The Flea Circus

The Flea Circus: How to Break Bad Habits and Live Effectively

In days gone by, a flea circus was a circus sideshow attraction in which fleas were trained to perform miniature circus acts, keeping patrons amused until the main event.

Flea trainers trained the fleas to kick miniature balls, pull small carts, even rotate miniature Ferris wheels.

Fleas, though, have the incredible ability to leap eighty times their own height. This is the equivalent of a six-foot human jumping four hundred and eighty feet into the air, or over a forty-eight-storey building.

However, fleas can be trained to jump only a few inches high. But how?


A flea trainer does this with a simple deception, by placing an upended glass or cup over the fleas. When the fleas try to jump, they hit a ceiling, which is the bottom of the cup.

Over time, the fleas learn they can’t jump any higher and are tricked into thinking this is the limit of their capabilities.

When the cup is removed, however, the fleas don’t return to their normal leaping abilities.

Rather, they are fettered by their training and continue to leap as if the glass or cup was still above them.

Likewise, your mind places a virtual ceiling of thoughts, emotions and beliefs above you, causing you to live within self-prescribed limitations.

Your mind tricks you into believing that you’re not capable of doing more or being more effective.


The flea circus is therefore a great metaphor for how your mind can limit your full potential and minimise your effectiveness:

Your mind puts an invisible barrier to your hopes and dreams that only you can remove.

There is a quote by Bruce Lee that sums this up beautifully:

If you always put a limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

But there is no need to put limitations on yourself any longer. We will discuss 5 ways to break through your barriers and transcend your limits.

    1. Embrace the Power of Positive Affirmations
    2. Cultivate a Growth Mindset
    3. Visualisation and Mental Rehearsal
    4. Challenge Negative Self-Talk
    5. Set Realistic Goals and Celebrate Small Wins

This is how you avoid being just another flea in the flea circus.

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#1: Embracing the Power of Positive Affirmations

Affirmations act as the seeds of intention. When carefully planted in your subconscious mind, just as a skilled gardener nurtures their plants, you can cultivate a garden of positive thoughts that has the potential to break through even the toughest mental barriers.

Your subconscious mind is like a vast field, ready to receive the seeds you choose to plant.

Affirmations are the intentional seeds of positivity and self-belief. When you begin your day with affirmations like “I am capable,” “I am resilient,” and “I am worthy of success,” you are sowing the seeds of empowerment.

These affirmations take root in the subconscious, gradually influencing your thoughts, emotions, and actions throughout the day.

The more you nurture these thoughts, the stronger and more resilient they become.

Positive affirmations create a mental environment conducive to growth, fostering a mindset that sees opportunities in challenges and solutions in setbacks.

Affirmations serve as the pathway to transcending limits. By consistently repeating positive statements, you are reshaping your belief system.

You begin to internalize the affirmations, reinforcing a positive self-image and challenging the limiting beliefs that may have held you back.

These affirmations pave the way for you to transcend your self-limitations, opening the door to new possibilities and heights of personal achievement.

Incorporating affirmations into your daily routine becomes a habit of self-empowerment. It’s not just about saying the words; it’s about embodying them.

When you declare “I am capable” with conviction, you are aligning your thoughts with your potential.

This habit creates a positive momentum that extends beyond the morning, influencing your decisions, actions, and reactions throughout the day.

#2: Cultivating a Growth Mindset

Cultivating a growth mindset is not just about changing your thoughts; it’s about transforming your entire approach to life.

It’s not just a way of thinking; it’s about seeing the world as a classroom, challenges as opportunities, and setbacks as stepping-stones.

The essence of a growth mindset lies in a fundamental paradigm shift.

Instead of perceiving challenges as insurmountable roadblocks, individuals with a growth mindset view them as opportunities for growth and learning.

It’s a shift from a fixed mindset – the belief that abilities and intelligence are innate and unchangeable – to a growth mindset – the conviction is that skills and intelligence can be developed over time.


With a growth mindset, challenges are not sources of frustration but stepping-stones toward personal evolution.

Each obstacle becomes an opportunity to stretch beyond your current capabilities, to learn something new, and to become more resilient.

