Have you ever been exposed to an idea so powerful it permeated your mind and transformed your thinking? I had an experience like that long ago while listening to a sermon by Reverend Lee Stoneking. Reverend Stoneking used the characteristics of an eagle as a metaphor to describe the attributes that define an extraordinary individual. The major premise of the idea was that if you can expand your vision of who you are in the present, you can expand the possibilities of your future. Once your vision is expanded, your heightened scope of possibility expresses itself in every facet of your life. I want to share the insights of that message because I believe if our work is aligned with our sense of purpose and the values we adhere to, it is one of the most powerful vehicles of self expression, allowing us to transcend our jobs and live as the embodiment of the legacy we wish to leave.
However, all too often individuals stand in their own way of greatness. This impediment exists not because of who they believe they are but who they believe they’re not. They never experience soaring with the eagles because they secretly see themselves as chickens that lack the courage to pursue their highest aspirations. In life, a lack of courage is not necessarily defined as cowardice but conformity, following a script for your life that you did not write. If you’ve ever heard that quiet yet persistent voice inside telling you that there is unrealized potential within you, if you've ever had the feeling that you were capable of far more than you have demonstrated in your life so far or seen yourself going further than other people said you could, that by itself could be evidence of the fact that you were meant to soar. I don’t believe any of us were engineered to live our lives as chickens fenced in our coops by fears, self-limiting beliefs and low expectations imposed upon us. Instead, I believe we have within us the capacity to soar to extraordinary heights like eagles.
The Difference Between Chickens and Eagles
A chicken can be placed within a confined area or pen and is content to just scratch around in the pen. If the shadow of a hawk appears above the chicken, it will not face the danger but run for cover.
Many professionals are content where they are simply because they’ve grown comfortable being there. Emerson said, “People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” In other words, the only way to grow and position yourself as a master of change rather than a victim of change is to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Change in any industry - not excluding fitness - requires constant reinvention. Whenever competition, socioeconomic trends, increasing industry standards or the growing complexity of our clients' needs necessitates professional growth, it frightens the average professional. His low self concept creates the mindset of a chicken, and the challenges ahead threaten him as a hawk does prey. Like most people, he will run for cover and hope it passes.
An eagle, however, is not content with boundaries. It does not want to be fenced in. If a hawk appears, the eagle will go after that hawk. Winners are like the eagle - they don’t want to be fenced in. They have the desire to spread their wings and fly. Something pulls at them. Even though they may have been a chicken at one time, something happened within them. They have a longing to go higher. If a challenge appears that requires them to grow, they go after the situation tenaciously because they understand the situation is actually an opportunity to become better. These individuals know that in order to have more or do more, you must become more. Once you have seen the world from the perspective of an eagle, you can never go back to the chicken coop.
An eagle has eyes that can focus on objects several miles away. An eagle is different from any other type of bird in that he has two sets of eyelids. For that reason, he can fly toward his destination and not be blinded by distractions, even if he flies directly into the sun. Winners in this industry are the ones who have the ability to consistently focus on their major definite purpose, irrespective of the distractions that tempt all of us. Goethe said, “Things that matter most must never be at the mercy of things that matter least.” Winners adhere to that as a major philosophical premise of their lives.
Eagles mate for life. But if a hunter accidentally kills her mate, the female will not just take up any eagle that comes flying through the air. If he comes near and he wants to court her, she will test him. They will fly together, but then she puts the pressure on. She will fly down to the ground and pick up a stick, fly high into the air and then loosen her talons and let the stick fall. An eagle can dive at 200 miles an hour. He must pick up the stick before it hits the ground. If he doesn’t, he’s out. It doesn’t stop there. She will get a stick a little bit bigger. If he wants her, he'd better cooperate. She will go to the heights and drop it. Again, he is expected to catch it. She will do this until she is carrying small logs. Eventually, she will pick up a stone, and he is expected to catch it. The reason is there will come a day when eaglets will be born to them, and the eagles will teach them to fly. If one of the eaglets should run into trouble and fall, she needs to know that he will be able to catch it.
Winners understand you are a mirror reflection of the five people you hang around most. If you want to excel beyond where you are now, you must be extremely conscientious of your associations. Do the people around you support you and add to your quality of life? Or do they discourage you and attempt to steal your dreams? If you fell, would they catch you until you could fly on your own? Or would they point out that you fell and offer you their opinions on why you couldn’t make it? Opinions are the cheapest commodity on earth and not worth much from anyone (even if well meaning) who does not offer them solely as a means of helping you reach new heights. Further, if they have not soared to the heights to which you aspire, how could their opinion help you?
We are surrounded by people who never have had the courage to pursue their dreams, so they spend their lives trying to steal the dreams of others. The cynic does not believe in dreams. He fails to realize that all human progress and invention was conceived in a dream. Disney, Microsoft and space travel were all at one time just dreams until someone put foundations under them. Where would the world be if its pioneers were intellectual elitists and cynics?
An eagle does not want to be bothered with birds that don’t want to fly high. When they annoyingly nip at his wings, he fully extends his six- to eight-foot wingspan and rises to heights other birds will never know.
The Comfort Zone
When an eaglet is a baby, it rests in a feathered nest and eats, sleeps and squawks. It’s what many people do. But there will come a day when the parents decide that the party is over. The mother will come to the nest and begin to scream. The eaglets will have never seen her act in this manner before. She rips out the rabbit’s fur from the nest and tears up the sticks so the points are where the fur used to be. For the eaglet, there is no longer a place to rest. He cannot get comfortable.
Often individuals do not change until the pain of not changing supersedes the pain of the process of change itself. Where are you so comfortable that it might be holding you back? Decide to change in advance.
