When it comes to change, if you are the kind of person, who thinks just do it, then do you still remember how many times have you made up your mind to lose weight? How many new year resolutions you’ve made are in effect accomplished?
Don’t be guilty. You are not the only one.
To know why it is so hard to make changes and how to overcome obstacles, we have to learn more about our brain. Our brain is made up of two sides, the emotional one and the rational one, and they interact with each other to influence how we respond to changes. To better explain the mixed relationship, a psychologist calls the emotional one elephant, the rational one rider.
It might look like the elephant’s rider is in charge of the elephant, so the rider can do whatever he wants; however, when their opinions differ, the elephant usually wins. A rein the rider hold could seemingly choose the direction the elephant should go; it is, in effect, a drop in the ocean.
For instance, when the rider makes you determine that you get up early to work out, the elephant tends to remind you of the duvet to extinguish your willingness. Then after you calm the alarming clock, you go straight back to the cozy home.
Don’t be pessimistic. Coins always have two sides. The elephant could ruin your plan as well as facilitate it, depending on how it is guided. As for changes, the elephant can offer the impetus while the rider gives the direction.
To make changes indeed happen, it requires two things to work together, making good use of the elephant as a stitch in time saves nine.
The three main characteristics of the elephant for us to tame it:
- Great Strength: Once the power of the elephant is triggered, it becomes wild and uncontrollable.
- Emotional: It can be driven by anxiety, fear, and some negative emotions, along with love, pity, empathy, and other positive ones.
- Good Memory: Experience will determine how it responds to the future one. It knows what it experienced rather than what it will get.
The first two are quite straightforward, and you might wonder how to generate new positive experience to let the elephant remember. The answer is to get a small one and then cement it, which will eventually become a virtuous cycle. The Pavlov dog experiment can tell the story. Pavlov is ringing the bell while the dog is eating, which establishes a connection between the sound and the food. After a few times, the dog will water every time the bell rings even though there is no food served to it.
An example illustrates the technique. You want to go jogging in the morning to have a good shape. You don’t have to draw a big picture but do nothing at all. All you have to do is get up 30 mins earlier to go walking a few yards. In the wake of the accumulating accomplishments, the elephant will change from resistance to embracing it. With gradual improvement, get up much earlier to run more than a few miles will be a dream come true. What’s more, this successful experience of change will convince the elephant that it is not horrifying to make a change, which in that event makes the process of changing easier.
Always remember you can build a better self if you learn the ropes. Next time, when stuck in a bad habit, don’t worry and stay calm to find the right leverage so as to lift the bulky elephant.