Roy Campanella was a Hall of Fame baseball catcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s and 50s and his career ended when he had a car accident that left him paralyzed from the shoulders down.
He was being treated in a New York rehab hospital and had really turned inside himself: He didn’t want to see other people, didn’t want to interact with anyone.
And the staff felt that interacting with others was an important part of his recovery and getting back on track. They would put Campy in his wheelchair outside the hospital and sidewalk where he’d have to see and potentially interact with others. And there was a young boy from the same rehab hospital out on the sidewalk with him and they would talk.
One day the boy was there with a baseball and he asked Mr. Campanella if he would sign it and Campy referring to his pretty obvious injuries said “Well, you know I’ll sign it but it won’t look like very much.”
The boy said, “That’s okay, Mr. Campanella, I’m blind.”
That was a “thunderbolt” moment for Campanella, who realized that he had never in these conversations with the boy asked the boy anything about himself.
The moment was transformative as he realized that he really did need to get outside of himself and start noticing more in the environment and the situations around him.
I think in life sometimes when we’re experiencing something bad, we have a tendency to do the very same thing Campy initially did. It’s natural to just focus inward.
There’s an interesting study, though, of runners. They had runners who ran the same routine or the same course over and over again day after day, and runners who ran on a novel course and saw new things and had to pay attention to what was around them.
Here’s what’s interesting: Runners in both groups tended to report aches and pains, which is natural in that sport, but the runners who ran on the novel course reported fewer of them and they experienced them as less bothersome.
And what’s interesting about that is when we start focusing on the world around us and start taking in things there is a tendency to pay more attention to what’s out there, instead of the things inside that might be bothering us.
So, it’s really a lesson to pay a little bit more attention to what’s going on out there in the universe.
Not only do you get to see and experience new things, when you focus your attention out there, but sometimes – as with the case of Roy Campanella – the universe has some really interesting things to teach.
Question: What strategies do you use to avoid turning inward too much?