You know, we can learn a valuable lesson from the grasshopper, the elephant and the way people think. Here’s why. If you want to keep a grasshopper for a pet, then all you need to do is to trap that grasshopper in a jar with a lid over it. And just like many of us, an imprisoned grasshopper will try desperately to escape using his powerful legs to smash the wall of resistance in search of freedom time and time again. At the outset, that grasshopper looked very persistent and determined to change its situation. And it would try to try again without any luck of breaking itself free. Then something happens, the grasshopper stops, the persistence of escaping stops. At this point, we all know that the grasshopper will never try to escape by jumping out of the jar with the lid. At the moment, you can take the lid off, and your (pet) grasshopper will not escape because once the grasshopper has learned that its situation did not change time after time no matter what it did in the past, its convinced that it will never change in the future. And it will settle upon its new life with no desire to reach beyond that comfort zone.
Many of us know about how elephant trainers teach elephants to stay in place. They get the baby elephant and lock a strong chain around its ankle and just as the grasshopper the baby elephant will pull and tug until it stops. And even once the elephant grows into an adult, it does not change in its beliefs. The trainer could tie a thin rope around the same ankle of the elephant, and it would not try to break away.
So there are similar parallels here in this simple life lesson between the grasshopper, the elephant, and people who have given up and have adopted the same mentality as the grasshopper and elephant—becoming comfortable and complacent with no sense of going on even if success is within reach. Mentally this person sees it as unreachable and unobtainable—it’s too hard they may say. There are many problems with the grasshopper and elephant mentality when adopted by an individual, a group, or even an industry such as:
The individual sees themselves as not having the ability to fit in with peers or able to leverage newer technologies.
They may prematurely size up the situation or competition and determine and perhaps talk themselves out of becoming successful by telling themselves: “I’m too old,” “I don’t have enough resources,” “I don’t have enough experience,” “I don’t want to get involved” or maybe “I was born on the wrong side of the tracks.” We all know the song, but we keep singing it.
The game of chess is another example that is comparable to the game of our life. If you want to be successful, it’s how you play the game. Chess is a game of change and adaptation. You have specific rules that players must follow in order to set up the game board. You have rules on how and in what direction the chess pieces must move on the board. Then you have rules on how to capture a chess piece, and finally how to win the game. Even though in chess there are rules to the game and one must follow them; no one plays the game the same because there are millions of ways to win and millions of ways to lose, but the outcome depends on the interactive interaction process between the two players. So similarly there are rules that govern change, and there are rules of adaptation to the change, but there is no one way that a person must take that leads to the path of success. Why? Because everyone is different, no two people are alike even if they were identical twins. Change and adaptation depend on the person’s mindset be it positive or negative. It canalso depend on that person’s biological makeup and the psychological makeup and/or the environment in which they dwell in. That’s why when talking about what situation will best promote efficiency in the workplace, it is best to think about what will specifically lead to increased proficiency and productivity of the individual employee. The environment for one thing or the workplace culture can help to improve efficiency. So, to avoid the grasshopper and elephant mentality as a human being, you must be able to accept, respond, and adapt to change because if not you will be stuck in that position not knowing the ability within you that is greater than the external forces. Discard your mental blockages because it will only lead to regression, limitations, stagnation, and ultimately a failure in reaching your goals. Remember you may limit yourself not your circumstances in life.
Permission only granted by Derrick Darden, PhD
Amen, D.(1992). Don’t Shoot Yourself in the foot ( A Program to end self-defeating behavior forever), Warner books, 1271 Avenue of the Americas, NY 10020