Monday, January 6, 2014

Elephant Tied To A Stake - The Illusion Of Control

There is a story about an elephant in a circus. The owner didn't keep the elephant in a cage, but instead put a shackle on one of its legs and chained it to a stake in the ground. Anybody who would look at this scene would be baffled. A full grown elephant could easily rip that stake out of the ground if it wanted to, so why does it obediently stay in place? The answer is that the elephant had been chained to that stake since it was a baby, back when it was too weak to fight it. Over the years it had given up trying; the stake is indomitable. So even though the elephant had grown up, the mind had already accepted the stake and never bothered resisting anymore. 

As a person, it is easy to see when other people change, but it is hard to see when we change. It is a cultural norm that "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results." And to some degree, it's true. But if you are unaware of when circumstances change, then by not trying the same thing, you can miss out on viable options. 

This story greatly explains the illusion of control. We easily forget how much power we really have. More often than not, a person's problems are ones they allow themselves to have. People get caught up in some illusory power they think controls them, and they don't let themselves pick the easiest ways to solve their problems. [I would say that the #1 reason people don't choose the easy answer is the fear/risk of personal embarrassment.]

When you find yourself (or your characters) stuck on something, seriously ask yourself what is stopping you? Like, in the most literal sense, what is physically stopping you from doing what you want? It may be something very real, like the risk of police tackling you to the ground with guns pointed at your head. But it may be the kind of thing that the only resistance would be somebody getting chaffed and barking at you. In that case, though, they aren't physically stopping you; you are choosing to not do something because of a mental hangup. Do not let the illusion of control own you. 

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