Jose Paula, 47, of Tampa, FL, lived under the cloak of limiting beliefs imposed by well-meaning doctors for nearly 20 years before he finally decided enough was enough. He simply could not approach his life this way anymore. In 2014, this Desert Storm veteran took his physical fitness into his own hands and began carving a new version of his physical abilities. “I could not live with the doubt. I knew deep down in my heart that I was capable of doing more,” Jose said. “The doctors had predicted a limiting future for me and I was never happy with their prediction. It was time to create my own future.”

Jose Paula in the hospital after his accident

Tragedy Strikes
After serving in the U.S. Army for four years from 1988-1992 in the Persian Gulf War, Desert Shield, and Desert Storm, Jose was living in New York and had just started a new career with Mellon Bank when his life forever changed in a tragic accident. On June 15, 1996, Jose found himself trapped inside a burning apartment after a company applying a highly flammable substance to fix a hardwood floor caused a stove to explode.

The fire left Jose with second, third, and fourth degree burns on 70 percent of his body with burns covering both legs completely. He spent six months in the hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries. At one point, his doctors warned him that because his burns were so severe and an infection had set in, he might lose both his legs.

Fortunately, Jose did not lose his legs. But, they were so damaged they could not support his weight. Jose confessed that this was an extremely difficult time for him. “I had very dark days and nights, and at various points, especially after the surgeries, I wanted to end my life. But I never found the courage to do it,” he said. “Perhaps, I actually never lost hope.” Beside him through this extremely challenging time was the woman who became his wife and the mother of his children. She never gave up on him.

Lifelong Limitations and Excuses
Jose eventually relearned how to walk, but his doctors all cautioned him against strenuous exercise, telling him to never push his legs because they simply could not handle the strain. For years, Jose heeded their advice, the doctors’ well-intended words echoing in his mind, constantly reminding him what he could not do.

Jose found other excuses besides the medical professionals’ words to keep him from the gym. They included excuses many other people use to avoid making changes they want but are afraid to make. Jose said his excuses included, I want to spend more time with the kids; I want to spend more time with the family; there is not enough time in the day for me to go to the gym; my career is a priority; I’m not actually into working out. “You name the excuse, I had used them all.”

Time for A Change
In January 2014, Jose resolved to change his life and stopped living with limiting beliefs, fears, and physical limitations. It started with a leg workout with a trainer friend who unknowingly helped Jose push past the mental hurdles that had held him back for nearly 20 years. After that workout, Jose realized his future was not limited in the way he had always been told.

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