Switch (Click the cover to buy the book)

My library system recently hired a new Deputy County Librarian.  One of the first things she’s done is lead a focused training for managers that’s based on the book Switch by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.  I think the idea behind this training is that we’ll need to make changes system-wide if we’re to avoid making incredibly painful cuts.  Since making change is often very difficult, we need to be able to lead our staff when the time to act comes.

Our first reading assignment was to read the first 98 pages.  This section of the book focuses on surprising information about change, and “directing the rider.”  For those not in the know: the prevailing metaphor in this book is the idea of an elephant, a rider, and a path.  The elephant represents our emotional side, the rider is the intellectual side, and the path is the path they’re on.  The rider can control the elephant for a while, but he cannot keep it up indefinitely.  And really, if the elephant truly wants to do something, the rider cannot really stop him.  So, to effect change, you must appeal to both the rider and the elephant while shaping the path that they’re on.

Sounds simple enough, right?  I can see how simple it is.  I can also see how it might be difficult to do.

OK, so think about the times when you’ve successfully made changes in your life.  One of the biggest changes in my life has to do with my health.  You’re all familiar with the story that my mom had a really bad stroke in November 2008.  That was also the month that the County hosted a health fair, where employees could get cholesterol, blood sugar, blood pressure, BMI screenings and more.  I was already devastated by my mom’s stroke.  I could see myself heading down that same path.  I didn’t know where to start to make the changes necessary, but I figured the health fair was a good place to get an idea.  The people at the health fair said that my numbers were all really good except for my BMI.  All I really had to do was improve my BMI and then I’d be the picture of health.  That was my switch.

  • Elephant – Scared of being like mom, scared of being unhealthy, really wants to do something to fix it
  • Rider – Initially paralyzed by too many options, but later given a doable goal (healthy BMI)
  • Path – Keep good numbers –> lose weight –> avoid being like mom

So far it’s been pretty good.  Of course there are ups and downs, but the switch has worked well overall.

Other things from the section I’ve read so far:

  • Laziness is often exhaustion – the rider has focused so hard on controlling the elephant that they can’t do it any more.
  • Resistance is often due to a lack of clarity – Be specific about what you’re changing and why the change is necessary
  • Focus on the bright spots (successful efforts worth emulating) and find out why it’s working there.  Replicate it elsewhere.
  • Big problems don’t need big solutions
  • Make a template for needed activities; script the critical moves
  • Too many choices create decision paralysis – people will almost always retreat to the most familiar habit
  • Focus on what you CAN change with the resources available – all other problems are TBU (true, but useless)
  • People want to fit in with each other – behavior is contagious; change the behavior change the people
  • Script the beginning and the end; the middle will shape itself
  • Create a “destination postcard” – a vivid picture of the goal for the near-future

I don’t really have a specific reason for writing this post.  I think it’s acting more as a brain dump for me.  These kinds of books are often interesting but I don’t tend to read them unless someone “makes” me.

Do you have any “must reads” for change management and/or self improvement?  Why do you like those particular titles so much?

3 more days

Until my 5k.

I still don’t feel ready.  Maybe that’s because I’m not ready.  I can barely jog a mile and I’m somehow going to go for 3.1 miles?  I know I’m going to do a mix of jogging and walking, but I still don’t feel ready.  I don’t even know what I’m going to wear.  I know that sounds silly.  Ugh.

As the days tick by I can feel myself getting a little bit more panicky.  Is it bad that I wasn’t this nervous about my wedding?  Oh well, nothing much I can do about it now except relax, do my best, and not forget to turn my clock ahead before I go to sleep the night before the race.

I did yoga again this morning.  It was kinda nice, and it was definitely easier than Tuesday’s yoga.  Downward dog and the plank are still challenging to hold for very long, but I know that as my upper body gets stronger I’ll be able to hold those poses for longer and longer.

I need to think of a prize for my weight loss.  I always do better with a goal and prize in mind.  If I remember right, last time it was a nice dinner out for 10 lbs.  A new fitness video game for 20 lbs.  A massage for 30 lbs.  A new hairstyle for 40 lbs. And a new wardrobe when I met my goal at 45 lbs. I didn’t meet the 45 lb goal so no new wardrobe for me.

I’m working on 29 lbs, so what if I break it down as:

  • 10 lbs = haircut (it hasn’t been cut since my wedding!)
  • 20 lbs = Facial, manicure and massage (that gets me back down to my pre-wedding weight)
  • 29 lbs = wardrobe (gets me back down to a healthy bmi)

Any other ideas for prizes?

OK, gotta go to work now.  Yesterday involved a medical emergency, hopefully today will be much calmer.

What Else Are You Half-Assing?

I finally got around to watching last week’s Biggest Loser episode – my guilty pleasure.  Much like any other show, some episodes have lines that just make you think, ya know?  Last week’s was one of those for me.

After a few workouts where the contestants were running sprints at 8 or 9 (not sure if that’s mph or difficulty level), Jillian made them run one sprint at 11 or 12.  Everyone looked at her like she was insane when she said to bump up the speed, but they did it anyway.  Boy, were they thrilled when they finished!  In the little interviews they do at different times during the episodes Jillian talked about that particular workout.  She said something along the lines of “If you’ve been running sprints at 8 when the whole time you could have done it at 12…  what else in your life have you been doing half assed?”

That struck a nerve with me.  How many times do you find yourself doing something one way because it’s easier or because you simply don’t believe you can do it any other way?  Have you even tried doing it differently?  Have you even tried putting forth the effort to improve your performance?

I asked myself these questions and had that little voice in the back of my head calling it “perfectionism.”  But striving to improve yourself, to improve your life and that of those you love is not perfectionism.  Working towards any improvement in life is about loving yourself and others to the extent that you know that your current experience just isn’t good enough AND you’re actively trying to make it better.

I really think that I’ve been half-assing a lot of things in the past few months.  I wonder if there’s a touch of depression, mostly because things haven’t felt “right” for awhile.  So, instead of working towards the goals that I’ve set for myself and my family, I’ve been sitting on my ass paying lip service to those goals hoping that they’ll just go away.  But goals that are verbalized (and published) on the internet never go away.  They stare at you every time you look at your blog stats and see that someone out there has read your post on that particular goal.

Half-assing is definitely easy, but it doesn’t feel good.  Here’s my question then: How do I get out of this funk and whole-ass everything from now on?  Any suggestions?

A day for new goals

2010 was a huge year for me.  I got my Master’s, turned 30 and married the love of my life.  How could I ever top that?  Well, I don’t know that I can or even if I want to (that year took a lot of work!) but it sure was a great year.

Unfortunately, my goals for December didn’t work out so well.  I had a feeling they wouldn’t.  I basically didn’t exercise, ate whatever I wanted, and sat on my ass and read all month.  I know that those are my regular responses to extreme stress and I’m not beating myself up too bad about it.  I’m definitely feeling a lot calmer, less panicked, and better overall.  So let’s try this again, shall we?

Today is January 1, 2011.

My goals for the month of January are:

  • Exercise for at least 45 minutes every day, including cardio and weights
  • Eat within reason – don’t just sit there eating leftover Christmas candy and all the treats brought to work.  Don’t go overboard with fast food.  Make the healthier restaurant choices.
  • Snuggle with DH more.

My goals for the year 2011 are:

  • Lose 20 pounds and get to 140.
  • Have a more professional appearance at work.  Jeans and a t-shirt are not appropriate attire for most managers.
  • Be a better housekeeper.  My home should be company ready at all times.
  • Start catching up to DH’s retirement savings.  He’s got 10 years of saving on me!
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