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Gary's Newsletter 372: Making Hard Changes

Posted by Gary R Collins on February 25, 2010 Comments 0



About three years ago, brothers Chip and Dan Heath published Made to Stick, a NY Times best seller that described "why some ideas survive and others die." About three weeks ago, the Heath brothers followed up with Switch: How to Change Things when Change is Hard. This is a story-driven, engaging, practical book beginning from the well-known differences between the right brain and the left brain. The book calls these "two different systems - the rational mind and the emotional mind. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie." The book describes numerous research studies and shows how change most often follows a process. To add clarity the authors use creative imagery about a rider, an elephant, and the path on which they move.

  • The rider is the rational side of the brain. It sets goals, makes plans, and develops long-term strategies for turning visions into reality. The rider takes the lead for making change happen.
  • The elephant is the emotional side of the brain. It is instinctive, comfortable with things remaining the way they are, easily distracted by instant gratification, not budged by logic or long term goals. Also the elephant is bigger and stronger. The rider plans out a diet, the elephant undercuts the self-control and will-power by going for the chocolate cake.
  • The path is the situation or setting where change must occur. There may be obstacles, entrenched habits, traditions, or resisting people that get in the way of change.

Here's the book summary: "When change works it tends to follow a pattern. The people who change have clear direction, ample motivation, and a supportive environment. In other words, when change works, it's because the Rider, the Elephant, and the Path are all aligned in support of the switch." At first this sounds simple, but the argument is well-documented and the book is a fresh look at change and how it happens.

Here's a postscript. This book is a model for the way book writing is changing. See next week's letter.


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© 2014 Gary R. Collins, PhD.
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