Does this elephant's passenger look in control to you?
This morning's reading, a quick dip into Chip and Dan Heath's business best-seller Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, introduced me to Jonathan Haidt's (The Happiness Hypothesis) elephant and rider metaphor. Haidt sees the two sides of our brains--the emotional system and its generally more presentable rational counterpart--in this way. Clearly, the emotional elephant outweighs the rational rider, who is supposedly the leader but maintains her perch at the pleasure of her mount. The Heaths recount instances of elephants holding sway that most of us can identify with, those times when we've
slept in, overeaten, dialed up [our] ex at midnight, procrastinated, tried to quit smoking and failed, skipped the gym, gotten angry and said something [we] regretted, abandoned [our] Spanish or piano lessons, refused to speak up in a meeting because [we] were scared, and so on.
Desired change, in ourselves or others we interact with, "require[s] the leader of the change to do three things at once," according to the Heaths. The first is to alter the changee's situation. The second and third are trickier, and necessitate changing the heart and the mind--the elephant and its rider.
I am intrigued with the introductory chapter in this book that suggested itself to me by virtue of "product placement" in the library. I had stopped in to discuss a Yoga Journal dispute--I returned it, they didn't check it in--and while I waited through an accommodating circulation clerk's dismantling of the outdoor book drop, I perused the shelf of tantalizing volumes that occupies the wall closest to the front desk. How could I not leave the library with a book about change, when kismet so clearly wanted us to join up?
And now that I have a glimmer of what I'm up against in my efforts to engineer myself and the world, I intend to push on to learn how to deal with the herds of stampeding pachyderms that confront me. (And not a Babar in the bunch.)
More to come. . .