Many times over the years I’ve heard the story about how circuses used to train elephants. (I sincerely hope this practice is historical!) The story goes that when a baby elephant was born into, or brought into, the circus it was immediately chained to a stake in the ground. As a youngster the animal is “trained” (conditioned) to only move the distance allowed by the chain. As an enormous, strong, intelligent adult, the tethering chain is replace by a rope … but the elephant still only moves the distance allowed by the rope because she “thinks” she’s still held by that strong, heavy chain. The adult elephant could easily break the rope and stroll away from its confines but she doesn’t. She is controlled by her conditioning … the chain is now in her mind, not on her leg!
I encourage you to consider what “chains” are in your mind, causing you not to change your life. The key to change, to break free of out-dated, un-true and often harmful beliefs, is a change in perspective, often the result of personal growth.
Dr. Wayne Dyer is famous for saying “When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” I challenge you to think for a couple of minutes about this sentence. Do the things we look at actually change…or is the only requirement to change things in our lives is to change it the way we look at the conditions.
The elephant still “saw” a chain around her ankle even though it was only a rope … a rope she could break if she saw the reality of her tethering.
What ropes are you seeing in your life as chains? And, more importantly, are you ready to stretch that rope…maybe even break it?
The son of a good friend of mine had a drug addiction problem. At significant personal financial expense, my friend actually kept an attorney on retainer, her son was in court so often. She made excuses to his teachers, and later to his boss(es); at great inconvenience to herself, she drove him to and from work when he lost his drivers license, she allowed his family to move into her home when they were evicted and didn’t say anything when money was missing from her purse.
To most of us reading this story, my friends “rope” is pretty obvious. “Cut it loose!” you’re probably yelling by now.
My friend’s perspective was different. Primarily activated by guilt for her son’s upbringing with an alcoholic Father, an over-active-enabling-Mother gene kicked in to make everything OK for her son and appear to be OK, normal, not out-of-control to everyone outside her home. In her mind she didn’t “see” her mid-20’s something son as an adult…she still saw her frightened, hurting, angry little boy.
After several years, and thanks to counseling, coaching and a supportive group of parents like herself, my friend chose to change how she looked at her son’s situation…and when she changed, it changed.
When she chose to test the strength of the rope of her behaviors which placed her son’s needs above her own, she empowered herself AND she empowered her son to begin taking responsibility for his own life. Eventually, she stopped driving him so he took the bus to work, and he arrived on time. She gave him thirty days to move out of her home and in that time-frame he found a small apartment for his family. When he was on his own and Mom wasn’t constantly checking up on him and telling him to get help, he also sought counseling for his addictive habits.
When my friend chose to break free of the old patterns of making everything OK for everyone else, things became much more OK for her. When she changed the way she looked at things (when she let go of the belief that SHE was responsible for making her son’s life work for him) then the things she looked at changed (she saw that he was an adult making poor choices, partially re-enforced by her enabling behaviors).
My friend’s early behaviors were her “chain” of out-dated beliefs and misplaced guilt. When she saw that the chain was really a breakable rope she began to test its strength. Much to her personal satisfaction, her son is now taking responsibility for his life. He’s learning to identify his own “chains” and has begun breaking those that were only “ropes”.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change!
Like my friend, each of us sees chains where there’s only a breakable rope. I encourage you to take thirty minutes this evening to consider one belief or behavior pattern that doesn’t serve you any more. Write it down. Decide on one baby-step you can take to begin making a change in that area. When are your ready to take that one baby step you write down? Don’t wait too long… this is the first step in mastering the power to change your life: small ways, big ways…it’s up to you.