Do we think like the elephants? I mean do we place shackles on ourselves? I mean do we have limiting beliefs that are not serving us?
Elephants are pretty powerful creatures.
They weigh in at as much as 24,000 pounds, and stand as high as thirteen feet tall.
Their trunks are agile enough to pick up a single blade of grass, and strong enough to rip branches off of a tree.
Despite their enormous power, elephants can be chained. It doesn’t seem to make sense – what chain is strong enough to hold an elephant who struggles to break it?
The answer is a small one: a small chain fastened to a metal collar around the elephant’s foot is attached to a wooden peg nailed into the ground. This holds the elephant so strongly that it doesn’t ever struggle to break free.
There is an elephant inside each of us – an inspired being of enormous power and capability. And just like the elephants that we might see in a circus, our internal elephants are also put in chains.
How does this happen?
It starts when they’re babies…
The way to chain an elephant is to start when it’s a baby. You don’t even need a chain – a strong rope will do.
The baby elephant will struggle, but eventually it will realize that it can’t break the rope, and even worse, continuing to struggle creates a painful burn on its leg. The baby elephant learns not to struggle – it accepts that the limit imposed by the rope or chain is permanent, and there is no use struggling against it.
Sure, the elephant grows up, and becomes the most powerful land mammal on the face of the earth. But the chains in its mind remain, and so the chains on its leg are never broken.
The chains that bind each of us…
But wait a minute, we aren’t elephants.
We may not be able to rip branches off of trees with our noses, but human beings have learned to offset that particular deficiency with dozens of other neat tricks – stuff like language, planning, and foresight.
Surely, we know better than to fall into the same mental trap as an elephant with a chain around its leg!
Unfortunately, no, we don’t know better. We fall into that trap all the time.
You can see it whenever we speak in absolutes:
“I can’t make a living with my business.”
“I don’t know how to write a viral blog post.”
“I’m not able to quit my job.”
Whenever we take a constraint as absolute – meaning that there’s no qualifier, no “because of” or “in this situation”, we’re keeping those chains firmly in place, and never even examining the possibility that they could be easily broken.
The good news is that there is a magic word that can break those chains. I’m not exaggerating – one word is really all it takes.
Breaking the chains with a single magic word…
The magic word is “yet” – adding it on at the end of any statement that binds us will break the chain, because it recognizes that this isn’t a permanent constraint.
Here’s what this might look like:
“I can’t make a living with my business… yet.” – For me to make a living with my business, I’ll have to grow my customer base to X and my deal value to Y. What steps can I take in order to do that?
“I don’t know how to write a viral blog post… yet.” – For me to know how to write a viral blog post, I’ll have to learn more about what makes things viral to begin with, and maybe learn more about copywriting, too. What steps can I take in order to do that?
“I’m not able to quit my job… yet.” – For me to be able to quit my job, I will need to have a three month financial cushion, and secure an alternate source of income. What steps can I take in order to do that?”
Adding “yet” to the end of that sentence leads to the next step, which is thinking about what would have to change, and by extension what actions will have to taken, in order for this limitation to no longer be true.
“What steps can I take in order to do that?”
This is the most important part – by adding “yet” on to the end of these statements, you can then explore what you need to do in order to change it. But you have to actually do that exploration! It isn’t enough to just know that you could change your circumstances – you need to actually take action to do it!
Of course, you may not want to bust through every single limitation – you could legitimately decide that changing some things might be more trouble than they’re worth. The important thing is to make that choice consciously, rather than being pushed into it by old and unexamined assumptions.
Okay, over to you – have you ever busted through a constraint that you realized was only binding you because you believed it was?