Move my elephant
November 3, 2011 9:48 AM Subscribe
How can I build the courage I need to face great professional and personal challenges... like writing reports and doing my expenses on time and putting up those shelves in the bathroom?
posted by anonymous to health & fitness (17 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
Variations of this question have been asked many times before (search procrastination, for example). Maybe there is no good answer; maybe posting the question and admitting it semi-publicly is itself a way of getting to an answer.
Here is my special snowflake version: there are things I need to do. The tasks themselves are not very hard. Write up a report that explains what you discovered on a business trip. Prepare a proposal for a new business idea for your division to consider. Set up the meetings for the next trip. That kind of stuff. When I sit down to do those things, the feeling that comes up is fear. Like look away from that screen and quickly go to something less scary like Metafilter or Amazon or an exhaustive search for the best way to trim an oak tree. Its like stage fright, but when I'm alone. (Public speaking itself is no problem for me. Spending the time to prepare a decent presentation on the other hand...)
It feels to me like the quality, the characteristic, the trait of personality that I'm looking for is the courage to push through that little wall of fear and start actually doing things I'm supposed to do. Courage, bravery, persistence, stick-to-it-iveness, gumption, self-confidence. I've tried a lot of the standards - therapy, meds, vitamins, lightboxes. They all help a little. The diagnoses - dysthymia, depression, adhd, thyroid issues (levels seem fine) - all seem kind of right, but not very definitive. Exercise seems like it would help but I've never been able to do it regularly. Same with meditation. Thinking, writing, talking about this problem - the way I'm doing now - doesn't seem to help much. Maybe even makes it worse. (Do I contradict myself? Well, I contain multitudes.)
Somewhere I read that metaphor of the elephant being the subconscious and the elephant driver, the mahout, is the conscious. The elephant is much stronger and more powerful than the mahout; the mahout only has his little whip and a bag of tricks to make the elephant move in the right direction. But its not the stick, its not the words that move the elephant. Its something deeper. Some self-confidence that the mahout projects to the elephant. That the elephant feels from the mahout. I feel like I am the mahout whose elephant has lain down on the road and is refusing to move. All the other elephants and their mahouts are moving along, getting further and further ahead. My mahout is pleading with the elephant, then desperately whipping the elephant, then apologizing and pleading again, but the elephant won't or can't get up, and when it does, it won't go down the road, it goes to the nearest tree to graze. The mahout is in despair, ready to give up any effort at a journey and just let the elephant go down to the river and wallow around, even though he knows that the elephant could easily kill him if he rolls over in the mud.
So - where does that thing that moves the elephant come from? I feel like its the same quality of bravery or courage or persistence that makes it possible to push through the tissue thin resistance to writing the report or making the call or doing the expense report. Or maybe its how do you get it back, because I definitely feel like I had it when I was younger. (Mid 40s now.) Or is my metaphor all wrong? Or is this question just not worth posting since its been asked so many times before?