The Elephant Mindset
Many times, I am asked what my biggest challenge is as an entrepreneur. What is the one thing that I work at harder than anything else? Most people expect an answer like “sales” or “networking” or maybe even “stress management” but none of these are really that bad. Out of everything in my life and in my business, the biggest obstacle that I have to overcome on a daily basis is dealing with the “elephant mindset.”
For those of you who have not heard of this, let me give you the basic story, in my own words. A guy is walking past an elephant that is tied to a stake with a small rope. The man is amazed that the elephant, in all of its strength and power, does not break the rope and escape his confinement. So, in his curiosity, he asks the elephant trainer how that thin rope manages to keep such a huge animal held in place. The trainer explains that when the elephant was a baby, the rope was used to tie him. As a baby, the elephant couldn’t physically break the rope and had been forever conditioned in his mind that the rope was stronger than he was. So, even though the elephant had grown much stronger and more capable of escape, his mindset kept him believing that he could not. This is the elephant mindset.
Isn’t it funny how our minds think sometimes? That, despite where we are now, we often let failures or shortcomings from the past keep us convinced that something cannot be done. I have seen people tell themselves that a business idea or startup that got rejected by a few investors is never going to succeed. I have also seen entrepreneurs preserve and go to nearly every bank in the state before getting a yes on their dream. In most cases, it isn’t that it can’t be done; it’s more a matter of timing and motivation. In my own life, I have to constantly battle these thoughts and fears in order to move forward and grow. I have to spend time evaluating the boundaries that are in my life to see if they are legitimate limits to my ability or simply figments of my imagination, placed there wrongly by my own mind. Then, once I have identified a place that I am being held back from because of the elephant mindset, I have to summon up the courage to step over that proverbial line in the sand.
But, there is a silver lining to all of this elephant mindset business. Once I have proven that a fear is invalid and pushed forward out of my comfort zone in that area, I gain a sense of empowerment and confidence. The only thing, it seems, that is better than succeeding at something you have never done before, is succeeding at something you tried and failed at before. So, for those of you who have stood looking down a thin rope of captivity for too long, I challenge you to change your fate now. Here are some simple steps to get you started!
1. Identify the goal.
Decide if it is worth working for and what motivates you to succeed.
2. Write down steps required to reach that goal.
With each step, evaluate the work, time, and effort involved.
3. Write any boundaries or obstacles to that goal.
Include your own fears and past failures in this list, as well as external obstacles.
4. Evaluate these boundaries and obstacles to decide what is legitimate.
Basically, think of worst case scenarios and then decide on their likelihood. Just as you make an educated assessment or take a calculated risk with a business investment, do the same here.
5. Create an action plan to get started.
Take your first step in the direction of your goal and get the ball rolling. There is no time like the present.
[Images via Shutterstock]
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