How To Ride Your Elephant

I have spent the last day or two thinking about how best to ride my elephant. Now, I understand that this probably isn't the opening you were ever expecting to read but since Mr Apple has been reading 'Switch' by Chip & Dan Heath and sharing the salient points with me, my elephant riding skills have been rather on my mind.

Perhaps I should explain. 'Switch' is all about how we deal with change and, most importantly, how to change things when change is hard. And it all comes down to how you motivate your elephant...

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Your elephant is your emotional brain and the rider is your rational bride. See the almost daily stand-off between this pair when your alarm clock shrills every morning. The rider knows the right thing to do is to bound out of bed, eat the healthy breakfast and get a jump start on your day. Your elephant however has other plans and hits snooze and retreats under the duvet again. Once in a while, the rider will win these battles when you use big doses of willpower to take control of the elephant but it doesn't happen often.

You see, the elephant is big and powerful and it wants instant gratification. The rider sits in a precarious position and sometimes, despite its noble aims for long-term improvements, it can't always direct the elephant in the 'right' way. Despite this, the elephant isn't bad - the elephant is the source of passion and all those wonderful emotions that quite often lie behind our greatest achievements. The rider isn't perfect either - in its quest for perfection and its need to 'do the right thing', it can over-think and over-analyze and render itself immobile.

So, to really change things, to really head with power and energy in a new direction, you need to harness both elephant and rider. You need to appeal to the emotions to galvanise movement in the right direction and you need specific details to appeal to the rider.

A wishy-washy aim, however impressive it might sound and however genuine it might be, of 'I want to get some more clients soon' isn't going to work. Some isn't a number and soon isn't a date. The rider doesn't know where it's heading and the elephant doesn't see what's important. So nothing changes.

Inspiring presentations don't consist of endless powerpoint slides decorated with graphs and charts and a speaker who sounds flat and boring and reading motivational quotes doesn't guarantee you momentum. You need power, energy and a specific goal. You need to ride your elephant down a clear path - you can't drag it by the nose along an indistinct walkway. Change is hard when you use all your energy in just getting the elephant moving - you're often just mentally exhausted, not lazy. Willpower is finite and however much you want something, once your willpower is gone, you've lost the battle and your elephant will clump happily back to its original starting point, despite the fact the rider is begging, cajoling and sobbing for it not to.

You've got admirable goals, you know where you want to go, you just need to fire up your elephant.