The Lesson of the Iron
When I was two years old, like any child of that age, I was full of energy. I especially loved to run under and around my mother’s ironing board. This was a problem, especially when there was a hot iron sitting on top of it.
My mom tried everything to get me to stop because she was worried I would get a head wound or seriously burned if I knocked that iron over.
But, nothing worked.
Until one day she took a drastic step. She took me by the arm and walked me over to the ironing board. She took the hot iron in one hand and very quickly touched the surface to a part of my forearm.
Now, before you get an image of a monstrous woman torturing her child with an iron, that is not what happened. I have no scars on my body today because of this.
The contact with my skin was instantaneous, in the blink of an eye. But, it was long enough for me to feel the pain and associate the danger that iron had for me.
A Lesson Well-Learned
The impact was immediate. From that day forward, I stayed as far away from the ironing board as possible.
Jump ahead 17 years. As a 19-year-old on the brink of manhood, I was walking through my parent’s house. Mom’s ironing board and hot iron were set up in the kitchen.
Without thinking, I walked as far around the ironing board as possible. But then, I stopped and looked back at it. I thought, “Why do I always walk around that stupid thing?”
I mentioned my observation to my mother and she told me the story of what she had done when I was two. I immediately looked at my forearm and didn’t see a scar and then told her, “I don’t remember that at all.”
I didn’t have a physical scar, but I did have a mental one. Her lesson served its purpose when I was a little boy with no self-control. However, it outlived its purpose.
From that day forward, I didn’t distance myself from irons and ironing boards. But, I didn’t magically and instantly lose those negative feelings about them. It took many conscious attempts to remind me of the story and condition myself to a new thought about irons and ironing boards.
What Does This Have To Do With Success?
In the years since my revelation, I’ve studied success principles. One idea that continually pops up is the concept of conditioning.
Whether or not we like this fact, we are no less susceptible to conditioning than Pavlov’s dogs. (If you’re not familiar with this reference, Google it. It’s a famous story that shines a light on our susceptibility to being trained to believe specific ideas or adopt certain actions).
Every person has been conditioned by painful experiences. Many of those were vital to help us learn necessary lessons, and in some cases survive childhood.
However, just like me and the ironing board, too many of them no longer serve us well.
Every person on the planet has mental scars. Whether it’s beliefs about our worthiness, our value, or our importance, it’s vital we pay attention to the lessons that are still driving our behavior today.
If instead of teaching me about the potential harm of irons, my mother had repeatedly told me, “you’re stupid and you’ll amount to nothing” I would have avoided every potential situation that would have proven her right.
I wouldn’t have taken chances with my career, with my business, or with relationships. Because every failed attempt would have proven that I was stupid and worth nothing.
Fortunately, I have a good mom (and dad). Rather than fill my head with negative thoughts, they placed high expectations on me. They made it safe for me to take risks and chances, learn from the experiences, and grow.
What’s Your Iron?
The greatest lesson of the iron wasn’t about the danger of getting bonked on the head or burned. It was the importance of being aware of those beliefs that have outlived their expiration date and are holding me back from a higher level of success.
What irons are holding you back today?
Are you willing to step back and question behaviors you’ve been unconsciously performing for years?
I suggest you do it. It will free your mind and your emotions to achieve at a higher level.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some shirts to iron. Because I have no fear of that device. Computers, on the other hand……
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