‘For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future’. John F. Kennedy
Want to achieve your Goals? Think emotion and reason
Within psychology it’s generally accepted that there are two elements of the brain that are engaged when we tackle any task. Firstly, there is the emotional side, which is instinctive and feels pleasure and pain. Secondly, there is the rational side, which considers options, rationalizes and balances consequences.
In his book ‘The Happiness Hypotheses’, Jonathan Haidt refers to the emotional side of the mind as an Elephant and the rational side as it’s Rider. For any successful change to take place, the Rider and the Elephant must work together. The Rider is unable to work against the Elephant for long as the effort is too exhausting. Leaders must speak to both the Rider and the Elephant for effective change to occur.
The Rider, The Elephant and The Path
Chip and Dan Heath (2011) adopt Haidt’s analogy for use as a model to guide individuals and organizations through change. They contend that for successful change to take place, three elements must be addressed in any situation:
Direct the Rider. It is essential for the Rider to have absolutely clear direction. What appears to be resistance to change can often be a response to lack of clarity. Providing a strong direction for the Rider by finding the bright spots of successful change elsewhere and using these successes as a model to engage others in similar situations convinces the Rider that they can implement similar change successfully.
Motivate the Elephant. What appears to be laziness can often be exhaustion. Studies show that the more often we exercise self-control the more depleted our resources of self-control become. Self-control is defined as a broader type of self supervision, rather than the narrow sense of willpower applied to giving up vices. Motivating the Elephant is essential for change to occur and involves appealing to emotions and deeply held values to inspire action towards change.
The Path. We need to change the path by tweaking the environment, when the situation changes, the behaviour changes, so changing the situation makes sense. We also need to build habits so the Rider doesn’t feel like new behaviours are a task or a drain on reserves. Behaviour is contagious, so look for ways that enable it to spread.
We love to talk about all things change at Positive Change Guru. Check out our forthcoming events or get in touch to find out more about our suite of courses and discuss bespoke growth mindset training for your organisation.