“SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard”
©2010 by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
We’re coming to that seasonal moment of enlightenment, when we grow hyper-aware of the little habits, patterns, behaviors, and foibles that we might like to switch up for something better in the new year. The
Heath brothers offer some handy insights into how to make smart resolutions—and how to make them last.
There are many analogies for the two different parts of us that want different, often competing outcomes (say, dessert and a slim waistline). The Heaths are partial to the notion of an Elephant (our emotional, indulgent self) and a Rider (our rational, goal-seeking self). “Anytime the six-ton Elephant and the Rider disagree about which direction to go, the Rider is going to lose…. Changes often fail because the Rider simply can’t keep the Elephant on the road long enough to reach the destination.” Oh boy, do I know that feeling.
Chip and Dan Heath show us how to become more effective Riders. And some of their insights are quite liberating:
1) What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem,
2) What looks like laziness is often exhaustion, and
3) What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.
Using this framework, they suggest specific ways to make change easier. Don’t just say, ‘I’m going to get fit.’ Get clear on exactly what action(s) you need to take; ‘I’m going to walk 20 minutes every weekday, and it’s going to be at lunchtime, through that pretty park down the street.’ Make the situation conducive by getting a pair of walking shoes that fit comfortably and look cool. Find a friend to walk with, so you don’t exhaust your willpower by trying to talk yourself into it each day; find someone to share that burden.
“To change behavior, you’ve got to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path. If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen….” The stories they share are much more dramatic than my “get fit” example. They range from “save 100,000 lives” and “fight childhood malnutrition” to “ease disruptive behavior in schools” and “end drug addiction.”
The chapter titles are lessons in themselves. Chapter 2: Find the Bright Spots. Chapter 3: Script the Critical Moves. Chapter 4: Point to the Destination. Chapter 6: Shrink the Change. Chapter 8: Tweak the Environment. Chapter 9: Build Habits.
To get the substance behind these teasers, you’ll just have to read this very engaging book. Here’s a sample of why I love these guys:
“’A long journey starts with a single step.’
As clichés go, that’s pretty wise.
But you know what else starts with a single step?
An ill-conceived amble that you abandon after a few steps….”
Thus begins Chapter 9, which goes on to magnificently summarize the wisdom in this rich change manifesto.
So back to those little habits, patterns, behaviors, and foibles that, come January 1, you might want to switch up for something better. You won’t find a more entertaining and useful guide than this book for how to make it happen, really and truly, once and for all.