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Life Lessons from My Elephant

When my friend asked me to go to a place called Elephantstay in Thailand, I thought it would be fun to get away, interact with elephants, and get some great photos.

What I didn’t bargain for was the profound impact this trip would have on me.

If you’d told me a giant elephant was going to teach me amazing life lessons, I never would have believed it.

Upon our arrival, we were given a safety talk. Then, it was straight out to start feeding and watering the elephants. The first thing I thought was, Wow. They’re really big, powerful, and a little bit scary. I kept thinking … they must be crazy if they think I’m going to climb on the back of this beast.

But, like many animals, elephants are food motivated, and as soon as I gave “my elephant” … Rasamee … food and water, she started to bond with me.

Lesson Number One … Don’t pre-judge your situation or make snap judgments about others.

I’d been telling myself the ride would be scary. I had no basis for making this particular judgment. People don’t fall off elephants here, but I had convinced myself I would be the first ever. And the more I told myself this, the more frightened I became.

By the time I got on Rasamee, I was almost panicked. I was holding on for dear life and couldn’t relax, even though the elephant handler … the Mahout … and our leader kept telling me the ride would be so much more enjoyable if I did.

Such a powerful lesson. In life, it’s best to relax and enjoy the ride.

So, what was stopping me? A surface judgment. I thought because the elephant was big and powerful she would also be dangerous. Not so, but how often do we judge others by the surface impressions we form of them? And then we miss out on the full, rich experience of who they really are.

My elephant turned out to be a charming, lovable lady.

Lesson Number Two … Negative self-talk triggers the “awfulization” that gets in the way of enjoying life.

The Mahout had a very tight hold on me, and any time I felt even the least bit unsteady, Rasamee held on to me with her huge ears. It was in no one’s best interest, including Rasamee’s, to have me fall. By day three, I finally realized I was safe. I relaxed and did enjoy the ride.

But what if I’d stopped my negative self-talk on day one?

The whole experience would have been far more pleasurable.

So, what made me finally relax and enjoy the ride?

My friend had been to Elephanstay several times before, and there was a beautiful spot where she wanted to go to get a picture taken. It was down a hill, and, when asked, I said I wasn’t ready to go there.

I nicknamed the spot, the “scary spot” and planned to avoid it at all costs.

Rasamee had other ideas in mind.

She saw my friend and her elephant headed that way and she thought, I’ll go join them! Down she went into the scary spot. I was terrified!!! I think I even cried a little.

Although I was scared, I DID IT, and what was crazier was that I wanted to do it again!

I was the one psyching myself out. I was perfectly safe and there was no reason for me to be afraid of the scary spot.

There are so many “threats” in life created purely in our imaginations.

Calm the chatter. Relax. And enjoy the moment.

Lesson Number Three … Approach things with a “can” rather than a “can’t” mindset.

It’s so easy to protect yourself … to say no … to say you can’t, but if you do, you’ll probably never ride an elephant or do all the other “scary” things that can enrich your life.

Make your default self-talk positive. Saying, “I can” rather than, “I can’t” changes the way you approach things in life. The scary spot can actually be quite pleasant if you only allow yourself to go there.

This was such a great experience … and I did get some great photos. I learned so much when I was there and definitely plan on going back.

Thank you Rasamee. Who knew a beautiful elephant could be such a great teacher?


Today’s guest post is written by a dear friend and colleague, Lyn Karnstedt. She’s a consultant, coach, and facilitator based in Asia. Her specialty is sales and leadership development. I hope you enjoyed her contribution!


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Meet Denise: Denise Hedges is a Business Development Coach and Speaker Coach for small business owners who want to be more comfortable, confident, and successful with their sales and marketing efforts. She specializes in helping them use speaking as a way to dramatically improve their results!