The Chained Elephant

The Chained ElephantOne of the key determinants of whether or not we achieve the goals we set for ourselves in life is to what extent we believe success is possible for us. To embark upon any particular goal whilst simultaneously holding a limiting belief about achieving it is like trying to swim against a fast flowing river – no matter how hard we try, the current is always pushing against us.

Henry Ford understood this when he made the remark that, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” In other words, once you have made your mind up, or decided in advance whether you will succeed or fail at something, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Self improvement coach and success guru Brian Tracy sums this up in what he calls “The Law of Belief”. He states that “Whatever you believe, with feeling, becomes your reality; you will always act in a manner consistent with your beliefs.”

The problem with our beliefs however is that they can be very subjective in nature, and can often distort the true picture concerning our abilities to achieve everything we might be capable of.

For example, if I state that tomorrow the sun will rise in the east and go down in the west, this is based on my belief that the statement is the truth. After all, I have observed it to do so many times before, and have been taught scientifically that this is the case; therefore it is something that I no longer consciously question or challenge. It has become an unconscious belief.

Suppose I also declare that “I never finish what I started”. After all, I have observed this to be true many times in the past, where I have started up new projects full of good intentions but then never quite brought them to fruition. I can physically count the number of times that this has happened to me in the past, and therefore it is something that I no longer consciously question or challenge. It has also become an unconscious belief. When I start something new I am bound to fail to complete it successfully.

Now clearly, on logical examination you would no doubt say that one of the above “truths” is more robust than the other, and that one is based on “fact” whereas the other is based on a “belief”. Whilst this may well be the case, once the belief is accepted by our unconscious, we act as if it were true, regardless of how erroneous the facts may be which caused the belief. We will then tend to filter our experience to support this unconscious belief, and low and behold, what we believe becomes our reality.

If this way of thinking is left unchallenged, our unconscious beliefs can severely limit the degree to which positive growth is possible in our lives – they become the chains which shackle our desires and ambitions. They prevent us from being, having and doing more than we currently experience.

This is much like the story of the “Chained Elephant”, where a huge elephant can be held in one place by a chain around one leg attached to a stake in the ground. The elephant could quite easily tear the stake out of the ground or break the chain if it wanted to but it doesn’t. The reason it doesn’t is because it has been chained this way since it was young, when it actually couldn’t break free. The baby elephant tries and tries to break free initially, but soon learns that it’s futile and so gives up. From that point on he knows that when he is chained to a peg, there is no point trying to break free. Although the full-grown elephant could easily break free, he doesn’t, because he doesn’t believe that he can. His mind has been trained that when he is chained, he can’t get away.

And so it is with the human mind and Limiting Beliefs – we subconsciously chain ourselves to our own internal “pegs” and then act as though we can never break free from them.

The good news however is that our beliefs do not have to be fixed. Beliefs can be challenged, which in turn alters our perception of the truth. This in turn expands the possibilities open to us in our pursuit of personal growth.

Watch the video below to learn more about challenging limiting beliefs, and how the great Roger Banister did this as he became the first man to break the four minute mile – something the so called ‘experts’ of the time said was a human impossibility:



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