I just read an exciting book called Switch, by Dan and Chip Heath.
The main focus of the book is exploring the necessary steps and mindsets to successfully creating change in life and in business.
**Elephant, Rider, and Path**
Switch investigates successful change efforts by assigning metaphors to distinct factors of individuals's personalities as well as the setting that surrounds them.
Originally described in The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, the three part metaphor utilised in Switch is both entertaining as well as insightful (I haven't read this book yet for myself, however it's been added to my always developing list of required reading!).
I could honestly go on forever about the details of this metaphor, because It is my opinion it's nothing short of brilliant, but I'll attempt to keep it succinct.
In a nutshell, your personality is made up of two chief components (much like Freud's ego and superego) – an Elephant along with a Rider sitting on top of that Elephant's back holding the reigns and attempting to point the Elephant along.
The challenge is the fact that the Elephant now and again wants to travel in a direction the Rider disagrees with, and in view of the fact that the Elephant is so much larger than the little Rider, there's not a great deal he can do about it – he can only pull on the reigns for so long until the Elephant wears him down and does whatever it wants.
Examples in the book of the Elephant's emotional tendencies are struggling to give up smoking, cheating on a weight loss plan or saying something you don't truly intend in a fit of anger. Our Elephants are generally at ease with recognizable patterns and situation, so they aren't always helpful to making a change. They do not analyze or consider the "big picture", so they often need some help breaking into a new pattern.
The "weakness" of the Elephant is that it depends on emotions, habits, and instincts that do not always coincide with the changes we are attempting to create. Often times the Elephant - which is actually ourselves - needs help being convinced to go with a less recognizable option.
This is where the Rider comes in. His responsibility is to steer the Elephant along, even when the Path (which is the third part of our metaphor) isn't so easy to travel.
The Rider is the part of our mind that analyzes situations and looks to the future, and not just his immediate surroundings.
The Rider's greatest challenge is spending a lot of time weighing his options. He can easily get caught over thinking things and spinning his wheels when what we really need to do is ACT.
Haidt's metaphor also describes the environment (the third critical component to an effective change) surrounding us as the Path that the Elephant and Rider must travel. Things that effect the Path can include the attitudes of others, social norms, laws and systems - or any other factors that impact the changes we are making.
Seeing The Metaphor In Action
Applying the different components described above to a change in your life is described in the book as a three step process:
* Motivate the Elephant
* Direct the Rider
* Shape the Path
Each of the steps in this process is the focus of one of the books three main sections. The process basically states that you need to get your emotional Elephant moving, while showing your long-term-thinking Rider what direction to take and do whatever you can to make the Path you are traveling on easier to follow.
All three of these sections is further broken down into three smaller pieces, and the book is full of examples of all off the different components.
The concepts of Switch are demonstrated through a series of stories about unrelated change efforts from all over the world, and how the three step process above helped them succeed. From individual problems like drug addiction to national issues like government spending, the changes in Switch are as varied as they are inspirational.
Why This Book Works So Well
Let's be honest – the ideas this book are based on aren't the kind of thing that sounds exciting to everyone. In spite of that fact, the book remains entertaining from cover to cover.
The structure of the book is extremely well organized, allowing the different chapters to reinforce one another.
The authors also managed to add in plenty of notes of humor that make it easy to forget you're reading a "self help" book, because you are consistently engaged and entertained.
For a book filled with so many different stories, the authors are really good about outlining the similarities that illustrate the message of the book.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that this book is loaded with moments that leave you thinking "Yup. I totally do that…"
All in all, this a great read for anyone who has a habit they don't like, or something they think they need to improve in their life or their business (which I think covers pretty much all of us ;) )