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Wrangling your inner elephant

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The metaphor about the rider and the elephant goes like this: Perched atop a lumbering elephant, the tiny rider only has precarious control. As soon as the elephant and rider disagree about which direction to go, the rider will lose.

Now imagine the rider as your voice of reason, and the elephant as the impulses and emotions that threaten to overtake you.

Here’s one way to help your inner executive wrangle your inner elephant: Stay alert for the elephant’s tendency to distort reality.

“It’s one of the reasons we are so surprised when someone disagrees with us,” says Richard Daft, author of The Executive and the Elephant. Our internal elephant is extremely judgmental, about ourselves and others.

“It is hard to be optimistic and motivate people when your mind is critical of them,” Daft says.

Not only does the judgmental inner elephant make it hard to see the best in others, it can also become an executive’s own worst self-critic.

“The automatic voice of blame and criticism inside your head ... points out how inadequate you are,” the author says. “Can you be an effective leader when your mind is constantly finding fault with you?”

Bottom line: Get to know your inner elephant. Slow down, reflect, harness its strength.

— Adapted from The Executive and the Elephant, Richard Daft.

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