Elephant and rope mindset

If you want to know the power of limiting beliefs, read the following story about the elephant and the rope mindset.

The Elephant and Rope Mindset Story

A man passing by a camp of elephants observes that these massive creatures are being held by only a small rope tied to their front leg. No chains, no cages. It was obvious that the elephants could, at any time, break away from the ropes they were tied to, but for some reason, they did not.

He saw a trainer nearby and asked why these animals just stood there and made no attempt to get away.

The trainer said, “When they are very young and much smaller, we use the same size rope to tie them, and at that age, it’s enough to hold them. As they grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope can still hold them, so they never try to break free.”

The man was amazed. These animals could at any time break free from their bonds but because they believed they couldn’t, they were stuck right where they were.

What the Elephant and The Rope Mindset Story Means

The elephant rope story shows us the power of beliefs, in this case limiting beliefs.

Our mental ropes hold us back and we don’t even know it. Like the baby elephant, we had these ropes tied to us in childhood. They are silently running the show in the back ground.

When we are young, we hear “people like us don’t do those things” or “You are not smart.” Or any number of other things.

What Limiting Beliefs Do To Us

These beliefs limit our view of who we are, so limit what we can do. Who we think we are and how we see ourselves is the same as knowing what we want and what we are capable of.

Some parents give these beliefs because they are trying to protect their children from doing something too risky. Others do it because they want to control their children. They do not want them to do well, often out of fear and envy.

It’s not just parents we pick this up from. But also teachers and other significant people, as well as society as a whole.

Breaking Free of Limiting Beliefs

An elephant breaking free from the rope

The first step is to realize they exist. Just like the man saw by walking through the elephant camp how the ropes were holding these huge creatures back, we can see limiting beliefs in others, easier than we see in in ourselves. Keep this in mind.

Secondly, look at your life and see the areas you want to do better in. Ask what is holding you back?

You will come up with many things, some of them will be practical. However, you will realize much of what is stopping you is what you believe you are capable of and deserve.

There are usually layers of beliefs you have to go through to get to the core belief. I find it helpful to write them down.

Question Each Belief.

For the next step, ask if it is true. Look for evidence of the belief being true and look for evidence of it not being true.

A powerful thing you can do is, to ask if the opposite belief is just as true. Again, find evidence for it.

Once you see the belief is not true, you will naturally change your behaviour. If the elephant realizes the rope is nothing compared to it’s power, he will start walking. The rope and the stick will have no chance in holding him.

Everyone is different, someone people will see the belief is not true, and will never look back. Others will need to remind themselves before it sinks in..

Once you start taking action, and have even the smallest success, it will be hard for you to believe the same thing again.

Once the elephant has experienced freedom and it’s own power, it will be impossible to use the same trick on him.


The elephant and rope mindset parable tells us how our beliefs are holding us back. The elephant rope represents our beliefs.

It is not that we are incapable or stuck, it is that we BELIEVE we are. We learned these beliefs were as children, so we can unlearn them with a little effort and focus. You don’t have to go through life hanging onto them.

Question and move beyond them and watch your life change.

See also Covert Abuse in Relationships