For every instance of change in our lives, we have to deal with three things: our rational side, our emotional side, and the path in which we eventually choose to embark on. Not every change in our lives is welcomed — most of it is painful but necessary. Take, for instance, my February challenge. I am on day 5 of 21 of creating healthier habits, like running daily, taking vitamins, logging my nutrition, and watching what I eat. It’s not easy but it’s necessary. I have to address not only my rational decision for making this change in my routine (I need to live a healthier lifestyle to ensure I have the strength to carry on my daily duties) but also the emotional side as well (I want to feel better about myself and serve as a great example for others). Despite those two very important components of creating change in my life, it is impossible to make the change without setting a path for success. How would I be able to live a healthier lifestyle if I didn’t give myself the time to exercise everyday, or if I stocked my pantry full of chocolate and cotton candy? It’d be impossible for change to take place without shaping that path.
Enter Dan and Chip Heath’s Switch: How To Change When Change Is Hard. I came across this book multiple times in 2010 and kept putting off reading it. The title itself was intimidating. “How To Change When Change Is Hard” sounded…well…hard! It was one of the hardest reads I had ever completed in my life. I kept having to put the book down to just marinate the information. At the end, the book helped me embark on one of the most painful journeys in my life last September.
The book helped me break down this process of change. The analogy of the rider, the elephant, and the path completely resonated with me. Having been in Thailand a few years prior, I actually had the privilege of riding an elephant through a sanctuary in Surin. As the rider, you direct the elephant down a path. Similarly, when you come to a point in your life where you have to make a decision to change, you are the rider — you are the rational component — of that decision that has to guide the elephant, otherwise known as the emotional component. Note the differences in scale: a rider is a fraction of the size of the elephant. The elephant has the power to override the rider at any time and to destroy all potential. But, once a rider maintains control of the elephant, there is a powerfully symbiotic and beautiful relationship that can emerge. To that analogy, your rational side can guide the emotional side if you know where to look and what to target. Also, by thinking just a few steps ahead of yourself, you can shape the path to your definition of success. Whether that is moving on, getting healthier, maintaining a better relationship with yourself, or just making a difficult decision, understanding these three components to the decision making process will guide you on the journey to change.
How will you guide the rider and the elephant while shaping the path to change in your life?