When you embrace challenges with enthusiasm, they become essential components of the journey toward self-improvement.

Opportunities for Growth:

Also central to the concept of a growth mindset is the understanding that abilities and intelligence are not fixed traits but rather skills that can be honed through dedication and hard work.

It’s about adopting the mindset that improvement is always possible, regardless of your starting point.

This perspective opens the door to a continuous journey of self-discovery and development.

The Power of ‘Not Yet’:

Furthermore, with a growth mindset, setbacks are not viewed as failures but as opportunities to learn and refine your approach.

The phrase “not yet” becomes a powerful affirmation. For example, if you face a challenge and don’t succeed immediately, you might say, “I haven’t mastered it yet.”

This simple shift in language reflects the belief that success is a matter of time and effort, reinforcing the idea that growth is a dynamic and ongoing process.

Enthusiastic Embrace of Challenges:

Rather than shying away from difficulties, individuals with a growth mindset actively seek out challenges.

They understand that the path to mastery involves facing obstacles, and each hurdle is a chance to enhance their skills.

This enthusiastic embrace of challenges not only accelerates personal growth but also builds resilience and a deep-seated confidence in your ability to overcome adversity.

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#3: Visualisation and Mental Rehearsal

Visualisation and mental rehearsal are not merely tools; they are dynamic processes that sculpt the narrative of your life.

As you paint the canvas of your goals with vivid mental images, you are not just dreaming—you are actively shaping your reality.

Visualization is the art of creating vivid mental images of your desired outcomes.

Creating a Mental Blueprint:

Take a few moments each day to immerse yourself in the mental imagery of achieving your goals. Picture the details—the colors, the sounds, the emotions. NLP coaches call this ‘future pacing‘.

Envision yourself navigating the journey, overcoming obstacles with grace, and ultimately savoring the sweet taste of success.

Visualisation serves as a powerful magnet, pulling your aspirations from the realm of possibility into the realm of inevitability.

Visualisation is not just about daydreaming; it’s about creating a mental blueprint for your success.

See yourself in action, executing the steps necessary to achieve your goals.

Whether it’s acing a presentation, conquering a fitness milestone, or excelling in a personal relationship, visualise the process and the positive outcomes with clarity and precision.

Engaging in Mental Rehearsal:

Mental rehearsal takes visualisation to the next level.

It involves actively engaging in the process of overcoming challenges in your mind.

Imagine scenarios where obstacles arise, and instead of succumbing to them, visualise yourself navigating through them with skill and determination.

This mental practice not only boosts your confidence but also serves as a rehearsal for your subconscious mind, preparing it for real-life triumphs.

Building Confidence and Resilience:

Visualisation and mental rehearsal work in tandem to build confidence and resilience.

As you repeatedly visualise success and practice overcoming challenges in your mind, you send a powerful message to your subconscious: “I am capable. I am resilient. I can overcome anything.”

This affirmation becomes ingrained in your belief system, influencing your behavior and responses in the face of real challenges.

Alignment of Thoughts and Actions:

Visualisation also bridges the gap between thoughts and actions.

By consistently visualising success, you align your thoughts with your desired outcomes.

This alignment sets the stage for inspired and purposeful action, as your subconscious mind has already experienced the taste of success through your mental rehearsals.

The Flea Circus

4: Challenge Negative Self-Talk:

The internal dialogue we have with ourselves shapes our perceptions, influences our emotions, and ultimately dictates our actions.

Recognising that this internal narrative can either be a formidable barrier or a powerful catalyst for personal growth.

By confronting and challenging the voice of self-doubt, you are reclaiming control over your thoughts and, consequently, your actions.

Remember, the words you speak to yourself matter—they shape your reality.

So, when faced with the echoes of “I can’t,” be bold in proclaiming “I can learn how.”

In doing so, you’re not just transforming your self-talk; you’re dismantling mental barriers and paving the way for a mindset that thrives on possibilities and potential.

Awareness is the First Step:

Challenging negative self-talk begins with self-awareness.

It’s vital to be mindful of the thoughts that run through your mind, especially when faced with challenges or uncertainties.

Catch the subtle but destructive phrases like “I can’t,” “I’m not good enough,” or “This is too difficult.”

