Saturday, January 1, 2011

Changing Things When Change Is Hard

Made to Stick was the book that had the greatest influence on me in 2010. Written by brothers Chip and Dan Heath, it describes why some ideas survive and others die.  Why some things are memorable and "stick" with people and how to make your ideas, speeches, presentations "stickier".   It is a good read and one I definitely recommend.

I am now reading the second book authored by the Health's, Switch.  It carries the subtitle "How To Change Things When Change is Hard" and is focused on teaching you how to effect transformative change whether it is changing the world, your organization or yourself.  This book should be particularly useful at the beginning of the year as you consider your new year's resolutions.

A couple of lessons from the book...

Self-control is an exhaustible resource.  Changing personal behaviors is hard not because people are lazy or lack motivation.  Change is hard because people wear themselves out from attempting self-control.  When we try to change things we usually are trying to overcome things in our brain that have become automatic or reflexive.  These things in the brain are on auto-pilot and don't require the brain to work very hard.  Forcing yourself to self-supervise requires the brain to work hard and is exhausting.  That leads to the second lesson...

It is easier to change the situation than yourself.  If you eat too much candy, keep it out the house to begin with.  If you smoke when you go to a bar with the girls, don't go to the bar.  In this way you are better able to conserve the necessary mental muscles that you need to keep you focused and on track and to persist in your bigger, well-reasoned long-term goals.

What looks like resistance to change is often lack of clarity.  If you want change yourself or others, you must have crystal-clear goals or direction.  You can't just say "be healthier".  That is subject to too much interpretation.  It also usually mean that nothing gets done.  You need to be very specific such as "I am going to walk 30 minutes every day".  It also is better to "shrink the change" by looking for smaller, achievable goals. For example, walking 30 minutes a day is a better goal than setting out to lose 30 pounds.  Work on the walking, then work on cutting out the snack before bed and you will soon be on your way to the loss of weight.

I am only half-way through the book but the Health brothers weave a lot of great stories into their books that are truly "made to stick".  You can't go wrong with either one.

Good luck for all you change managers in 2011!

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