We are all familiar with the expression “An Elephant never forgets”.
Every time someone presents me with a problem that is habit related I am reminded of this particular story. It was told to me as a student, and I have used it in various forms with certain embellishments to make it relevant to the client but the central thrust always remains the same.
I think it’s a good story and sometimes we need to remind ourselves why we are stuck.
Do you know how they train circus Elephants?
It begins when are just born and finding their way in the world. The trainer attaches a strong rope to the hind leg and attaches it to a stake driven deep into the ground. The baby elephants will naturally try to walk and explore its surroundings, but the rope limits the options and constrains it to a given place.
The young Elephant begins to panic and starts to pull against the rope the elephant will push and twist and turn until having exhausted all its options they stop because the baby elephant just hasn’t got the strength to break the rope or pull out the stake, so they stop trying to move and they stay right where they are.
Every day they tether the baby Elephant, who as before tries to break free, probably pulling on the rope for all their worth just to see if they can get free. And again it is futile, and they stop pulling, settle down and stay just where they are.
The same thing happens every day, but the Elephant gets bigger and stronger every day, so the rope is replaced with a chain, and over and over again the Elephant tries to break free. It may take weeks even months of the same struggle every day and then, one day the Elephant just gives up completely. Resigned to the fact that that chain around his foot stops him going anywhere or doing anything.
This magnificent animal has become so accustomed to being held in place by the chain on his foot it believes that the slightest pull on the chain will stop him. The Elephant is held in check by nothing stronger than its own imagination.
But If only the Elephant knew how powerful it really is. If only they realised that by the time they have grown up and become adult, that the strongest chain and the deepest stake could not restrain them. They would know what true freedom is. But they don’t, which is probably why you will never see a captive Elephant smile
One of my frustrations is that so many people do not see the strength they have. Just as the Elephant could set itself free if only it chose to test what holds it back. We are intelligent thinking emotional beings, and sometimes we only need to test the way we think.
Personally what I have learned about life is that most often the real difference between personal restraint and not being able to move, and freedom is quite simply just having a different and better vision of the future.