The Reframing Process:

Once you’ve identified negative self-talk, the next step is to reframe those thoughts.

Reframing involves consciously altering the language and perspective of your internal dialogue.

For instance, when you catch yourself saying, “I can’t,” challenge it by reframing it to “I can learn how.”

This simple shift transforms a statement of limitation into one of opportunity and growth.

This reframing empowers you to see challenges not as insurmountable obstacles but as invitations to expand your capabilities.

Dismantling Mental Barriers:

Negative self-talk often erects mental barriers, limiting our potential and inhibiting progress.

By actively challenging and changing these negative narratives, you are dismantling these barriers.

It’s a process of breaking down the walls of self-doubt and creating space for a more constructive and optimistic mindset to flourish.

As negative self-talk is replaced with positive and empowering thoughts, a transformative shift occurs in your mindset.

The narrative evolves from one of self-limitation to one of self-empowerment.

This new mindset becomes the foundation for a more constructive approach to challenges, fostering resilience, creativity, and a belief in your ability to overcome obstacles.

Consistency is Key:

Challenging negative self-talk is not a one-time event but a continuous practice.

It’s important to make this reframing process a habit, a part of our daily mental hygiene.

Consistency is key to rewiring the patterns of thought that may have been ingrained over time.


#5: Set Realistic Goals:

In the pursuit of personal growth, the journey is often as significant as the destination, if not more.

Setting realistic goals, breaking them down into manageable tasks, and celebrating small wins are not just strategies for success:

They are habits that cultivate a mindset of progress and achievement.

Remember, every small win is a victory, and every victory contributes to the transformation of your mindset.

So, set your goals wisely, celebrate each step forward, and watch as the path to success becomes clearer and more fulfilling.

Building Momentum:

Setting realistic goals is a fundamental step in overcoming mental barriers. Realistic goals are those that align with your current capabilities and resources.

Breaking down larger, more complex objectives into smaller, manageable tasks makes the path to success clearer and more attainable.

Achieving smaller milestones is like laying down stepping-stones towards your larger goals.

Each completed task builds momentum, creating a sense of progress and accomplishment.

This forward momentum is a powerful force that gradually erodes mental barriers.

As you consistently check off these smaller tasks, you are reinforcing the belief that progress is possible, instilling confidence in your ability to navigate challenges.

Celebrating Small Wins:

Celebrating small wins is a crucial aspect of the goal-setting process.

It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate every achievement, no matter how minor.

This celebration is not just about the external recognition; it’s about internal reinforcement.

When you take a moment to acknowledge and celebrate your successes, you are sending a positive signal to your brain, affirming that your efforts are worthwhile and that you are making strides toward your larger goals.

Reinforcing Belief in Your Abilities:

Each celebration of a small win contributes to the development of a positive self-image.

The more you acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, the stronger your belief in your own capabilities becomes.

This positive reinforcement becomes a powerful antidote to self-doubt and a catalyst for overcoming mental barriers.

It promotes a mindset that views challenges not as threats but as opportunities to prove your competence and resilience.

Creating a Positive Feedback Loop:

Setting realistic goals, achieving small wins, and celebrating them creates a positive feedback loop.

This loop reinforces the connection between effort and success, solidifying the belief that consistent, focused action yields results.

As the feedback loop continues, the mental barriers that may have once impeded progress begin to crumble, making room for a mindset that embraces challenges and relishes the journey of personal development.

Escaping the Flea Circus

Remember, breaking through mental barriers is a continuous process.

Be patient with yourself, stay committed to your personal growth, and soon you’ll find yourself transcending limits you once thought were unattainable.

As I like to say,

“Believe in your potential, and the universe will conspire to make it a reality.”

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Dr. Scott Zarcinas | Doctor, Author, SpeakerABOUT DOCTORZED

Dr. Scott Zarcinas (aka DoctorZed) is a doctor, author, and transformologist. He helps pro-active people to be more decisive, confident, and effective by developing a growth mindset so that they can maximize their full potential and become the person they are capable of being. DoctorZed gives regular workshops, seminars, presentations, and courses to support those who want to make a positive difference through positive action and live the life they want, the way they want, how they want.

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