Paradigms: Are you a flea in a jar?

Are you a flea in a jar?


The fleas in the jar story is a great analogy for how we create paradigms in our lives and end up limiting our potential.  If you don't know it already, the story goes something like this...

When fleas are placed in a jar, they try to jump out – but after the lid is placed on, the fleas stop attempting the escape – as they learn the boundaries of the new environment they’re in.  Even when the lid is removed, the fleas never jump out. Their thinking has created the ‘lid’ as the boundary, so has conditioned them to limit their jumping.  We're all a bit like those fleas -  our thinking conditions us. It creates imaginary boundaries and limited ways of thinking that keeps us stuck in a certain way of operating.

The paradigms we live in

Our view of reality is created by our thinking and we don't even realise we're doing it.  Layers of our thought create the various paradigms (fixed ways of thinking) that we live in.  We have paradigms about Brexit, about the market, about the people that work for us, about our business and about everything else in our lives. Now some of those paradigms help us be successful in life, but many just limit us without us realising it.

Unlocking reality

Recently, we worked with a business leader who's situation was common – the professional services company (around forty people strong) had become reliant on one big client.  They needed to focus on business development, and the MD (Simon) need to be heavily involved in driving that. But even though it was important, over months he didn't find the time to properly address it. Revenue and client dependency remained the same.

Working with him, we were able to uncover the problem.  Simon had thinking that was limiting him. He had thoughts such as “I can’t drop my other responsibilities”, “I don’t want to disempower the business development team”, “I don’t want to cause conflict or commotion”. And with this thinking going on unconsciously, nothing was changing. Much like the fleas – the thinking keeps you fixed in a certain way of behaving.

Once he saw this, Simon became able to let new thoughts and insights in – thus empowering him to really shift his focus - and solutions naturally arose. This shift in his thinking was the key to unlocking the whole situation.

Success is an inside job

Outcomes for any leader lie within their thinking and the paradigms they create.  Jumping into this (and out of the jar) is what our Quality of Mind programme is all about.

If you'd like to go beyond the lid then email us at and let’s talk; or click here to read about our Quality of Mind programmes or our Executive Coaching.