Blog post cover art, a picture of an elephant with overlay text that says don't be a circus elephant

In a world that has trained you to be afraid, to doubt, and to limit yourself my advice is simple: don’t be a circus elephant.

The Elephant and the Rope

There’s a rather famous story floating around about how baby elephants were trained for the circus.

In short: baby elephants learn their boundaries by being chained to a stake in the ground. As little elephants, they can’t break free and learn they can only go so far.

By the time they are adults, the chain has been exchanged for a tiny rope, but the same (now self-imposed) limit still applies. The young elephant learned, “I can only go so far” and it never ventures to try anything new.

The adult elephant is capable of breaking free from the tiny rope, yet it never does.

Why?  Blog post cover art, a picture of an elephant with overlay text that says don't be a circus elephant

Because that’s the power of false beliefs.

The False Narrative

When our kids were younger, we told them Bongo stories. In the stories, Bongo was their dog that was big enough to ride on. They would zoom around their Kingdom rescuing animals in need.

In every story, I would describe the adjectives the kids would need to complete their mission.

Kindness.

Love.

Compassion.

Justice.

The list complied was designed to teach them the values, attitudes, and habits we wanted to instill in them.

This was done because of the powerful shaping effect of story.

Plus, it counters the false narratives that we as adults know all too well.

“I can’t.”

“I’m too dumb.”

Clumsy old me.”

Every day, we bombard ourselves with narratives and adjectives about how limited we are. And, just like the elephant, we never break free of those limitations believing we can only go so far.

Only have a certain amount of success.

We falsely believe the little rope of lies telling us we can’t be more, do more, have more, or love more.

It’s time to break free.

Breaking Free

In coaching, we talk about breaking free of limiting beliefs through three C’s of action.

 

Community

The first is to be surrounded by community. Hear the voice and perspective of people who can see your true nature, gifts, abilities, and potential. Surround yourself with the positive people who want and see great things for you.

Competency

Discovering your true gifts and calling is another way to break free. Do you do what you love becuase you’re really good at it and enjoy it … or because you’re trying to earn someone’s affection? Knowing your true skills creates a passionate pursuit of of growth and limitless influence.

Compassion

Look. We’re all going to screw up. In those moments of failure, having compassion on yourself is vital. Know your standard, live up to your standard, but have grace on yourself when you mess up. Learn where you went wrong, and correct the problem.

In your quest for personal growth, never believe you have to settle. Don’t be a circus elephant.

Years ago, I read Eugene’ Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. To be honest, I don’t remember much of the book, but the title has long stuck with me.

It’s become a continual mantra for the daily habits, beliefs, thought patterns, and actions that I use to guide my life.

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

It’s fairly typical for me to have a panic attack on Monday morning. I suffer from anxiety; from the fear of what could be.

At times, it’s overwhelming. couple hiking remote mountains with overlay text a long obedience in the same direction, blog post cover art

Debilitating.

Paralyzing.

In those moments of lost despair, I’ve trained myself to recall the phrase and title of the book, a long obedience in the same direction.

The fear comes from my desire to do it all.

To break free of that fear, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do it all right now.

My destination is not complete today, instead, I am on the journey.

So what would obedience look like today?

That’s a much simpler proposition:

  • Network
  • Respond to emails
  • Call clients
  • Spend time with my family
  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Encourage someone
  • Get to bed on time
  • Repeat

While the specific formula to each day may look different, I guide my life by answering the question: what do I need to do today that could get me one step closer to my goal?

Once I have that figured out, I create the plan for obedience.

Create The Plan – Then Execute

One of the phrases we use throughout coaching is, to begin with the end in mind.

Where do you want to end up in life?

What do you want to accomplish?

Who do you want to be?

Then we can look at your current situation.

If you continue to make the same choices, will you end up where you want to be?

If so, great! Continue to amplify those decisions and live more purposefully.

However, if you won’t end up where you want to be by making similar choices, then it’s time to make a change.

Chart a new path.

Choose a new direction.

Create momentum that will propel you to your ideal life.

