Invisible chains

We’ve all faced it. The feeling of rejection and exclusion can be devastating. That moment when one is cut from the team, fails to get elected, doesn’t get the part or misses the promotion is one that tests both our self-confidence and our resolve to carry on. Our ability to confront the disappointment can either urge us develop skills that will ultimately deliver us to a higher level of success or lead to self-evaluation as unworthy in the most unnecessarily expansive fashion.

Turn of the century animal trainers implemented the practice of chaining one leg of baby elephants to a stake in the ground. The restraint was strong enough to limit the movement of the creatures; but as the pachyderms matured their immense size and strength would have made it easy to overwhelm the constraint. Yet they did not move. With the hawser unconnected and lying on the ground, the giant creatures stayed in place as if held by an invisible force. In fact, the manacle was often no longer connected to anything. The highly intelligent creatures remembered the feeling of restricted movement and simply stood still whenever the shackle was is in place.

Younger humans seem much more resilient than we who have spent a little more time on the planet. It is hard to find a four-year old who doesn’t greet failure as a normal part of the learning process. Yet, many of our adult peers are paralyzed with anxiety about even trying to develop any new skills or move outside of our long-established comfort zones. The pain of perceived failure is real. And, one could guess that its anticipation might be the same. Do ancient scars keep us from living up to our potential today? Why are we allowing ourselves to be constrained by invisible chains?