The baby elephant story contains a message for us! Break free from self-imposed mental barriers! Read here about the adventure of baby elephant’s capitation and how it got back to its mother. You will learn why elephants don’t escape when they have a rope around their necks. This is an invitation for us to think about situations that we could manage differently, if we would free up from certain mental models that are no longer relevant from us.
Baby elephant lives a happy life with its mother
Today I want to tell you a story. It is the story of baby elephant that lives in India with its mother – a big and mature elephant. They both belong to a mahout. A mahout in India is a person who keeps and raises elephants.
The mahout goes with our baby elephant and its mother from one village to another, offering their services for heavy lifting duties that can be done only with the strength of an elephant. Our baby elephant lives a very happy life with its mother, drinking the good mother milk, growing up, playing and enjoying itself.
The mahout separates the baby elephant from its mother
This goes on until the day where everything is changing for our baby elephant. That day, the mahout separates the baby elephant from its mother. He puts a thick rope around the neck of our baby elephant and attaches the rope to a massive stick that is fixed in the ground. Our baby elephant does not understand what is happening and wants to go back to its mummy. So it starts rattling the rope to escape from this prison. But the rope is strong and the stick holds firm.
Baby elephant tries to break free
Baby elephant is starting to feel very lonely and is missing its mother badly. Big elephant tears drop on the floor. And you should know that elephant tears are even bigger than crocodile tears! Baby elephant is not only very sad, but starts to be also very hungry. So it undertakes again and again all efforts to break free. It fights against the rope will all his forces. The rope is starting to hurt its neck, so hard it is trying. But nothing works. Our baby elephant is starving, sad and completely exhausted.
Baby elephant gives up and resigns
After a few days our baby elephant is desperate and suffers badly from starvation. Its attempts to break free become more and more seldom and less and less vigorous. His neck is wound, his forces are gone and his sadness not to be with his mother is overwhelming. Solely but surely baby elephant gives up, resigns and finally falls into complete depression having lost all hope.
Mama elephant is back!
This is when the mahout shows up and detaches the rope from the stick. Our baby elephant has hardly the force to get back on its 4 feet and the mahout takes the baby elephant with him. Not far away the baby elephant can suddenly see…..its mother!! Baby elephant runs to its mother as fast as it can and mother elephant is full of joy to have her baby back! Our baby elephant does not waist much time to suck again the good mother milk and enjoys the elephant tenderness of its mother.
Baby elephant becomes big and strong
Solely baby elephant recovers. Life is back to normal and our baby elephant rapidly grows to become soon itself a big and strong elephant like its mother. Our elephant starts to contribute to the heavy lifting work. People admire its incredible strength in all of the villages that the mahout visits together with his elephants.
Never our elephant will challenge the rope again
When they arrive in a new village the mahout stops in the center and puts a rope around the neck of our elephant and attaches it to a stick. Our grown up elephant could easily escape. Baby elephant has now 10 or even 100 times the strength to break free from the rope. But never, never ever our baby elephant will challenge the rope and the stick again. Whenever the rope is around his neck and attached to the stick our elephant stays there and does not even try to run away.
What does this story mean for us?
Isn’t that amazing? This super strong elephant that is able to carry heavy tries will never make any attempt to free up from the rope and the stick that had kept him in capitation as a baby. I have heard this story form a great story teller, who has probably heard it himself from another story teller and so on. If this story is told again and again over so many years, it is because it probably has a deeper meaning that is relevant also for us.
Do we have virtual ropes around our necks?
What is this deeper meaning of that story? Does it tell us something about ourselves? Are there maybe limitations that we may have experienced and that we accept ever since? Are there situations that we could manage differently, if we would break free from certain mental models that are no longer relevant from us? Do we have such ropes around our necks that we don’t challenge although we might have 10 or 100 times the strength to do so?
Can I break free from certain self-imposed limitations?
I guess this is what this story invites us to think about: What are such mental barriers that we may have lost the habit to challenge? Why is there a consensus that things have to be done in this way? Can’t look at it in a different way? Has anyone tried? Shall I try to break free? What is the risk of doing so? Do I have the strength to try?
The baby elephant sorry invites us to ask these questions. I think it is worthwhile thinking about it for our own lives. I hope you have enjoyed it!
More information in my book:
Sven Sommerlatte : Successful Career Strategy – An HR Practitioner’s Guide to Reach Your Dream Job (Springer, June 2023). ISBN: 978-3-662-66790-3