How to Make Change Happen

A few weeks ago we talked about the process of change.

This week we are talking about HOW to change.

In 2010 I read a book called SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Dan & Chip Heath. The book was beyond fascinating and its concepts have still impacted me today. It was case-study after case-study of HOW people changed with very little effort on their part but ended up changing dramatically.


Simple…it comes down to three things: The Rider, The Elephant and The Path.

Imagine an Elephant walking down a Path with its Rider perched on top holding the reigns. The Rider usually is in control and can make the Elephant stick to the Path, but in reality the Elephant is so massive it can over power the Rider at any moment and head down a completely different Path.

So how does this relate to change and you?

  • The Rider: this represents your rational, cognitive side. It tells you things like “don’t eat that, it will kill the diet you are on.”
  • The Elephant: this represents your emotional side. It tell you things like “eat that donut, so what if it ruins your diet, its heaven with sprinkles”.
  • The Path: represents the very thoughtful directions or plan. It tells you things like “instead of a donut, grab a granola bar”.

When these three elements are aligned, change is possible. The Rider can reign in the huge emotional Elephant because there is a well thought out Path that is easy to follow. BUT if the Elephant decides to over throw the Rider and take a different Path, then change is not possible.

Change is really hard but it doesn’t have to be:

  • When we think we are resisting change, we actually are just lacking clarity on how to make the necessary changes. The Rider really needs crystal-clear directions on how to change.
  • When we think we are lazy, we are actually just exhausted from trying so many things with full force. The Elephant puts a lot of emotion into to changing and if its not guided correctly, it will wear itself out. 
  • When we believe “WE” are the the problem, but in reality its actually a situation problem. You get hungry at work and don’t want to eat your lunch at 10 am yet, so you reach for the nearest thing which is a donut in the break room. Instead leave a stash of granola bars in your desk because you know you can’t fight that 10 am hunger.

Putting this together in YOUR life:

  1. Define the goal at hand. Lay out a clear Path to getting to that goal. The more bitesize goals within the goal you can create the better. The Elephant loves bite sized anything!
  2. Give your Elephant rewards for sticking to the Path. Work in mini rewards to those bite sized goals. Also, don’t over exhaust the Elephant by doing too many things at once, it can only focus on a few things at once.
  3. Be crystal clear about what needs to happen to attain the goal. The Rider needs the right environment, tools and support to make that huge Elephant stick to the Path. 

I hope this analogy helps you understand the magnitude of your emotions compared to your rational side. I hope it makes change not look as daunting or scary or even overwhelming. With the right work, all three elements know how to live harmoniously and make change happen.

If you want more information I HIGHLY recommend this book. It is one my top 12 books I recommend for personal development

Ready to make some changes in your life? If you are interested in working together to make those changes a reality, book a 30 minute discovery session to find out more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *