When walking through an elephant camp, a man noticed that the elephants were only secured with a small rope that was tied around one ankle. He wondered why the elephants didn’t break free from the rope, as the elephants were certainly strong enough to do so.
He asked a trainer why the elephants didn’t try to break free, and the trainer responded by saying that they use the same size rope for baby elephants all the way up to adulthood. Because they’re too small when they’re babies to break free from the rope, they grow up being conditioned that the rope is stronger than they are. As adults, they think the rope can still hold them, so they don’t try to fight it.
The elephants are displaying learned helplessness – conditioned to expect discomfort without escape. Similarly, if you let past failures define your abilities, you’re stuck in a fixed mindset. Breakthroughs require shedding limiting beliefs and embracing growth despite setbacks.