The Elephant and the Mahout

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Have you ever seen a mahout control a large animal like an elephant? He learns to do this through constant practice, skill, and experience. The elephant is so much stronger than the mahout but still does his bidding. If ever, the mahout was to weaken even slightly, the elephant could take over and stop obeying the mahout or even attack him.

The fight between our emotional brain and our logical, thinking brain is very similar. Long ago, when man evolved, one of the first parts of the brain that developed was the emotional brain. It wasn’t until much later that the thinking or logical brain developed. Thus, the emotional brain is way more powerful than the logical brain and can easily take over and dominate. It is only through sheer willpower and application that our logical brain is able to control the emotional brain and get things done.

This constant tussle plays out in our day to day lives. Your logical brain knows that you need to stop eating sugary stuff and that it is going to add to your weight, but at the very sight of a delicious cheesecake, your emotional brain takes over and you succumb to the temptation. Unfortunately, the reward center of our brain is located inside the emotional brain and every time this is activated at the sight of food, the logical brain becomes powerless to stop you from indulging yourself.

This explains why we are so bad at keeping to new year resolutions!

Just as the mahout learns to control the elephant through discipline and effort, so will you need to train your emotional brain to listen to the logical brain when it comes to achieving your goals. The mastery of goals requires iron-will and determination but the bedrock of the entire effort is the logical reason why you are pursuing the goal in the first place and this has to be the glue that keeps the entire structure intact.


So, the next time you give into temptation, remember that the logical brain is what is watching out for you and safeguarding you. Learn to go with the core reasons why you are doing anything you are doing at all and be aware of the greater satisfaction that achieving your goals can give you rather than giving in and gaining momentary pleasure that is going to take you away from the path you have chosen for yourself.

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