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Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard

SwitchAuthor: Chip and Dan Heath
Title: Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard
Published: Feb 16, 2010

This is an excellent book on behavior change by Chip and Dan Heath. They break down the power of behavior change and how to effectively design an intervention to help change someone’s behavior. Coming from a background in personal training, this is especially applicable to anyone trying to hold themselves to changing their health and fitness (also anyone with a New Year’s Resolution). They break down the two main influences on changing behavior (referred to as the Rider and the Elephant) and how both interact. For anyone that works with individuals trying to change behavior (or anyone trying to change their own behavior), this book is highly recommended.

Reading Notes

“And that’s the first surprise about change: What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.”

“To change someone’s behavior, you’ve got to change that person’s situation.”

“When people try to change things, they’re usually tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic, and changing those behaviors requires careful supervision by the Rider. The bigger the change you’re suggesting, the more it will sap people’s self-control.”

“Change is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: what looks like laziness is often exhaustion.”

If the Rider isn’t sure exactly what direction to go, he tends to lead the Elephant in circles. And as we’ll see, that tendency explains the third and final surprise about change: what looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.

If you want people to change, you must provide crystal-clear direction.

“What’s working and how can we do more of it?” That’s the bright-spot philosophy in a single question.

To pursue bright spots is to ask the question “What’s working, and how can we do more of it?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yet, in the real world, this obvious question is almost never asked. Instead, the question we ask is more problem focused: “What’s broken, and how do we fix it?”

When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different once you get there. Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.

One way to motivate action, then, is to make people feel as though they’re already closer to the finish line than they might have thought.