Self Help & Motivation

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Chip Heath & Dan Heath

We hear all the time people saying how hard it is to change. By examining our consciences, how many times have we not evolved because we find it hard? This book will teach you just how to make changes more efficiently and without so much resistance. For this, the authors explore the use of the two sides of the brain: the rational side and the emotional side. Everyone reacts differently to situations, but if we can get them to work together, we can potentiate the results, and we’ll be able to generate change much more efficiently. People who want to lose weight, change their lives, or make a difference in their businesses, no matter what the type of change, learn how to deal with them and find out the best way to do that. Come and read with us!

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Analyze positive points of situations to find solutions

Changing anything can be a daunting task, especially for the rational side of your personality. This “side” of our character likes to think and plan every detail, but sometimes this makes us overthink a situation. When that happens, we can not make a right decision, because we are paralyzed by the weight of our problems and choices. Rather than letting this rational side work all the time, we need to direct it to find solutions.

In 1990, the international organization Save the Children sent Jerry Sternin to villages in Vietnam to combat malnutrition, and there he faced an uphill battle. The crisis of malnutrition was attributed to numerous problems such as poverty, poor sanitation, and lack of clean water, things he could not solve. So Jerry focused on the examples of well-nourished children in the villages, to find a faster and more current response.

He encouraged the mothers in each village to work together to share feeding methods and nutritional recipes that fit their budgets and resources. By learning what solutions were available and accessible to apply, and helping these families to develop the necessary knowledge, he was able to help them against malnutrition without having to deal with the insurmountable problems of poverty, sanitation, and water.

One of the best ways to keep your rational side out of trouble is to find something in the situation that is already working efficiently. From there, the next step is to get your logical side to analyze this question by looking for possible solutions. Instead of worrying about the negatives and the problem that needs to be fixed, this rational side of your personality can focus on the positives and an existing solution. Human nature usually focuses on the negative outlook of a situation, but paying more attention to the positive outlook generates much faster changes.

Create a simple and clear action plan

One of the problems of the rational half of our personality is that many decisions can shake it. This situation is called “decision paralysis” and is an enemy of effective change. When we have many options or possible directions, we make choices that may not be the best. It does not matter if the options are positive; the amount confuses.

Look at the hypothetical example of a doctor and his patient who would undergo hip surgery to relieve their arthritic pain. Initially, the operation was recommended to the patient, but before it happened, an untested drug was discovered that could replace the surgery. This question has been presented to countless doctors, and their answers prove that many choices can alter a person’s reaction.

Almost half of the physicians would recommend trying the new medication before having the patient undergo surgery, which is also what the patient prefers in many cases. But when the same dilemma is presented with the choice of two medications rather than just one, the answers change radically. The number of doctors recommending one of the remedies rather than surgery drastically reduces to less than 30%.

Even a single extra option can induce paralysis of decisions, so you can imagine what countless options can do. Human nature falls into standard behaviors and plans when it becomes overwhelmed with options. Complicated situations can exhaust your rational side and scar your emotional side. Instead of panicking, which is very damaging to a successful change, you should create a simple and clear action plan.

In the case of doctors, the hospital could indicate that invasive surgeries should be avoided whenever possible. Then the doctors would know what to prescribe, without any confusion. With instructions that are easy to understand, you and the people around you will know how to act when it comes time to make a decision, even in times of change.

Define objectives and establish deadlines

Aside from giving clear, rational directions to your side, you also need to give it an exact target or goal. If you know where you are going, you will not need to analyze too much and make decisions to determine a direction. Goals are much more effective for both of your personalities if they are short, easy to reach and attractive. The more you achieve small goals over time, the easier it will be to achieve the big goals.

It is important to set a timetable for your goals: set an exact date for completion and to achieve the results you have drawn. Second-grade teacher Crystal Jones of Teach for America understood the importance of setting achievable goals with results that motivate her students. Her class was below state expectations for the second year, but she knew how to get students involved in improving education.

She set a goal for the class: to reach the third-grade level by the end of the year, and the children were very excited about the challenge. They admired the older students and worked hard to achieve their status. This goal made the students compromise, and Jones knew that his students could reach third grade standards.

Choosing a realistic goal and setting a date, this teacher helped her students to grow and change. They wanted to change, and they became excellent and enthusiastic students. Under the plan, most of them reached the standards of the third grade.

To generate change, appeal to the emotional side.

Emotions are powerful forces that drive people to dominate their rational sides in favor of the most basic behaviors. If you want other people to accept the changes you are trying to make, you need to make them feel something.

Most people think that change happens when people analyze a situation, think about it, and then make the change. If that were the case, the best method to change would be to develop a large business case backed by a lot of data. But another theory says that people observe, feel, and then change. And in those situations, the approach to generating change would be completely different.

Note the case of Robyn Waters. She accepted a job as a trend manager for Target in 1990. And she wanted to make drastic changes in the way they approached the company’s clothing lines. To do this, she had to appeal to buyers who selected the merchandise.

