When You Must Cut Off Your Arm To Save Your Life
“I want people to see that for themselves in their own life. Whatever you're faced with you already have the tools to transform that adversity into something that's positive. That's what I proved to myself.”~Aron Ralston
This post is about you, so please keep reading.
I recently watched a Dateline special on Aron Ralston, the mountain climber and adventurer about whom the movie 127 Hours was created. In 2003, Aron goes hiking in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. As he makes his way through a canyon, he enters a narrow passage where boulders are wedged between the walls of rock.
When he descends, a large boulder gives way and falls after him to the bottom of the canyon, pinning his arm against the canyon wall, trapping him. He is trapped for five days with only one water bottle and two burritos.
He resorts to drinking his own urine and cutting his arm with a dull knife to try to get free. The knife won't cut through the bone. After five days, he gathers the will to torque his body forcefully in order to break the bones in his forearm and then severs his arm with the dull knife.
As he makes his way out of the canyon, he is forced to rappel down a 65-foot rock face and hike several miles before finally running into a family, exhausted, near death from dehydration, and covered in blood. The family sends for help and Ralston is evacuated by helicopter.
At one point during his ordeal, Aron has a vision of himself with a little boy, a future child. This vision sustains him during these 127 hours of his entrapment. He is now married and has a young son.
This is a horrifying and uplifting story. Aron does something many of us wonder if we'd have the courage to do. He goes through tremendous pain and hardship to save himself and reclaim his life. Now he is free, successful, and happy.
I just wrote an article for the blog Pick The Brain called 12 Critical Things You Should Never Tolerate. The editor tells me it's the most popular post they've ever had. It's about big situations in your life that you put up with even though they drag you down, trap you, and make you unhappy. Most of the comments were positive, but a few were indignant. “How can you tell people to just change these big things. It's not that easy. You don't mention the consequences, the difficulties.”
The very hard truth is this: sometimes we must cut off an arm to save our life.
Sometimes we must do very difficult, challenging, unpleasant things to make our lives better in the long-run. Substantial positive change often calls for drastic measures. Here are some examples of what I mean:
- If you want to get out of the misery of financial debt, you might have to sell your house, get a second job, or ask your spouse to go back to work.
- If you want to be in a loving relationship, you might have to go through some painful counseling. Or you might have to end your current relationship.
- If you want be happy and fulfilled in your job, you might have to accept less money, security, or the possibility of failure.
- If you want to feel less stressed and anxious, you might have to cut some things out of your life and make difficult choices about what's most important.
- If you want to feel good physically and emotionally, you might have to stop eating foods you crave or love, you might have to expose your overweight body to a personal trainer, you might have to talk about your problems and be vulnerable with a coach or counselor.
- If you want to spend less time in your car, you might have to find a different job or a home closer to work.
- If you want to stop feeling guilty, off-balance, angry, or resentful, you might have to have an embarrassing, uncomfortable, or humbling conversation with someone. You might have to change your behavior.
- If you want to live a peaceful, balanced and organized life, you might have to get rid of some stuff, organize your home, and stop buying things you have to take care of.
- If you want to feel positive and uplifted, you might have to stop watching TV, listening to negative people, participating in gossip, or allowing yourself to dwell on your problems.
- If you want to stop feeling drained, overworked, and tired, you might have to cut back on the hours you spend at your job, even if you feel you “must” work that long or hard. You might have to risk the anger of your boss or partners to find balance and fun in your life.
- If you want to do something exciting, different, adventurous, bold, you might have to admit that fear and inertia are getting in your way. You might have to experience the temporary discomfort of trying something new, risking failure or looking stupid.
- If you want to have want to have a bold, fearless, and happy life, you must take 100% responsibility for your own actions, choices, decisions, and reactions. You must stop making excuses, casting blame, or accepting ignorance.
Life is all about choices. Rarely are situations black and white or decisions without consequences.
~We must choose what is most important.
~We must examine the potential consequences of our choices.
~We must decide whether the positive result of the choice outweighs the possible negative result of the consequences.
~We must be willing to make calculated guesses and sometimes step into the unknown.
~We must accept that even if things don't work out the way we hoped, something else equally good or maybe better often results.
~We must accept that even if things turn out worse, we didn't die, and we have what it takes to move forward anyway.
The most profound thing I've learned about living a happy life is that indecision is a killer.
If Aron Ralston had hovered over his trapped arm with the knife, wondering for another day whether or not he should endure the pain of severing it, he would be dead. Instead, he endured the pain and has moved on to an amazing life.
You can't stand forever, hovering at the edge of a decision. You will become inert and lose the power to decide. At some point, after you have weighed the odds and looked at the situation from all sides, you have to make the cut. You have to do the hard thing to get to the other side.
If this is you right now, be brave dear one. You will survive at the very least. At the most, you might make your life a whole lot better. It's time to take action.
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