Mental Chains

By Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

There’s a story about how elephants are trained to be compliant. When they are young, a metal band attached to a chain is connected to one of their legs. The chain is attached to a stake in the ground. The elephant is unable to free themselves from the stake. They are just too young and not strong enough to do that.

Living with a chain trains them into obedience and compliance.

Even when the chain is removed, its memory is sufficient to keep them bound and limited in place even as an enormous adult elephant.

Many systems trained us to be obedient, just like the elephant.

We forget one thing.

When we were young, we didn’t have a choice about how we would live.

We were taught by parents and educators and told what to do.

Punishment consisted of bad grades from teachers, disappointment, and worse from parents.

We quickly learned that we didn’t have a choice.

As adults, we have our own key that can free us from those mental chains.

There is a risk to being liberated that each of us experiences.

We may fail.

We may embarrass ourselves.

It may be more challenging than we anticipate.

We may need to revert to the chains because we cannot handle the freedom.

I meet many people who have lost the spark of youth.

The magic has gone, and they live life as though they are walking dead.

They compromise individuality for safety and forgotten there is no safety.

What was the last time you spoke up in a meeting over the idea that you thought was stupid?

When was the last time you lent your voice to the opposition in the face of a perceived tyranny?

When was the last time you changed your routine to do something you wanted to do rather than feel obligated to do?

I will never forget the story of the Connecticut man who promised to have breakfast with his daughter. She reminded him the next morning. Instead of being on his usual commuter train, he took one an hour later. As a result, he was not in his office in the World Trade Center when the plane hit his building.

We never know what will happen when we do something different.

We can’t be sure what will happen when we do the same same thing every day.

We take comfort in habits that we sometimes need to break.

Too many habits leave us unthinking, losing the magic that made a special and brought delight to our lives.

As much as I encourage people to practice and do things that inspire confidence through repetition, I also know that they become a creature of our habits, we die slowly . . . Just like the elephant.

Loosen the mental chains and feel freer.

Today’s a good day to practice.

Ⓒ The Big Game Hunter, Inc., Asheville, NC 2021



Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a career and leadership coach who worked as a recruiter for more than 40 years. He is the host ofCareer Angles | Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter “No BS Job Search Advice Radio,” the #1 podcast in iTunes for job search with more than 2000 episodes. He also hosts Job Search TV on YouTube, Amazon and Roku, as well as on for Apple TV and 90+ smartsets.

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Photo by Jason Zhao on Unsplash

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