“Elephant thinking” is a business concept that illustrates the conditioning of the human mind to remain stagnant and content in undesirable circumstances.
In various versions of this anecdotal story, a baby elephant is chained to a small stake by a circus trainer. When she to tries free herself, she isn’t strong enough to remove the stake from the ground and the chain grows tighter and tighter, causing great pain.
The more she struggles, the more pain she feels and eventually stops trying to free herself.
As a full grown adult, she remains chained to the same stake not knowing that her massive weight and powerful muscles can now easily remove it from the ground. She doesn’t try because of the pain she felt as a baby. The trainer has successfully conditioned her to believe that captivity is a natural part of her existence, and has stifled her innate desire to roam freely.
Unlike the elephant in this story, I have managed to yank my proverbial stake out of the ground and have begun to chase the freedom I believe is available.
Over the past fifteen years, I have toiled with my past, confronted my fears and wrestled with my shortcomings – freeing myself from mental, spiritual and emotional captivity. I’m now in an unfamiliar yet exciting space full of endless possibility and unlimited promise.
I have fought hard to find this new me but with this newness, I have encountered a new set of challenges that I wasn’t expecting.
Because I no longer show up in the world in a way that is familiar to those who experienced me in past seasons of my life, I find myself resisting the urge to apologize for who I am becoming. Shrinking back into a version of myself that makes others comfortable.
Change is not easy. In fact, it’s downright difficult… but it’s also necessary.
I am swiftly evolving into a higher form of myself. And although I feel great, it’s also scary and sometimes lonely.
As I grow higher, and intrinsically better, I recognize the paralysis I once experienced in the people I love. I feel a certain amount guilt for outgrowing those who helped me get started on this journey. And I wish I could somehow give them a futuristic view of themselves at their full potential so that they can see the greatness I see in them.
But that greatness only emerges through a series of oftentimes uncomfortable seasons that require the constant pruning, planting, and plowing that many shy away from.
Like the baby elephant, I know the pain of trying again and again only to remain in the same place. But over time I have also come to know the fullness of the majesty and power I possess because I refused to stop trying.
Through faith and doing what Iyanla Vanzant calls “the work”, I have been freed from the bondage that could have destroyed me. And it feels amazing.
I’m now on a mission to complete my “work” and help others begin theirs.
Returning to captivity is not an option. And anyone who asks me to simply cannot continue on this journey with me. Here’s to every soul out there that’s determined to move “forward ever, backward never.”
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