Making Change

Have you attempted change only to struggle, lose the will to try and then justify that the old way really isn’t all that bad?  I think most of us have, at some point and in some way.  Here’s some food for thought on how to empower yourself and make change easier.

Two of my favorite “business” books are written by Dan & Chip Heath. These two brothers ( wrote “Make it Stick” (a great marketing book) and “Switch”, a book about change.  It’s a concept from the latter that I would like to share with you here.

When you think of change, a great metaphor is a rider on an elephant!  Sounds crazy, huh?  Read on…

The 200 pound rider represents your intellect. Of course you KNOW you should change. You might even honestly want to change and believe it’s in your best interest. So, day-in and day-out the rider works to guide the elephant along a new path – a better path to get a new and better result.  So far, so good.

The 8,000 – 12,000 pound elephant represents your emotional side. Sure the elephant will go along with what the rider says some of the time. In fact, if the elephant is trained, it will go along with the rider almost every time. But here’s the thing: No matter how hard the rider tugs on the elephant’s ears, it can still go where it wants to go and ignore the rider.

Knowing that you should change your habits and behaviors is a bit like the rider trying to take the elephant down a different path. Of course it makes sense, but if the elephant doesn’t want to do it, you’re not going!

So how do we make real, lasting change?  First, get the rider on-board. (Committed to the change? Check.) Then, rather than try to get the elephant on-board, change the path!

By changing the path – not giving the elephant options to stray down the same old path – the elephant has fewer options and the rider has less to struggle against. Soon, if the path has changed, the elephant will begin to develop new habits on a new path. This is exactly what we want!

So, to make it practical, here’s a change model to implement:

1) Decide what you want to change and commit to something new. Be fully, intellectually committed to a new way of doing things. (The rider must be on-board.)

2) Determine WHY the changes are important to you. Find emotional resonance with the new way. Determine why you want things to be different and how you and others will benefit. (Motivate the elephant.)

3) Look around and make some changes in your environment. Make it easy to do things the new way and difficult to do things the old way. (Change the path.)

How can you change the path?  That depends on your situation, but here are some examples:

  • Pack your gym bag the night before and text your workout buddy to make sure he/she is meeting you at the gym tomorrow.
  • Make a list when you go to the grocery store and only buy what is on the list. Don’t include things like Twinkies! If they aren’t in the house, you can’t be tempted to eat them!
  • Buy smaller dinner plates to help control portion size and put away leftovers before you sit down to eat. (That way you won’t be tempted to a second helping!)
  • Join a commitment or goal setting group so that your intentions are made PUBLIC! Get a friend to join with you so your odds of actually attending increase.
  • When shopping, use the largest bill you have ($100 are the best) and NEVER use a credit card. It’s amazingly more difficult to break a $100 than it is to swipe a card.

Depending on your situation, there are countless ways to change the path. Awareness and a little planning go a long way to making lasting change.

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About the Author:

Dan Gabbert holds a Masters of Science in Counseling Psychology from Avila University in Kansas City, MO. Dan is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Certified Sex Addictions Therapist (CSAT), a rigorous certification issued by The International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals (IITAP). Dan is also trained in EMDR, a therapeutic technique used for treating trauma and PTSD, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) a very effective approach to therapy and treating trauma and addictions.