges

But although there are circumstances beyond the power of your control, you’re not totally powerless to them. Even when faced with challenges outside of your power, you remain in control of the one thing that you can change; your choice of attitude. Believe it or not, your attitude fuels your success and stokes the fire of your hope.

If harnessed well, your attitude is powerful beyond measure — more important than your education, bank account balance and your past experiences. Your attitude towards anything is powerful enough to change everything. In fact, you have more power than you probably give yourself credit, as it’s actually the control you have over your attitude that’s most important when you’re facing life’s challenges.

Choosing the meaning of your experiences

Not one of us can be certain of what tomorrow will bring. Neither tomorrow or good fortune is promised to anyone. But rather than allowing your experiences to become an obstacle to your well-being and progress, give energy to defining how you interpret the meaning of your experiences in order to gain greater control of your future.

For example, as a teenager, like many other young people, I went through a period of being bullied. Growing up I could’ve interpreted the meaning of my experiences in one of two ways (1) that I was weak, my life mattered very little, and that nobody liked me, or (2) that those who bullied me were hurting and insecure so sought a sense of power by targeting me, simply because they could.

Now, though I struggled with number one for a long time (and still to this day occasionally catch glimpses of it), I’ve conditioned myself to opt for option two, as it’s a far more productive and healthy interpretation of the events I experienced. This also makes my interpretation of the events more powerful than the experiences themselves.

Overcoming the odds

Despite the vain attempts of some who seek to bring doubt and negativity into your life, it’s possible, with the right attitude, to overcome great odds and fulfill your purpose. Such was the case for Richie Parker, who, the result of a non-genetic limb defect, was born without arms, and whose condition would see him face physical limitations that many wouldn’t dream of.

In response, many around him said he’d not reach the level of independence or do the things that others would take for granted, like riding a bike or driving a car. There were those who’d written him off before he’d even begun. Yet, despite the challenges, he and his family determined that he’d be given every opportunity to live a normal life and succeed, just like his peers.

With support from his parents, coupled with his drive and the cultivation of a healthy attitude, Richie had other ideas and overcame great odds.

“I don’t listen too much to people when they tell me I can’t do something. There’s not a whole lot that’s gonna stand in my way.” Richie Parker

Now, following an internship that was supposed to last ten months, he’s a respected Vehicle Engineer for Hendricks Motorsports, one of the most successful race car organisations in the USA. And what’s most remarkable is that to do the work of an engineer, Richie, as with most other things he does in life, uses his feet.

Be an example to others

Richie Parker is a brilliant example of how attitude can make all the difference to the way you face the difficulties that life presents. His story shows that with the right mindset, its possible to achieve great things against the greatest of odds. Watch the video of Richie’s story and then answer the following questions.

  • What life experiences have become an obstacle to your success in life?
  • How would a shift in your interpretation of your experiences impact you?
  • Where can you make the first change to your attitude in order to move forward?

The story of Richie Parker is remarkable, as it not only gives hope, but challenges us to have a different perspective. For as we look at his story, we’re invited to be grateful for what we have and to change our attitude towards difficult life experiences or circumstances.

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