Metaphor - NLP In action

– Ranjit Manghnanir

I was facilitating an Action Learning Set in which one of the participants disclosed that he has been undertaking the same role for over 3 years.

Although comfortable in doing this, he was thinking of moving on to another role.  However, the thought of a new role had put him off and besides that, he didn’t want any hassle.  It seemed to him that he was the one who was constantly sweeping behind his Line Manager, who would leave issues all over the place, whilst staff members; would come to him with problems and issues to resolve.

At times he felt that he was doing all the donkey work whilst the Line Manager was positioning himself for the future promotion and role.

He admitted that he has lost the fire in his belly for his work.

I explained to the participant how we can sometimes focus on the ‘Circle of Concern’ and forget that inside that circle is also a ‘Circle of Influence’.  The danger of focusing solely on the ‘Circle of Concern’ is that the pressure can shrink or reduces our ‘Circle of Influence’ and this can make us feel inadequate, we begin to doubt our self-belief and confidence.

We feel beaten and lose our passion, commitment to strive and maximise our potential and may just do the donkeys work.  Eventually the ‘Circle of Influence’ becomes a mere dot and all we see is the ‘Circle of Concern’.  Alternatively, if we focus on the ‘Circle of Influence’ we can help it expand and engulf the ‘Circle of Concern’.

How do you focus on the circle of influence?  As Covey (2004) suggest, firstly understand your security, who you are and where you are in your present location, are you on the right track?  Once you have ascertained your position you can then work on your guidance, whereby you base your goals and objectives on your values and remain focused on these.

You should acquire further wisdom, by improving your knowledge, competence and skills and finally derive power through your self-belief and self-confidence by knowing where you are and where you want to be.

To further explain this concept I told the story of a stable boy named Dave who worked for the great Aga Khan.

He took his work very seriously, although at times he felt as if he was nothing in the eyes of the jockeys and owners of the racehorses, which were stabled at the Aga Khan ranch.

Dave would rise daily at 6 am to carry out his chores at the stables and would always wonder what it would be like to be able to rise later, put on his best suit and stroll around the stables, without having to worry whether the stable hands had tended to the horses appropriately and the jockeys had completed their duties.

One cool, dry morning Dave woke at 6 am as usual and proceeded to carry out his usual chores of sweeping the yard, cleaning the stables and carrying out any other task that was required.  It was the role of the Jockeys to exercise, feed and water the horses each morning but most found this tedious and considered this a task lower than their capabilities and the responsibility inadvertently this task fell to Dave to undertake.

The morning soon became the afternoon and Dave had checked and re-checked all the necessary chores had been completed including doing the jockeys chores of watering, feeding and removing the bridles off the horses.  The noonday sun was hot and some of the horses were restless, they needed to be cooled down so Dave walked briskly to the jockey’s accommodation; as he approached he overheard one of them saying,

“Look out lads here comes the donkey, then in a chorus, they all sang,

We are the riders and ride the stallions like the wind, not like a donkey who sweeps and cleans.”

Dave felt very sad, he thought to himself that he didn’t have to come and tell them the horses needed watering he could have just let them suffer in the heat of the sun; he could have let them fall sick but he knew the value of the horses and most importantly he cared about them.  Dave knew the chore of keeping the horses cool was going to be down to him again.

He returned to the stable and one by one he led the horses out and showered them with a spray of cool water the horses really loved the coolness on their body and as each one was led back to their stable they nudged Dave in appreciation, for the horses knew who really did all the hard work.

The next morning Dave was again up with the lark, although he did not feel happy with himself and was concerned about being called a donkey, it made him question himself.

Am I a donkey, after all, I do take all the work on and carry the loads?  But in his heart he knew that he was not a donkey, he was a stallion perhaps a rider of a stallion?  He needed to believe in himself.

With the morning chores completed and all the horses back in their stables, Dave decided he would not go back to his accommodation but sit with his favourite horse, the great black stallion Rambo.  Rambo was also the favourite and most expensive horse of Aga Khan with a value of five million

pounds.  He was such an intelligent creature he knew by the sounds of footsteps who was approaching his stable, and one footstep he loved to hear was that of Dave’s.  Rambo loved Dave he knew how kind and caring Dave was and he also knew who would be watering him down.

