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Don't want to become a couch potato? Start running

Last updated on: May 23, 2012 12:32 IST

Don't want to become a couch potato? Start running


Procrastination and diversions are part of our existence. Given a chance we will play rather than work. The author tells us how to fight the habit.

Have you heard the story of the mahout and the temple elephant?

In a little town in Kerala, there was a temple elephant. Everyday, the elephant would be taken out for a stroll through the busy bazaar streets.

As it walked along, the elephant would do as it pleased. It would reach out with its trunk for a bunch of bananas hanging in front of a store, and before the hapless shopkeeper could react, the bananas would be inside the elephant's mouth.

Or it would grab a coconut from the woman selling coconuts on the road, and crunch it in its mouth like a walnut. The mahout would try and stop the elephant from doing all of this, but to no avail. The elephant would just do as it pleased. The mahout even tried beating the elephant with his stick, but the elephant wouldn't listen. The bananas and the coconuts were just too tempting to resist.

And then one day, the clever mahout had an idea. As the elephant was leaving the temple gates for his evening walk, the mahout held his stick out for the elephant to hold with his trunk. The elephant obediently took the mahout's stick and curled his trunk around it.

Now as it walked through the busy bazaar street, the elephant longingly eyed the bananas but since it had the stick in the trunk, it left the bananas alone.

To grab the bananas, it would have to drop the stick -- and that would mean offending the mahout. So the elephant held on to the stick that the mahout had given it -- and walked through the street, without disturbing the merchandise in the shops. And the shopkeepers were delighted and they often handed over gifts to the mahout -- for the elephant.

The author Prakash Iyer is Executive Coach and MD, Kimberly-Clark Lever.

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Image: Image for representation purpose only
Photographs: Anil S/Rediff Archives


We get distracted by the temptations around us

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If you think about it, we are all a bit like the elephant.

As we go through our lives, we get distracted by the temptations around us. And even though our mahouts -- our parents and our teachers -- tell us not to get distracted, we continue doing it all. We spend time watching television shows, sleeping the extra hour and chatting non-stop.

What we really need is that stick to hold. And that stick is usually a goal -- a purpose -- that excites us and keeps us on track. Once you have a goal, you suddenly find yourself focused.

Like an elephant's trunk, our minds wander too. We need something to keep it focused. We need that stick!

Have you ever been told "Don't do that" when you were doing something you shouldn't be doing? And remember how you still went ahead and did it?

Problem is we need something to do. So the best way to stop a person from doing something he shouldn't be doing is to give him something good to do. Don't want to watch too much TV? Get yourself a good book to read. Don't want to eat another pack of those chips? Eat a fruit. Don't want to become a couch potato? Start running.

Most of our problems in life start when we don't have anything meaningful to do. Having no goals means not having to work towards achieving them.

Not having a hobby or a passion means spending long hours idling away. And that old saying is still true. An idle mind is indeed a devil's workshop.

So starting today, get yourself a goal, a purpose that drives you to action. That's not all. Play a sport, indulge a passion, spend time on a hobby -- but don't just sit there doing nothing. Unlike the temple elephant, not all of us are lucky enough to find a mahout who gives us that stick to hold. But we all need that stick. That goal!

You'll find a stick for yourself today, won't you?

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh


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