What is the potential of a human? I don’t think anyone really knows. It is an unanswerable question because there is always more we can give, more we can do. Does this unbridled human potential apply to every person, or only to some elite few? We do have the answer to that question. Each reader of this post is endowed with the ultimate and powerful potential to do truly incredible and amazing things. That means you, that means me, and that means all of us. So if this brilliant potential exists within us, why do we feel so limited so much of the time? What is stopping our potential from exploding? More accurately, who is stopping us? Of course, the answer is that we are stopping ourselves.
There is a great story I want to share that I recently came across that is both simple to understand and at the same time incredible insightful into this discussion. It is called “The Elephant Rope”.
As a man was passing some elephants, he suddenly stopped, confused by the fact that these huge creatures were being held by only a small rope tied only to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at anytime, break away from their bonds. 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.”
The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.
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 before?
Failure is part of learning; we should never give up the struggle in life.
This lesson makes me reflect on myself and wonder, “what ropes are keeping me in place that I could be freed from quite easily if I was just aware of them?” When I was young, like all of you, I had to learn how to read. Certainly being unable to read was a rope that limited my potential. Once I grew up a bit and learned how to read one rope holding me back from a greater potential was severed. What about other ropes, the kind that are not so simple to identify? Do I think I am not strong enough to live a healthy lifestyle? Do I have the opinion that I am not good enough to get that promotion at work? Do I feel that I won’t ever be able to make friends because I am not likable?
Of all the animals that have ever lived on this planet, the human being is the only one that has been capable of influencing their own potential to thrive by their own thinking, goal setting, and choosing. No other animal really ever leaves the small circle of potential that they were born into. They are fairly straightforward. They will be doing the same things when they die as they did when they were young. Their life and potential is defined and limited. But with the human there is no definition of potential, it is up to the human.
There are countless sources of rope that we tie ourselves to. All of these ropes will stay with us and limit us for as long as we allow them to. We set our own ceiling of accomplishment. We stop ourselves from trying when we feel like it will be hard or we won’t be good at it immediately. We stop when we fail or become embarrassed. We stop when we think less of ourselves or compare ourselves to others.
The question I asked earlier was ‘who is stopping you?’ The next question I have for you is ‘who is the only person that can set you free?’ Yank those puny ropes from their anchors and move through them. It starts with a choice and endures with patient persistence. Choose now to be more and start moving towards it.