151 Would you rather be disciplined or devoted?

31-01-2024

personal developmentcareer design

Why do we value one at the cost of the other?

Jonathan Haidt in his book The Happiness Hypothesis offers this analogy: Imagine your rational side is a Rider and your emotional side is the Elephant it has to mind. The Elephant is big and demands all of the Rider’s strength to not run amok.

Discipline means the Rider is able to use his strength to persuade the Elephant to walk the path that is best for it. At some point, given the nature of this transaction, sooner than later, the Rider runs out of stamina needed to command the Elephant. That’s good night, discipline; good night, Rider.

Devotion means the Rider and the Elephant want to walk the same path. They are both persuaded the same so there’s no minding, no tug of war.

We covet the Riders of those who seem to have found a way to go far by making their Elephants submit to their instructions. We express this admiration by saying things like “You’ve such willpower” or “I wish I had your discipline.”

Our envy misses the point. In wishing for sturdy Riders, we ignore the Elephant. No matter how strong the Rider, it will end up exhausted atop a willful Elephant.

Look closer at how the best go about their days and you’ll find that their Elephants and Riders are in harmony. The Elephants don’t need minding. They’re happy charging down the path they have set out on. There’s nowhere else they would rather be.

The Rider controls by discipline. The Elephant runs on devotion.

Who would you rather be: disciplined or devoted?

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