While we only have one brain, we actually have two minds: the human brain has two independent systems, one for our emotional and instinctive side, which feels pain and pleasure, and the other for our rational side, the reflective or conscious system, which represents the part of us that analyses situations, makes decisions, and plans for the future.
In The Happiness Hypothesis, University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt says that our emotional side is an Elephant, and our rational side is its Rider. The Rider holds the reins and seems to be in control, but it is precarious, because the Rider is so small compared to the Elephant. Whenever the Elephant and the Rider disagree on which direction to take, the Rider has to bow to the Elephant’s will.
When it comes to incentivising change, we must therefore work to support the Rider, who has the power to think and plan, and is able to chart a course towards a better future, as long as he can control the Elephant. The Rider has one significant weakness: the tendency to overthink and over analyse. What’s more, the Rider’s thoughts are almost always focussed on the problems rather than on the positive.