In one of my classes in the MBA program, we are reading this book entitled Switch by Chip and Dan Heath. It’s about learning how to make changes in your life or your company. It’s based on the premise that there is an elephant, a rider, and a path. While haven’t gotten to the section on the path yet, there are two things in the rider section that really resonated with me that I want to share with you.
A little background on the book before we begin; the book is a metaphor using an elephant, a rider, and a path. The rider represents your rational side. This is the side of you that can make decisions and see things logically. The elephant represents your emotional side. This is the side that makes you do things based on feelings. The rider points the elephant in the direction it wants to go but if the elephant doesn’t know why it should stay on the path, the rider will never get where he wants to go. The elephant is obviously stronger than the rider so unless the elephant is motivated to go where the rider wants, he will over power the rider. All right, now this onto why this can help you get things done faster and easier.
In the section about the rider, they talk about “scripting the critical moves”. While most people have a long-term goal, they probably haven’t listed out all the moves they will take to get there. This is definitely me. For example, I always tell myself that I am going to lose weight. I commit to eating healthy and working out, but its easy to get distracted because I haven’t explicitly explained how I will eat healthy and work out. So, I gave myself a very detailed plan about how I was going to go about doing these things. Such as what foods I wouldn’t eat and how many days I would work out each week. I am a visual person so I made up a plan that I hung on my bathroom mirror with days that I could cross off so that I could actually see myself doing the critical moves. This has been great. It gets rid of any ambiguity and helps me stay on course with being “healthy”.
They also talk about black and white goals in the rider section. These are things that are 100 percent restrictive. So absolutely no wine this week. Annoying, but extremely useful. When I tell myself that I will eat healthy, this easily becomes derailed. I tell myself that I’ve eaten healthy all day so that bowl of ice cream or that candy bar is fine. I should reward myself for eating so well. Yeah, no. If I am on the healthy food track then I am fine but the second I eat something unhealthy, I rationalize eating French fries the next day and waffles the day after that. And I lose all of my momentum. So to combat this, I gave myself one or two things every week that were absolute no’s. For example, the first week was absolutely no sweets. The second week is absolutely no empty carbs, especially white pasta or white bread. And if I do eat sweets or empty carbs, then I feel really bad about it because I was not supposed to do that.
These are two helpful tips that keep the rider on track. It’s a whole other story to keep the elephant motivated. But these two things have really helped me with my goal to “be healthy”. Now, I don’t even have to reason with myself about if I should work out or if I should eat that donut. I have explicit goals and steps that keep me on track without even thinking about it.
I strongly encourage you to go and read this book, it has helped me tremendously already and I haven’t even finished reading it!