I once heard a story about how working elephants are trained not to break free from their tethers, even though they are easily strong enough to do so.
From an early age these powerful animals are secured by ropes or chains that are too strong for the young elephants to pull away from. They try, of course, but because they don't succeed they give up trying.
The belief that they are powerless to break free is so deeply engrained that they accept it completely. They carry this mental construct with them into adulthood, and so never try to escape, even when they could if they wanted to. Adult elephants are in effect their own jailers, prevented from escaping by an obstacle of their own making.
I don't know if this is really the way elephants are trained, but if true then elephants aren't the only ones to fall victim to this 'mind trick' - humans do too.
Just like captive elephants, we could easily break free from many things in life, but we don't simply because we've come to believe that there is no point in trying. So we stay in the same job, doing the same things, never once 'tugging' at the invisible tether that keeps us there.
But because we never have, doesn't mean we couldn't or shouldn't.
So, if you feel you may be stuck in one of those proverbial career or job ruts, disenchanted and disillusioned with life, here are three questions you can ask yourself to 'test your tether':
Question one. Do you still enjoy the work that you do? If you do, that's great. There may be other obstacles to you moving forward in life, but work doesn't seem to be one of them. In which case, just keep on doing what you're doing.
Question two. Are there specific roadblocks stopping you from progressing in your current career? If there aren't, again great news - the road ahead looks comparatively clear. How far you go along it is pretty much down to you and no one else.
Question three.If there are obstacles, are they large or small? Temporary or permanent? Removable or insurmountable?
Small, temporary 'roadblocks' are potentially removable and can often be easily overcome. Good news if you like your work and want to keep on doing it, because with a little thought, effort and application you should be able to push these obstacles aside and move further ahead.
However, if you're faced with large and insoluble blockages - younger colleagues being promoted over your head, downsizing departments destroying career paths, intolerable managers demanding more and more for less and less - then the writing may be on the wall: "There is no way forward for you here", in which case it's almost certainly time to change tack.
Or you could stay doing what you're doing. But how long can you keep it up?
When you are unhappy at work, your energy levels fall, making it even harder to push obstacles aside. Demotivated, you can even start doubting yourself, making the obstacles you face seem even larger.
When you feel like this, it's hard for it not to show, which in turn has an adverse impact on your relationships with superiors, colleagues and clients.
Perhaps not surprisingly, a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) discovered that satisfied employees outperform their less satisfied counterparts by 20%, while a report in The Harvard Business Review puts that figure even higher, at 31%. Think you can keep on hiding that?
Luckily for you, unlike the elephant, you have the option not to simply accept your fate. If you don't like what you see ahead, don't be tempted to just endure it. Get your career back on track and pull at your tethers and get out.
Is it a sign of defeat, of giving in?
No. It's a sign of you taking control. Why waste your energies fighting lost causes that are beyond your influence, when you can move on more successfully down another route?
Will it mean making big changes and giving up the safety of what you know?
Yes and no. While making any career change will inevitably mean giving up what we've become accustomed to, the 'safety and comfort' we often associate with the past is often just an illusion. Ask anyone who thought themselves safe in a job one day, only to be on the wrong side of the corporate door the next!
Looking for more inspiration from the Award winning author, speaker and coach Maite Baron, then download two free chapters from her Nautilus 2014 Award winning book Corporate Escape The Rise of the New Entrepreneur. With the bonus that you will receive her weekly thought provoking updates. Get your download here.
Thank you for reading
©ATTRIBUTION© 2014 Maite Barón. All rights reserved. This Article was first posted on The Corporate Escape Blog.