Tom is extremely talented but for some reason he lacks in self confidence and always keeps a low profile. He always doubts himself and is never able to perform to his potential. I always used to wonder, Why? And recently when I attended a seminar I heard about the circus elephant syndrome, I quickly realized what is wrong with Tom. I am sure you might have heard about this elephant story too, but if not, I am summarizing it below:
This is the story of a baby elephant who is chained by its leg so that it can't run away from the circus. The chain is heavy and strong for the baby elephant to break, whenever the baby elephant tries to break the chain it cuts through its skin which results in severe pain. After few failed attempts to break free, the baby elephant finally gives up. Gradually the baby elephant grows up, but inspite of being a huge creature it continues to believe that the chain is strong and never makes any attempts to break free. As a result it continues to be chained at the circus for its life.
This same concept applies to humans as well and this is exactly what is happening to Tom. By direct or indirect influence of others we tend to form our beliefs from a tender age. Our mental conditioning (by our parents, relatives, neighbors, friends, teachers etc.) puts constraints and limitations on our thought process. With the constrained thought process we achieve very limited success and never realize our own true potential.
Here are some signs that will help you identify if you are limiting yourself by circus elephant syndrome...
- Your instinct tells you that you should go after a dream but your current job, situation, education, circumstances don't allow you to go after it as a result you give up and continue to be happy with what you have in hand
- You have people around you who tell you that 'You can't do it', 'You have already got enough and you should be happy with what you have, don't be greedy'
- You always hesitate to take the next big step even though at the back of your mind you know that you have the skill and potential to take that step
- You admire successful people, you want to become like them but you run away from their company. You always hang up with people who are in the same boat as you are
- You find one excuse or another to tell yourself why you can't do a certain thing
Now that we know the signs of an elephant syndrome, let us look at some of the steps that we should take to get out of the rut:
- Everyone has a dream, but very few are able to convert the dreams into visions and visions into reality. The first step towards breaking free is converting the dream into achievable goals. Take a paper and pen and write down what you want to achieve and by when.
- Get rid of the negative people around you. Get into the company of positive people, who can support and motivate you to achieve your goals. You need people around you who can tell you why and how you should achieve your goals. Stay away from people who pull you down.
- Never hesitate. Don't doubt or second guess yourself. Go and talk to people. Take the necessary steps. Stop overthinking and give no room to worry and anxiety. Throw them out of the window.
- Don't just admire successful people but study and follow their habits. Find out how are they different from the average people and try to learn from their success stories.
- Every time you come up with a excuse for not doing a certain thing: Stop yourself from giving up. Ask yourself that one reason why you wanted to do this thing. Remind yourself why it is so important for you to achieve this goal. Don't give in to excuses.
So here the message is: Sky is the limit, if you break free from your own mental shackles. Try to be the best version of yourself. Remember it is not you V/S someone else, it is always you V/S you, so make sure your best version wins. Benny Bellamacina has beautifully summarized this in her quote: 'You are limited by your own imagination'.