When Nelson Mandela was first sent to Robben Island prison, some had thought he would come out within a few years. But years went by, a whole decade went by and there was no sign of the government’s willingness to release him. He carried on with his life in the prison. He connected with other political prisoners and did the best he could in those conditions. He was determined to do whatever he could in the fight against apartheid, from within the prison. After about 18 years, he was told that he will be moved out of Robben Island. Although this indicated a possible thawing in the attitude of the Government, Mr Mandela felt very uncomfortable when he was being taken away from Robben Island. Can you guess why?…
He had gotten used to the prison.
He had stayed there almost 2 decades and had grown comfortable with the place and even with the repressive procedures.
This may seem very strange, how can someone miss prison! But it happens with all of us. We get used even to the things we despise the most, if we continue with them long enough.
Accepting the prison
As kids, we are very impatient with the things we don’t like. Growing up into our teens and early twenties, we are quick to rebel against anything that seems unjust. Most do this for a while and then continue with life. They get into jobs, they fall in love, they marry, have kids… Gradually, they grow immune to the injustice, it doesn’t seem to matter anymore. With still more time, they get comfortable with it, so much so that, when the new generation revolts against the injustice, they may try to defend it. They don’t want to let go of their comfort zone. These may not be people who perpetuated injustice all their lives. They slowly moved from hating it, to reluctantly accepting it, to being a part of it.
Same goes for other things in life as well, like the career you choose. Look at the older employees where ever you work. You will inevitably find a group of them who appear dull and negative. They usually don’t have much good news with them. They probably didn’t like the job in the beginning but did not leave either. Over time they got used to it. Now, they are so numb to their own pain, they don’t even realize it’s there. They don’t even remember that life was once more fun, that it can be much better than the drudgery it seems now. If you ask them about it, they will become defensive and tell you how great a life they have had, that anything better is not possible.
I will urge you to turn your attention now to yourself and consider this question – ‘Are you building a similar golden prison for yourself?’
Are you waiting for the perfect moment?
Probably you think that you will move away from it when the situation is just perfect, when the lights are all green. You have faith that the fire inside you will never die out and you will still be motivated when the ‘right opportunity’ comes.
I am afraid that will not happen. With time, the fire will die out slowly. You will grow even more fearful, you will loose the will to make the leap.
If you are not being held down by force, rise up and make the leap now! Don’t wait. When your mind starts raising those doubts about how you will earn and survive, or how you will manage your family, or how will your near and dear one’s react, face these questions fully and look at the most probable scenarios. When afraid, we often see the situation much worse than it would really be.
If you postpone the change just once, it becomes extremely difficult to tell yourself why you should not postpone it again. One postponement leads to another, until one day you realize that your whole life went by… The perfect moment to initiate change is now.
If making the leap seems too frightening, do it in steps. Face your fears first. If you think finances would be a problem, try living like a pauper for sometime. Spend very little and see how you feel about it. Most of the time, it won’t be as bad as your fears made it out to be.
Think of baby steps to take out of your prison. Make sure the baby steps you decide have something tangible you can start doing right away.
Are you held down by other people or circumstances?
Mandela was kept at Robben Island against his will. He had armed guards and the ocean to pass before his escape but still he never stopped plannig it. He hatched multiple plans with his friends and always kept looking for a chance. He never got any. But who is keeping you in your situation? Are you sure there is absolutely nothing you can do?
If you can leave the situation(in most cases, you can), leave it immediately. But, like Mandela, if you can’t, I wish you as much resilience as he had so that when the time comes, even if it does after ages, you will have the fire still buring inside you to rise like a phoenix.
Until next time…