Then, practice obedience and begin a long obedience in the same direction.

Key on desk with overlay text: confidence is key

I was reminded recently, how in any attempted area of growth, confidence is key.

First, a confession. I’m a huge Gordon Ramsey fan. His ability to instruct, teach, inspire, lead is inspiring. I’ve also laughed at more than a few of his insults. He also knows when to relax, laugh, and have a good time.

Recently, I was watching an episode of his popular show Hell’s Kitchen and set one chef home after a critical failure.

Her crime? She lost confidence in her own ability.

As the episode ends, you hear Gordon’s voice as the picture shows her leaving the competition.

“If she’s lost confidence in herself, I can’t have confidence in her as my next executive chef.”

It is a dear reminder that in any area of life and growth, confidence is key.

Displaying Confidence

Let me be clear: confidence is not brashness, arrogance, smugness, or cockiness.

Confidence is not abusive or manipulative.

No, confidence is assurance.

It’s an assurance in the mission and service you’re providing to the world.

Confident people are able to say, “I’ve made it through every previous trial, I can make it through this one as well.”

Confidence is not about putting others down, it’s a clear picture of who you are.

Confident people have an accurate self-perception. They know who they are, why they were created, and the mission they are to be about while on this earth.

Confidence is key. Key on desk with overlay text: confidence is key

I often tell people at the start of a coaching relationship, “I can do anything for you except make you want to change. You have to want to change and be willing to put in the work required to do so. Once you acknowledge and commit to that, I’ll give you every tool I have to help you succeed.”

Why do some people make that commitment (and experience the reward) and others don’t?

Confidence.

Confidence is key.

The Confidence Quickstart

Life can be hard. As a result, there may be moments where you find yourself doubting. Wondering. Fearful.

Those moments are not a reason to withdraw or shrink back. Instead, they are moments to rise to the occasion, challenge yourself, accomplish something great, and demonstrate your ability.

If you ever find yourself in need of a confidence boost, here are three proven methods to help you get back on track.

Gratitude Journal.

First, start by keeping a gratitude journal. Write down as many things as you can to be thankful for.

A number of years ago, I challenged myself to write down 1,000 things I was grateful for. Once I got past the big and obvious ones (spouse, kids, parents, a house, a job) I really had to begin to focus my attention on every moment of every day.

Could I find moments of joy or positive experiences, even in the midst of difficult circumstances?

Of course, I just had to give it intentional thought.

Eventually, I had an impressive list (even if I never did make my 1,000 goal) and it completely reframed the way I go throughout my day. 

Want to feel more confident? Start by acknowledging and welcoming all the good you already have in your life.

A list of previous accomplishments.

Next, keep a list of all of the previous things you accomplished.

Again, you’ll start with the big obvious ones (that’s great!).

The raise you earned.

That karate trophy from the third grade.

Voted most photogenic in high school.

Eventually, you’ll move on to the harder, but not less significant experiences.

The first successful sales call.

That time you worked up the nerve to ask that special someone.

Conquering the fear of public speaking.

Pretty soon, you’ll have an impressive list not only of everything you have to be thankful for, but all the previous times you’ve thought something was impossible, and yet you did it anyway.

Positive Affirmations

Finally, look at yourself in the mirror and give yourself some encouragement.

Far too often, we do just the opposite.

We mess up or make a mistake and say something like, “Of course I did that. I’m a klutz.”

Or, “What an idiot.”

Instead of that how about we say, “Boy, had I given it two more seconds of thought maybe I wouldn’t have made that same choice, but I’m glad I had this learning experience.”

Then, encourage yourself:

  • Look at this list of everything you have to be thankful for and all you’ve accomplished. Confident man looking in mirror
  • You’re very talented!
  • I can’t believe all that you’ve overcome.
  • You are very resilient.
  • You’ve got this!

As you stare at yourself, providing those affirmations, you’ll notice a shift in your thinking, your emotions, and your behavior.

You’ll notice that confidence returning. Building. Sustaining you throughout the day.

