A colleague and I were talking about habit and how habit creates a character. So he relayed this story to me. He said that in India (his country of origin) elephant trainers had a specific way of training elephants to make them become disciplined. Baby elephants have one of their legs tied to a chain and no matter how hard the baby elephant tries to yank the chain off and release himself, the chain is too strong for the baby elephant’s strength. As the elephant grows and becomes an adult elephant, the chain tied to one of the elephant’s legs is replaced and a rope is used in its place. Now, the adult elephant can easily pull itself hard enough to break the rope, BUT because it has been conditioned to believe it can’t, the elephant doesn’t try, because it thinks it can’t.
A lot of the time the 9-5 rate race seems good enough because we’ve been conditioned to believe (trained since primary school) that being an employee is the discipline we need to aim for by getting good grades, seeking constant external approval from teachers which soon enough become managers and that your self-worth is tied to the approval and satisfaction of your teacher/manager, and just when we get the opportunity to yank ourselves away from the rat-race rope, we think we can’t.
Here is a passage from Pamela Slim’s book Escape from Cubicle Nation
“I don’t care if you detest every day you enter the office. If your business card says “Lorraine Sanchez, Vice President of Business Development, IBM”, you carry a lot of weight in our society. Try explaining to your mother why you would give up a six-figure salary with a well-known company to try your hand at starting a faux-finish painting business. It may feed your soul, but will it impress your neighbours? So much of what you learn in a corporate setting is that status matters and that your self-worth increases as you make your way up the career ladder. In your right mind you know this is ridiculous, since how can a job title bestow self-worth? But if you have any leaks in your confidence tank, your subconscious will believe the hype and make you feel very uneasy at giving it up”.
What do you crave for?
Is life in a 9-5 job that you dislike – a life that you imagined, the life you were working towards at school or maybe uni? Waiting for Friday, dreading Monday, waiting for the next public holiday, hoping your manager is away, applying for another job – only knowing that you’re going to dislike it but it’s only a pleasant momentary relief from the current one. A great big fat portion of our life is at work, I’m not saying quit your job – I’m saying think about putting in a plan in place and work towards an opportunity that will serve you.
That darn rope
If only the elephant knew that to break free it needs to yank the rope. Can you identify with the rope? What conditioning would you need to consider yanking, real hard? Think of what you want to leave behind and contribute to yourself, community or the world– it’s more than an income; it’s more than status, although those things can come when you service your soul. Identify the rope that has a strong hold of you, find what you’re good at and serve and nourish that Gift, away from the one size fits all conditioning.
If you think you can’t, remember it’s only a rope – yank or untie it, if only the elephant knew it too.
P. S What would you identify to be the rope for you? Have you been able to yank it? If so, how? I’d love to know, please leave your comments below.