Break Your Self-Limiting Belief
Picture with me today in our Wisdom Note that we are about to embark on a strenuous hike in the mountains. As we gaze up the trail, we see that it is very steep with many rocks, trees, and other obstructions in our way. Additionally, the trail is narrow with a solid rock face on one side and steep cliffs on the other.
As you look at the trail before you, you think to yourself, “I have never hiked on such a dangerous trail before. I don’t think I can do it.” Your thoughts continue, “After all, I have been told many times before that I am clumsy and that I never am able to complete tasks.” You convince yourself that maybe it would be better that you stay at camp today, or better yet, just quit altogether.
This is the type of thinking that limits so many people from achieving all that they could with their lives. If you are susceptible to this type of thinking, you will never to be able to reach your full potential to become all that God has destined for you. In our analogy today, we want to look at what causes these self-limiting beliefs and this “learned-helplessness” and determine how you can break free from the chains and shackles that bind you. So, let me share some interesting nuggets to help you today. You may have heard some of this information before, but it is always good to review and apply it anew to your life. This is the story of “unchaining your elephant.”
“Break free from the chains and shackles that bind you.”
Do you know what they do to keep a circus or zoo elephant from running away? They tie a metal chain onto a collar around the mighty elephant’s leg and tie it to a small wooden peg that’s hammered into the ground. The 10-foot tall, 11,000-pound hulk could easily snap the chain, uproot the wooden peg, and escape to freedom. But, it does not do that. In fact, it does not even try. The world’s most powerful animal, which is nimble enough to pick up a blade of grass with its trunk, can also uproot a tree as easily as you and I can break a toothpick, and yet they remain tied down by a small peg and a flimsy chain. How come?
It’s because when the elephant was a baby, its trainers used exactly the same methods. A chain was tied around its leg and the other end of the chain was tied to a metal stake on the ground. The chain and peg were strong enough for 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 cut into the skin on the elephant’s leg, making it bleed, and creating a wound that would hurt the baby elephant even more. Soon, the baby elephant realized it was futile trying to escape. It stopped trying!
And now, when the big circus elephant is tied by a chain around its leg, it remembers the pain it felt as a baby. And, it does not try to break away. So, even though it’s just a chain and a little wooden peg, the elephant stands still. It remembers its limitations and knows that it can only move as much as the chain will allow. It does not matter that the metal stake has been replaced by a wooden peg. It does not matter that the 250-pound baby is now an 11,000-pound powerhouse. The elephant’s belief is what prevails.
If you think about it, we are all like the circus elephant. We all have incredible power inside us. We have it in us to take on the world and to accomplish just about anything that we desire. The unfortunate circumstance is that we also have our own chains and pegs. Our self-limiting beliefs that hold us back. Sometimes it’s a childhood experience or an early failure. Sometimes it’s something we were told when we were younger. Each of these things become our chain and peg, holding us back from doing what we are capable of and stopping us from achieving what is well within our power. It’s time then to ask the question, “What’s holding you back? What’s your chain and wooden peg?”
“We all have incredible power inside us, but our self-limiting beliefs hold us back.”
When we are young, many of us grow up on regular servings of “Don’t do that!” or “You can’t do it!” or “You are no good!” So, the chains around our minds become stronger, and we stop ourselves from aiming quite as high. We say “I can’t do it because…” and fill in our favorite excuses. Over time, these beliefs about our limitations become stronger and stronger. These self-limiting beliefs become chains that stop us from trying. Circumstances change, and metal poles get replaced by wooden pegs. But, we don’t recognize it. We stop trying. We give up without even trying.
In life, we often play the role of the elephant trainer, too, as parents, teachers, colleagues, or friends. When that happens, remember to handle your baby elephants with care! Don’t be overly critical. Don’t belittle them. Don’t chain them to a peg!
I think it’s partly due to my genetic makeup but also certainly from my upbringing, but I don’t suffer much from the elephant training syndrome. Although I am short at only 5’ 4” on a good day, in my mind’s eye, I see myself as someone who is 6’ or taller. I feel my parents did a good job of helping me to be realistic, though. I had dreams of playing quarterback in football, which is not really feasible for someone of my size and who has small hands. My parents guided me towards wrestling, instead, where I could effectively compete in the 105-pound weight class. We all need to visualize what we can be, not what we are today.
Keep in mind, we all have the strength of an elephant. Don’t let a mere chain-and-peg from your past hold you back. It’s a good idea to recognize what’s holding you back and then break the shackles of your self-limiting beliefs. It’s sad when we allow our achievements in life to be determined not by our strengths and our powers but by our self-limiting beliefs.
Within my faith walk, I also draw on my belief that God has made me special and has given me the talents and abilities that only I can use.
Philippians 4:13 encourages, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”
Although this is in reference to the salvation experience, the principle found in Matthew 19:26 still applies, “Jesus looked at them intently and said, ‘Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.’”
It’s time then to break free. Snap the chain. Smash the peg. Break your self-limiting belief. Set yourself free today! Don’t let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you become.
In our next Wisdom Note, we will explore how to train your fleas.