What can elephants teach us about ourselves?
A lot, actually. This last week, I had one of those moments that screams at you to pay attention to it. Do you know those times that make the hair on the back of your neck stand up?
It happened at the gym of all places. I want to tell you about it but first I need to give you a little bit of the background story so you can see how all the pieces fit together to create this epiphany that I had while doing pushups. (stay with me here…)
I have been putting together a collection of elephant coins to make jewelry pieces with and have learned so many interesting things about these amazing animals.
A few fun facts:
- Elephants are used in many cultures to represent Remembrance, strength through hard times, loyalty to those we love, wisdom and eternity.
- Elephants have memories that span years. The phrase, “An elephant never forgets” is true. They remember places they’ve been and other elephants they have encountered.
- Like humans, elephants have a very close-knit family bond. When one of their family members die, they have a mourning period. They often spend hours with the fallen family member holding a sort of memorial service.
- Elephants know when others are in pain or distress and they use touch and closeness to express concern for those that need it.
- I heard somewhere that elephants see humans the way we see puppies. Not sure how we would know that but it made me go awwwwwww.
Something else (this is the important bit) is that elephants are extremely strong. They are able to uproot entire trees using just their trunks.
Just visualize that for a moment. A full-grown tree being pulled out of the ground, roots and all. I spent an afternoon trying to dig up a shrub in my yard last summer and it almost did me in. Those roots were deep and determined to stay where they were. What I am saying is that I am impressed by this fact about elephants.
Though they are powerful creatures, elephants can be trained.
When they are young, a simple rope is tied around their foot and connected to a stake in the ground. Because they are not fully grown, this stake is enough to hold the young elephant. She will test the rope but over time is conditioned to believe that the rope will hold her. As she grows, that belief is ingrained in her so she doesn’t try to break free.
All of these thoughts about elephants were bouncing around my head last week as I went about my daily life. I was at the gym one morning reading the whiteboard which shows what the workout of the day will be and I see that I am to do strict pushups (from the toes-chest to floor and back up), starting with a set of 10. I think to myself, ‘Ok, I can do 5 but then I will drop to my knees. I am a 5 pushup girl.’
On this particular day, however, I just happened to be listening to a brand new workout playlist that I made the night before and it was giving me an extra shot of mojo so I think, ‘I am going to try and get 7 before I hit my knees.’ I did 7, then I thought that there are only 3 more so maybe I can do those too. Which, I did.
And the rest of the workout went on during which I did 55 pushups. All strict from my toes. I am not telling you this to brag (maybe a little?) I am sharing this because my thought was this, ‘I just did that! How long have I had this ability?!?! What else can I do that I am unaware of?’
Which brings us back to the elephant.
Elephants are held by ropes that only have power over them in their minds. They think they are limited by those ropes, so they don’t try.
Think about your own life. What are your ropes? What are the limiting thoughts that are holding you back? (How many pushups can you really do?)
We might not even be aware of them.
We can identify them if we look for thoughts that sound like this:
I’m not the kind of person who...
I would like to do that but...
What would people think if I...
I might fail.
I might look foolish.
I am not the kind of person who…
These are ropes.
These are stories we tell ourselves that keep us from reaching our potential.
Thoughts are not reality.
Thoughts are often like a jerk of a roommate that lives in our heads telling us that we are garbage and that we shouldn’t do anything because Who do you think you are?
What if we just decided to believe a different story?
What if we just decided to give one of the ropes a little tug and see what happens?
Have a look at some of the elephant coins I have collected!