Phil Packer was injured during a tour of duty in Iraq in 2008. Initially told that it was highly unlikely that he would walk again, Phil completed a series of physical challenges to raise money for wounded service personnel and then charities supporting Young People. In 2009 he rowed the English Channel, walked the London Marathon over 14 days, and hauled himself up El Capitan.
He raised over $1.5million and inspired millions around the world. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. He has regained the ability to walk although he is still paralyzed internally from the waist to upper thighs.
In 2010 he founded the British Inspiration Trust (BRIT) – a visionary charity for charities dedicated to inspiring young people facing adversity in their lives.
In this Q&A, Packer talks about being an Architect of Change and provides advice on how to navigate change in our lives.
MARIASHRIVER.COM: What does being an “Architect of Change” mean to you?
PHIL PACKER: Change happens to everyone; change affects you personally and we all have the ability to change the lives of others in a positive way. When my injury happened it changed my life. There were dark days in the beginning. Being an Architect of Change is recognizing you have power to create something good from the changes in your life. My vision for BRIT is to bring about positive changes in the lives of young people facing their darkest times. BRIT is a Centre of best practices that charities can use for their young people, with any disability or medical condition, to empower them to regain their self-confidence, self-belief and self-worth.
MARIASHRIVER.COM: Why is change so difficult?
PHIL PACKER: Well, change either happens to us through something we cannot control, i.e. job loss, divorce, accident or else we take charge and decide to change something in our lives or those of others. When we take charge change is easier because we are the ones driving it, but when change is forced on us, that is more difficult. In my experience, if you have self-belief and others believe in you, you achieve more success through positive thinking.
MARIASHRIVER.COM: What do you mean?
PHIL PACKER: We don’t always want the change to happen. I didn’t expect to become a paraplegic and some of my initial dark times were spent just trying to acknowledge, understand and come to terms with my new life. When change is forced on us it takes time to adjust.
MARIASHRIVER.COM: How can we accept change?
PHIL PACKER: That’s where Maria Shriver’s concept of being an Architect of Change comes in. Regardless of whether we wanted the change or it was forced on us, the next step is up to us. Everyone is different. For me becoming acknowledged by Maria as an architect involves building something inspirational that will change the lives of young people facing adversity.
MARIASHRIVER.COM: You make it sound so easy.
PHIL PACKER: No, it’s not. But what is your alternative? I nearly lost my life a few years ago, and while my life is different from before, it is a good life. When life knocks you down you can take control of the situation or allow the situation to take a negative effect on your life. My life is now about affecting positive change in the lives of young people. As long as I believe this with all my heart I know I can bring about change through BRIT. Building a new life takes time. I didn’t come up with the idea for the British Inspiration Trust overnight. Instead it was a process that started back in the hospital when I woke up and was told I would most likely never walk again. In the beginning it was coming to terms with my new reality, and then it was trying to find something to do that gave me self-worth, which is when I started raising money for charity. Along the way young people talked with me about their struggles and I slowly realized that helping them regain their self-belief is my passion in life.
MARIASHRIVER.COM: What advice would you give to others that are in the process of becoming Architects of Change?
PHIL PACKER: Be kind to yourself. While change can be fun and exciting it can also be scary and disorienting. Realize that this is a process and it will take time to build your new life, but you can do it! We are each of us capable of being our own Architect of Change and building something beautiful in our lives. I would challenge you to go out there, believe in yourself and just give it a go with a “can do” attitude. There will be setbacks, but those are also learning opportunities. Be kind to yourself, be true to yourself and be an Architect of Change in your life.
MARIASHRIVER.COM: How can people get involved and be supportive to your cause?
PHIL PACKER: Join the BRIT journey. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter — and register your support on our website, www.britishinspirationtrust.org.uk. I believe this is a display of force which will inspire thousands of companies to become involved by pledging their financial support to BRIT. When corporations see we have support from the public, they are more likely to become involved.
Phil Packer recorded the video below exclusively for MariaShriver.com. Take a look and then tell us in the comments section below: What does being an “Architect of Change” mean to you?