Motivating your inner elephant

While in Penticton hanging around with some friends who were in line to register for the 2012 Ironman and discussing decisions for big events, I was reminded of a comparison I had heard a long time ago about the heart being compared to an elephant and the mind to a rider on the elephant.

When we really want to do something, it is an elephant level decision. That is to say that once you decide upon something with your heart and your mind, nothing in the world can stop you. If an elephant decides to run through the forest, you had best get out of the way. If you want something in your heart, deep down inside (your elephant), then even if the little rider disagrees, it can do nothing to change that elephant level decision. That little rider can tug and pull and yell, but if the elephant really wants to go a certain direction, it goes there.

This parallels what most people endure when they make a decision with their head because they know it is the ‘right thing’ to do, or someone told them they ‘should’, or it was recommended etc. and yet, nothing happens. The problem is, if the elephant isn’t interested in moving that direction, you will fail. We all know people that know they should quit smoking, but they actually really like smoking. Or people that know they really should exercise and drop some weight, but they actually really like eating sweets or chips or some other high calorie food.

Success on ‘should’ goals like these just aren’t going to happen unless something changes inside.

So what gets an elephant to move? There has to be a reason and it needs to be a good one. It has to be powerful and this can also be referred to as the ‘why’ of a goal. And it is far more important than the ‘how’ of a goal. When the reason of why you want to do something is powerful enough, you will always figure out how to do whatever it is you need to get done.

Think of the people you know who were too busy or too broke to have children, but once they did, everything changed. They made time, they got a better job or stopped wasting money on things that were not as important as their child.

Think of someone who absolutely loves to eat sweets and then gets a serious health scare and quits all junk food when all previous attempts failed.

The reason ‘why’ became so important, that the ‘how’ took care of itself. When an elephant is scared, it plows through the forest without regard for what is in front of it.

How can we use this to our best advantage? If your goal is to get fit, or run your first half marathon, or stop smoking or something of that nature, you must engage the elephant. Why do you want to get fit? What would be something that would scare you or excite you into action? Money? A trip? A shopping spree? The fear of diabetes or cancer? Living long enough to meet your grandchildren, or see your kids graduate college? Would that move your elephant?

Write out all the things that will improve if you accomplish your goal. Write out another list of all the things that will not happen if you don’t change. So if your goal was to drop 30 pounds, write out at least 100 things that would be better if you were 30 pounds lighter and more fit. Then write out 100 things that could happen if you don’t drop 30 pounds. Post both lists where you can see them every day. Find one or two points that really move your elephant and get engaged.

Action creates motivation. People think that they need some external motivation to get going, but really, it comes from within. You need to engage your heart. Once you start moving, you will start to see results and that will motivate you to keep going further.

Once an elephant starts running, it doesn’t stop until it gets to where it is going.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake. He can be reached at 403-887-7667 or check out for more information.