My Mum is now just over 100 years old. And until four years ago, our relationship was, shall we say, “challenging.” Like most Mums, mine believed I was still three years old! And she never seemed to get excited at the things I felt I was achieving. Communication did not flow easily.
Then, it all changed. The simplest way to say it is Mum lost her head. Alzheimer’s disease took its hold. And I realised that for all those years I’d been communicating with my Mum “head-to-head.” Now, the ONLY way for us to communicate was heart-to-heart. And it changed everything.
Just after her 96th birthday, I visited her in the Retirement Home. I looked down at her 42kg (92 pound) frame lying on her bed and I said to her, “You know what Mum, you’re amazing.”
“No I’m not,” she whispered. And then something just came to me. “Play a game with Mum” was the message.
So I said, “Mum, here’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to count to 3 and when I get to the 3 I want you to say out loud ‘I AM AMAZING.” You OK with that?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
“OK, Here we go! 1 – 2 – 3.”
Mum looked blankly at me. “What did you want me to say?” she asked. She had completely forgotten. I explained again. And this time on the 3 she barely whispered, “I am amazing.” But I went wild with delight.
“Mum, that was GREAT. Let’s do it again this time as if you mean it with passion and purpose. Ready? 1 – 2 – 3.”
Again the question, “What was it you wanted me to say?” I explained again. And then again “Ready. 1 – 2 – 3.”
And this time she yelled as if she knew it, ” I AM..” and as she got to the ‘AM’ two nurses came rushing in wondering what on earth was going on. “AMAZING!” Mum yelled. And we all went wild.
At that moment, I looked down at her and it was just as if new blood had flown into her. It was almost as if she lifted off the bed. And so I figured this was a great way to make sure she’d reach 100.
And every day I went in, even though she had difficulty remembering who I was, we’d do the ‘1 – 2 – 3’ until eventually, on her 99th birthday instead of singing ‘Happy Birthday” we stood around and said ‘1 – 2 – 3’ and Mum, for the first time without prompting, said with passion and belief, “I AM AMAZING”. That continues now each and every day.
And it’s a story I share around the world: not just by telling the story, but by having people in my audiences turn to each other on the count of 3, and with a big high five, they look in the eyes of the other person and say with passion, “YOU ARE AMAZING.” It changes everything.
Try it tonight when you’re cleaning your teeth (that’s very hygienic!). And look in that mirror, maybe even remembering this story, and just tell the mirror “YOU ARE AMAZING.” Because you are.