Turning Adversity Into Opportunity With Anita Ranieri, Life CoachOct 12, 2022
By Kristina Todorova, Head Coach and Founder, Coaching for Transformers
Life can throw all sorts of challenges at us, and when it comes to our health and well-being, it is easy (and very human) to fall victim of circumstance. Today’s interview shares a story that inspires me deeply, a story about overcoming adversity and adopting the type of mindset that propels us to transform our lives for the better and not be defined by what happens to us. I am talking to Anita Ranieri, Life Coach, about her journey of facing disability, building a life on her terms and not allowing her condition to limit her perspective on what is possible.
Hello Anita - we have had multiple conversations about sharing your story on the blog since we met a few months ago, and I am delighted to have you as my guest today. Can you share more about yourself and what led to developing Poliomyelitis and, consequently, facing paralysis?
Thank you for having me. I am a self-taught life coach. I help people learn how to live in the present moment, not to dwell on the past and eliminate their anxiety about the future. In a nutshell, I help others develop their potential while living their life in the present.
I was born in Nigeria in the late seventies. When I was ten months old, I received a Poliomyelitis vaccine which had expired and that caused paralysis, which prevented me from walking and freely moving my body. At the age of one and a half, my mum decided to see if she could find a cure abroad. She went to Italy, leaving me with her best friend as my caretaker. Because my mum took longer to return to Nigeria, her friend thought she had abandoned me, so she took me to an orphanage without informing my mum. Growing up in the orphanage, with my condition, taught me how to be resilient. From an early age, I learnt that everything is possible if you put your mind to it.
That is quite a powerful statement. It is much easier to say these words than to implement them though, especially when you are dealing with circumstances that can be perceived as non-reversible. What helped you not fall victim to circumstance?
To be honest, I never felt like a victim. Maybe because I was a toddler, I did not know any better. While I was growing up, I was aware of the physical disability and, somehow, instinctively, I knew I had to rely on myself to move, even as a little kid. In Africa, music is everything. We were surrounded by music. At the orphanage, they would often play songs by Michael Jackson and Diana Rose on the radio. I remember the first time I heard “Thriller” by Michael Jackson; my body tried to move. I tried to stand up; I immediately fell, but I knew I was onto something. I started to try and move my butt as I was lying down. Also, having other children with disabilities playing around me was really pushing me to move as I wanted to play too. Music and the environment stimulated me to move my body every day, and, little by little, I learnt how to sit by myself. I continued to physically exercise without really realising I was exercising. That helped me to become more independent in my movement. Another thing that supported my healing was nature. All my “movement experiments” were conducted in nature as our carers would often leave us outside the building, and we were surrounded by nature.
You mentioned earlier that “anything is possible when we put our mind to it.” How did you adopt this belief?
When you grow up alone, outside a family structure, you can create your own beliefs and choosing what to believe in really helped me to become who I am today. Although I am not entirely mobile (I am in a wheelchair), I was able to begin to move more freely and choose the life I wanted to live.
When I was twelve, my mum collected me from the orphanage and took me to Italy. In Italy, I had the opportunity to go to a hospital where I continued to heal by doing “proper” physiotherapy. I had to challenge myself physically. That was also the time when I saw myself as a “disabled person” as, at the orphanage in Nigeria, everyone had a disability. At that moment, I chose to not let my disability (paralysis) define who I was and dictate how to live my life. Despite the physical pain, I made the decision to continue with the treatment, which helped me to improve my mobility. A few years later, I decided to relocate to London and build my life anew, enrolling in a coaching school and becoming a life coach.
Your story serves as an example of our ability to face adversity and choose to not be defined by it. What would you say to those of our readers who may be going through times of adversity right now?
Life is a challenge – we all have our own challenges to face. I have decided to experience the beauty of life and see the challenges as a blessing that is helping me to move forward. I try to have no expectations – when you do not have an expectation of an outcome, you cannot fail – everything is an opportunity to grow. Life is what you choose it to be. You can choose how to look at things and what to do with the cards you are dealt.
If there were one thing you would say to your younger self, what would that be?
Everything is going to be fine.
Where can our readers learn more about your work and connect with you?
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