Your Inner Elephant: How to Make Changes that STICK

elephant meme

(“Dumbo and Me” — an excerpt from our newly released book, Nourished: A Search for Health, Happiness and a Full NIght’s Sleep)

grunge image of a field

Lasting change requires two things: a plan and the motivation to tackle it. In the fascinating book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath refer to these two parts of our decision-making brain as The Rider and The Elephant. The Rider is the planner, the logical part of us that researches, makes lists, and follows steps into change. The Elephant is that big, emotive part of ourselves that has to be reached and motivated in order to make a change, even a small one. An Elephant without a Rider is all feeling and impulse, lumbering and stampeding with heartfelt, unbridled, and directionless emotion. Still, The Elephant has its own kind of intuitive wisdom, and needs to be heard and acknowledged.

The Rider without The Elephant, on the other hand, is like a woman standing on a path in the jungle, a well-thumbed guidebook in hand―but without the gumption needed to move off center and actually go anywhere. How many of us have embarked on a new diet or exercise plan, or determined to “get this house organized”―only to find our Inner Dumbo has decided to sit down and roll over our best intentions? Perhaps dousing us with a spray of pond water for good measure? What happened? In short, we did not take the time needed to hear, get to know, and motivate our Inner Elephant.

Think back to a time in your life when you made a real change that lasted. You’ll recognize that your inner Elephant and your Rider were in sync, working together to get you down a new path that took your life’s happiness quota up a few notches. Though I am naturally a messy person, I fell deeply in love with a good man who needs at least a modicum of order to feel balanced and happy. Motivated by love for my husband and desire to see him functioning at his best (engaging The Elephant of feeling and motivation), I made a plan and put into action the steps of cleaning up the kitchen and living room every evening (The Rider) until they became natural habits. Our lives are happier for this relatively minor adjustment that eventually turned into a habit that I’ve kept up for almost a decade now.

One of the simple reasons that Rachel’s extreme schedule makeover didn’t work out (besides factors like illness and drop-in-crazy people) was that, frankly, she didn’t give her Inner Elephant that much-desired cup of coffee. And that Elephant wasn’t going to budge without caffeine, no matter how much her logical Inner Rider argued against it.

If you want to follow a lasting and nourishing way to change, you’ve got to make friends with your inner Rider AND  Elephant.

(To read more about ways to make lasting, positive changes that stick & stay, order or download a copy of Nourished today! )

Here’s what Dr. Daniel Amen, brain research pioneer, had to say about Nourished:

“Those familiar with our work at the Amen Clinic  know we believe that when you nourish your brain, you nourish your life.  The converse is also true: when you nourish your life with one healthy change after another, you also nourish your brain.  Becky and Rachel are, at turns, funny and informative, light-hearted and deeply inspiring.  I found their book,  Nourished, to be delightful, practical brain tonic for women dealing with every day stresses. “

Dr. Daniel Amen, MD,  New York Times bestselling author ( Change Your Brain, Change Your Life; Unleash the Power of the Female Brain;  Use Your Brain to Change Your Age) and co-author of the #1 NYT bestseller, The Daniel Plan (along with Rick Warren and Dr. Mark Hymen).  He is also producer and host of 9 public television specials and founder and director of The Amen Clinics.


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