Inspirational people are a joy to be around. They cajole you out of your comfort zone and show you that life is a giant cupcake waiting to be devoured. Alex Papanikolaou is one such inspirational chap. Our paths crossed recently and his powerful words of self-realization and hope resonated with me. I felt the need to ask him to share some of his story with you.
Be inspired. I was.
Live like there’s no tomorrow. One day there wont be.
“Life begins outside of your comfort zone”
My name is Alex Papanikolaou and today I’d like to tell you a bit about myself and a subject that’s on almost everyone’s mind at this time of year. The dreaded New Year’s Resolution. More on that in a moment.
I’m 23 years old and grew up in a small town in the UK, and as you may have guessed from the pictures there is a wheelchair and a disability involved in this story. When I was a baby I was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a disability that affects the part of your brain that controls balance, coordination, and fine motor skills.
I vowed not to let this stop me. Ever.
Over the past 3 years, I’ve made it to over 100 cities in 31 countries with a backpack and my electric wheelchair as companions. I’ve used hundreds of buses, trains, boats, taxis, cars and airlines you’ve probably never even heard of. I’ve lived in Australia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.
I have lived.
I now spend my time speaking, writing and coaching others on how they can take control of their lives, set a new definition for their life and grab a hold of what they thought was out of reach. In the process I have learnt that nothing is out of reach. Nothing.
Now, why am I telling you all this? I’m not trying to impress. I’m telling you because I am on a mission to teach people that what you can and can’t do in your life, what your life means, how that affects you, and everything in between comes down to one person – YOU!
I am not special. I am not gifted.
Everything I have achieved came down to a decision I made a long time ago that I wasn’t going to put myself in a box called ‘disabled’. My disability was never going define the rest of my life.
The decision I made was simple; I chose to give myself more choices. More choices? I hear you mutter. How confusing! Think about it though, what would it mean if you had more choices in your life?
Are there things you consider just impossible or unimaginable, or thought of as “I’m not that type of person, it’s out of my reach, I don’t have the skills, knowledge, education, that’s for other people! All these crazy ideas like travelling, making more money, having better relationships, having a better body image, what if you took all these ‘not possible’ labels off them, and instead made them a choice?
What if you made them possible?
There is a funny little secret about the way our brains work, and that’s that if you ask yourself why you can’t do something, your brain will do a really good job of giving you a thousand reasons why you can’t do it. But guess what, it works the other way too!
Our brains job is to give us answers. Imagine what would happen if you suddenly took that ‘impossible’ thing and made it a choice! You would immediately start asking yourself “how can I do this?” and what do you think your brain would start doing? It would start giving you answers! Oh yes. Lots and lots of inspirational answers. Never ending streams of fresh and brilliant answers. Over and over again. You would be drowning in a sea of answers!
Now of course this is just the first step, and I bet you can guess the next step…
Which brings us back to our New Year’s resolution. Most of us are very good at setting these light-hearted goals for the New Year. Nice to think about ideas we wish we could do. But know we wont.
The best gift you can give yourself this New Year is the gift of opening yourself up to more choices, choices that you never before thought possible. Start asking yourself “What if I really could do this? What would that look like? How would I feel if I achieved that?”
And then comes the best part, action! Go exploring! Remember how much fun it was as a kid when you did things you knew you weren’t supposed to do, not knowing what would happen, but just doing it anyway because it was exciting? I do. So does my mum…
Do things you wouldn’t normally do. Say things you wouldn’t normally say. Mix up your routine. Get uncomfortable! Take a chance, Take a risk. See what happens, and see what fits. You never know, you just might stumble across the best thing to ever happen to you!
I wish you the very best of luck and success for 2012!