I read a story once of a man going backstage at a Barnum & Bailey Circus and stopping short, completely bewildered at the sight of the magnificent elephants... the huge and incredibly strong creatures were being held captive by just a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains and no cages like the other animals. It was so obvious that the elephants could at any time break away from their binds but, for some reason, they did not. They just.... stayed, impassively.
The man was so struck by the sight that he asked the trainer why the animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.
"Well," the trainer responds, "when they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them and, at that age, it's enough to hold them.... they struggle to break away then but can't. So, as they grow up, they are already conditioned to believe that the rope is too strong and that they cannot break free, so they never even try anymore."
That story has never left my mind. It is so symbolic of human nature that it's sad.
Elephants are at the top of the list of the most intelligent creatures that walk this earth, and one tug of a full grown elephants trunk or leg could snap that rope like thread, yet... there they were.... just because they BELIEVED that they couldn't break the rope.
Henry Ford said, "If you think you can do it, or think you can't do it, you are right".
So many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something... sometimes not even consciously. Maybe because of circumstance, maybe fear, maybe simply because, like the elephants, we failed at it once before. We keep allowing ourselves held back by old negative beliefs that no longer serve us. Even worse, many of us are being held back by SOMEONE ELSE'S limiting beliefs. How tragic is that?
Sometimes, like in my case, it really is not for want of trying, and sometimes the feeling of failure gets really, really overwhelming. So I've made a decision. I've decided that at those times I am going to remind myself that when I change the way I look at things, the things I look at change. I'm going to choose a different, positive, thought, and I'm going to do something really positive. So, this is my positive action today.... sharing with you the message I'm sending myself.
Are you receiving it?
Maybe you have 'dream-stealers' in your life too. Negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that are holding you back from living your best life. Or are there maybe people in your life - even 'well-intentioned' people - but who just make you feel bad about yourself all the time. All of those things actually have a purpose: they're supposed to challenge you to want better for yourself, even if it is just by constantly showing you what you DON'T want until you get the message!
You can start to challenge your own limiting beliefs by first be brave enough to question them. I say brave enough because it usually requires 'digging deep', and that's quite often a painful process, and a lot of people go through their entire lives never once doing it because of that. But if you can find the courage to stop running, turn around and face whatever it is, and begin to question it, almost immediately, it weakens... simply because you are not giving it any more of your power. And once you weaken that old belief system, you can begin to replace it with a new, empowering one, one that is of your choice and your creation, and not one that has been forced upon you.
What you believe is what you create in your life.... "As a man thinketh, so is he".... and you can take control of what you believe. Up to a certain point and time in life, you can blame others - parents, teachers, lovers, friends/enemies - for the way you are or how your life turned out, whether you see the glass as half-full or half-empty, but after that all it is, is an excuse. All it is is giving your power away to someone, or something, else.
I'm not saying it will always be easy. That depends on how deeply entrenched your beliefs are and how hard you want to fight, and I won't lie.... some struggles are harder than others. But most times, the hardest step is the first one... the decision to take back the reins, take control, and begin to create the kind of life you really want. The first step is the one that no one can do for you. They can advise you, encourage, show you the way, maybe even walk alongside you, but just like an addict who's trying to quit, they can't live the experience for you. You have to want it bad enough.
But I can tell you something from personal experience: the minute you make that decision, the instant you turn around, face the fear, and take the first step, it's like the forces of the Universe gather around you and flood your heart and soul with courage and conviction. And each step forward replenishes what was spent to make it.
I remember reading in an 'O' magazine of one of Oprah Winfrey's favorite quotes. It's by someone called W.H. Murray, a mountaineer, and although I've no idea who he is, he has also given me something to live by:
"Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way".
And one of my all-time favorite quotes will always be:
"What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." Goethe