The Rider, The Elephant, & The Jungle: Keys To Positive Change

“Our dilemma is that we hate change & love it at the same time; what we really want is things to remain the same but get better.” ~Sam Harris

It’s 8pm. I’m blaring some positive motivational speeches into my headphones. It’s nice to end my day with some Earl Nightingale or Jim Rohn rah-rah-dominate-life type of stuff. I’m getting excited for the morning to wake up and dominate the day! I write out the checklist of what I’m going to accomplish. I can hardly sleep I’m so excited for the day ahead.

Then comes 6am the next morning. My eyelids are stuck together. Underneath the covers the room is at the perfect temperature. I’m the perfect combination of comfortable and sleepy. I hit the button snooze button.

I hit the snooze button again.

Instead of hitting it a third time, I say eff the snooze button and shut my alarm off. I eventually climb out of bed and begin my day like any other day. None of my goals get accomplished until, of course, I begin to get excited about “tomorrow.”

Yeah, tomorrow, that’s when I’ll start! Well, it is the weekend, so maybe I’ll start Monday. Yeeee, Monday is the day!

And the viscous cycle continues.

I always ask myself why I’m not yet wicked successful? I know what to do, I know how to do it, yet I never actually do it.

Financial moguls like Jack Bogle and Warren Buffet say I should put a chunk of my salary into an index fund, automate it so it comes out at the same time & day every month, and then leave it for the next 25 years.

Living with Jill Coleman of JillFit & Jade Teta of Metabolic Effect for the past four years has taught me principles of nutrition and exercise, yet I don’t use progressive overload or periodization in my workouts.

I know principles of success from reading Napoleon Hill, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dale Carnegie, and MLK but I it’s tough to incorporate them into my life.

Why? Why do we all know what to do to move towards our goals yet we instead choose Netflix, white cheddar popcorn, Blue Moons, and to hit the snooze button seven times?

Knowing stuff is cool, but actually doing the things we know we should do is what matters.

Switch, by Chip & Dan Heath is a book about change that gives a simple formula to help facilitate change in yourself and others. There are three factors that come into play when we are trying to change for the better and they use the metaphor of “The elephant and the rider” for two of them, and I am calling the third one “the jungle.”

I still hit the snooze button a lot, but I’m slowly moving in the direction of my goals. Here is the Rider, The Elephant, and the Jungle that can help you change yourself, and others.

The Rider

The Rider is the rational, logical, strategic part of your brain. It’s the part that listens to Arnold and Jade about how to get shredded. It’s the part that plots out your billions. It’s the part that reasons that you should put clothes on before going fine dining.

It’s the part that knows what we should be doing to achieve our goals; the planning and decision making mechanism in our brain.

Most of us have our riders in check. We know that eating chocolate cake and poppin’ bottles ON A TUESDAY probably isn’t the best strategy for money in the bank and a six pack.

This is the first step in the change process. To lay out the directions for your journey. Write down clear-cut directions to follow that if achieved, will move you towards your goals.

Step #1:

The Rider: Provide clear-cut directions

The Elephant

The Elephant is your emotional brain, or animal brain. Whereas the rider is your mind, the elephant is your heart. It’s your motivations, deeply ingrained beliefs, habits, and emotions. The elephant is the part of you who, after a long day of work, the desire to have a cold beer, pizza, and watch SportsCenter highlights outweighs everything, and nobody can stop you.

When the elephant is moving in the direction that your rider wants, it’s a positive force for achieving your goals, but when the elephant wants something else, good luck to the rider stopping a 13-foot, 10,000-pound animal stampeding towards that large tub of popcorn.

This is what Freud referred to as the “id,” our desire for pleasure and instant gratification. French philosopher Michael de Montaigne was obsessed with the elephant force in the form of the male genitals. He couldn’t get over how his penis could cloud all rational thought in his mind. Ask any college student how their rational judgment of who’s hot and who’s not disappears after a cocktail or three.

There are two ways to get the elephant on board, 1) instill new daily habits that will save willpower and cause conscious actions to become automatic and 2) Think of the big picture of when completing your goal and the emotion you’ll feel; all the joy, happiness, confidence, and power that comes with becoming the person you want to be.

Step #2:

The Elephant: Save willpower by creating habits. Do ONE new daily action for the next 66 days (The average amount of time it takes for a new habit to form).

The Jungle

Researchers invited participants to come see a new movie in the theatre. With their ticket, they got the most incredible bonus gift: free popcorn!

The problem was the popcorn was 3 days old and stale as shit. The researchers wanted to see if the peeps would still eat the popcorn and how much they would eat. What they found was that over and over, no matter how disgusting the popcorn, the larger container that people received, the more popcorn they ate. Every. Single. Time.

This shows how our environment can cause us to do certain things without even noticing.

The Jungle is our environment. The environment is the third ingredient to change. Want to watch less TV? Get rid of cable. Want to eat less Cheetos? Don’t keep them at the house. Want to stop waking up next to a stranger every Saturday? Stop getting hammered in shady bars on Friday nights.

Use your rider to shape your environment so your elephant doesn’t lose control. 

Step #3:

The Jungle: Shape your environment to support your goals

Do you know somebody who is struggling with change? Is there somebody you want to help? Share this post with them.

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