Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Chris Norton.
Can you think of a moment when someone’s words drastically impacted your life? Maybe this moment came from a parent, a teacher, or mentor. Maybe it came from a doctor, a coach, or a friend. For better or worse, words can have a huge impact on the way we live our lives.
They can make or break someone’s day. Our words have so much power and influence, much more than we often give them credit for. How you choose to use this super-power can make the biggest difference in someone else’s world. I’ve learned this first hand.
This lesson came to me on the 4th night of my unexpected ICU stay. Four days earlier, I was just a normal, athletic, 18 year old freshman college football player until I made a tackle that left me paralyzed from the neck down.
After emergency surgery, I was given a mere 3% chance of ever moving below my neck. Let me clarify, not a 3% chance to walk but a 3% chance just to move. My life had changed forever.
Sleep was nearly impossible. It was so quiet I couldn’t hide from my thoughts and fears. Most nights, I cried myself to sleep.
At 2:00 AM on the fourth night, I lied in the gurney wide awake.
It wasn’t just worry that kept me up, every two hours a doctor or a nurse entered my room to make sure my vitals were in check. Typically their interaction with me was always routine and clinical. But on this night, a physician entered the room and did something different.
She knelt down next to my bed and said, “Chris, look me in the eyes.” Thinking back on it now, I remember she was kind of mean about it!
Her voice was direct and commanding, she sounded more like a character from an old time western movie than the slender woman in her 60’s with short red hair and glasses, that knelt beside me.
Our eyes locked and she said, “My name is Georgia. I’m from Wyoming. Do you know anyone from Wyoming?”
I told her no, and I think, “Where is this going?” She continued, “Well, people from Wyoming don’t tell lies. I’m here to tell you—
you will beat this. You will beat this.”
She delivered these words with so much conviction, I couldn’t help but start to cry. Up to this point I questioned whether all the time and effort I put toward my recovery would ever pay off.
Doctor Georgia didn’t say, “You CAN beat this,” she told me, “You WILL beat this.” Every part of my being believed Doctor Georgia in that moment, and instantly my faith was restored. A day later, when I started physical therapy, I heard her words echo in my head, “Chris, you will beat this!”
Day by day, I grew stronger and stronger. Doctor Georgia helped me discover just how much impact one person’s words can have.
Fast forward 5 weeks. Though my stay in the hospital was far from over, at this point my resolve was unshakeable. I would lie in bed dreaming about one day moving my legs and walking again. I put these dreams into action by working as hard as I could in every physical and occupational therapy session.
I decided I needed to do more, so I asked my physical and occupational therapists to write down workouts for me to do outside of my scheduled therapy time. I kept reminding myself, “Your future will take care of itself when you take care of today.” A few days later, on Thanksgiving Day of all days, with my family by my side. A miracle happened…
I wiggled my left big toe.
Just one week earlier a doctor said I would never move my legs again. But there in that moment, I had proved him wrong. And the big left toe was just the start. Over the next several years, I slowly gained strength throughout my legs. Eventually I was able to walk across my graduation stage. A couple years later I had enough strength to walk my bride, Emily down the aisle.
Because of those four little words — “You will beat this”— I never gave up. And 5 weeks later, I was able to defy my prognosis.
Do you think Doctor Georgia has any idea the impact her words had on me? We rarely find out if what we say makes a difference, but I’m here to tell you it does.
When we allow ourselves the realization that our words have the power to hurt or heal, we awaken within us the ability to inspire others. Because the truth is, we all have the same power Doctor Georgia has. She chose to use that power to inspire me, and because of that my life changed forever.
Ever since I heard those inspiring words, I’ve committed myself to being a “Doctor Georgia” to everyone I meet in life. This commitment is the reason I became a motivational speaker, it’s why I became an author to share my story with the world, it’s the reason I started a nonprofit, and the reason I committed myself to fostering and adopting children in need.
I want to challenge you today. I challenge you to be a Doctor Georgia for others. Our words have the power to hurt or to heal, and everyone is fighting a battle whether we can see it or not.
We all know someone in our lives in need of inspiration. So next time you interact with them, try replacing a passive statement of, “You can beat this…” with an emphatic one like, “You WILL beat this!”
Not only will you energize and inspire others, you’ll feel energized and inspired in your own life. We all have the power to change lives, the only thing left to do is to use it.
Chris Norton is the author of The Seven Longest Yards. Watch this powerful moment with Dr. Georgia and his entire story in the new documentary 7 Yards: The Chris Norton Story, available everywhere tomorrow. Or watch the official trailer today.