No arms, no legs, no excuses

If anyone ever had good cause to play the victim, it’s Nick Vujicic. But despite his disability, he came to believe that he was “never crippled until I gave up hope”.

Nick Vujicic is one of those people who make you ashamed to have ever complained about being hard done by. Born with no limbs, the indefatigable 28-year-old Australian has completed a university degree; travelled the world; taught himself to skateboard, surf and scuba dive; started a non-profit foundation; established an international career as a motivational speaker; relocated to the US; and even starred in a film (The Butterfly Circus). Drawing on his recently released autobiography, Life Without Limits, here he explains how he overcame his challenges and how you can tackle yours.

You weren’t always as upbeat as you are now, were you?

No, when I was younger I was often filled with dark thoughts, wondering how I could ever have a normal life. When I was 10, I tried to drown myself in the bath, but couldn’t go through with it. You spent a lot of time praying that you’d wake up one day with arms an d legs. Yes, I call this the ‘If I just had X, I’d be happy’ mass delusion. So many of us pursue beauty or success or material possessions in the belief those things will make us happy. But I know people with perfect bodies who aren’t half as happy as me, and slum-dwellers in Mumbai who have more joy in their lives than many of those living in exclusive gated estates.

How did you manage to become so cheerful?

At a certain point, we all have to say to ourselves, “Do I want to spend my life wallowing in misery, or do I want to rise above what has happened to me and pursue my dreams?” None of us have much control over being blindsided by a negative event — being made redundant, being in a car accident, having a relationship end. It’s natural to be sad and feel bad when those things happen, but then you’ve got to pull yourself up and ask, “What’s next?”
Maintaining a positive attitude is something you make a habit of. No-one, including me, is upbeat 100 per cent of the time. But I’ve never come across a pessimist who was also a successful, fulfilled, happy person. Pessimism weakens your will and allows your moods to control your actions. You can’t always control your situation, but you can always control the way you look at it. Optimists adjust their attitude to make the best of a situation.

What’s your advice to those who are unsure about what direction to take in life?

They should think about what engages them so much that they’d do it for free. If they can find someone who is willing to pay them to do that, they’ve got a fulfilling career. They should also keep in mind what Helen Keller once said about true happiness coming from “fidelity to a worthy purpose”. I’ve found the greatest rewards come when you give of yourself, make a positive difference to the lives of others and become a part of something bigger than yourself.

What role does spirituality play in your life?

It’s played a huge one since I became a Christian at 15. I know for certain that God doesn’t make mistakes, but he does make miracles. I am one and you are too.