As a man was passing elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds but for some reason, they did not.
He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” trainer said, “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. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.
Like the elephants, how many of us go through life hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something, simply because we failed at it once or twice before? How many opportunities have we missed for fear of being shamed?
Most of the beliefs you have about your capabilities are similar to the elephants’. You were conditioned through socialization to believe that money equals happiness, causing you to work a majority of your life and neglect other aspects, despite countless studies pointing out that our happiness increases very little once we pass our ability to live comfortably ($75,000). 1
The tragic bind for boys and men in traditional socialization is that in order to demonstrate themselves worthy of human connection they must perform competitively. They must become winners, which intrinsically demands disconnection; the exact opposite of what they truly seek. These childhood experiences wrapped up in cultural narratives form our map of beliefs of what is required to be happy, and how deserving we are of happiness itself.
Have there been moments in your life when you believed something you were doing was “right,” and eventually you were proven wrong? I could argue this about every single belief held through human history.
At one time Galileo thought the world was flat. People believed that man could never fly. Doctors believed that bloodletting was a cure to a multitude of diseases.
These are all proven wrong today. This entire site is devoted to challenging limiting beliefs and the Status Quos prominent throughout our culture in order to unleash your full potential.
This hulk-smashing dilemma is most prevalent in the Startup world, because most really good ideas start out as bad ideas. “The investors who said no to a Google (there were several) will remember it for the rest of their life.” 2
Practically every single belief is eventually proven wrong and replaced by something more correct. The beliefs we hold today, consciously or unconsciously, are probably wrong in some shape or form and will eventually be replaced by better versions. This is the basis of the evolution of mankind. The evolution of yourself.
The best strategy is to be aggressively open-minded, because when the experts are wrong, it’s often because they viewed the world through the lens of an earlier version. Since time is such a slippery concept, we tend to imagine the future as the present with a twist.
This means our imagined tomorrows inevitably look like slightly twisted versions of today. This is also how you see yourself. You tend to believe that who you are today is fixed, even though you are in a state of constant change.
“People are constantly editing and amending their stories as they go through life, through conversations with others, introspection and many other means. As time goes on the story seems to become more cemented, even though you have the opportunity to make changes at any given moment.” 3
This moment, right now, is as good as any to reflect and reevaluate which experiences have been the most formative for you, and the meaning you’d like to draw from them. You get to craft the story of your life in whatever way you want.
So question your beliefs, because there are cracks in everything. Ask yourself – what do you believe today that will be replaced in the future? Think about it on a personal level. Draw your past memories into the present.
Think about something you used to think was “right” but turned out to be wrong. I used to believe that a man could survive off four hours of sleep a night, and still be healthy. I was wrong. I used to believe that very attractive women were only interested in financially successful men. Wrong again. I used to think women lack the sexual desires men have. Wrong.
These were ropes tied to my leg, and nothing changed until I consciously tried to break them.
As humans, we never know we are wrong. In fact, we assume our views are innocent and correct until proven guilty. We wait for someone to come along and prove us wrong instead of testing our beliefs ourselves. We stand unknowingly imprisoned by our ropes, waiting for someone to untie us instead of breaking free on our own.
- Ask yourself – What did you used to think was “right” and turned out to be wrong?
- Consider – What belief about the world and yourself would you want to change now? Do you want to believe people love to talk to you? Do you want to believe you will be a success?
- Now Read – Dating is One Big Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
- Kevin Short. Here is the Income Level at Which Money Won’t Make You Any Happier In Each State. (July 17, 2014). The Huffington Post. Daniel Kahneman and Angus Dearon: High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional wellbeing.(August 4, 2010). Center for Health and Well-being, Princeton University. Doug Short: Happiness Revisited: A Household Income of $75K? (September 25, 2014) Council for Community and Economic Research. ↩
- Paul Graham. How to Be an Expert in a Changing World (2014) ↩
- Bonnie Swift. Crafting a Personal Myth. (March 20, 2014). The Stanford Storytelling Project. ↩