The Elephant Tether

Did you know that elephants are trained to stay where they are by tying a rope around one of their massive legs and attaching it to a peg in the ground? But can the peg and rope really hold back an elephant? Absolutely not!

Then why does it work? Because elephants grow up believing it will. Maybe they tried pulling away when they were young with no success. Maybe they were even injured by their action. But certainly after enough failures, they stop trying. By the time they are fully grown they no longer test the restraint, and confine themselves when tethered to the rope.

Did you also know, that most of us are doing the exact same thing to ourselves? Beliefs that have been ingrained into our minds and behaviours we first developed as children can all too often mean we end up holding ourselves captive with our own "elephant tethers."

But following guidelines set by your parents isn't the only "elephant tether" that could be keeping you from achieving what you want out of life. Maybe it's one of these:

The Reassurance Tether

I’ve known quite a few people in my life who didn’t seem to be able to make any decision without seeking reassurance from someone else. Whether it’s from their partner, a parent or a friend, they just did not trust their own ability to make the right decision, and would always need to run the situation by this other person.

This can become a cyclical behaviour, because even when most of the time you make exactly the right decision, if you have to go to someone else to verify it, later on when you look back on the decision you will credit the other person for giving you the ‘go ahead’ .

Now I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to go to someone else for some help, but if you find you’re doing this all the time, then maybe you need to break free from the reassurance tether. Why not take a risk. It’s ok to get something wrong every now and again, that’s just how we learn.

The Reactive Tether

The hustle and bustle of "normal" life often sets up the reactive tether. Your in-laws announce an unexpected visit, so you immediately change your plans to accommodate them. Your co-worker calls in sick on the day of an important client presentation, so you call the client and cancel.

These are just a couple of examples of situations that can make you fall victim to the reactive tether.
By panicking instead of taking control, you are sabotaging yourself. Is this a good time for the in-laws to visit? If it is not, simply tell them - and offer alternate dates. And if your co-worker called in sick, decide whether you'd rather reschedule the presentation or could you just handle it yourself.

The Low Confidence Tether

Sometimes you might know exactly the right thing to say or do in a particular situation but yet still don’t do it, why is this?

Well what can often start out in a few particular situations as a fear of looking foolish or of being rejected, can if left unchecked go on to become an aspect of our personality. We learn to give in to this feeling to not speak out, to not take action and can become shy and withdrawn.

If the low confidence tether is inhibiting your success, you can learn to push that discomfort aside. One way is to give yourself a mental cue - such as "It's showtime!" This will prime your mind for the bold action you know you should be taking.

Try testing your own self-imposed barriers and you might surprise yourself. And remember these 3 are only examples there are many more barriers we can put up for ourselves, sometimes all it takes is to take a look at ourselves and ask ‘What beliefs or behaviours are holding me back?’

The power of "elephant tethers" to restrain you is only in your imagination. You have the power to free yourself from them to enjoy life and achieve your goals.


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