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Clear the Path

I grew up with basset hounds—Pete and Rose. Occasionally, they’d take us for a walk. They’d fumble along, enjoying the sights. Pete was a big baby. Down one street, there was a dog who fiercely protected his yard. Pete would freeze. No amount of pulling or coaxing would convince him to move. The only way to successfully take a walk was to avoid that street. 

This is a picture of our brains. The limbic brain – the “fight or flight” portion is Pete. The prefrontal cortex – the rational, analytical part was me—pulling in vain. Some psychologists explain this as “the rider” and “the elephant.” The rider’s intelligence is superior to the elephant’s. Conversely, the elephant’s strength is superior to the rider’s. Though the rider may tug and pull, if the elephant wants to go in the opposite direction (or sit still, like Pete), game over. 

If you want to make progress (lose the weight, save for the thing), it’s not enough to reason with yourself. If it was that easy, we’d all have six packs and padded bank accounts. You’ve got to motivate the elephant. Beyond that, you must clear the path. It was easy to convince Pete to go outside, but remember that dreaded road? The only way to be successful was to choose a path free of obstacles. 

Progress can be made if we do three things—speak to the rider, motivate the elephant, and clear the path. 

Here’s an example: My 10th wedding anniversary is approaching. We’d love to take a trip. My “rider” can do the math and determine how much to save, but setting money aside monthly means doing less now. My elephant isn’t convinced it’s worth it. Motivating the elephant requires an emotional connection. “Trip” isn’t super motivating. My elephant is interested, but bored. But if we dream of a specific resort, a photo of which I save as my phone’s home screen, my elephant is intrigued. When I look at that picture, I visualize myself there. Is it worth it to skip takeout today, to sit on THAT beach next year? Yep. We’ve motivated the elephant. 

But I’ve still got an obstacle. Without clearing the path, my rider is left to transfer money into savings every month. Odds are, I’ll forget or the elephant will win the instant gratification battle along the way. However, if I strike while the iron’s hot (right when the elephant is motivated and the rider has calculated the monthly savings) and set up an automatic monthly transfer to a designated “vacation savings” account, I’ve hit the trifecta. The path is clear and the savings will happen automatically. We’re set up for success. 

We could run this example with so many things—remove the junk food from the cabinet. Lay out the morning’s workout clothes the night before. Clearing the path supports positive change. When combined with motivating the elephant and directing the rider, the sky's the limit.

The opinions expressed are those of PYA Waltman Capital, LLC and are subject to change without notice. This article is not financial advice or an offer to purchase or sell any product.

PYA Waltman Capital, LLC (“PYAW”) is an investment adviser registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. More information about PYAW’s investment advisory services can be found in its Form ADV Part 2, which is available upon request.  PYA-22-14

PYA Waltman Capital, LLC
PYAWaltman.com
1402 Ebenezer Road
(865) 693-6301

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