How I Overcame Tragedy With A Winning, Positive Mindset

This is a guest post by Your Life Your Way contributor James H. Osborne.

Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live. – Robert Kennedy., luca-baggio-112868.jpg

Pic credit:, luca-baggio-112868.jpg)

Do you believe in fate?

Do you believe that everything that happens in life was meant to be, like everything happens for a reason?

I have a different point of view.

I believe that most of what happens in our life is a consequence of the choices we make.

Some choices are routine and pedestrian, like when will we wake up or what will we dress in today. Other choices are more profound and durable, such as where will we live or whom will we marry?

Some things do happen in life that we don’t choose.

I didn’t choose to suffer a catastrophic injury that day.

I don’t believe you, your friend, relative, or loved one, choose to be diagnosed with a terrible illness or disease.

But I DO believe that we can exercise choice in how we respond to these involuntary events.

When something bad happens, will we succumb, surrender and give in OR will we fight the good fight?

I contend that “I AM” by choice.
That “YOU ARE” by choice.

Back in 2007 I would describe myself as a recreational enthusiast.

I loved the outdoors. I especially loved road cycling. In June of 2007 I was unfortunately involved in a catastrophic road cycling accident that rendered me an incomplete quadriplegic. What this means is I have paralysis from the mid-chest down to my toes.

What this also means is that I have a small window of recovery opportunity to regain lost function.

How much I might regain was/is impossible to predict.

The nature of this kind of injury is that the spectrum of recovery is very broad. Some people never get out of a wheelchair; others are living fully independent lives and everything in between. I asked my practitioners repeatedly if I would walk, exercise, work or drive again and always received the same answer.

“Jamie, it depends on the neurological progression.”

Bottom line is they couldn’t tell me for sure and I found myself living in this cone of uncertainty, not knowing for sure what lost function I might regain or what my life might be like. It was exasperating.

Which brings me to night five in the hospital after I was admitted.

It was the longest night of my life. I lay in a cold hospital room, alone, motionless, debilitating pain, sweating profusely. The sheets were soaked underneath me. I was filled with jumbled emotions – despair, frustration, sadness, depression and anger. I was broken, my life shattered in an instant.

I knew my life was at a fork in the road.

Which way was I going to go? It would have been so easy to surrender, give in, let this injury defeat me and win. Every cell in my body was screaming at me “don’t” – the mountain is too high, the climb too difficult.

Or, I could decide to fight the good fight, give it everything I had, for as long as it was going to take.

In my stupor that night, I reflected back to a conversation I had earlier with my physician. In the course of that dialogue he said, “Jamie, you need to choose…get independent!”

I thought about that and suddenly the light bulb went off. There it was – my vector, my beacon, my North Star, my lighthouse – my choice. I decided that night that I would aim not to be enabled by anyone or anything. Nobody was going to spoon feed me. Nobody was going to dress me.

I wasn’t going to be confined to a wheelchair.

In short, I defined my terms.

I resolved to take a stand. I chose to win.

Winning not in the absolute sense as in crossing the finish line first or scoring the most points. No, this was winning on my terms. I chose how I would rebuild my life. I chose how hard I would work.

I chose what goals I would set for myself.

My future wasn’t going to be dictated by what modern medicine believed was the typical recovery trajectory of an incomplete quadriplegic. If that were the case my recovery would have maxed out after 1 to 2 years.

That hasn’t been the case. I’ve had more recovery in the last 7 years than I had in the first 3 years by many fold.


There are many reasons but at the top of the list are..

visualization + mindfulness + attitude.

From the time I started rehab I was trying to get my forefinger to touch my thumb. It was monumentally difficult work. I made a movie in my head, picturing would it would be like to have the two fingers touch, and then being able to apply enough pressure to hold a utensil or peel a wrapper off a straw.

I broke the movie down in to great detail, and choreographed it.

I was the author, editor, publisher, scriptwriter, actor, producer and director of my life.

I played that movie in my head until it could play by itself with no conscious prompting on my part.

Until it came true.

As the recovery journey unfolded over the ensuing weeks, months and years I have used that approach in everything I do. It started out with seemingly modest goals, coupled with small victories. These led to bigger and bigger goals and victories.

And the goals became even more audacious, so much so that I was able to recently ski and road cycle again, without accommodation.

So what’s out there for you?

What’s aspirational in your life, something you want to achieve that may seem too daunting, too difficult or perhaps seemingly impossible?

I’d ask that you consider filling in the rest of this phrase:

I choose to ___________.

Write down your response. Begin to visualize what achieving that choice might look like and begin making your movie. Choreograph it in as much detail as possible until it too can play by itself in your mind without conscious prompting.

I submit to you that with unwavering commitment and resolve what may seem daunting and unachievable can actually happen.

Define your terms. Resolve to take a stand. Choose to win! 

JamesHOsborneAbout the Author: James Osborne is a businessman, former IT executive, fitness enthusiast, author and avid traveler. He is also an incomplete C7 quadriplegic. Jamie’s dynamic and engaging personality has made him a sought after motivational speakercaptivating audiences with his personal account of how his belief system, brain’s plasticity and healing abilities, are changing his physical reality. His book Will Your Way Back is available on Amazon.

About this site: Hi! I’m Tia. Multi-passionate Sparklepants, Life Lover, Curator of Awesome. I run this website featuring kickass inspiration to help you sparkle through life, no matter what! Go here to ignite your Inner Sparkle — that shimmery part of your spirit that says YES to courage + connection, and NO WAY to ‘shoulds’ + restrictions. Click here to contribute a post.

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  1. says

    This might just be the most inspiring story I have read in a long time. James, your willingness to not give up, to visualize what you desired, and to work at it is truly magnificent.

    Too often we as humans let the smallest things side track us. A red stop light, a bad news phone call, someone telling us we can’t. You are living proof that all of these things are simply in ones head.

    What you do, what you choose to do is all up to you.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    • says

      Hey Joel, sorry I didn’t see your comment until today. Thank you for the very kind words. It means a lot and very appreciative. Many of the words in this piece were also used in a TEDx talk I did in early April, which, if interested, you can view at this link. It runs about 15 minutes.

      I also have a website and a FB presence at jameshosborneauthor.

      Wishing you all the best and thanks again for your kind words.

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