Emotion is the Elephant’s turf — love and compassion and sympathy and loyalty. That fierce instinct you have to protect your kids against harm — that’s the Elephant. That spine-stiffening feeling when you need to stand up for yourself — that’s the Elephant.
And even more important if you’re contemplating a change, the Elephant is the one who gets things done. To make progress toward a goal, whether it’s noble or crass, requires the energy and drive of the Elephant. And this strength is the mirror image of the Rider’s great weakness: spinning the wheels.
The Rider tends to overanalyze and overthink things. Chances are, you know people with Rider problems: your friend, who can agonize for 20 minutes about what to eat for dinner; your colleague, who can brainstorm about new ideas for hours but can’t ever seem to make a decision. The Rider also wears out easily: Exerting self-control and focusing intently on what “should” happen next can leave the Rider worn out and helpless to carry through with his plans.
If you want to change things, you must appeal to both these elements of the human self. The Rider provides the planning and direction, and the Elephant provides the passion and the sustained energy.
One remaining key to changing behavior is shaping your situation. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the “Path.” When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant. If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen — even if you don’t have lots of power or resources behind you.
One of the interesting things about change is how many mistaken assumptions we make about how it works — or doesn’t. Here are some surprising insights that can help you identify the real obstacles to change and avoid investing energy in clearing roadblocks that aren’t really there.
Next: 3 Surprises about Change