Waters wanted to introduce bright colors into Target’s clothing lines, so to persuade shoppers, she brought colorful and vibrant candy, photographs, and even Mac computers. All of these items were colorful, which generated positive emotional reactions to her target audience. She presented them with evidence that made them feel something.

Robyn had her Target colleagues see her evidence, feel their emotional responses, and decide to make a change throughout the company. There was no reason for numbers or analysis. With their collective effort, Target led the affordable fashion market. Appealing to the rational side is not enough. Ultimately, the emotional side can be instrumental in influencing change.

Define small objectives to achieve the big ones

The emotional side can become as confused by exaggerated goals as the rational side by the innumerable decisions. And that is why you must “shrink change” and focus on smaller goals, which will gradually bring about a major change. And it’s a good idea to choose a goal that gives you and your team the edge.

People like to know that they have already achieved something of value and that they have made progress to achieve the ultimate goal. As an example, a company of lava jets used two sets of promotional loyalty cards. With both cards, the customer would receive a stamp each time he bought a wash, and when the card was complete, the customer would get a free wash. The first card had eight spaces to fill, while the second card had ten spaces, but the first two had already been filled.

Technically both cards had the same terms and values, but in the first, the customer started from scratch, and in the second the customer had 20% of the card already filled. The proof was in the result. A few months later, the number of customers who won a free wash with the second card was almost twice as high as with the first card.

People are more motivated when they have an advantage and when they feel that a part of the goal has already been achieved. Thus, they tend to devote themselves more to the cause. If you want to make a change, lower your expectations and then raise them when you have already reached a part of the goal. The closer the target people are, the harder they will work at it. You do not have to overburden people with very high expectations in the beginning. Small goals help you in the ultimate goal in the same way.

Need to encourage people to generate changes

As we have seen, one effective method for generating change and achieving goals is to divide them into groups of small achievements. But you can not always break a change in small steps and frames. When that is the case, it is helpful to evoke a sense of pride and identity in the people who will help you. If the emotional side feels capable and proud, it will be much easier and more satisfying to generate change.

This is the method that Paul Butler used to save the parrot of the St Lucia species. He made recommendations for changes to the island’s law of the same name, which would protect the bird from danger. But for these changes to happen, he needed public support. He needed to foster a sense of community pride in protecting endangered species of animals.

When Butler spoke to the public, he appealed to his emotions, insisting that this animal made the island and unique community places unlike anywhere in the world. He convinced people that protecting the parrot was tantamount to protecting the identity of the community and their lifestyle. In every interaction with the community, he gathered more volunteers for his cause, and people began to accept that these species were national symbols, just as the eagle is a symbol for the United States.

In the end, it motivated the local population. His emotions were the vehicle for the salvation of the parrot St. Lucia. If your cause is too great to be broken into smaller steps, you can appeal to the emotional side of the people in your organization.

Keep good habits

Habits are an important tool for change and can be helpful or harmful to a particular cause. Environment and culture are the major influences on people, and they can affect the habits people develop. Often, to fit into a culture, we develop a lot more habits than we realize.

Not all habits are bad, although when we hear the word “habit,” we think of something negative like drugs or gnawing nails. Some examples of positive habits include physical exercise and brushing your teeth. These things take on a mental form of autopilot and do not require efforts from our rational side. It is good to have positive habits, but to put them into action we must strive.

Changing our environment to generate positive habits is very important, but it also requires rigorous mental and emotional control. For example, if you want to start working out, you need to have an attitude to make it happen. Visualize the place and time that you will do what you need. For example, if you say “I’m going to the gym after work.” So the attitude of going to work will help you go to the gym.

Obviously, you still have the option of missing out on the gym if you do not want to go, so just visualizing is not enough. But it is an excellent motivation. You should put yourself in the environment that promotes the habit. This technique can be applied in most everyday situations and is an essential step in making a change.

This is a great way to help your rational side follow the right steps. But do not forget your emotional side. This side of you has the power to reject the best intentions on the rational side and is likely to happen if you can not motivate the change.

Imagine the results of your new habit, and get excited to get started. If you can, find a way to monitor your progress. Habits are stimulated throughout the change and should be availed if you want lasting results.

Final Notes

Changes are never easy processes, but understanding the psychology behind them will help you use the right tools to achieve your purposes. Whether they are personal or organizational, the process is the same. You should evaluate the situation and develop the methods that best fit them.

By clearly defining your directions and goals, you can appeal to the rational side of people. And by identifying the necessary motivation, you inspire the emotional side of people as well. Balancing motivation and direction allows these two aspects of human nature to cooperate for better results. Then you can cultivate the right environment to support effective change, and clear the way for these two personalities to work until the goal is achieved.

Change is a time-consuming process, and usually, it can not be achieved in a few days. But if you stick to your plan and care about every aspect of the process, you’re likely to achieve success. With these tools, you can generate change anywhere.


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