Actually, you are both. Jonathan Haidt, psychologist from the University of Virginia, wrote in his book The Happiness Hypothesis that people are like a rider on an elephant. The rider reflects the thinking, rational, future oriented part of you. The elephant represents the instinctive, emotional, now oriented part of you. This is similar to Id and the Superego. The rider’s job is to pick a destination and path, then guide the elephant along that path. The elephant actually walks that path. The rider can force the elephant to do things over the short term but, eventually, the rider will tire or the elephant’s strength will overpower the rider. The elephant can ignore the rider for short periods but can never actually progress without the rider.
Both the rider and the elephant are necessary and have their strengths. Without the rider, the elephant will wander aimless. Without the elephant, the rider won’t be able to travel at all. The only way to be successful is to get the elephant and the rider working toward the same goal. In other words, you need to align your heart AND your mind with the goal you wish to achieve.
When you create a goal, your rider is engaged. Make sure the rider is truly engaged by expressing your goal in factual accomplishments. Engage your elephant by also detailing the outcome of your goal in emotional terms. How will you feel when you accomplish your goal. Since your elephant is concerned with “now,” celebrate small victories along the path. Feed the emotional elephant with every victory, no matter how small.
We at Wolski Success Partners believe success happens by taking many small positive actions consistently. Here are a few easy actions that can help those with a goal of losing weight make a little progress each day.
1.) During dinner, dish up in the kitchen and leave the serving dishes with extra food behind. When the serving dishes are at the table, it makes it too easy to load on seconds…..or thirds…….or maybe just that little extra bite. These are basically unconscious calories you didn’t really want or need. When the food is just sitting there in front of you, it is too easy to nibble. By leaving the serving dishes in the kitchen, it makes getting seconds a conscious decision. We aren’t saying don’t go for seconds, but that extra effort of having to step away from the table to get more gives you pause to be mindful if you really want or need it.
2.) Use smaller plates. We know you’ve probably heard this many times before, but it really does work. Most of us use the plate size, not the size of our appetite, to determine how big our first course will be. By using smaller plates and bowls for everything from dinner to ice cream, we can easily cut our serving size by 25%. Combined with the mindfulness of leaving the excess food in the kitchen, this can be a great first step in adding mindfulness to your meals.
3.) Make your own frozen treats. Keep bananas and berries in the freezer. Throw either or both of them into a blender with milk or yogurt and blend away. You can’t really go wrong. Really make it a treat by adding a little vanilla or cinnamon in the blender. You can make it thicker by using less milk and it can replace your ice cream, or add a little more milk and make a wonderful drink. A two-scoop sundae can easily have over 500 calories. Trading a sundae for a frozen fruit treat adds fiber, nutrients and calcium to your diet for less than 250 calories. You will satisfy your sweet-tooth (guilt-free) as well as lower your caloric intake. This is a win/win all around!
4.) Tapas it! – Instead of ordering one main dish for dinner, order two non-fried appetizers. Better yet, have everyone on the table forgo main dishes and order no more than two non-fried appetizers each and share! For example, if four of you go out, order six non-fried appetizers. You’ll get to satisfy your hunger with smaller portions and more variety.
5.) Swap the 8-inch tortillas for 6-inch tortillas when you make wraps, tacos and burritos. Not only do the smaller tortillas have less calories, you simply can’t stuff them as full. So feel free to fulfill your Tex-Mex cravings, but do it mini-sized. Again, satisfying your hunger with smaller portions.
Sometimes all it takes is a minute to make a difference in someone’s life and that difference can improve the world. This is a story about a high school senior who took it on himself to make a difference in people’s lives. All he did was create an anonymous account and start posting positive captions about his classmates. He used social media to build up the people in his community without the possibility of returned benefit. Most of his posts probably didn’t take more than a minute to write but the impact he had on his classmates was enormous.
I suggest we each spend a minute a day trying to make someone’s life just a little bit better. Do it without the expectation that the person will return the favor. It can be something as simple as taking out the trash, letting someone in front of you in traffic or simply asking that quiet person about their day. Small things matter.
Habits have a bad reputation. To be fair, some bad habits have led to many ills in society today. Smoking, over eating, etc. have killed off more people than wars in the last 50 years. Ok. It lends some credence to the “habits are bad” logic.
On the other hand, have you ever driven home and not remembered the trip? Habits kept you on the road. Habits helped you follow traffic laws. Habits watched for other cars and habits knew the route home. Looking at it this way, habits kept you alive while your mind was somewhere else.
Maybe we need to step back and really think about what a habit is before we decide if they are good or bad. Basically, a habit is your mind trying to do efficiently a series of actions you take in response to a trigger on a regular basis. Your mind is wonderfully powerful at recognizing patterns and connections between things. It recognizes, without any conscious effort on your behalf, what you do in specific situations and then automatically prompts you to do the same thing in the same situation. It is incredibly efficient, freeing your mind to do other things. It is labor saving for your mind and, therefore, for you. By this definition, habits actually are very good . . . . . it is just that sometimes the long term outcome of our habits are damaging. That isn’t the habit’s fault. It is our fault because our our initial decisions led to the habit.
A habit has three main components: Trigger, action and reward. The trigger is also sometimes called the anchor or the cue. This is the situation that causes your mind to default to its labor saving device. Think of Maslow’s dogs. By ringing a bell just before he fed them, Maslow built a trigger (the bell) to the action of feeding (action and reward). For you, the trigger can be something like “finished lunch” which leads to the action of visiting the vending machine. The reward is the sugar rush for doing the action. Rewards can be enjoying the chocolate bar after lunch or staying alive on the drive home. Not normally discussed is a fourth component of a habit, that is the long term effect of repeated action. The repeated action of checking your rearview mirror every few minutes will lead to a very different long term effect than the repeated action of eating a king sized bag of M&Ms after every lunch.
In life, success is more a result of consistent positive action over time than any decision or any short term rush of effort. The very nature of habits make them a powerful tool for success. By establishing habits that lead to good long term results, you will put in consistent positive action without much thought. The trick is to determine what habits will lead you toward your definition of long term success, identifying appropriate triggers and rewards.