It’s funny how some things never make sense when you first read them until something happens that triggers a memory and alas, suddenly what didn’t make sense before now does. Joyce Meyer, one of my favorite televangelists, in her book “Battlefield of the mind” said this, “Our past may explain why we're suffering but we must not use it as an excuse to stay in bondage.” The first time I read this quote it didn’t really stand out for me, or to put it in a better way, the words didn’t jump out of the page to clearly illustrate their meaning. It took me a while to understand what this quote meant. Then just this past week, I was watching a clip featuring a horse and a dog and I was reminded of an elephant I once saw (online) and even wrote about here.
However, there's another story similar to that of the elephant that got a certain man very disturbed. Here’s a brief narration of that story…
As a man was passing through a small outback town, a sole horse caught his eye. He stopped momentarily and was puzzled by the fact that this powerful creature was being held by a small rope loosely tied to a small plastic chair. There were no fences, no chains, no barn gates yet the horse stayed put. It was obvious that the horse could, at anytime, break away from its bond but for some reason, it just did not.
He saw what looked to be the owner nearby and asked why this animal just stood there and made no attempt to get away. “Well,” the owner said, “When they are very young and much smaller we use the same small size rope to tie them and, at that age, it’s enough to hold them. Sure, they will try to break free, but soon they learn they are unable to. 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 again.”
The man was amazed. This animal could at any time break free from its bond, but because the horse believed it could not, it was stuck right there… conditioned to do the same thing each day believing there was no other alternative.
How many of us go through life in the same manner as this poor horse? How many of us actually hang on to misguided beliefs that we cannot do something simply because we tried it once before and failed to achieve the desired results? How many of us are tied down by a small rope at the corner of our minds with this notion that since it failed before it can’t work again? This is exactly what Joyce Meyer meant by the quote I shared above. “Our past may explain why we're suffering but we must not use it as an excuse to stay in bondage.”
It is sad how sometimes we let very trivial things hold us back. Yes you may have failed in your first marriage but does that mean you will live a life of "freelancing your heart" for the rest of your life? Has it occurred to you that actually, your marriage failing was not a one (wo)man show but it could have been your ex-partner’s fault as well? Remember it takes two to tango! I always say this, if s/he didn’t see what you had, then it’s their loss not yours. Someone else will come along who will see you and with all your flaws accept you just as you are. Don’t put your life on hold because it never worked out the first time.
Same case applies to business. I say this because I’ve been there, done that and am still trying to make things happen. Yes it is discouraging and disappointing when you put in 25-hour days and eventually when you look back you still don’t see any signs of progress. Yes giving up is almost always the first option one looks at but does that help? I like what someone said, that failure is part of learning. We should never give up if we are caught in a struggle. What once held us back can be used as a stepping-stone to set us free. Yes that ever-failing business idea could be a stepping-stone to your best business idea yet. Just stop focusing on the rope (the past failures) that is tying you, and realize that your freedom is just a decision away. The decision to kick off the chair or drag it with you until either friction cuts it off or someone sees it and cuts it off for you, setting you free forever. However, whatever the case, you have to make the first step.
I still can’t wrap my mind around the fact that such a powerful animal can be kept captive by a blue plastic chair! One kick from this animal is probably enough to send the chair downhill but unfortunately the horse doesn’t seem to know its potential. Sadly enough, that is how most of us human beings live our lives; not unleashing our full potential just because something held us back in the past. Talk about a Trojan horse! (Pun intended). I call this situation a Trojan horse because it is like the virus known by that name. It misrepresents itself making a user think that it is good software, only to realize the lethalness of the software once you have downloaded it on your machine. Similarly, this captivity of the mind that so many humans suffer from is like a virus that has misrepresented itself to seem like the truth, only that it stops you from actually achieving your potential and exploring what else you can do with your life.
Friends it doesn’t matter what you have gone through or what you are actually going through right now. What matters is that you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again. The fact that you had a bad experience before doesn’t mean your life will be made up of bad experiences all the time. Infact, how about you change you mindset and instead of seeing them as bad experiences start seeing them as opportunities to learn!
Failing is not a bad thing. Why? Because it shows that at least you are trying something only that it hasn’t worked out just yet. Don’t give up on trying but keep trying and fail yourself to success. If the guys who invented the light bulb had given up trying after the first attempt, I wonder what we would be using for light at night. It took them more than 900 attempts before they finally came up with the one version of the light bulb that gave birth to what we have today. 900 attempts! How many times have you attempted and failed? Once, twice, ten times? Is it 900 yet? Keep trying and don’t give up.
Everyone around you may give up on you, everything around you may be against you but if you do not give up on yourself, if you give encouragement to yourself, then in due time you will reap the benefits of persistence and believing in yourself.
My question to you today is, what is holding you back? Is it that employer who thought you were not good enough and terminated your services and so now you are so afraid of looking for another job that you can’t even remember the last time you updated your CV? Is it that business partner who thought you were not good enough and so he undercut you, swindled you out of your share of the company and left you high and dry? Or is it that man or woman who opted to ran off into the sunset with their “clande” just a week before your wedding, literally leaving you at the alter?
Whatever it is, do not let that dictate how the rest of your life will be. Use it as a reason to go out again and succeed in whatever you will decide to do. Remember, you may not have material resources but if you have your mind, then that is the greatest asset any human being can ask for. If you put it to good use, then you can come out of your situation and become a success. However, the process may not be instantaneous but it will be worth the trouble.
I encourage you to kick off whatever chair is holding you back today. Do not let your past dictate how you will live your future. Remember, yesterday is gone never to be seen again. But you have the gift called today. Today marks a new beginning for you and you can decide to start afresh. You cannot go back and change your past but you can rewrite your future by doing the right thing starting from today. Yes today is the beginning of the rest of your life!
Wishing you all freedom from all kinds of mental bondage.
PS: Article originally published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 10th April, 2016, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words".