The Happiness Connection  

Broken ankle, crutch phrase

If you read my column regularly, you may have been wondering what happened to me last weekend. For only the second time in three years, I didn’t manage to submit an article. 

As I was walking my dog last Friday, I slipped on some ice and broke my ankle. After an ambulance ride and multiple hours in emergency, I was sent home with a set of crutches and the expectation of surgery.

I had a lot of time to think while I was there. The battery on my phone died while I was in the ambulance, so I didn’t even have that to help distract me.

My thoughts kept returning to the crutches. They made me think about Toastmasters where unnecessary words and sounds are called crutches. They hold space while your brain decides what it wants to say next. 

That may sound like a good thing, but it isn’t. These words can be very distracting. A good speaker shouldn’t be afraid to be silent while they are gathering their thoughts. There is no need to insert ‘ah’ or ‘like.’ Just pause.

There is an ‘ah-counter’ who keeps track of how many crutch words you use during each meeting. In our club, you pay a penalty for these infractions.

As a result, I’ve tended to view the word ‘crutch’ negatively. Before I had even tried to use them, I was suspicious of the silver sticks they were sending me home with. 

Why are some crutches considered good and others aren’t?

This is where my mind went while I sat in emergency, waiting for my turn to be sedated. 

Crutches are supports. What’s wrong with being supported? 

The answer may seem obvious to you, or you may not care one way or the other. Welcome to my brain. It self-entertains by pondering things like this. 

Are crutches of any sort good if they are only temporary? 

I don’t believe anyone would want to stay dependent on physical crutches if they had a choice. They are cumbersome and slow most people down.

Mental crutches are less visible and possibly more comfortable. If you’ve come to rely on having a couple of drinks before going to a social event to settle your anxiety, what incentive do you have to stop?

You may not even see your behaviour as a crutch.

Awareness is the first step towards transformation. You can’t change something until you recognize that it exists.

New Toastmasters often don’t believe the ah-counter when they report the number of times they said ‘ah’ or whatever word they rely on to buy their brain some time. Once it is drawn to their attention, it is like a curtain has been lifted. They notice each crutch word as they utter it.

It isn’t until you achieve awareness that you can make changes.

The same goes with crutch behaviors. They may have crept in so quietly and so long ago, that you aren’t consciously aware of them.

Whether you should try to eliminate the crutches in your life or not, is not my call. 

I want to encourage you to become aware of them, so you can make that decision for yourself. Are they helping, or hindering you? Be honest.

Self-awareness is an important part of conscious living. Support is necessary sometimes. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. But be aware of your crutches so you know when the time is right to let them go.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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