Generally, we use the term “the ties that bind” to indicate all the special ways we connect with those we love. Ties are the conditions, actions, and emotions that draw us to them and keep them part of our lives. Those ties may be kinship, marriage, trust, friendship, support, history. They get stretched and twisted and ragged, but they don’t often break. Our bonds are generally strong.
But there’s another side of this term that’s not as appealing, yet it is the reality of life. It’s when certain ties bind us to the negatives and shortfalls that are sure to come. We get connected to behaviors that keep us marking time, and we are unable to release ourselves from them. We are mentally handcuffed. Mental handcuffs are limited thoughts that box us in to the status quo whether good or bad, and we’re unable to grow anymore or change. For example, if I want to start my own business, the mental handcuffs only permit me to think of the expense, the loss of regular income if I’m giving up a job, and the possibility of failure. Though all of these are realistic risks, there is also the other side of the spectrum—increased income that I’ve never had, living the life I’ve always wanted, doing the type of work that brings me joy and financial independence. These desires are just as possible or even more possible than what I fear. If I don’t check my thinking, then I will remain bound up by my own self-imposed, mental imprisonment.
There is a wonderful story about an elephant who as a baby was bound by a heavy chain around one of his legs. The elephant learned from the length of the chain how far he could go so he only went as far as the chain allowed. As he grew into adulthood, the owner changed the heavy chain to a thinner, smaller one. The elephant weighed more than 10,000 pounds, and could have easily broken free of the small chain. But he had been conditioned over the years to only go as far as the chain would allow him. He never realized when the time had come for him to flex his strength and no longer be a victim to limitations.
We are like that in many ways--limited by barriers and roadblocks. But rather than finding ways around and over them, we let them stop us. Maybe it’s a job promotion you know you deserve, but the difficult manager attached to it who seems to hate you stands in the way. You believe you’ll never be able to get that promotion as long as he’s in his position so you stop trying to go for it. Or maybe the desire to be a parent fades as you get older and remain single. Because you haven’t found the spouse you wanted, you believe you’ll have to throw the dream of parenthood away. Therefore, you keep it out of your thoughts, conversations, and future plans. The dream slips away with time. Or what about the trip you long to take to Rome, Italy because it’s a place you believe would be wonderful to visit? But your limited funds and fear of flying have caused you to keep going to your usual vacation spot. You’ll never see Rome.
It’s time to let the familiar go—the same actions over and over again that bind you up. The key to unlocking the mental handcuffs is to change the way we perceive how to get what we want. If we believe the effort to get our dreams fulfilled is too hard, then we will give up before we get started. If we think that the roadblocks to our goals are insurmountable, we won’t even make the effort to try to find ways around or over them. We’ll simply talk ourselves out of trying. The whole battle starts in our minds, and that’s where it should be defeated. If your thinking is hindering your success, then you must resolve to strategize against negative thinking—not against success. You have to affirm that you can and should move forward on your passions and desires because you know you can. Your achievements are possible. Will it be hard to get to them? Maybe. But not impossible. Change your self-talk. Find new dialogue in your internal conversation. Boost your own morale with affirmations and words of encouragement.
Your belief in what can be has to exceed your doubt in what can’t be. The power of the mind is far greater than we give it credit, yet we yield to our fears daily. We must think about how we think. Are our thoughts creative, without limits, and motivating? Or are they self-defeating? It’s time to dump the head trash, the tumbleweed of timidity that blows us this way and that, and choose to change possibility to reality. Reinvent your thinking. Recharge your internal conversation. And watch your life events change to embrace your passion.