Talk about a book title that grabs your attention! Quite a few friends and colleagues have recommended this book to me over the last couple of years, in part because they know that meaningful change is difficult to achieve for so many people. They are too much smoking, drinking, and eating; too much stress and not enough exercise. If potentially only one out of every ten people can change our behaviors, even in a crisis, then what hope do any of us really have?
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E very January, the gym where I work out is jam-packed with new members. And then … it goes back to normal. The regulars remain.
Why is that? Answer: because change is hard. Old patterns and behaviors give up their dominance reluctantly, for a variety reasons — both neurological and psychological. This is hardly a news flash. Imagine, Deutschman says, that your doctor says that you must either change something about your lifestyle or die.
Statistically, a whopping one out of 10 people actually manage to effect and maintain changes they attempt … even when their lives depend on it. This is why diet centers will never go out of business. But wait! He points to researchers like Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, who put heart disease patients on a rigorous diet and lifestyle change program for a year.
Carrots work better than sticks. Fear of death, surprisingly, is not as strong a motivator as a vision of a more enjoyable and satisfying life experience. When Omish stressed how much more his patients could enjoy their days and all their activities, including lovemaking, they tended to stick to the program more.
Change is not a rational process. Behavioral or attitudinal change requires a lot of emotional support, or at least support to address the underlying emotions that stand in the way, or stand out as motivating carrots. Alcoholics Anonymous figured this out a long time ago. Hence the weekly support meetings and mentors. Facts by themselves, if they contradict a belief framework, tend to go in one ear and out the other.
The source must be wrong. So to change a behavior or attitude requires offering a different framework or belief system that still resonantes with a person or group of employees, but in which the new behavior fits more easily. Radical change is easier than small or gradual change. The quick results, then, inspire people to continue the change. An argument, Deutschman says, for overhauling companies and perhaps even policies or systems quickly and dramatically, rather than trying to ease change in over time.
Or for designing programs that produce tangible, short-term wins and gains to encourage more innovation or change. To learn more about the book, check out our Resources section. Recent scientific studies indicate that we retain the ability to form new neural pathways and patterns throughout our lives. Fifty percent of people who live to be 85 develop dementia.
But it certainly adds another layer to the equation. Regardless of whether we want to change, it seems that the process of adapting to new circumstances, or struggling to reshape our habits of mind, body, and work, carries its own rewards. A reassuring thought at a time when we are awash in change and the need to reshape and rethink our lives, careers, priorities and assumptions.
For more thought-provoking reading about change, take a look at our list of Resources on Change and Uncertainty. It is an interesting study. Very helpful article. Sad, but I think often true. Changing, for some people … especially if their behavior or patterns are a response to deep fears or childhood events, and change involves facing and working through those things … is even more painful or scary than losing a primary relationship.
Denial and rationalization undoubtedly plays a part, as well. Which is why change is so hard … and why so many psychologists and mental health professionals are so gainfully employed.
Alan Deutschman is going to be on the expert hot seat soon in case anyone is interested. If we do that here, if we recognize change as a whole series of steps or even small changes, behavioral modification may seem less insurmountable or less frustrating, even if occupying more time.
To take a page from Mr. Deutschman, if I am a candidate for recurrent heart disease, I must act so as to 1 limit my smoking, 2 stop smoking entirely, 3 limit my overall intake of food, 4 limit my red meat consumption, 5 begin a completely healthy diet, 6 begin a program of light exercise, 7 exercise moderately several times a week, 8 cope with professional stress, 9 spend time with my family, 10 reduce my health care insurance costs, and 12 reduce limits to my life insurability, to name a few.
Here, the change demanded is an overall migration to a healthy lifestyle. That may be parsed into a series of tributary changes, which can be confronted along the way. Maybe the upshot of this means that often we must recognize that we must chip away at our difficulties in a way that Sisyphus would appreciate and expect gradual improvement over time rather than hope for a quantum leap to success.
Hi, nice post. I have been pondering this issue,so thanks for posting. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Subscribe to the No Map. No Guide. No Limits. All rights reserved. Change or Die: Why is it so hard to change? Ed April 10, , am. Leisureguy April 10, , am. Lane Wallace April 13, , am. Fred Wigley April 15, , pm. Paul Creasy April 20, , am. Archive
Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life
What's New? What if you were given that choice? We're talking actual life and death now. Your own life and death. What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think, feel, and act? Could you change when change mattered most?
Change or Die: Could You Change When Change Matters Most?
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