Defining Success is Personal

20170303_130700I made a choice a few months back. I have been hesitant to move ahead with my decision because my fear of failure has been nagging me. I gradually realized that my fear is rooted in my perception of what defines success or failure.

In learning to live with noticeable limitations with my physical and cognitive stamina I have lost a level of confidence that previously allowed me to persevere and push ahead. My confidence is shaken because my limitations will suddenly stop me in my tracks. In the past my body would gradually signal that I am approaching my limit. If it was a physical limit, fatigue would gradually set in. If it was a cognitive limit, I would lose focus or begin to nod off. If I was dealing with something urgent I would find a way to push ahead and get a good night’s sleep a couple nights later.

Living with ABI has a direct bearing on my stamina. I now need to deal with the realization that I might suddenly be ambushed by some form of sensory overload, be it emotional, neurological or vestibular. I will not only be suddenly incapacitated, but could require a day or several to recuperate.

The decision I made a few months back was to cycle across Canada with Sea to Sea. The cycling tour is to celebrate Canada’s 150 years and to raise money for various poverty projects. Sea to Sea will partner with any local project that a cyclist would like to designate. This enables the funds to be used effectively for projects that are already happening and viable.

In order to move ahead with this commitment I need to redefine what success means. Pre-ABI I would have defined success as raising the $12,000 target (Canada or US tax receipts issued), riding each day and completing the whole 6700 km route.

Living with ABI means I need to redefine my idea of success. For me success is not necessarily completing each day or each leg of the route.  Success would be better defined as completing each day within my physical and cognitive limits. That means recognizing any of my ‘early warning‘ signals and adjusting my activity in response. That could mean allowing SAG support to take me the balance of the distance on any particular day. That could mean choosing to not ride for a day if I need time to recuperate. Even if I need to deal with minor setbacks, staying with the tour would be part of my definition of success.

Another part of my definition of success it doing my part in raising awareness of the need to help people who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. The cycle of poverty can be a result of poor life choices, health issues, disabilities, lack of education or many time simply being born into a demographic that creates insurmountable obstacles to becoming a vibrant, contributing member of a community.

Why would I choose to bike? Why such a long goal? For one thing, I keenly enjoy cycling. Also, for me, an encouraging indicator with my recovery is that cycling helps minimize some of my sensory loading. Cycling has a way of reducing the effects of neural fatigue or clearing nausea and headache that develops from certain activities.

As the snow and ice clears I can begin to train outdoors. Hopefully the non-ABI related health challenges of this past winter is behind me. As the weather warms up I can step up my training. Last fall I had worked myself up to doing 40 km a day. My target by June is to be able to cycle 130 km a day.  Just recently I did my first unicycle ride in about 2 years. I managed to cycle 18 km over a two day period averaging 10 km/hr. I figure doing a bit of cycling cross-training should provide some helpful benefits.

In early February I purchased a one way airfare to Vancouver. Imagine flying 5 hours and then taking over 5 weeks to cycle past my house before continuing another 3 weeks to Halifax. A friend has stepped forward and offered to pick me up in Halifax to then spend a week on PEI.

Each completed step in the planning is making this choice a more tangible reality. Each step in the planning is increasing my confidence in being able to be an active participant in Sea to Sea 2017. Every word of encouragement is a step towards realizing success. Most recently, tending the Sea to Sea booth at the Toronto International Bicycle Show has been an exciting way to share the project around thousands of cycling enthusiasts.



Author: Jasper Hoogendam

After 36 years as an educator my career ended due to a TBI. Renewable energy as part of 'walking lightly on this earth' has been and continues to be my interest since my teen years. Since early 2015 I have been learning to live with ABI (Acquire Brain Injury). I don't want to let my ABI limit the goals I set for myself. I'm living with a different brain, not a lesser brain. In sharing my day to day successes and struggles, I am better able to understand how my life had changed and begin to accept the change. In sharing my experiences I'm hearing from caregivers and fellow ABI's. I'm encouraged when my experiences are helping others understand some of the complexity of living with ABI.

10 thoughts on “Defining Success is Personal”

    1. That’s right. Their fun to ride, great conversation starters, and gives one a great workout. Good for the abs. Did a two week 1400 km cycling tour a few year back which included 250 km by unicycle.


      1. No you can’t just sit on one. You have to keep moving. I learned when I was 51, a life long dream to be able to ride one. Been doing it for over a dozen years and no plans to quit any time soon. Rode 250 km in summer of 2013. Who knows you just might get inspired one day. Could lend you one of my three. (LOL)


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