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Center for Enlightened Leadership

A Vision of Healing and Wholeness

  Dr. Stephen L. Sokolow
  Dr. Stephen L. Sokolow
Executive Director and Founding Partner

Today was a milestone. Seven months after a skiing accident in which I broke my leg, injured my knee, and tore the ligaments that bind the fibula and tibia, I have healed sufficiently to resume my once-daily yoga routine. Slowly but surely, following surgery and physical therapy, I have been rebuilding my left knee, lower leg, and high ankle. What took seconds to destroy has taken more than six months to restore. With the support of family, friends, and superb medical care, I'm 95% recovered. My vision for healing and wholeness will be complete when I return to the slopes in Telluride this March to finish the run that put my life on pause and slow motion for almost seven months.

Planning comes naturally to me. It’s the way my mind works. Think about possibilities, select those that seem most desirable or compelling, make a plan, execute the plan, and see the possibilities come to life. As a teenager I decided I wanted to become an Eagle Scout, perhaps among the youngest to do so in the city of Philadelphia. I had been to the jamborees and seen the older scouts who proudly wore their Eagle Scout medal signifying the attainment of scouting’s highest rank. In my mind’s eye I could see myself among them. I shared my vision with my closest friend Alan and persuaded him to pursue this goal as a joint venture. The requirements were rigorous and complex. The manual said you could achieve the rank of Eagle with the attainment of 21 merit badges. Not just any 21 would do. They had to be in certain categories; some had prerequisites. It seemed like most of the Eagle Scouts had earned 30 or more badges before they qualified. There were more than a hundred badges to choose from, each having detailed requirements to master. We studied the manual, considered our strengths and interests, and made a plan. As a 13-year-old I remember typing up a list of 21 badges—a copy for me and a copy for Alan. This was our Holy Grail. Follow the plan, check off each badge as we met the requirements, and achieve our goal. It worked! As we turned 15 the powers that be pinned the medals on our respective chests, put our picture in the newspaper, and we felt like conquering heroes. It was a coming-of-age experience for both of us. We learned at a young age that it was indeed possible to have a vision that could become reality.

Through the years I’ve had countless opportunities to see visions (goals) come to be. When I was 25 I had a vision to earn a doctorate by the time I was 30 and become a superintendent of schools by age 35. It took me a year longer to earn the doctorate but a year less to become a superintendent of schools. So I figured on balance I was pretty well on target. I was so enamored with planning that I wrote my dissertation on the subject.

A few years ago Paul Houston and I decided to write a series of books on what we called “wise leadership.” We made a list that included 42 principles and core values we wanted to write about—double the number of merit badges required to attain the rank of Eagle, but who’s counting. Number 32 on the list is Manifesting Your Vision.

No disrespect to the AARP or to the countless numbers of people who are happily retired, but I have difficulty relating to the concept of retirement. Instead, I tell people that I am a pension-activated former superintendent of schools. Without a doubt, at this stage of my life I have more time to devote to leisurely pursuits. So late in life I took up golf and skiing. In March I was on the slopes in Telluride, Colorado. I was feeling carefree, and my instructor said I was ready for group level 5, which is the beginning of the intermediate level. On the third day of skiing my life took an unexpected turn. I got separated from my group, took a wrong turn, lost my balance, fell while making a turn, broke my leg, and sustained other, more serious injuries that required surgery. In a matter of seconds I went from someone who was skiing at 40 to 50 miles an hour to someone who couldn’t walk or even stand. For the first time in my life I was disabled. My surgeon said my prognosis was good, but that for at least three months I could not play golf, ride my bike, exercise, or do yoga. She told me that for six weeks I couldn’t put any weight on the injured leg—none, or I risked permanent disability. Normally, I am a high-energy, physically active, independent person. Suddenly, I was a completely dependent person who needed crutches, a wheelchair, and a knee scooter to get around.

We write about the power of intention, the power of a positive attitude, gratitude, and manifesting your vision. It was time to walk my talk—another principle we write about. I felt as though I were being tested. I decided not to waste my energy on self-pity. Instead, I framed my injury as an opportunity to learn and grow. Life was different now, and I was determined to make the most of it. My support system from my wife, children, other family members, friends, and the medical community couldn’t have been stronger. Gratitude flowed from my heart. I set my intention to heal sufficiently after surgery so that I could be back on the slopes in Telluride this coming March. I used the power of my mind to heal. With my mind I sent healing energy to all of the injured sites, knee, bones in the lower leg, high ankle, and foot. I used visual imagery on a daily basis. I visualized myself walking, exercising, golfing, bike riding, and, yes, skiing. I used affirmations. At least three times a day I said sub-vocally: “My leg and ankle are completely healed and feel great.” I used the power of attention to perform my leg and ankle exercises diligently. I had friends in my Reiki community send and give me Reiki treatments (a form of healing energy). I viewed everything in a positive light, and maintained a positive attitude. And I used the power of prayer.

My hard boot came off four months ago. Over the next six weeks I was able to wean myself from crutches, my wheelchair, and my portable knee walker. In June, I told my friends that the good news was that I could play golf as poorly as I did before my accident. That same month I could pedal my racing bike slowly. In July, I was back at a cadence of 80 revolutions per minute. In August, I resumed my regular exercise routine. From time to time I tried to assume some of the yoga positions. The doctors tell us to listen to our bodies. My body kept telling me, “Not yet, Steve.” Well, in the third week in October my body gave me the green light. Telluride, here I come!

So as not to be misunderstood, I want to be clear about something. My intention in this article is not to say “Look at me, and how capable I am even in difficult circumstances.” Rather it is to use myself as an example of what we can all do to manifest our respective visions by using the universal principles cited above.

Center for Empowered Leadership ®
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