Elephant analogies

July 18th, 2017 by Patricia Jehle Leave a reply »

Elephants and Life

Recently my thoughts have been inundated with elephants- on the internet there is a cute baby elephant chasing birds, for example and my daughter loves it. The metaphors using elephants are also in my face these days, namely eating elephants and elephants in living rooms.

What do you eat for breakfast?

Elephants, especially baby ones can be cute. But they are quite big. Eating one is a metaphor for getting a huge project finished. One of my favorite metaphors is eating an elephant for breakfast. This means you face your tough decisions, and tough jobs first thing and do not procrastinate. It means you can celebrate with a mid-morning coffee, knowing you have done the hardest thing on your to-do list already. It means you have finished over 50% of your work by lunch, and you can really relax for your break time. So, set your day up to get the most difficult activities over first thing, and you will be able to focus better throughout your day. This idea can also be applied to your work week: get the harder things done earlier in the week and save Friday afternoons for emails and other activities.

Do you have to eat an elephant, or is there one in your living room?

What is filling your living room?

What about that proverbial elephant in the living room? This metaphor is all about facing the non-addressed problems in a team, in a group, in a family. Do you have some elephants to deal with? You must remember that facing the elephant will, in the end, be good for you and for your team (group and family). It is true that the only way out of a problem is through it and ignoring it will only make the problem an bigger elephant. Finally, it’s about trust in your leadership abilities. Henry Cloud in his book, Integrity says that “Avoiding the elephant in the living room not only allows the problem to continue, but erodes trust…”

Naming the elephant doesn’t always work, though. The people have to want to change, to want to talk about it, that elephant. At a wedding last year we wanted to have fun with the couple, and to help make the ceremony and party a success, a happy time. So, it was easy for us to see and acknowledge that elephant spoken about by the pastor at the wedding and once she was made visible, the elephant could go home. We didn’t want to keep her in the room, nor did we want to bring her to the reception afterwards.

But I have, once, seen a brave person address a room of listeners where people did not want to change. She specifically named “that elephant in the room” and used just that phrase. But for many people, it was to no avail. They didn’t want to let the elephant leave because it was too uncertain, too scary with too many unknowns. The speaker’s message was not heard because the listeners were not willing to be open and to change, to admit their faults, their humanity, and perhaps even to laugh at themselves. It was sad, but she had no control over it in the end.

So, name that elephant and be open to change, even if it might hurt at first.

Your experiences either help you or stop you from talking about and eating elephants

Finally, negative experiences can really deter you from healthy work and life practices. For example, if you spoke up in a work meeting about the proverbial elephant and were ignored or worse, attacked, you may have a very hard time addressing problems at a next meeting. Either you may feel that you are not heard or not taken seriously, or you were hurt enough that you feel you need to protect yourself. Also, if you became stuck eating an elephant early in the day too many times, and di not find a successful way of finishing the project, you may have set up some pretty strong procrastination patterns to avoid such failures.

In the end it is about bouncing back

How can you bounce back from those failures in a way that helps you eat elephants and talk about the elephants in the living room? It has to do with your character and whether you have integrity or not. People with integrity have the mental and emotional resources available to face these kinds of set-backs and try again. Sometimes, a good coach can help in this kind of growth, to help people integrate their values and actions in a way that allows them to succeed more often, and to bounce back after failures.

I wish you a week full of eating elephants, speaking of elephants and bouncing back.

Patricia Jehle www.jehle-coaching.com patricia@jehle-coaching.com

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