Contributed by Tanya S.

I have been trying to motivate myself to start and exercise program for years. I could never figure out why it was so hard for me to make changes when it was for my own good.  Reading Switch (Affiliate Link), helped me realize why I was having so much difficulty.

The Heath brothers have studied the human behavior behind why it is so hard to change.  You cannot change by using something called will-power, by having great leadership or knowledge of facts.  You cannot bribe someone either.

The big analogy used throughout the book is the rider and the elephant moving down a path.  A great picture for describing a rational thought process trying to control and lead an emotional thought process.  If the elephant does not want to move, there is no amount of pushing the rider can do to get that elephant moving.  I found this analogy to be especially helpful because I can be stubborn and fight against rational ideas like “You need to exercise to be healthy” “It will make you stronger.”  These comments do nothing to motivate me.  I needed to find another way to motivate myself.  With my goal of exercising the rider may be telling me to get up and move, but the elephant is enjoying sitting on the couch and watching Hell’s Kitchen.

One way to institute a change is not to make a whole new system, but to figure out what is working already.  In Vietnam, instead of lecturing mothers on nutrition, Save the Children studied families where children were eating well.  Then they worked on having other families adopt these changes, ending malnutrition in the area.  How can I apply this to myself? I asked my exercise driven friends why they exercise and they all answered because it makes me feel good.  As it turns out, while they cite the other benefits of exercising like weight maintenance and endurance, they listed them as side effects.  The main purpose was feeling good.  I decided to take up dancing in my house as a small step towards exercising so I can do something fun and enjoy the benefits of feeling good.  After a few days, when I stopped I noticed I felt more sluggish and decided I wanted to feel good and I resumed exercising.

But I was getting bored with my random dancing. This is where the path came in.  I cannot just figure out a goal (the rider) and find out what emotions will motivate me (the elephant).  I also had to plan how I would achieve the goal (the path).  I found dance videos on Net-Flix, bought some belly-dancing DVDs and rented some from the library.  Now I have a variety of ways to dance and I prevent myself from getting bored.

A summary of how to institute change according to Switch is:

Make sure the rider is giving directions. Where do you want to be in six months time?  Are you resisting? Resistance may be a lack of clarity.  Break things down into smaller immediate steps.  Don’t think dance every day. Think smaller and break down into steps, e.g., buy dance DVD, try 5 minutes of dance DVD, check out what Net-Flix offers, create a queue on Net-Flix for dance DVDs, etc.  Remind yourself where you are going and why this goal is worth achieving.

Motivate your elephant.  Connect to the goal on an emotional level.  Dancing will make you feel good and happy.  Give yourself an identity with the goal.  Think of yourself as a belly dancer not just someone who is dancing in the living room.

There are many more ways to institute change throughout the book.   For any change to succeed you have to change the path.