The Rider, The Elephant, and The Path

Amara Poolswasdi - Thailand

For every instance of change in our lives, we have to deal with three things: our rational side, our emotional side, and the path in which we eventually choose to embark on. Not every change in our lives is welcomed — most of it is painful but necessary. Take, for instance, my February challenge. I am on day 5 of 21 of creating healthier habits, like running daily, taking vitamins, logging my nutrition, and watching what I eat. It’s not easy but it’s necessary. I have to address not only my rational decision for making this change in my routine (I need to live a healthier lifestyle to ensure I have the strength to carry on my daily duties) but also the emotional side as well (I want to feel better about myself and serve as a great example for others). Despite those two very important components of creating change in my life, it is impossible to make the change without setting a path for success. How would I be able to live a healthier lifestyle if I didn’t give myself the time to exercise everyday, or if I stocked my pantry full of chocolate and cotton candy? It’d be impossible for change to take place without shaping that path.

Enter Dan and Chip Heath’s Switch: How To Change When Change Is Hard. I came across this book multiple times in 2010 and kept putting off reading it. The title itself was intimidating. “How To Change When Change Is Hard” sounded…well…hard! It was one of the hardest reads I had ever completed in my life. I kept having to put the book down to just marinate the information. At the end, the book helped me embark on one of the most painful journeys in my life last September.

Switch Book

The book helped me break down this process of change. The analogy of the rider, the elephant, and the path completely resonated with me. Having been in Thailand a few years prior, I actually had the privilege of riding an elephant through a sanctuary in Surin. As the rider, you direct the elephant down a path. Similarly, when you come to a point in your life where you have to make a decision to change, you are the rider — you are the rational component — of that decision that has to guide the elephant, otherwise known as the emotional component. Note the differences in scale: a rider is a fraction of the size of the elephant. The elephant has the power to override the rider at any time and to destroy all potential. But, once a rider maintains control of the elephant, there is a powerfully symbiotic and beautiful relationship that can emerge. To that analogy, your rational side can guide the emotional side if you know where to look and what to target. Also, by thinking just a few steps ahead of yourself, you can shape the path to your definition of success. Whether that is moving on, getting healthier, maintaining a better relationship with yourself, or just making a difficult decision, understanding these three components to the decision making process will guide you on the journey to change.

How will you guide the rider and the elephant while shaping the path to change in your life?

7 thoughts on “The Rider, The Elephant, and The Path

  1. Great post! Very inspirational and motivational! Will remember that analogy now. Very pertinent to where I find myself right now in my pathway. Might have to look out for that book now. Thanks for sharing. 🙂


    1. Hi Kim,

      Thanks for the warm words! They were the main analogy used by Dan and Chip Heath. I just found it so personal since I once rode an elephant. 🙂 Definitely check out the book! I am sure you can get it for cheap on Amazon, download it to your Kindle/nook, or rent it from the library. It gives great examples for businesses but you can apply the information they provide to all aspects of your life.



  2. Great post! Left me thinking. Nice job.

    Can I ask how you got the “share” icons below your final question to your readers? They’re all an icon of the same shape and size in a row…I’m trying to get mine like this on my blog and I also really, really like the list of related articles at the end. I’d love to know how you set that to show up, in your spare time of course. :o) I’m new to WordPress this year.


    1. Hi!

      I’m running a few plugins to enhance my WordPress site. The two that you are referring to include:

      1. Share and Follow (
      2. Efficient Related Posts (

      I see that you are running a WordPress site that is hosted by, so I do not think you’ll be able to install these plugins on your own. You might want to check in the plugins section if they have their own version that is approved. (

      One other alternative for the share functionality is to just add a Text/HTML sidebar widget through your admin panel and copy/paste code in from a site like

      Hope this helps!



  3. I woke up this morning and became curious about your post. What a great way to start the week reading this. 🙂 I’ll keep it in mind during all of the ‘rough bumps’ I may have to face in the near future.
    Thanks for sharing!


    1. Hi Ann,

      I hope the post helps! You know I’ll always take your calls on the first *ring*. 🙂

      I would highly recommend you check out the book too, if you ever get a chance to unearth yourself from the mound of nursing reading. It has some great real life examples and I think can serve as a springboard for any changes you’d like to see in your life in the near future.

      I own the ebook and am happy to loan you my nook if you’d like!



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