There are times in our lives when we can feel defined and constrained by our circumstances. It takes courage and confidence to go beyond our comfort zones.
For example, if you had spent 29 years of your life walking with crutches, would climbing the Inca Trail be high on your list of priorities?
That’s exactly what Michelle Kuei, founder of Elevate Life Coaching, chose to do. She was no longer willing to be held back by her physicality and what people made that mean.
Michelle was 11 years old when a car ran a red light and hit her, leaving her heavily reliant on crutches for the rest of her life.
Four years later, she moved from her native Taiwan to America. Her first language was Mandarin. Her challenges were plain to see; but since then, she’s successfully mastered the English language, climbed Machu Picchu, written her first book Perfectly Normal, and is now working on her second book.
I wanted to know how she decided on these goals.
Michelle: “I am 4’4” tall. My left leg is one and a half inches shorter than my right and I walk with crutches. I looked like a waddling penguin, which was cute, but when you have everyone turning to look at you because of your physical appearance, you pick up a lot of external judgement.
I reached a point where I decided life had much more to offer. I wanted to live with more purpose and see what was possible for me. We are all here on this earth, on this planet, with a mission and a set of talents and gifts. We are meant to be bigger than just how we work, what we believe in, the clothes that we wear, the people in our lives, the interactions and the challenges that we have. Life is so much bigger.”
A group of Michelle’s friends had been talking about completing the Inca Trail. She decided she wanted to do it too. What I really admired about Michelle is that she committed to what she knew would be a massive personal challenge.
She set out the three main qualities she needed to develop to make it happen:
Michelle: “When you identify what you want to achieve, it’s like putting a pin on the map. I started to think about what I would need. What support would I need? What would support me the most? I knew I had to go to the gym and prepare physically. I had never been to a gym before and didn’t even know if it was possible for me to walk on a treadmill. I explained to the gym owner that I needed his help to overcome my physical challenges because I had had enough of body shaming. He agreed to help me.”
Determination is a wonderful trait, but even with a strong desire, there are things that slow me down or try to talk me out of what it is that I want to do. I wanted to know how Michelle navigated the negative voice in her head (we each have that inner critic) that would try to stop her from training.
Michelle: “There were so many times that I would wake up and think that today is not a good day. It’s too hot or it’s too rainy. There are always lots of excuses to not do something.
The more we give in, the more we program our minds to give in. Dedication means showing up without fear, and committing to doing that thing regardless of the excuses. I replaced phrases like ‘I can’t’ or ‘I won’t’ with ‘I can’, ‘I will’ and ‘I want to.’”
I was impressed by Michelle’s passion to make her 26-mile hike happen. With clear determination and dedication, she explained the last piece of the puzzle that kept the voice in her head firmly in check.
Michelle: “Discipline means applying the knowledge you have picked up along the way and trusting that no matter what is in front of you, you have the skills, the strength and the talent to do it.
People ask me how they can become more confident and trust that they are capable of achieving the new things they say they want to. Hiking Machu Picchu was new to me. How did I know that I could do it after all those years where I fell down whenever I tried to stand up? Discipline is about applying the knowledge you have already gained. In September 2016, I hiked the Inca Trail over four days!”
Michelle’s ability to break her goal down into smaller steps (go to gym, enlist support, repeat), helped her to instil even greater self-belief. She is now working on her second book (due out January 2022).
I’m working on my second book Think Simple Win Big: How to Build the Business of Your Dreams With a Few Simple Goals which will be released this month (October 2021; it’s a modified version of my first book, Goals DO Come True, this time aimed specifically at service based entrepreneurs). I know it can be easy to procrastinate when it comes to writing a book (I’ve invested in expert support from the team at Write Business Results), so I wanted to know what Michelle did to keep progressing her big vision.
Michelle: “Every year, I update my vision board which includes specific health, physical, social, environmental, emotional and spiritual goals. I ask what I want to achieve over six months and create a visual image that I can look at. I’m a visual learner so I need to see it to comprehend.”
Michelle has developed goals across a broad spectrum, which ensures that she doesn’t get too caught up on a business goal that might then cause the rest of life to fade into the background (you’ll understand how important this is to me when you read in my new book about why you should always make time for beer!).
One of the traits that I really admire in Michelle is her authenticity. She’s built her coaching business around supporting female entrepreneurs to be more confident and visible.
She had one final nugget to share.
Michelle: “When people work with me, they see the whole Michelle. I’m down to earth, I’m happy, sometimes I throw in a couple of dark jokes, and sometimes I laugh hysterically! I am high energy.
The number one thing that we can all do in business is to bring out our personality and make it shine. This is not the place to hide behind your everyday social construct and how people think you should be. Everyone wants to see who you are, that’s who they want to know, not your brand, not your business, not the company logo. They want to see more of the real you.”
Michelle’s passion for authenticity makes life so much easier; you never have to act in a specific way to “keep up appearances”.
You can hear my full conversation with Michelle on my podcast Goals Do Come True.