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Why identifying lighthouses helps you to see the way forward

Nov 11, 2019

When you need more than faith, hope and chocolate fudge cake

I met a very inspiring woman recently. Laura and I met through a mutual friend and we got chatting, as you do over coffee and cake. We talked about our busy lives and she asked if I work and if so, what do I do. So, I explained all about the Winning Edge and mindset management. Laura was fascinated. As the conversation continued, I started to understand why she was so interested in what I do.

Laura doesn’t work because her daughter has cerebral palsy. Josie was starved of oxygen due to complications at birth and so Laura needs to be on hand day-to-day to help with Josie’s care. Josie is now 18 but she will never be able to live completely independently – she will always need a high level of care available. However, Laura has fought tooth and nail to ensure her daughter’s life is normalised as much as is possible, within the parameters of what her condition allows.

Fighting for Josie to go to mainstream school and to receive the care she is entitled too is nothing compared to the battle she had on her hands with the legal system. Laura didn’t strike me as a ‘where there’s a blame, there’s a claim’ type of person – but she knew there was a clear case for negligence and knew in minute detail what had gone wrong during Josie’s birth. For Josie to receive the level of care she was entitled to, the hospital trust would need to be sued and compensation justly paid.

For 16 years, Laura fought in court after court. At one point, all seemed lost and it was shelved. But Laura’s instinct was that they weren’t at the end of the road, more could be done. With the papers dusted off the shelves, a different medical expert was called in who spotted something that had been missed and that was the clincher.

The whole process led to her marriage breaking down – Josie’s Dad couldn’t cope with Laura’s single-vision doggedness – his view was that it had happened and they had to just get on with their lives. His opinion and a valid one. But Laura’s values meant she would not and could not let this drop. Laura persisted - to prevent it happening again to someone else, as well as to fight so that Josie was set up for life. Laura’s opinion and a valid one.

I was agog at what she’d been though for the past 16 years and her focus, grit and tenacity are formidable. Laura didn’t see the NHS as a lighthouse. She didn’t see the legal system’s repeated decisions that there was no case to be answered, as a lighthouse. She didn’t see her lack of medical knowledge or ignorance of the complexities of law, as a lighthouse. These merely needed to be intelligently navigated around.

Why it’s important to think with a solution-orientated mindset

In Winning Edge terms, a lighthouse is the same as the immoveable object we see at sea – it’s something in life we cannot change and therefore need to intelligently navigate around. There are actually very few lighthouses in life – time, the weather and the bank base rate are probably an example of only a handful of things that you cannot change. Well, you could theoretically change the bank base rate but it would be a long process… Sometimes certain people in our lives are lighthouses – we will never change their personality which we perceive as being obstinate and thoughtless.

The story of Steffanie Patterson’s resolve to find a cure for her husband’s life-threatening condition is one of utter perseverance and where lighthouses did not exist – only challenges which needed to be overcome.

When Tom started vomiting during a trip to Egypt, they both thought it was food poisoning but what was taking hold of Tom’s body was far more serious. He had an antibiotic-resistant superbug and even Steffanie’s knowledge as an infectious disease epidemiologist was no match for this infection which was ravaging Tom’s body.

Yet Steffanie pulled on all she knew and reached out to all whom she knew in the scientific community and against all the odds, a new treatment was developed. Tom has his wife to thank for saving his life. Because there were no lighthouses for Steffanie, only countless obstacles which she knew she needed to overcome in order that she was doing everything she could to save her husband.

Can you outrun a sabre tooth tiger?!

Where do we find these reserves? When we feel like there’s nothing left in the tank, that emotionally, mentally and physically we are completely wrung out, yet we find what’s needed, because we need to.

Imagine you’d just been out on a long run and were on the home-straight, feeling exhausted but knowing there’s just enough energy in the tank to make a slow jog home. Suddenly, at your heels you feel the breath of something and then hear the snarling barking of a pretty fierce looking hound. Do you think at this point you might be able to pull on everything you’ve got and increase your pace to a sprint to get away?! Why? Well it’s because the amount of energy at our disposal is in direct proportion to our desire to do what’s coming next.

Think about those remarkable stories of a mother whose child has somehow got trapped under a car, yet they somehow find the physical strength to lift the car to free their child. How? Ordinarily they’d never think it possible to lift a vehicle…

When you want something enough

For when we want something badly enough, we’ll find a way. Laura who I met, realised she found the Winning Edge so fascinating because as I talked about its ethos, I was describing her ethos – an expect success mindset and that with a strong sense of purpose, you need:

desire + goal + belief

When the chips are down, if you want something enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. It’s because you have a 100% focused ‘let’s do this’ mindset. Your brain is solution-orientated and you have an expect success mindset – you might have absolutely no idea as to how you’re going to make it happen, you just know you will.

Strong belief triggers the mind to find the how. If your self-talk repeats again and again that you’ll find a way, that ‘you’ve got this’, that a solution will be found - you are conditioning your brain for success because it will prepare itself for solutions to be spotted – it will actively seek solutions and spot possibilities and opportunities. It’s when we tell ourselves that things are impossible and we’re in a hopeless situation, the brain effectively closes the doors and we are blind to an answer that might in fact be in front of us. It’s conformation bias – our brain will always prove us right.

So, what are the real lighthouses in your life? Can you navigate around them? If you change your thinking about how you view the situation, you’ll almost certainly find an answer.

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