When my son Ty was eight years old, he broke his right arm after his first football practice. He had been so excited after his first day of real contact that even before we got into the car to head home, he insisted on showing me, in slow motion, how he had learned to tackle.
Unfortunately, he lost his balance and fell backward on his right arm, creating a buckle fracture just above his wrist. According to his doctor, Ty would have to be in a cast for at least six weeks to give the bone time to fully heal, and he would likely miss most of the games.
This was not a good start to the fall.
After the initial disappointment, Ty seemed to be handling the setback fairly well. Then a couple of days later, while riding home from church, he went into a negative spiral, reciting everything he could not do with only one good arm.
He was very thorough, even though his mother, Kristin, and I tried to interrupt him several times to break the self-defeating mental momentum.
What Can You Do?
When we arrived back at our house, I asked Ty to join me in my study for a few minutes. “Ty, don’t you think there are lots of things you can still do, even with your broken right arm?” I asked.
“No, not the really good things,” he replied skeptically.
“All right then,” I said, “I’m going to give you a quick exercise like I do in The 1% Club, that will show you how much you really can do.”
Because he had no choice, Ty agreed to participate—unenthusiastically.
“Ty,” I said, “write down twenty-one things you can still do with just one arm, and we’ll be done.”
With a curious look, Ty responded, “Dad, I’m in a cast. I can’t write.”
“Oh, that’s right,” I said with a laugh, wishing we could start over. “Then you talk, Ty, and I’ll write for you.”
So Ty started talking, and I started writing. Slowly, with some prodding, the first few answers came. He could read books, ride his bike, watch TV, and play video games. Those things triggered even more ideas.
Ty continued, “I could hike or run. I could play in my tree house. I could go to the movies, eat popcorn, and have M&M’s. I could still do science experiments. I could do sit-ups, take a bath, and make my bed.” As we approached the goal of twenty-one ideas, I was writing as fast as I could.
“Okay, that’s twenty-one,” I confirmed to Ty.
“Keep writing, Dad. I want to do some more,” he said, no longer annoyed with the exercise.
Finally, with thirty-five answers, Ty was ready to stop. I handed him the list he had dictated and asked him to read it aloud. As he read, I could see the excitement growing. There really were a lot of things a kid could still do with a broken arm.
“Can I go show Mom my list?” Ty asked.
“Sure,” I said, “but let me ask you one more question first. Ty, do you think we could have made just as long a list of the things you can’t do with a broken arm?” I asked, hoping to create a coachable moment.
“Yes,” he quickly answered, “but why would we want to do that?”
“Good point,” I said as I enjoyed his smile. “Go show Mom.”
Ty was learning how to win the battle of his mind and starting to understand the secret to a joy-filled life.