“Many people try dieting religiously, but only stop eating in church.” -Zig Ziglar
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard is the second book from brothers Chip and Dan Heath. Published in 2010, the book starts in a movie theater popcorn bucket, visits malnourished children in Vietnam, pulls out tree stumps in Miner county South Dakota, and even goes drilling for oil with BP.
Why all these stories?
This book takes it’s own advice and lays out a path for individuals seeking to create lasting change in themselves or their own organization. The reason for stories is apparent through each of their three main points.
*Note, I am going to relate each of their three main points to the reason why stories are helpful. However, there is much more depth to this book. Please click this sentence to read an excellent overview of this book on Derek Sivers site, he gave Switch a 9/10*
The brothers Heath begin their excellent treatise on change with an imaginative analogy. They equate the three principles of change within our own minds and environments to a “Rider,” an “Elephant,” and a “Path.”
First a quick explanation. The authors refer to the rational, conscious part of our brain as “The Rider” and the emotional, subconscious part of our brain as “The Elephant.” It follows, then, that “The Path” refers to our surroundings and habits.
So why stories? “In almost all successful change efforts, the sequence of change is not ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE, but rather SEE-FEEL-CHANGE (p.106).”
Without stories, life is a series of spreadsheets, bytes, and data points. The realm of machines, efficiency, and errorless judgement.
But we don’t work like that.
Consider this, on the market currently there’s an alarm clock named Clocky that chimes, and then scampers around the room. At 5:45am you need to haul yourself out of bed and hunt Clocky down. I do the same thing, when I actually want to wake up to my alarm, I put my alarm clock on the far side of my room.
“Clocky is not a product for a sane species. If Spock wants to get up at 5:45 a.m., he’ll just get up. No drama required (p.6).”
If we didn’t need stories, we could ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE like Spock and do the logical thing.
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Sorry, unlikely to happen.
You and I need to SEE-FEEL-CHANGE in order for it to last, and we can use the Rider Elephant and Path to our advantage.
The Rider excels at analyzation and logic but is usually powerless against the Elephant. (Ever been offered a freshly baked chocolate cookie the day after you vowed to eat healthy?). Because of this, we can use our Rider to identify or SEE what’s going on but have to move on to the other two parts to get our act together.
The Elephant, extremely powerful and able to make us FEEL in exceptional ways, nevertheless doesn’t do a great job of thinking through what’s next. For example, social media is increasingly designed to elicit a FEEL response without a lot of follow up. (ever tried to have a logical conversation in Facebook comments?). Stop trying to think with your emotions.
Here’s the kicker, both of those formulas end in CHANGE.
Yet if us humans try to “Spock” our way to life change we’ll keep hitting snooze because we spent all our time in analyzation, thinking with our emotions and the change we end up with won’t be what we set out to accomplish, it will be whatever comes just a little bit easier.
If we tell good stories, we can recognize and SEE the opportunity, we FEEL connected to the solution because of the story we are telling ourselves, and the CHANGE that results can be more in line with our original intent.
Our lives are designed to fit into narratives, and as human beings we recognize and connect to stories. You and I can use this to our advantage when we want to make change.
Go check out the book, this is just one aspect of change. 🙂
Best of luck getting out of bed on time, friends! (Plus, Clocky won’t tell stories about you if you decide to rely on him).
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