I learned an interesting bit of trivia this New Year’s Day morning while watching one of the national morning news shows. Amid all the talk of New Year’s resolutions, January 17 is national “Ditch Your Resolution Day”. It turns out that about two-thirds of us start out with good intentions to lose weight, read more, stay in touch with family, etc. but within 2-3 weeks, 80% have abandoned those aspirations. That got me thinking, what if we spent some time at the start of the new year reflecting on our values rather than making arbitrary resolutions.
I came across a blog whose author, David Kadavy, had the same idea a few years ago. When you decide upon a value, he notes, two things happen:
“One, you give yourself a tool that can help you in any situation. You value your health more than you value worrying about what someone thinks if you turn down a slice of birthday cake. Two, you give yourself control and accountability over your actions. Your values are inside you. They aren’t an external goal that hovers over your head like a black cloud. You don’t run from your values—you grow into them.”
As a senior in high school I learned that values, that is, the matters that hold meaning in our lives, consist of three characteristics. First, values are freely chosen. Since we choose our values, they are inherently personal. Choosing to live a healthy lifestyle because doing so will allow us to have a fuller life with our friends and families is a very personal choice. Giving up beer for the month of January because everyone is jumping on the bandwagon isn’t quite so personal. When presented with a choice of behaviors, our values provide the foundation we need to make the better decision. Second, values are cherished. Because the values we freely choose bring meaning to our lives, we treasure them. Third, values are acted upon frequently. Imagine two books. One lies on a bookshelf, its pages never opened, covered in a thick layer of dust. The other is out in the open. Perhaps it’s a cookbook filled with family recipes that have been passed down over several generations. It has clearly been handled daily over many years. Its corners are dog-eared, and the print on the cover has faded. Our values need to be like that second book. We need to refer to them regularly to keep our bearings.
Earlier this week I heard the spouse of a brain injury survivor comment that they wanted their partner’s diagnosis of TBI removed from their medical record because they felt it was a bad thing. I was taken aback but not surprised. As we spoke some more, the caregiver wanted their spouse to be able to go back to a normal life and having the TBI label would prevent that. This is the stigma of brain injury. The stigma is pervasive in our communities because TBI is a terrible, scary unknown that strikes the rich and poor, the young and old, indiscriminately.
This encounter got me thinking about what we value at the Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center. Above all else, we value people – survivors, caregivers, family and friends, i.e., the “inner circle” of brain injury. We recognize that we are all on this journey that is life after brain injury, and that some of us are at different points along the road than others. We value the medical professionals who save lives with technology that was not available even a decade ago. We value the therapists whose persistent effort can transform these lives.
Second, we value community. Studies support what we have learned over the past 4 ½ years: the quality of life for brain injury survivors improves when they are connected to a community. Providing a safe place for survivors and their families to learn about TBI, engage in group activities, and build new friendships is the cornerstone of our organization.
How do we act on these values as an organization and where are we headed in the New Year? Since no two brain injuries are the same, we take the time to hear each survivor’s story. Many survivors who visit the center are accompanied by caregivers and family members who are also looking for information to help them navigate the difficult road to recovery and help them understand what is happening to their loved one and the altered dynamic of their family and homelife. Our veteran survivors are there to share their experience of rehabilitation and ongoing recovery. Throughout the year we offer social events, community meals and even give away bicycle helmets.
Since the financial impact of brain injury is devastating to most families, we provide all our educational services and programming at no charge to survivors or their families. The center was designed to provide hope, education, inspiration and rehabilitation. No one will be denied access to our community because of financial need.
In 2020 we will expand our programming to include pre-vocational workstations, online continuing education courses focusing on neurocognitive deficits for health care professionals, and continued advocacy in the community to increase awareness of traumatic brain injury.
We wish you all a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!
Mike Moore is the Co-founder and President of the Traumatic Brain Injury Resource Center