1.  Fight the elephant, likely lose
2.  Go along with the elephant, with can be not so good
3.  Train the elephant - and then "manage" it.

Each of us have experienced the "elephant", often called "human nature", seeming to take over - to destroy our diets, our discipline, even our "morals", and much more. 

And, yes, the elephant is real and is extremely powerful, for it has evolved into us to perform a vital, of ultimate importance purpose - surviving (plus all we've attached to the idea of living "good enought" lives).

Is the elephant in control? 

Yes, in certain circumstances. 

Are we then stuck with the undesired results it causes?


But it sure seems like that.


Over and over people will repeat their attitude of defeat by saying that is just the way it is or that is just the way they are....  Using the exercise bike to hang clothes on, returning to their old weight after a diet (plus a few extra pounds), doing what seems to be the opposite of what we think we want. 

But the elephant is trainable and manageable - just don't try to overpower it in a one-to-one competition. 

Read any of the great ancient disciplines, in their current versions, and they often come up with the analogy of us being a small rider on the top of a big elephant.  The rider is equated with the rational side of us and the elephant with the emotional side.
I like the story in Sources Of Insight.
"The rider can see farther into the distance, plan and sometimes anticipate things that the elephant will do and even explain what the elephant has done, but it is the elephant, by virtue of his great size and lack of need for explanation, that is often in charge of our actions."  See, to the right, the links.  (This quote from Positive Psych News.)    

Given that the primitive body/mind is running the whole elephant (the body), I can only be clever with the special part that is me, the rider, in managing the elephant as best possible.  As such, I accept that the elephant will act like an elephant (duh!), and I will not accept any standard that says I should be able to overpower it. 

Instead I will

1. Train it over and over,
2. Treat it very well (feed it!), and
3. Give it direction and encouragement

When it gets lost in the jungle, I will encourage it back to the path.  When it gets hyper-scared, frightened and frantic and runs off in a rampage, I'll do my best to simply ride it out and calm it as well as I can, until it is over.  But never shall I deride myself for not controlling the uncontrollable.  I will simply be happy I have an elephant.


You can change.

It may take quite a bit of time, if it took time in the first place (to develop the undesired behavior/pattern).

Don't try to overcome the power "on the other side".


The key strategies in life, around this concept, are: 

Use "scripting the moves."
Change the scripts of the beliefs.
Plan.  Create a path.  Make the direction clear.  Put signs (reminders) along the road
   to stay on the path.
Declare strongly.
Speak compassionately to the elephant, soothing and rewarding.  Build up the emotional reserve that is depleted.
What does your elephant need?  What is the unique challenge due to the unique pastprogramming?
Clarify.  Make things really, really clear!
"Eat the elephant in small bites."
Build new habits.
Lots of positive inputs, self and from other sources.


My elephant is powerful.  The other day, being on this great high protein, high vegetables and beans diet, with no "white stuff", I was tired and felt "deprived" with the bland eating and I also was not feeling good about not accomplishing much, making up a story about how I "should" be more responsible and effective and how I was dysfunctional for not being that.  I worked out when I was tired - and afterward my elephant took over and had me being ravenous - and it took me to the store to buy 3 different kinds of ice cream.   I was "driven".  I "knew" it wasn't right, but I "couldn't help it" (in a sense).  So I said "ok" [the one part I, as the rider, seemed to be in control of.] 

So I had a "lost evening", though I loved the ice cream.  I suffered later in the night and the next day.  As the rider, I didn't go into being the victim and I did accept that as just part of life - so, in the end my rider cleaned up any emotions or regrets about it, as it is not good to feed the elephant any defeating type thoughts.


The Rider

Can decouple, rise above, operate from high perspective, reason
Can plan, can train elephant, direct the elephant
Obsesses/overanalyzes on solutions and problems, unduly watches out (Run by
Can rationalize (Elephant has influenced via fear or hang on to poor habit)

The Elephant

Trainable, via practicing to develop habits (Rider can do this on purpose)
Emotions rule
     Inspire through feelings!
           Reward it, encourage it!  (Never whip it!) 
Need to direct and remind or it traipses off anyway it wants to or uses old defaults


Since I lose sight of my inspiring results goal, I must write a scenario I can read of my having achieved the result. 


More about this topic:

Sources Of Insight
Positive Psych News  

Theme carried throughout: Switch, by Heath, excellent book on behavioral change