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Brachial Plexus Mind State: Acceptance and Gratitude

I've seen some really inspiring people with #erbspalsy on Instagram, but one person that really stands out for me is Nathan Gagnon. He has incredible vision and determination, mixed with appreciation, gratitude and acceptance. He is a role model for others with brachial plexus injury who are dedicated to making their body the best it can be. I found his advice incredibly useful. I hope you do too...

In my opinion, the key to success in any endeavor is not first in your starting place or methods, but in your mind state. A disadvantaged starting place and less than ideal methods with an optimal mind state can lead to success. However, a head start and ideal methods will still lead to failure if the mind is not where it needs to be.

I would say the most common question I get from people with a brachial plexus injury is, “How do I even out the strength on both sides of my body?” Well, I can provide recommendations on how to train each side of your body, but I don’t think that will be the most helpful thing to start with. To start, everyone with a brachial plexus injury needs to acknowledge one thing: you have nerve damage on one side and not the other. That means that a truly balanced physique or capabilities is really extremely highly unlikely for you. One side has nerve damage, the other doesn’t. The two sides aren’t equal. They’re not the same. You will and should work the hell out of your injured side, but you won’t see the same results. That’s a fact. The most important thing to start yourself out will be to accept that. Not acknowledge, but accept. To accept something doesn’t mean to be aware of it, but to incorporate it into your perspective and use it as a starting place for your development. Rather than working backwards and thinking “I want to get balance from side to side, what do I do to get there?” You think “I am working with two different starting points and one is at a deficit, how do I best approach this situation to improve?” From there, you have a mental starting place where you can look to improve day be day through patience and perseverance.

"Grateful for the fact that we have two arms and two hands. Grateful that we are meeting a new day. Grateful that we have the opportunity to strive and get better."

Once we have accepted the reality of our situation, we must then move on to a perspective of gratitude. We can certainly feel bad for ourselves that we are at a disadvantaged starting place. That is true and justified. Of course, the truth and justification will still only lead to you feeling bad. The other option is to choose to be grateful. Grateful for what? Grateful for the fact that we have two arms and two hands. Grateful that we are meeting a new day. Grateful that we have the opportunity to strive and get better. Their are people who don’t have that opportunity. Many people think that you will get funny looks or looked down on for moving with limited range or strength on your brachial plexus injury side. That is just not my experience. At first some people may not understand, but my experience is that people are always impressed with the perseverance it takes to fight through adversity. Everyone respects an underdog and the example you can give in that position is powerful for not only those who will start in a similar position, but for those who don’t realize how good they have it.

When you shift your mind state, you shift to possibilities of your outcome. By accepting the reality of a brachial plexus injury, you can find the gratitude for being in the privileged position of being an example to others. You are in a position to help others that cannot be achieved through any education, experience, or practice. Your identity give you the advantage to be something more than average and that is something to be truly grateful for." 

About the author: Nathan is a full-time fitness coach and trainer at Invictus Boston. He was born with a #brachialplexusinjury on his right side. Despite this fact he has played and been competitive in a number of sports, including: basketball, football (American), baseball, tennis, and CrossFit. He lives in Boston with his fiancee and dog.

Nathan Gagnon CF-L1, RKC, Instagram @kairosnate


I love Nathan's thoughts on #gratitude because it's so powerful. One thing I try to do each day is think about three things that I'm grateful for. I've suggested to some people that they write those things down on a piece of paper at the end of the day and leave it on their bedside table. When they wake up in the morning they read them and then they start the day with a positive mindset. When we really sit and think about it, we have so much to be grateful for. Even if it's the food we eat, the friends we have or the music we listen to. We are not hard done by, even if we think it sometimes. Be grateful for your arm. It makes you unique!

Much love


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