Mindset Mastery at Work, Circus Style

Have you ever heard the story about the elephant in the circus?

It starts off a man who was visiting a local circus.  He walked past the elephant enclosure and stopped because he was confused.  As large as the elephants were, they were only being held by a small rope attached to their front leg.  

No chains, no cages.

It was clearly obvious that the 10-foot tall, 5,000 kilo hulk could easily snap the rope,  and escape to freedom.  But it didn't.

Why not?


It all has to do with conditioning:

When these elephants were very young and much smaller, a chain was tied around their legs and the other end of the chain was tied to a metal stake on the ground. The chain and peg were strong enough for the baby elephant. When they tried to break away, the metal chain would pull them back. 

Sometimes, wanting to join the world it could see all around it, a baby elephant would pull on its chain. But the chain would cut into the skin on the elephant’s leg, making it bleed, creating a wound. So, the baby elephant learnt that their chain, if pulled would hurt them.


So the simple lesson was that these baby elephants stopped trying  to pull on their chains to escape!

And now grown up, when the big circus elephant is tied by the rope which has replaced the chain around its leg, it remembers the pain it felt as a baby.  It connects both the chain and rope as if they were one and the same. 

And so the huge animal does not try to break away. It remembers its limitations, and knows that it can only move as much as the chain will allow. It does not matter that the metal stake has been replaced by a wooden peg. It does not matter that the 100 kilo baby is now a 5,000 kilo powerhouse. However, the elephant’s belief prevails..  

As elephants grow up, they are conditioned to believe they cannot break away. They believe the rope, like the chain will still hold them.


This cruel and yet effective technique is the exact same technique our brain unconsciously uses to hold us back - unless we become awake and aware to the work we need to do on what I call, "our inside game".

The story about the elephant is such a powerful lesson: 

Just like elephants, how many of us are at the mercy of our conditioning: hanging onto a belief that we cannot do something or being held back by a past experience because we failed at it once before?
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My experience of life is that in order to get the results we want, we have to focus on ourselves, to work on ourselves to continuously check and adapt and update our perspectives and responses. 

And this starts with what I call, “our inside work” – which includes doing an inventory of our:

  • Values and Beliefs which form the foundation of how we think and respond to the world around us
  • Our filters which have been created through every experience and relationship we have been exposed to
  • Our biases, stories and opinions that are not working for us


And this is a lot easier said than done!

Most of us focus so much on the outside world that we often forget to look after ourselves and our mindset. 

We give more time and attention to looking outwards and dealing with everyday events such as deciding what to wear to work, making sure we have organised our children’s or partner’s lunch for the day, getting our car serviced etc, that we often don’t have a lot of time or capacity for a little self-care on the inside. 

Mastering your mindset is an inside JOB!...... 

It requires time and effort on your part to focus on yourself.

Check out Carol Dweck's talk on the power of what she calls the fixed and growth mindsets and what it means to develop a growth mindset.....


The benefits of looking after your inside are being better understood with the work of neuroscientists.  

There are innumerable benefits and opportunities that you get once you start seriously working on your inside game, but these are 3 of the key mindset mastery benefits that I see in my work with leaders and their teams:

1 - Resilience or Grit

The truth is that the more you do the necessary work on the inside, the more resilient and stronger you become in your relationships, work and life and your ability to deal with the many adventures, challenges and let-downs that may come your way.

Life is not meant to be easy.  To help you mature and grow, you need to work and be reworked many times over.

2 - Discernment and Wisdom

Although we all fundamentally are able to judge right from wrong, the way that our brain does it is at an unconscious level and is based on our filters, values and beliefs.  

When you start to work on your inner game, you are better able to consciously deconstruct a situation and work through the facts versus your feelings and thoughts about it more objectively.  

This allows you to build a maturer, deeper insight into not only your response but your impact on others.

3 - Better Relationships

If you have ever worked with a challenging colleague or staff member at work, you'll know how much it takes out of you.

When you start working on your mindset to build positivity, you realise that a lot of the situations you find yourself in come from one of two places:

  1. 1
    Inside Of You: Like It Or Not, We All Tell Ourselves Stories About Other People's Behaviour That A Lot Of The Time Is Not True. We Only Realise This When We Start To Understand Why That Person's Behaviour Activates Us So Much.
  2. 2
    Other People's Inappropriate Behaviour

The Best Advice

The best advice a kind nurse gave me to me in hospital a few days after I’d given birth to Clara was,

“Kerry Anne, as a mom the most important person to look after each day when you wake up, is first yourself and then your daughter

When you feel prepared and ready for your day, you are much better able to be strong and “there” for your daughter.” 

This advice has proven true many times over in my life and I notice that when I don’t begin my day with my morning ritual.  For more about morning rituals, click here.

I am not quite as centred as when I do.  

Important Note:

We should all have a morning ritual that we create to get us starting positively for the day

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I notice that I am not quite as resilient and I don’t bounce back quite as effortlessly as when I do.

Which brings me to my final point.....

You Have the Answer!

Becoming the master or mistress of your mindset is an exciting and vibrant journey.  Sure, we need other’s input in our lives to give us meaningful relationship, depth, other perspectives and insights. 

But, ultimately, my experience of life is that all the answers to the challenges you have in your life can be found inside.

Your Brain's Problem Solving Genius

Your brain has a tremendous capacity to find and solve problems you set it. 

For example: you have a problem at work that you can’t find a solution to. You worry and ruminate but still you find no answers. And then, a few nights later, you wake up at 3 am in the morning with a eureka moment – you have an answer that make sense and feels right!

Or, if you have ever had a shower moment or a dishwashing  moment where you get your answer, those too are considered your brain’s way of trying to get your attention. 

The reasons these moments happen at such inconvenient or odd times is because we are so out of touch with our inside, that our unconscious brain has to fight really hard to gain our conscious attention.

You have the answer to all the challenges in your life right now.  Your incredible brain has some impressive tools that go to work the moment you alert it to a challenge.  If you set it a challenge, guaranteed it will find a way to solve it for you. 

You just need to understand how to use your brain better to help get to the answers you need.  Read this article to find out more about the benefits of mindfulness

Questions to Consider


How would others describe your mindset?


How much time do you currently spend doing the necessary “inside work” to help you achieve your goals and dreams?


What are 2 challenges that you are aware of right now that you’d like to solve in relation to mindset mastery at work?

And, if mindset mastery is something you are serious about, why not take our 10 Question Mindset Mastery Quiz below?

This quiz will help you identify your strengths and growth areas around your mindset.  We also include an opportunity for you to get over 40 different strategies to positively develop your mindset.

Until next time, I will 

See you at the top!

Signature Sign Off - Kerry Anne Cassidy

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