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[Last week, I wrote about how to address the big “now what?” question that comes when you feel call to do something exciting and scary at the same time. I wrote about settling for what is vs. dreaming about what might be. This is part two in this series.]

Most of us operate from a fairly weak context. While the reasons we give for the things we do seem legitimate, at their heart, those reasons are not very inspiring. We use statements like…

“I’ve got to hit my numbers – so I don’t get fired”

“I’ll do it so I don’t have to work so hard later”

“Why am I doing this? Because it’s my job”

Notice the language and energy in each of these. They’re from the perspective of life happening to me and not a context that is pulling me forward; a victim of circumstance versus creation, empowerment and self-leadership.

Creating a powerful context is critical to being and remaining inspired and leading others.

Simon Sinek calls it “starting with why.” That is a great starting point and now let’s build on that and paint a much richer, vibrant picture that will stand the test of time.

I’ve experienced my own journey from a weak, victim-minded context to a powerful one that informs my approach to every part of life.

In 2006, I was diagnosed with a degenerative nerve disease, Adrenomyeloneuropathy (AMN) that meant that I would likely lose the ability to walk in the years to come.

Early on, the symptoms of AMN were subtle and progressed very slowly. My daughters, Maddie and Gloria, were born in 2007 and 2012, respectively, and life got swept up with being new parents. I also started my business in 2011 and life marched on.

By 2014, a broken left leg and the rapid progression of the disease caused everything to change.

While remaining a positive person, my context for life was pretty weak.  My context was “this has happened TO me so just make the best of it,” “keep up a strong appearance,” and “this is the new normal.” While a reasonable context given the circumstances. My power and presence, if only in my own eyes, was disappearing.

A new context began to emerge in November 2015. I read the story of Chris Kaag. Chris served in the U.S. Marine Corp and was diagnosed with AMN at 21 years old. He’s a business owner and founder of the IMABLE Foundation and does all this full-time from a wheelchair. I immediately contacted Chris and made the two-hour drive to visit him in person.

I experienced the context Chris created in his life. He owned his disability and his wheelchair. Through his choice to view his own disability as a personal stepping-stone and not as a crutch, he inspired me to redefine my own context.

I began to see the freedom and inspiration that was possible through AMN and using a wheelchair. As I told people about the decision I had made to use a wheelchair, typical responses were “I’m so sorry” or an awkward smile and uncertainty of what to say next. Despite these reactions, the context for my physical condition and my life in a wheelchair was and is freedom, inspiration and a life without limits. This context inspires me and also my daughters, my congregation, my team and most everyone I encounter.

Whether it’s something you want to achieve or a challenge you’re facing, shifting from a weak, “this is happening to me,” context to a powerful, “I’m leading here,” context is essential to long term happiness and ultimately, leadership success.

Next week I’ll give you the steps to create your own powerful context.

Jeff HarmonJeff Harmon is the president of Brilliance Within Coaching & Consulting which specializes in developing servant leaders while helping them translate their strategies into actionable plans that drive business results. Jeff is the author of “The Anatomy of a Principled Leader.” Jeff has been developing leaders for nearly 20 years and has led the execution of over 100,000 hours of business strategy for information technology, financial services and non-profit organizations.

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