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Make It Happen – A Profile Of Resilience

Sharing my story of resilience with thousands of people every year, I get to meet a lot of people who share their stories with me.  One of these people was Geoff Hughes.  Geoff’s story has inspired me and epitomises resilience.  I’ve asked Geoff to share his journey to date and his tips for resilience and success.  A big part of his resilience that stood out to me has been his faith and the impact it has had on his journey.  Faith can take many forms and it is important to find it in something or someone and that it is unshakeable.  It can be internal or external.  Mine has been faith in myself and my ability to conquer anything. Reading Geoff’s story, reflect on your own faith and how it helps you.  I have also taken on one of Geoff’s tips into my daily ritual that has had a great impact – D.I.F.M. – make sure you read right to the end to learn more about this one!  Geoff will take it from here…




Make It Happen

The words spoken by the Neurologist struck a chord of fear in my heart as a thousand thoughts and images of my potential future raced through my mind.

“You will never regain the strength in your muscles. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.”

He had just diagnosed me as having an inherited neurological condition that causes the muscles in the legs, and lower arms, to waste away.

It was 1996, and at the age of 34 I was told that my future was going to be in a wheelchair without the use of my arms and legs.

The career and future that I had planned, hoped and was working towards was now shattered into a million useless pieces by those word, “You will never regain the strength in your muscles…”

The Lowest Point

Fast forward to 2009 and the words of that Doctor had become reality.

I had gone from walking unaided to needing a walking stick, then two sticks, then a walker, and now a powered wheelchair. I could no longer walk, or work, and no longer had a social life as my so called ‘friends’ had abandoned me because I wasn’t able to go to the places they went. My days were spent mostly alone as my wife and kids went about their studies and employment.

Now I suffered from depression, very high blood pressure, my weight had blown out to what I call disgustingly, revoltingly, morbidly obese – in other words, well over 200kg – and, not surprisingly, I regularly contemplated suicide.

My body was weak – I couldn’t lift a 600ml bottle of water – and massive – if you can picture Jabba the Hutt from the Star Wars movies then you have an idea of what I felt and looked like. I was a total embarrassment to myself and others. I can vividly recall a trip to a shopping centre with two members of my family. One of them walked a few feet behind my wheelchair and the other, several feet to my left. It was obvious that they were embarrassed to be seen with me and, let’s face it who could blame them, if I was embarrassed by my size why wouldn’t they be?

The list of health problems grew and my only social life was the almost weekly house calls by my GP. Basically I was close to dying or, at best, having to move to a care facility.

Things Began To Change

In August 2011, what I believe to be a miracle occurred.

Now, I don’t know what you think about God,  but I have always believed in his existence. Despite all the crappy things that many so called “Christians” have said and done in the name of God over the years, to both myself and countless others, I have always found God himself to be loving and merciful. My experiences, not my Theology, have proven that to be true.  I choose not to judge the boss by the lousy sods who claim to represent him.

In August 2011 I went to a church service where the Pastor said that anyone who wanted prayer for healing could go to the front of the church and he would pray for them. Years before, as my condition worsened, I used to go to church regularly and had been prayed for several dozen times for healing and I was hesitant to try again. Let’s face it, if you keep asking the pretty girl for a date and she ignores you without so much as a “no” then you eventually get tired of asking.

This particular morning, something inside of me said that I should try one more time and I found myself at the front of the church as the Pastor prayed “God, we command Geoff’s body to begin healing itself.” Then he was gone and I was left waiting for…a lightning bolt?…a voice from Heaven telling me to get up and walk?…anything?…but no. Once again there was nothing.

My disappointment grew into frustration before morphing into a feeling of being really, really, really pissed off!

So finally I got back to our car and plonked my Titanic sized butt on the seat before swinging my legs up off the ground and into the car. As I angrily slammed the door I realised that I didn’t need to use my arms to lift my legs into the car one at a time as I usually did but instead lifted them in the way an able bodied person would. Within twenty minutes I realised that my body was doing little things that it hadn’t done in months. Just little things but, they were improvements.

Within a few days I was able to lift that 600ml bottle of water and open it.

In the following months there were more improvements in my body, my emotions and my attitude. I was no longer depressed, certainly not suicidal, I was actually quite happy and positive and discovered a determination to defy the Neurologist by regaining my lost strength.

Proving The Doctors Wrong

In February 2013 I discovered and joined a wheelchair accessible rehab gym with the goal to eventually walk again.

