This year’s resolution: Get out of your own way.

Hildy Gottlieb
Jan 4 · 5 min read

The year was 2002. Arié Moyal was a young college student when he was struck by a car as he was walking across a busy Toronto street. Waking up in the hospital, Arié didn’t remember being hit, nor anything else that had happened in the hours since the accident.

As the years progressed, the kinds of head bumps we all experience in the course of life — not realizing a shelf is sticking out, not being mindful when we round a corner — those seemingly minor bumps compounded the trauma to Arié’s brain. Finally, despite a MS degree in marketing and over a decade of experience helping corporations become more socially responsible, Arié realized life had handed him no choice but to change course. Barely past 30 years old, he was forced to go on permanent disability and reassess pretty much everything in his life.

Life doesn’t always kick us in the head as it did — literally — to Arie. And yet, so often, our plans and resolutions fall by the wayside, as the stuff of life gets in the way…

The year was 2016. Pro cyclist Kathryn Bertine was barely a mile from the finish line of the Vuelta Femenil race near La Paz, Mexico. Kathryn has no memory of the cyclist who crashed ahead of her. She does not remember landing head-first on the pavement, breaking her collar bone and two bones in her skull.

Seizures, surgeries… it took three weeks in three different hospitals before Kathryn graduated to the sofa in her father’s house, where she spent another six weeks under his strict supervision. Having spent her entire life as a professional athlete and an activist for women’s equity in sports, at age 40, Kathryn realized she had little choice but to reassess pretty much everything in her life.

As each of us considers what it would take to reach for our dreams, the thing that spurs us to action, as well as the thing that stops us, all starts in the frontal lobes of our brains, that marvelous machine that separates humans from all the other animals on earth.

We may believe it is “life” that is stopping us. More often than not, though, it is us that is stopping us. It is the decisions we are making, so often without realizing we are even deciding. And every bit of that is happening in our beautiful, capable brains.

The difference for Arié and Kathryn happened when they realized they could no longer ignore that simple fact.

After his brain injuries derailed his plans, here is what Arié did:
He started HugTrain. Stemming from his commitment to helping humanity live in harmony with each other and the planet, for 10 years, Arié has spent every holiday season traveling by train from his home in Montreal to San Francisco. At every stop along the way, during the darkest days of the year, Arié offers solace, one hug at a time.

He sleeps on the train, or in the homes of people he knows along the way. Sometimes he stops in a community for a few days, strolling up and down busy streets with nothing but his sign and his gentle spirit.

For 3 weeks every year, through cold and snow and dark days, Arié opens his heart and his arms to strangers who need that human connection.

After her brain injuries derailed her plans, here is what Kathryn did:
She started the Homestretch Foundation. Stemming from her commitment to equity for professional women cyclists, Homestretch Foundation provides housing and other resources for cyclists to train in her hometown of Tucson, Arizona — one of the most cycling-friendly cities in the world. Their mission is simple: “To level the playing field of salary discrepancy in sport, so that female professional athletes have the same wages and equal opportunities as male professional athletes.”

Kathryn Bertine with Gabby Giffords

While their journeys have been different, what Arié and Kathryn have both done is to take control of that beautiful organ that guides the actions and reactions of each and every one of us. They have made the decision that what could stop them — what some might define as their “disabilities” — would not define their future.

The date was January 8, 2011. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was meeting with constituents outside a supermarket when a gunman opened fire, shooting 19 people, six of them fatally. Shot in the head at point blank range, the bullet passed straight through Gabby’s brain, exiting out the back of her skull.

With aggressive therapy, powerful medical and family support, and a strong dedication to her own recovery, by late April, Gabby was able to read and to speak in short phrases. Having spent most of her adult life as an elected official, though, it was clear she had no choice but to reassess pretty much everything.

Here is what Gabby did:
On the two-year anniversary of the shooting that changed her life, Gabby and her husband founded the gun control advocacy organization that has become Giffords, fighting tirelessly to enact gun safety laws across the U.S. Her name has become virtually synonymous with the cause that is now not just political, but deeply personal.

Arié Moyal. Kathryn Bertine. Gabby Giffords. Each of them has made the decision to take control, taking full responsibility for creating not only their own future, but the future of the world they are part of.

There are a million stories every day, just like this one — people who fight what seems unfightable, who come back to do their most brilliant work after life forces them to change course.

This new year of 2019 is filled with promise and the hope of all that is possible. It is a time for taking stock. Will it take a literal kick-in-the-head for you to take action? Or will this be the year you work with that beautiful brain of yours, to create what is possible for yourself and for all of us?

Hildy Gottlieb

Written by

Social Scientist, activist, explorer. TEDx speaker. Change the questions, change the world!

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