You come home from a very long day at work. You’re super tired, and cranky because your boss can’t seem to do anything on his own. You know summer is approaching and that’s why you’re trying to watch what you eat, because you want to look good on the beach. But you’re so tired and ordering a pizza is so much easier than cooking a dinner for yourself. So you order the pizza and have a glass of red wine to accompany it and because it’s in the freezer you have Ben & Jerry’s for dessert.
A situation we’ve all been in. I certainly have. But how do you deal with it? I want to talk to you about an old analogy. It’s called the Rider, the Elephant and the Path.
The Rider is your rational mind. It’s the part of your mind that makes the conscious and rational decisions. It’s the guy that is usually in control and decided that you wanted to have a beach body. He’s only capable of making decisions if he’s not tired or in some other way incapacitated. When he is tired, and that will happen from time to time, the Elephant takes over.
The Elephant is your emotional mind. It will follow the path of least resistance, the easy route. In this case we ordered the pizza, drank the wine and ate the delicious ice cream. Our goal was to look hot on our beach holiday and that’s why we had to watch what we’re eating. So what we did probably wasn’t really helpful in achieving our goal. From experience we know this is a pretty common occurrence for a lot of people.
In order to deal with the situation, being tired after a long day of work, we shape the Path for our Elephant.
The Path is our environment. It’s our home, where we work and the places where we live our lives. In the scenario above shaping the path could mean that we prepared a tasty dinner in advance, one that we really like and helps us achieve our goal. Because we are aware of our sweet tooth we bought 85% dark chocolate. We like it but not so much that we want to eat the whole block in one go.
Because of our preparations the path of least resistance was one that was helpful in achieving our goal. In other words: our Elephant took the Path we shaped when our Rider was still in control.
Behaviour is a funny thing, but a crucial and often overlooked component in a healthy and active lifestyle. We beat ourselves up when our plans fail, but often don’t really know, or even wonder, why they fail. Once we do, we can fix it!