Advice & Help

What is holding you back?

If you have ever been to a circus you may have noticed that the elephants are held in check by a chain attached to a small wooden stake driven into the ground. At any time he chooses, this huge powerful beast could effortlessly pull the stake from the ground and be on his merry way. Why doesn’t he? What is holding him back?

When they are young, elephants are shackled with a thick heavy chain wrapped around the trunk of a tree or attached to a metal stake driven deep into the ground. No matter how hard they try, baby elephants cannot escape the chains that bind them. Eventually, they cease to push and pull because their efforts seem useless. With the mental stake driven as deep as the metal stake, the elephant becomes conditioned to believe that he will never be able to escape, so he gives up trying. Sadly, many of us mimic the adult elephant. Our enormous powers are negated by our own flawed belief system which shackles us to our current circumstances, giving the false impression that we will never be able to rise above them. As noted author and lecturer Dennis Kimbro said, “We become limited not by reality but by reality as we perceive it.”

Do you remember the grand dreams you had as a child? Whatever happened to your ambitions to be the next great doctor, teacher, or entrepreneur? Weren’t you making plans to write the next great novel, record the next big hit or make an important scientific breakthrough? Many of us still harbor those dreams but have succumbed to the many barriers standing in our way. These so called barriers are nothing more than a litany of excuses that we cook up daily; but as they say, you can either have successes or excuses – you can’t have both. Ask Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder. Both are blind but have gone on to have stellar careers as recording artists. Consider Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind person to conquer Mt Everest and reach its summit. What barriers did they see? Their optimistic outlook and strong belief in themselves outweighed any physical shortcomings they might have had.

High achievers have to deal with limiting beliefs every day. They face the same barriers that underachievers face – the issues of age, family background, past failures and lack of education among others. The difference lies in their commitment to reach their full potential. They never stopped fanning the flames of their childhood dreams and continued to push and pull for as long as it took them to break free of both the metal and mental stakes in their lives. The underachievers abandon their dreams and explain their desertion as simply being mature and realistic. This self-defeating behavior gives rise to a negative outlook on life, self pity, laziness, indiscipline and poor work habits. Before long they become like the mighty elephant walking around in circles tethered to a wooden stake by a flimsy piece of chain; unable to break free. As one author puts it, “people are trapped in their everyday habits – part numb, part frightened, part indifferent. To have a better life we must keep choosing how we are living.”

As you can see, a lack of commitment on the part of the grown elephant to win his freedom no matter how long it required him to push and pull at the chain has formed habits which ensured that despite his mighty strength, this giant is relegated to a life as a circus act. How many times have you allowed yourself to become frustrated because of failed attempts to achieve a certain goal? Your lack of commitment to the attainment of your goals leads to complacency and a life of mediocrity. Famed newscaster Walter Cronkite said, “I can’t imagine a person becoming a success who doesn’t give this game of life everything he’s got.” High achievers are those who ceaselessly do everything within their power to become what they’re capable of becoming.

If you find yourself shackled by the mental stakes that were driven earlier in your life; if you find yourself hindered by circumstances and people who would suggest you can’t realize your dreams, simply think long and hard about the treasured ambitions you have locked away. Commit – make a heartfelt promise to yourself to do whatever it takes to bring those dreams to the light of day. As Benjami Disreali said, “Nothing can withstand the power of the human will if it is willing to stake its very existence to the extent of its purpose.”

Keep On Pushing!

About the author

Devon Harris

Devon Harris was a member of the Jamaican Bobsleigh team and competed in three Winter Olympics; he later joined the army and attended the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst. Born on Christmas Day, 1964 and raised in a violent ghetto environment in Kingston, Jamaica, the greatest gift Devon Harris ever received was the belief that a positive attitude and a never say die philosophy would carry him farther than a sense of injustice and a heart filled with anger.A graduate of the prestigious Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in England, Devon received a Queen’s Commission in December 1985 and served in the officer corps of the Jamaica Defence Force until December 1992 when he retired as a Captain.At the heart of Devon’s message are the lessons he has learned of the power of persistence over all sorts of obstacles in order to live one's best life. His mission is to bring this message of how everyone can keep on pushing and working for their dreams every day of their professional as well as personal lives.Encouraged by his commanding officer, Devon tried out for and was selected to the first Jamaican bobsled team which competed in the 1988 Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada. Their exploits inspired the Disney blockbuster movie Cool Runnings. Devon also competed in and was captain of the 1992 Winter Olympic Games in Albertville, France and the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan.The Keep On Pushing Foundation which he founded in 2006 aims to support and enhance the education of kids in disadvantaged communities around the globe by providing practical solutions to the challenges that are preventing them from getting educated.Through the Keep on Pushing Foundation, Devon also works with Right to Play as an athlete ambassador, supporting Right to Play’s efforts in using sports and play in refugee camps around the world to enhance child development and build community capacity.As an ex-serviceman, Devon understands the commitment, sense of duty and sacrifices made by those who volunteer to serve. As a private citizen he is cognizant of the fact that the freedoms he enjoys are paid for by the courage and sacrifice of these men and women. As a result he has also devoted time to visit the troops serving in the Persian Gulf.He is the author of the motivational children’s book, Yes, I Can! and the semi-auto-biographical motivational book Keep On Pushing: Hot Lesson From Cool Runnings.