Once you’ve acknowledged all you have to be grateful for, written down your accomplishments, and affirmed your intellect and skills, only one thing is left.

Go out and do great things.

You’re more than capable.

I’m sure of it.

I’m confident of it.

And confidence is key.

 

 

Want to exponentially grow your leadership skills? Here are two great options:

Attend the 2021 Building With Purpose Conference on April 1.

Work directly with Justin.

Street arrow with work on purpose text overlay

One of the most frequent phrases I tell myself is to, “Work With Purpose.”

Every day, I am given the chance to do something meaningful and make a difference for others. Through coaching and consulting, I help my clients break through their mental barriers and experience a real and lasting transformation.

But there’s more to it than that.

I remind myself that working with purpose affects every area of life.

The way I parent.

How I interact with my spouse.

The type of community member I am.

Where I spend my free time and volunteer hours. Street arrow with work on purpose text overlay

Each and every component of who I am gets run through the grid of what it means to work with purpose. To help me stay focused, I ask myself three primary questions.

Question One: Does it bring meaning and purpose?

Behind this question is the idea of joy in the work I do. It reminds me to engage with work that I deem as significant.

It eliminates distraction.

Gone are the days (mostly) where I feel like I did a lot of work without getting a lot done. Instead, now I make sure to plan my days and do fewer tasks, but each with intentionality that gives meaning and purpose to the work I do.

Question Two: Does it bring long-lasting consequences?

Want to live a wasted life? Think only in terms of short-term, instant-gratification results.

Want to work with purpose? Think long term. Now thing longer.

I’m not talking about six months or a year. I’m talking 10, 20, or 50 years from now. Some of the decisions I make today are because I’ve intentionally thought about the effect this may have on my grandkids when they are working.

My actions are filtered through an eternal perspective.

To work with purpose, I think less in terms of what feels good now, and instead how good discipline in the moment, however unwanted, produces long-term fruit that can be harvested for several generations.

Question Three: Does it help someone else?

This last question is about service. I don’t want to engage in work that is only (or even predominately) self-service. I want to help others. One of the clearest calls and commands in my life is that I am here for the benefit of others.

It’s why I coach, teach, consult, podcast, parent, write, speak, and volunteer.

I want my work to be filled with meaning and purpose.

I want it to bless those that come after me

And I want it to have an immediate impact on those around me.

That’s what it means to engage in work with purpose.

 

Attend the 2021 Building With Purpose Conference on April 1.

Podcast Cover Art

Episode 21 – My Interview with Mitch Matthews.

Welcome to the LeaderQuest Podcast. This season will consist of interviews conducted for the Building With Purpose Conference I held back in May. This is Episode 20 – My Interview with Michael Warden.

If you failed to register for the full course, stay tuned for the rest of season two! I’ve got interviews coming up with each of the contributors. You’ll be able to glean wisdom from them and apply them in ways to grow yourself and your business.

For the conference, I assembled a diverse team of business professionals to examine the stay at home order and how we can achieve maximum productivity and success while in quarantine. The conference focused on the front of a newly issued stay-at-home order. Now, four months later, it seems all the more timely as the economy is looking to reopen.

This is Episode 21 – My Interview with Mitch Matthews. Podcast Cover Art with overlay text "interview with Mitch Matthews"

More About Mitch

In this episode, I’m having a conversation with Mitch Matthews. He is a life and business coach focusing on success, performance, and chasing dreams. Having worked personally with Mitch and seeing the effects he’s had on my business, I was thrilled to have him at the conference. His wisdom, insight, and passion for life and contagious.

You can connect with him here.

Be sure to subscribe, leave a comment, and share with someone who could benefit.

What’s one takeaway you have from Episode 21 and my interview with Mitch from the Building With Purpose Conference? How will you take control of your business’s future?

Mitch’s passion for life and the empowerment of others is infectious. In the midst of COVID, many businesses are struggling. Many are questioning how to chase their dreams. Mitch is clear proof that you can do just that, with a deep sense of awe and wonder in life.

Want more leadership tips? Be sure to check out the blogor #NextSteps Coaching on YouTube.