Are you the elephant or the rider?

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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s