Rambo also sensed when Dave was not happy, he would nudge at his back and snort as if he was talking to Dave.  As Dave made himself comfortable on the bales of hay, he pondered about his future, he needed to think where and what he wanted to be.  He could stay as a stable boy for the rest of his life, getting good food and accommodation, in return he would work from dawn to dusk and pick up all the rubbish and take all the bantering about being a donkey or he could be the best Jockey the Aga Khan had ever wished for, after all Rambo had still not been entered for any races and that’s because he was temperamental as to who approached him, even when the jockeys take him for his morning stroll they could only walk him he still would not allow anyone to put a saddle on his back.

Dave thought out aloud, ‘how I wish I could ride you Rambo I want to feel the wind rushing in my face and the thrill of crowds cheering us on’.

As the days went by Dave became more and more dissatisfied with himself, he went about his duties with a very grim face, although no one ever thought of asking him why he was upset.  Each day after work he would return to Rambo’s stable, where he sat and over and over put the same question to the horse. Am I a donkey or a rider of a stallion?

That same afternoon the Aga Khan had made an impromptu visit to the stables.  The word had been going around that he wanted to enter Rambo into the next Gold Cup race, however, has still not been able to get a jockey that Rambo would allow to sit on him was becoming a problem.  All the jockeys would give anything just to be selected for a trial let alone get the opportunity to ride the great stallion.

Dave could hear footsteps approaching the stable he quickly jumped to his feet, lying around would not create a good impression to the Aga Khan.  He picked up the horse brush and started to rub Rambo down, the horse appreciated the gentle rub it helped remove the irritating flies that often got behind his ears. Rambo always knew who was approaching and he stamped his hoof in delight when the Aga Khan arrived.   The Aga Khan turned to Dave and thanked him for taking care of Rambo.  Dave was surprised as the Aga Khan had never spoken with him before.  Dave told the Aga Khan that Rambo was a very clever horse he knew who was approaching just by hearing the sound of the footsteps.  Dave told Aga Khan that Rambo would be the greatest racehorse in history because he just wants to run.

“That may well be” replied the Aga Khan  “However, we need to find someone who has the fire in their belly to ride him, which is not going to be easy as so far no one has been able to saddle him.

Dave thought long and hard, he wished he could be the jockey to ride the stallion; he wanted to run like the dessert storms making mountains from the sweeping sands.

That night Dave dreamt of getting the opportunity to saddle Rambo.  He could hear the crowds cheering them as they passed the winning post furlongs ahead of all the others.

The next morning, Dave woke even earlier than usual.  He pulled on his riding boots and headed towards the stables Aga Khan was still at the ranch, today was the day that all the jockeys would be given the opportunity to saddle the great Rambo.  Each and everyone tried but no one got even near him, no one except Dave, he walked slowly towards the great stallion and whispered “Am I a donkey or a rider of a Stallion?

The stallion heard his voice and shook his head in acknowledgement.  Dave gently lifted the saddle across the horses back, Rambo stood firm he waited for the young stable lad to climb up.  This was Dave’s moment and he felt the fire in his belly, he was going to ride the horse he was going to show the world he was not a donkey but a rider of the stallion, the one in control who would take the horse to the winning post.

The Aga Khan had found his jockey in the most unlikely person, the Aga Khan could see the fire in the young man’s eyes and the passion to ride, he knew that the great stallion and his new jockey will achieve the ultimate in winning the biggest race, by a long margin.

No one ever called Dave a donkey again and neither did Dave ever feel he was a donkey, he had ambition, he had fire not only in his belly but in his head and heart.  He focused on the ‘Circle of Influence’ he maintained his commitment to work ethics and integrity.  When we have our bellies full and have reached our destination, we forget our ultimate goal or passion and enthusiasm.

Are you a donkey or a rider of a stallion?  Only you know the answer.  If you are a rider of a stallion then visualise the ride and ride fast with energy and focus on the ‘Circle of Influence’.  This will help you achieve your goals and guide you to your destination.  You will realise how good you really are and will never ever settle for second best.

Don’t let your belly be full where you have reached your destination, don’t forget your goal.  Have passion, enthusiasm, have fire and you will excel.  Only you can do this.  You can ride a stallion towards your goals.  Life is too short for people with fire to focus on the ‘Circle of Concern’, .you need to wake up and expand your ‘Circle of Influence’.

So, what are you… a donkey, a stallion or the rider of a stallion?

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