Imagine that you are the boss. Yes, you! Do you give yourself lots of time off? A big salary hike? A posh office space? If so, you give your emotional self a pleasure boost, though it will be short-lived. One of my favorite teachers told us to imagine that our emotional self is like an elephant. It needs to be guided to stay on the positive choice pathway and requires reminders to move ahead. Otherwise the very powerful emotional elephant (you!) will choose the all-pleasure route and may stray from the productivity pathway.
Two things are helpful for keeping your emotional elephant on track. One is a pathway cleared of tempting distractions. So that means no social media when you need to do work, and don’t have junk food choices when you want to be eating clean. The second thing that the elephant needs is a guide or rider. This is the tiny but logical boss (also you!) who cues it and gives the elephant rewards for taking right action.
The rider also plans for what is ahead on the pathway and stays focused on the end goal. When this pair is working well together, they are motivated to stick to the path. Their actions move them closer to goal-oriented success, a step at a time. When the emotional elephant is worried, angry, or sad, it may try to escape, fight, or withdraw from the pathway. The rider has power in logic and planning skills, but the elephant is strong and reactive.
We all have an emotional elephant. It is the part of you that is attracted to excitement and floods with joy. It also catastrophizes in fear, explodes with anger, and hides in shame. Think about a time this week when you did not want to do what was expected of you. Maybe you avoided it altogether. (That’s fear of future shame!) What happened? How did you react? What did it take to turn your emotional elephant around? Things that might have helped you were other people, lists, or notifications. Did you leave the vacuum in front of the fridge or change your password to cllMm2dy (Call Mom Today!) These are cues–your rider’s reminders for the elephant to stay on the productivity pathway.
For more content like this, see Unleash Your Epic Self: The Guide to Crushing it at School, Work and Life.
Struggling with changing or beginning a habit? Contact me. I can help.