Michael J. Fox: A Model Patient

Always Looking Up Book by Michael J. FoxI recently watched an ABC special titled, Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. I watched because I was intrigued after I read an article about how Fox (diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 18 years ago) has become a major patient advocate for the disease, all while remaining an optimist about what the future holds for him. In this special he offers his philosophy on dealing with the disease and also interviews a number of people about the concept of optimism.

As a patient, I’m always very interested in learning how others cope with a chronic problem. As a person, I’m intrigued by what makes people tick.

There were a lot of quotes from the one-our episode that I found thought-provoking and inspiring, so I decided to highlight them in a handy little blog post so that we could all be inspired.

The only unavailable choice was whether or not to have Parkinson’s, everything else was up to me. I could concentrate on the loss or I could just get on with my life and see if those holes starting filling in themselves.

For everything this disease has taken, something with greater value has been given, sometimes just a marker that points me in a different direction that I might not have otherwise traveled.

What i find is that it’s important that if I am going for that goal or if I am going for that thing, is that every moment I am short of that, isn’t a bad moment because I’m not there yet. It’s okay to just be striving.

Do the next right thing and hopefully something will happen.

I think that’s where the hope comes from. If I could do everything then I have no reason for hope. And there’s something in the hope that’s even more powerful than the realization of whatever the hope is for.

You are most optimistic when you feel you are not alone.

Optimism doesn’t mean being in denial. It’s not Pollyannish. It allows for the fact that things are tough. There can be tough optimism: An acceptance of obstacles, with a willingness to fight through them.”

This quote from musician Ben Harper (who was interviewed in the episode), also resonated with me:

Music is, to me, the soundtrack to optimism. Silent optimism is optimism at eight, when it could be at ten.

The quote that I found most interesting was: “Do the next right thing and hopefully something will happen.” I’m often so worried about “doing things right” that sometimes I lose sight of whose “right” I’m trying to live up to. Usually, it’s some sort of “rule” that I’ve created in my head that only makes life harder for me. The “next right thing” sounds much more achievable and spiritual. It sounds like something I just need to be open to, not something I have to agonize over for an entire day, then make a decision about, then worry about whether or not I made the right decision.

Tomorrow I plan on getting up and walking out that front door with the confidence that my day will be full of “next right things.”

Watch the entire special here.

Learn more about the show here.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this TV special was also created to help promote his new book, Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist.

What are your tips for remaining optimistic in the face of chronic disease?

Three Tips On Living Life More Optimistically

Having a chronic disease not only has a way of zapping your energy, but it can also deliver a mighty blow to your optimism as well — especially when you are first diagnosed and trying to sort out all the new information:

I have WHAT? I need to give myself a SHOT to feel better? I CAN’T play softball anymore? I need HELP opening the salsa jar now? I don’t have TIME to be slowed down by this disease! Bah!

Thomas Edison was an optimistic fellow and has some great tips that one can apply to managing their disease or to life in general. The folks over at Life Dev have the complete post, but I’ll offer up my favorite tip to get you started:

1) There is no such thing as a failure- there are only unexpected outcomes which will provide valuable guidance for future work

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. -Thomas Edison

Edison believed that most people gave up to soon and walked away from success, accepting failure. He viewed negative events as temporary setbacks on his inevitable path to success. To live like Edison, coach yourself to not take setbacks personally, and instead think of them as temporary glitches on your way to success.

When I am having a bad day, I think of that line from the movie Galaxy Quest: Never give up; never surrender!” That helps keep me on the right track, mentally.

On days when your body isn’t cooperating and you just feel like crawling back in bed, but you can’t because you have responsibilities to attend to … how do you stay positive? Leave your tips in the comments.

Read Life Dev’s full post on living optimistically here.