Assumed Constraints

“Have you ever looked at a circus elephant anchored to the ground? If you have, you might notice that the elephant has a metal collar around its leg to which it is attached a small chain. And the chain is attached to a wooden peg driven into the ground. Pretty good protection?

Pretty lousy, if you ask me. That 12,000-pound elephant could very easily pick up its foot and with one fell swoop yank the peg out of the ground and walk away. But the elephant doesn’t. Why? I’ll explain.

When that elephant was still a baby, that same collar and chain and peg were used to hold the elephant in place. The restraint was sufficient to hold the baby elephant in place even if it wanted to break way. And break away is indeed what the baby elephant tried to do.

So every day while the baby was chained up, it would pull at the chain and pull and pull and pull until finally a cut appeared on its leg exposing the sore sensitive layers of deep skin tissue. It hurt to pull like that and soon the baby elephant, realizing the effort was both futile and painful, stopping trying to escape.

As the baby elephant grew older, it never forgot that bad experience with the chain and the peg. And so whenever it was anchored down in a spot, it would think, ‘Hey, it’s impossible to break away and besides, it hurts.’

The adult elephant had what I call an ‘assumed constraint.’ And all of us have the same problem to one degree or another.”

– Joe Sugarman, The Adweek Copyrighting Handbook

Let us use this weekend to reflect on the times we have stopped ourselves from trying or doing something just because we have failed in it once before. It could be a failure in exams, in pursuing a business, in our relationships, or even something smaller, like riding a bicycle.

And once we have identified the chains, let us break it one at a time, and then flee far away from being just another circus act! Let us roam the earth, breathe in the fresh air, and experience life as we have been made to :)

P/s. Deadlines and Finals crunch time! Please make du’a for me thanks!

Fadhilah Wahid
My name is Nur Fadhilah Wahid. I am a seeker of knowledge, a Muslimah in progress, and a writer. I believe in the magic that can happen when like-hearted and like-minded individuals come together :)

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