“We Are All Like Elephants”
by Marc Chernoff
"In many ways, our past experiences have conditioned us to believe that we are less capable than we are. All too often we let the rejections of our past dictate every move we make. We literally do not know ourselves to be any better than what some opinionated person or narrow circumstance once told us was true. Of course, an old rejection doesn’t mean we aren’t good enough; it just means some person or circumstance from our past failed to align with what we had to offer at the time. But somehow we don’t see it that way - we hit a mental barricade that stops us in our tracks.
This is one of the most common and damaging thought patterns we as human beings succumb to. Even though we intellectually know that we’re gradually growing stronger than we were in the past, our subconscious mind often forgets that our capabilities have grown. Let me give you a quick metaphorical example…
Zookeepers typically strap a thin metal chain to a grown elephant’s leg and then attach the other end to a small wooden peg that’s hammered into the ground. The 10-foot tall, 10,000-pound elephant could easily snap the chain, uproot the wooden peg and escape to freedom with minimal effort. But it doesn’t. In fact the elephant never even tries. The world’s most powerful land animal, which can uproot a big tree as easily as you could break a toothpick, remains defeated by a small wooden peg and a flimsy chain.
Why? Because when the elephant was a baby, its trainers used the exact same methods to domesticate it. A thin chain was strapped around its leg and the other end of the chain was tied to a wooden peg in the ground. At the time, the chain and peg were strong enough to restrain the baby elephant. When it tried to break away, the metal chain would pull it back. Sometimes, tempted by the world it could see in the distance, the elephant would pull harder. But the chain would not budge, and soon the baby elephant realized trying to escape was not possible. So it stopped trying.
And now that the elephant is all grown up, it sees the chain and the peg and it remembers what it learned as a baby - the chain and peg are impossible to escape. Of course this is no longer true, but it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that the 200-pound baby is now a 10,000-pound powerhouse. The elephant’s self-limiting thoughts and beliefs prevail.
If you think about it, we are all like elephants. We all have incredible power inside us. And certainly, we have our own chains and pegs - the self-limiting thoughts and beliefs that hold us back. Sometimes it’s a childhood experience or an old failure. Sometimes it’s something we were told when we were a little younger. The key thing to realize here is this: We need to learn from the past, but be ready to update what we learned based on how our circumstances have changed (as they constantly do).“