There was a combination of factors that compelled me to write this post. The first is this quote from Ryan Holiday and it’s from his Daily Stoic email:
“Wisdom – even a tiny bit – is clarity. Clarity is freedom.”
The second factor was what I wrote in my am journal last week:
It really amazes me that the elephant and the rider still apply today. Now that I wrote that down I’m not sure why that amazes me. I guess it amazes me because most people do not recognize what this analogy means. They just go through life riding the elephant. Guide that damn elephant. You guide your car why not guide your elephant.
For whatever reason, I cannot get the analogy of the Elephant and the rider out of my head. We need to rewind the clock to 2010 when I was first introduced to the idea that our emotions and not our logic control almost everything we do. This analogy is from the book called Switch: How to change things when change is hard. The short version is the elephant represents your emotional brain aka your prefrontal cortex. The rider is your logical brain aka the Temporal and Parietal Lobes. That’s about as deep as I’m going to go with brain structures because that’s not my world. What is my world? I get to see people play tricks on themselves every day. I’m just as guilty as anyone else. We all let our elephant guide us. We get angry at the random guy who cuts off on the way to work. We get frustrated with our kids because they won’t do what we ask. There are other ways that our emotions guide us throughout the day.
For example, we justify the extra helping at dinner because we worked out. We justify not working out because we’re too tired from work. These are emotional decisions.
For example, we justify the extra helping at dinner because we worked out. We justify not working out because we’re too tired from work. These are emotional decisions. One last example would be not working out because you haven’t eaten enough. We make excuses for our effort. We should be just looking at things logically. Why don’t we allow logic to guide our decisions? Let’s look at those examples logically for a moment. You tell yourself you can eat more at dinner because you “worked out” that day. Most people burn 300-500 calories during their workouts. An extra helping wipes that out instantly. A few glasses of vino and that workout didn’t happen. There’s no need to justify eating more calories. Eat your dinner and move on.
If we look at the example that you’re too tired to workout because you worked too hard. Really? Don’t kid yourself. Here you go again letting that elephant guide you through your day. Want me to be totally honest? This is exactly why I have a job. Trainers push you when you don’t want to be pushed. Very few people can push themselves when their elephant wants ice cream or beer. When do you let your rider actually take control?
The final example is my favorite because emotionally we feel like we need “fuel” to get through our workout. While for some this is probably true. I doubt many people reading this really needs a full breakfast before their workout.
The final example is my favorite because emotionally we feel like we need “fuel” to get through our workout. While for some this is probably true. I doubt many people reading this really needs a full breakfast before their workout. Why you ask? Our bodies are set up for this kind of work. We have stored sugar in our muscles and liver for a reason. We have enough energy to get you through most workouts. Most of us have more than 800 calories of stored energy ready to go. Is this a fact? I’ll answer that question with a question, is any science really fact? Sorry to digress. I’ve tested this on many occasions. I’ve worked out completely fasted. I do not recommend this for the weak minded. Does it hurt more? Physically not at all. Mentally it’s a whole lot worse. Emotionally I want to quit with every step. That’s the point. Every time I want to quit or faint I just tell myself the energy is there. Soon after that, the workout is over. I do not recommend this for most. It sucks but the mental strength gains are unmatched.
The reason why I love this analogy is because if the elephant can and will do what it wants. When it wants. That’s how our emotions work if we don’t actively control them.
The reason why I love this analogy is because the elephant can and will do what it wants. When it wants. That’s how our emotions work if we don’t actively control them. How can a little rider control such a big animal? You need reigns. You need confidence. You need to believe that going straight forward is the answer. This is where your rider wins and let me tell you. When your rider wins there’s nothing like it. When you feel that moment happen. Remember it. You’ll need that strength again because your elephant never sleeps. Let your logic control your emotions instead of the other way around.
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