Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 1, Issue 27;   July 4, 2001: Corrales Mentales

Corrales Mentales

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Last updated: August 8, 2018

Perhaps you've achieved every goal you've ever set yourself, but if you're like most of us, some important goals have remained elusive. Maybe you had bad luck, or you weren't in the right place at the right time. But it's just possible that you got in your own way. Getting out of your own way can help make things happen.
Horses in a corral

A classic wood corral. Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Transportation.

At the ranger station midway on a hike through Boston's Blue Hills, I stop to relax and take some water. Two large horses belonging to the Metro Boston mounted police stand in the shady corner of a small corral. I notice that the fence that contains them is so flimsy that they could smash through it easily if they wanted to. I'm not a horse mind reader, and it could be that they know how weak the fence is, but in my imagination, they don't realize that they can break out. That thought reminds me of my own mental corrals, and how many of us have them.

Mental corrals prevent us from doing what we're otherwise able to do. When we don't ask for a promotion because we think we won't get it, we're in a mental corral. Mental corrals keep us from exercising choices we have, and they can even keep us from seeing them. They prevent us from reaching our potential.

A few kinds of mental corrals:

OK Corral
When things are OK, we sometimes can't see how much better things could be. We tolerate what we need not. The OK Corral kept IBM from introducing the PC until after Apple showed it could be done, and the delay may have cost IBM dominance of the desktop.
Terror Corral
When terror grips us, we believe that the only sensible choice is to stay inside the corral. Either we imagine the threat, or someone else induces it. The Terror Corral kept European sailors from crossing the Atlantic, even when the Polynesians were crossing the Pacific — with inferior technology, and centuries earlier.
Example Corral
When something bad happens to someone else, we sometimes fear that it will happen to us if we try something similar — even after the situation changes. Bullies can control a social group much more powerful than they are by making examples of a few of its members.
Rationalization Corral
Mental corrals prevent us
from doing what we're
otherwise able to do
When we don't want to take risks, we invent reasons for staying put. "It costs too much," "It'll never work," "If it were that easy, someone would have done it already." The Rationalization Corral often acts as a "second fence." It prevents us from seeing the outer corral — the more powerful reason we choose not to act.

Can you remember a time when there was a mental corral that you had to break through to achieve a goal? Make a collection of the corrals you've escaped. Is there a pattern? What would happen if, instead of breaking out of your mental corrals, you just stopped building them? Go to top Top  Next issue: The Fallacy of the False Cause  Next Issue

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As a costs savings measure, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided in 2004 to close these stables. Park rangers in Boston's Blue Hills Reservations began patrolling on foot. The stable's residents — King Arthur, King Pellinore, Sir Dillidon, Turk, Merlin, and Lady Guinevere — have been reassigned to other duty around Massachusetts. Seems like the Commonwealth is in a Mental Corral of its own.

For more on achieving and inspiring goals, see "Commitment Makes It Easier," Point Lookout for October 16, 2002; "Beyond WIIFM," Point Lookout for August 13, 2003; "Your Wishing Wand," Point Lookout for October 8, 2003; "Give It Your All," Point Lookout for May 19, 2004; "Knowing Where You're Going," Point Lookout for April 20, 2005; "Workplace Myths: Motivating People," Point Lookout for July 19, 2006; "Astonishing Successes," Point Lookout for January 31, 2007; and "Achieving Goals: Inspiring Passion and Action," Point Lookout for February 14, 2007.

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Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

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