Over the past four years I have achieved some amazing changes to my body including:

  • Standing for 40 minutes whilst holding onto parallel bars, previously I couldn’t stand for 20 seconds, and for 2 minutes without holding onto anything, something not done for well over 17 years.
  • Combining the gym sessions with healthier eating I now weigh under 185kg and falling.
  • I’ve gone from not being able to lift that bottle water, which weighed 600gm, to regularly lifting 40kgs or more, and chest pressing 110kg, at the gym. Not bad for a guy who would never regain his lost strength.Geoff Hughes proving the doctors wrong standing in parallel bars from wheelchair

In fact, I am actually much stronger now than I have ever been in my life.

I have certainly come a long way over the past few years and I still have some way to go but as I always say, God started this and together we will finish it.

I Couldn’t Do It Alone

Of course it hasn’t been an easy journey, nothing worth achieving ever is, and there have been numerous occasions when I have wanted to give up.

Whenever we set out to achieve something great in life it seems as if everything and everyone conspire to stop us. For me those events include, illness, injury, relationship issues, and the death of my granddaughter two days before she was born.

Crap happens in life but we need to keep focussed on our goals and, while having to stop and deal with things, never lose sight of what it is we are wanting to achieve. I will never walk again or have a body that I am not embarrassed of if I allow distractions and obstacles to stop me.

It’s always important to have people around you who support and encourage us in the pursuit of our goals. I wouldn’t have come this far without the help and encouragement of a number of people.

Firstly, my wife. She drives me the one hour return trip to the gym three times a week, helps me when needed, and waits the two hours or more while I do my session. Without her I couldn’t do what I do.

Secondly, the staff at the gym who set my program, teach me how to do things, encourage me when I get down and celebrate my successes.

Thirdly, the six friends on Facebook who cheer me on and encourage me. Some of them knew me before this journey began and fully appreciate how far I have come.

I appreciate each of these people far more than they could ever possibly understand but none of them can achieve my Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for me – a BHAG is a goal that others might think is impossible to achieve but that you believe is achievable – if it’s going to be, it’s up to me.

Attitude Is Everything

So, as well as working my ever shrinking butt off at the gym and improving my nutrition, I have made massive changes to my attitude and the way I think about things.

There are six things that have helped bring about this change and help keep me focused and determined.

  • Get rid of energy vampires.

I stopped socialising with people who were negative, critical, selfish and doubtful of my BHAG. Those who would drag me down to their level of fear and doubt, draining me of positivity, energy and belief. I cut them out of my life both in person and on social media.

  • I put myself first.

To my detriment I have spent my whole life putting the needs of others ahead of my own. Now I am my number one priority and others have had to learn to accept that. If a family member needs my help or time they have to fit in around my gym sessions or learn to handle things themselves.

  • I Remember

I remember what I used to be like and the fear of being like that again scares the living daylights out of me, and is probably my biggest motivator.

  • I Celebrate

After remembering what I was like I look at how I am now and celebrate how far I’ve come. As they say, “Only look back to see how far you’ve come.” I also celebrate each little achievement along the way. Things such as buying a new shirt that is one size smaller or reaching a new PB at the gym. Celebrating the little steps along the greater journey.

  • I Read

The books, articles, blogs and social media posts of people who have overcome and achieved great things in life are fuel for the fire of my new life. People such as Grant Cardone, Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Joel Osteen, Jim Rohn, Daymond John, and of course Stacey Copas.

If you are not familiar with these people just Google them and read their awesome stuff.

Each of them inspires me by their life’s story and help fill my mind with positivity, self belief, faith and inspiration which has helped turn my life around.

  • I Use Words and Mantras

My study, our kitchen refrigerator, and my hand during gym sessions, are adorned with words and phrases to inspire me. The following are a few of them and what they mean.

DIFM – Doing It For Myself

No Excuses – the only thing excuses achieve is failure

    Decide   – what you want

+ Commit   – to doing whatever it takes

= Succeed – and celebrate

Focus – this is the only thing to think about right now, nothing else matters

Make It Happen – because I am the only one that can

Believe – you have to believe to achieve

I CAN do this – I say it to myself when going for a PB or trying something new

I WILL DO THIS!! – when I doubt that I can reach my BHAG

Hard work + Dedication = Success – don’t quit if you want to succeed

So that’s my story. I hope that it inspires and encourages you to keep going in the pursuit of your dreams and goals regardless of what others tell you.


You can make it happen!


Geoff Hughes

Geoff Hughes profile photo black and white

Geoff is passionate about encouraging people in the pursuit of their dreams and  goals.

His inspiring quotes can be found on Instagram @geoff_hughes_makeithappen


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