When I was a kid, I loved circuses, and what I loved most about them were the animals, and within them, my favorite was the elephant. During the performance, the huge beast impressed everyone with its weight, size and above all, its enormous strength… but, after its performance and even a while before returning to the stage, one could find the elephant behind the big top, tied up, by means of a chain that imprisoned one of its legs to a small stake in the ground.

The stake was only a tiny piece of wood, barely buried a few inches in the ground. And although the chain was thick and powerful, it seemed obvious to me that this animal capable of pulling up a “rennet tree” could easily pull up the stake and run away. The mystery is clear: Why doesn’t the elephant run away, pulling out the small stake, with the same effort I would need to break a matchstick, what mysterious force keeps him tied up, preventing him from running away?

I was about seven or eight years old, and I still trusted the wisdom of great people. I asked my parents, teachers and uncles, looking for answers to that mystery. I did not get a coherent answer, age is not an impediment to perceiving coherence or lack of it in what people tell us. Someone explained to me that the elephant did not run away because it was MASTERED. I then asked the obvious question: if it is true that it is trained, then why is it chained? I do not remember receiving any answer that satisfied me.

In time, I forgot about the mystery of the elephant and the stake… and I only remembered it when I met people who gave me incoherent answers, just to get out of the way, and a couple of times with other people who had also asked themselves the same question. Until a few days ago, I found a person, wise enough, who gave me an answer that finally satisfied me:

“The circus elephant does not escape because it has been tied to a stake all its life, since it was very small.”

I closed my eyes and imagined the little elephant only a few days old, attached to the stake. I am sure that at that moment the little animal pushed, pulled, shook and sweated trying to free itself. And, despite all his efforts, he couldn’t get free.

The stake was certainly too strong for him. He could swear that on the first day he fell asleep exhausted by fruitless effort, and that the next day he tried again, and also the next day and the one after that he resigned himself to his fate. The elephant stopped fighting to free itself. This huge and powerful elephant does not escape because it believes it cannot. He has engraved in his mind the memory of his then useless efforts, and now he has stopped fighting, he is not free, because he has stopped trying to be. He never tried to test his strength again.

Creencias limitantes

Each of us is a bit like that elephant: we go around the world tied to several (hundreds) stakes that take away our freedom. We live in the belief that we “can’t” with a lot of things, simply because we once tried and couldn’t. We record in our minds: I can’t. I can’t and I never will. We grew up carrying that message, which we imposed on ourselves and never tried again. The only way to know what our limitations are now, is to try again, putting our whole heart into it. Can you imagine your life trying again? Here we go.

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