Entrenched Thinking: Are you a Prisoner of Your Own Mind

I was in Kerala recently and saw a mighty elephant living life of a slave to a lean timid man. I started to wonder how mighty elephants are tamed by relatively tiny and powerless creatures, Human Beings. Why do elephants lead lives in slavery when they have all the strength to overpower their masters and break-free?

Similarly, ever wonder why as children we had bigger and wilder dreams while as adults we are more ‘practical’ and live in set patterns?  Have you ever given up on an ambition or idea because you thought you couldn’t do it?

For a moment, give it a thought, what drove you to that decision… your friends, your family or your own belief system.

If you answered yes, to any of the questions above, you are in for a story about how elephants are tamed.

An Elephant that is captured as a baby is tied to a tree with the help of a rope. The baby elephant instinctively tries with all his might to break the rope but unable to do so because it is not yet strong enough. Realizing his efforts are futile, it finally gives up trying. Upon trying and failing many times, it would stop trying. Later, when the elephant is fully grown, it can be tied to a small tree with a thin rope. It can then easily free itself by uprooting the tree or breaking the rope. But because its mind has been conditioned by its prior experiences, it doesn’t make any attempt to break free. The powerfully gigantic elephant has limited its present abilities by the limitations of the past and by seeing the other elephants living similar lives.

Well, this is called entrenched thinking.

Sounds fancy, right?

In simple terms, entrenched thinking is when we are hard-wired into a particular limiting thought process due to our past experiences. Based on what has been taught to us by our parents, the insecurities that we have developed within ourselves and some past failures, we have trained our minds to think within a safe passage and aim for things that are within our reach. We have accepted our ‘limitations’ even at a sub-conscious level. We become prisoners of our minds and thus keep getting entangled in our patterns. This ‘entrenchment’ happens at a level that is so deep-rooted that it begins to play its role in all areas of our lives and curtails our ability to lead lives of abundant happiness.

Just like the elephant in the story above, we fail to realise our abilities. But, is there a way to reprogram these thoughts and challenge our already existing assumptions, not just to put in the pieces of one problem but also future experiments?

The good news is that there are some techniques to break those old patterns. Here they are:

Do you Audit yourself? – Take a moment to check your vision for your life. Verify your aspirations. If your vision and aspirations are not above ordinary, then it’s time to tell yourself that you are a prisoner of your own mind. It means you are busy ‘just surviving’. As organisms blessed with cognition and intelligence, ‘just surviving ‘is not fun. Go ahead, question your belief system and go for abundance, go for excitement.

Do you talk to yourself? – Most of us are good at finding fault in what others are saying. Now, we constantly talk to ourselves. Do we know well enough whether we are pushing us up or pulling ourselves down with our self-talk? It is important to be mindful of our internal dialogue and have an internal motivator and a critic whenever we are telling ourselves to settle for less in life.

When did you fail last? – When was the last time you failed while trying to do something big or new? If it was not very recent, realise that you are drenched in entrenched thinking. All of us are bound to fail sometimes when we try to punch above our weights or try something new. It is the excitement of trying, the emotional experiences those successes or failures generate that make our lives emotionally rich. Otherwise, life can be so bland.

We would agree to the fact that the mind is a complex network and the human brain never runs out of finding problems. There are numerous instances when our mind is unable to recognize our hidden potential and the opportunities around us if we do not train our minds with the above mentioned questions.

This lack of efforts to constantly break-free from self-imprisonment does not allow us to experience our life to the fullest, thus compelling us to live a life of mediocrity, by becoming blind to all the opportunities around us to create deep and lasting happiness. Hence, we need to reprogram the auto-response in our brain by building new pathways, and strengthening the ones we use most often. Scientists usually like to put it this way – “Neurons that fire together, wire together.”

Mentioned above are some wonderful strategies that you can adopt to shed the old restrictive patterns and construct new liberating ones. From reducing your stress and anxiety levels to helping you rebuild your confidence, self-esteem and boost your happiness quotient; these techniques are worth giving a try.


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