Sometimes the parents nudge the eaglets to the edge of the nest. The parents will then get a morsel of food the eaglets have always enjoyed. They take it to a tree branch in full view of the starving eaglets and make the sounds that accompany the enjoyment of a meal. Eventually the eaglets become so desperate, they come to the very edge of the nest. They start to focus less on their fear of being out on the edge of the nest and more on the object of their desire. They want it so bad they start to scream, which is what many of us do. When the eagles get hungry enough, their hunger cannot be quenched. Finally, they do what comes naturally to them: they flap their wings and carry on. As they beat the air with their wings, they spring from the nest and find it’s not as treacherous as they thought. They flap and scream their way to the other limb. Some of them will fall and hold on for dear life with their talons, but they make it. And when they make it, it’s all there for them.
If you have a hunger driving you, you must flap your wings and go out on a limb where you have never been before in order to achieve something. When your desire is great enough, your resolve will be strong enough to go from where you are now to where you desire to be, regardless of the sacrifices. Go emotionally beyond what you want and ask yourself, “Why is this important to me?” Desire is the precursor to all achievement.
Belief vs. Fear
Despite their greatest efforts, some of the eaglets will spring forward but begin to fall. (This is why the adult female tested the male! She expects him to help her, and he dives at 200 miles an hour underneath the falling eaglet and catches it on his wings before it hits the ground).
When this happens to us, we usually say, “God, why did you wait so long to help me.” And God says, “You needed all the time you could get to learn how to fly.”
He will not do anything for you that you cannot do for yourself. Every miracle begins with impossibility. Most people say, "Prove it, and I will believe it," but the winner says, "If I believe it, I will see it." The contrast is incredible.
The first lesson is you must get out of the nest. The second lesson is more incredible. That is, the greatest obstacle the eaglet has to overcome is fear; the fear of falling, of not being successful and worrying what others think is the obstacle that stands between where you are and where you want to be.
An eagle's eyes are miraculous. The eyes are not fully developed when they are first hatched. They have a unique property. Inside the eagles eyes are series of tissues folded into pleats called pectins. Each pleat contains a fine network of lymph tubes. The lymph fluid in these tubes is electrolyte, which means it is affected by magnetic pull and operates as a conductor of electricity. When the eaglet is young, the tubes are not developed and are pliable. But they are affected by the magnetic pull of the north pole, very similar to a compass. The pectins adjust themselves to the lines of magnetic intensity from the north pole in relation to their place of birth. As the eagle matures, the pectins become rigid, and they are permanently set. As long as the eagle is away from his nesting ground, there is a sense of imbalance in him. The pectins act as a built in gyroscope for the eagle. There is a constant pressure that causes pain to a certain degree, even during times of migration; however, the pain subsides when he returns to his nesting ground. It is not difficult for the eagle to find his way home. Mother Nature has endowed the eagle with an amazing homing mechanism.
An eagle's pectins are set on an immovable north pole. Ours are set on an immovable purpose. Only with an immovable purpose will you ever feel balanced and at home in a rapidly changing world, where nothing in our external environment is constant..
The farther you get from your values and what is truly important to you, the greater the intensity of pressure. The only hope you have is to spread your wings and go back to that place where you first nested. There is something built in us that calls us to our purpose.
An eagle flies on the air currents; the laws of gravity cannot be suspended. If he folds his wings, he will drop. No matter what storms are raging, we must keep our wings spread so we can rise above it.
An eagle has faith in his wings; he is not worried if he is perched on a rock in the middle of a river during a storm. The storm is no problem for him because he knows he can spread his wings and rise above it. If you and I were on a rock and there was a storm, we might feel helpless. The eagle has confidence in his ability to get himself from the storm to the shore.
Faith by itself will fail you. A little faith will get you out into the river and maybe sink you. Great faith denoted by action and perseverance will get you there and back. Many think they have faith. They will start out strong and then something happens, and they lose the faith necessary to get them home. Like the man who started to cross the desert: when he got half way across the dessert, there was not enough water to make it across but neither was there enough water to make it back. You have to know in your heart that you have enough faith to get you across. If you have the desire and the need, you need sufficient faith. You must have it for yourself.
An Eagle's Response to Challenges
In his heights, he can see the storm coming. Every other animal in the forest doesn’t know it’s coming until they are running for cover. But the eagle uses his wings to negotiate with the wind. Through effort and resolve, he is able to soar above the storm.
Fitness professionals who are committed to rising to higher personal standards know their industry; they know their clientele and are fully accountable for their own personal development. Therefore, they are better positioned to weather changes ahead than other fitness professionals who remain oblivious to an approaching storm. These professionals are often blindsided and shocked when the storm comes. The greater your skill sets, the greater the diversity of responses. Personal development will help you develop the skills to better negotiate with the wind when the storm comes. Read, listen to tapes and commit to being better tomorrow than you are today, every day!
Each storm has different wind currents. No two are the same. Each passing storm will make a better bird out of you. Storms are learning sessions to the eagle; therefore, he is unafraid. With each new challenge, the eagle will learn to rise above the storm. Human history has proved that within each of us is the same desire and potential to rise above our circumstances.
- As long as there has been bondage, man has sought freedom.
- As long as there has been a heaven, man has sought to fly.
- As long as there have been battles, man has sought to be fearless.
- As long as there have been obstacles, man has sought to subdue them.
Eagles are the most majestic of all birds. Artists have painted them, the bible has made reference to them, and America has adapted them as the nation’s symbol. There is an innate desire in man to see that which is majestic.
Among all the measures of majesty within our lives, perhaps the most admirable is the ability to reign in your life over all elements aligned with your purpose and to succeed despite the obstacles that detract from it.