Last night, I finished reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. An excellent book about how to effect transformative change, which I would recommend to anybody looking at change, be it at a personal, social or organisational level. I may wax on about it at a later date but what am I am still reeling from, and experiencing a kind of Truman Show-esque moment as a result of, is a single paragraph which has managed to null and void a ‘truth’ I’ve held for many years.
In a nutshell, Switch is about how we each have a rider and an elephant. The rider is our rational, analytical self in charge of the reins, the elephant is our emotional, instinctual side which is quite capable of thundering off leaving the rider out of control. The argument, and a well researched one, is that effecting transformative change in any context requires both the rider and the elephant to be engaged and the path to be shaped so that the change is as engaging and easy as possible.
A brief mention of psychiatric and psychological treatment of addicts is made in the context of emotion motivating the elephant. Which emotions work best. Do you need a ‘crisis’ and a sense of fear and doom to motivate change?
Apparently, until fairly recently it was believed by most therapists that drug addicts or alcoholics couldn’t be helped until they hit rock bottom. And that has certainly been my understanding. Without going into detail, one of my relatives is an alcoholic. In numerous discussions over the years with older family members, close family friends and medical professionals, it has been stated with authority that the addict needs to hit rock bottom in order to want treatment.
Well, as it turns out, that’s not the case. Holy ravioli Batman.
I’ve wondered about this whole ‘rock bottom’ thing at numerous times over the years. It’s a shitty place to be, for everybody concerned. But in my experience, if you have someone well respected, of authority, telling you something over and over and over again, however much your instinct is telling you that there might be other versions of the story, you ending up buying it.
I ordered Switch for professional reasons. I’m fascinated by change. Why do people change? How do you ‘shape the path’ to motivate and facilitate it? Within the context of my work, Chip and Dan’s book has provided some extremely useful advice. But it’s also caused me to stop in my tracks and consider what are the other things I’ve held to be True which actually might not be?…
Having finished Switch, I’ve moved onto Seth Godin’s Linchpin. Although I’m only 23 pages in, the pages I’ve read have reinforced this sense of suddenly walking through a door and finding the world to be bigger, brighter and full of possibilities I haven’t previously considered.
Basically, Seth’s point so far is that we were all hunters, then farmers, then factory workers, but the factory has fallen apart and the system we’ve had for the last 200 years is on the way out. And to be honest, I think that’s ripsnortingly (I’m not sure there is such a word, although if there isn’t, there should be) exciting. Because it means we can go out and explore, ask questions and develop new ways of educating our children, new ways of doing business, new ways of healing people.
Anyone else had a Truman moment recently?