Want to Make Big Changes? Start Small and Get Big Results

It’s Easier and More Effective

switch-bookThis remarkable book Switch: How to change things when change is hard, can be about you, a job, friends, or even family. Or in families like many of ours – a child.

“Why is it so hard to make lasting changes in our companies, in our communities, and in our own lives?The primary obstacle is a conflict that’s built into our brains, say Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the critically acclaimed bestseller Made to Stick. Psychologists have discovered that our minds are ruled by two different systems—the rational mind and the emotional mind—that compete for control. The rational mind wants a great beach body; the emotional mind wants that Oreo cookie. The rational mind wants to change something at work; the emotional mind loves the comfort of the existing routine. This tension can doom a change effort—but if it is overcome, change can come quickly.

In a compelling, story-driven narrative, the Heaths bring together decades of counter-intuitive research in psychology, sociology, and other fields to shed new light on how we can effect transformative change. Switch shows that successful changes follow a pattern, a pattern you can use to make the changes that matter to you, whether your interest is in changing the world or changing your waistline.” — Amazon

Here is one lesson, of many presented in the book, that you may find to be instrumental and inspiring in seeing how everyday opportunities can lead to big changes with exponential effects. — David Durovy


Change May Be Easier Than We Think

This is really the crux of what we as parents are dealing with, both in ourselves and in our children. Although this appears as a simple task, the complexity is often so overwhelming we either quit, or take on a method that “seems” time tested and viable (such as punishing our children in order to help them learn). In the end though, some experts see change not as “a” thing, but a series of things, often very small things by what they call “shrinking the change”.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath is a well researched book that shows us how to engineer change into our personal, business and family life. One example shows how one simple unplanned act can actually change things not only in one mom’s and dad’s life but also the lives of so many others in a loosely choreographed series of actions and reactions that at the end of the day, the children were better behaved.

Take a few moments to read through this scenario and consider the implications of small random acts of kindness that we have the opportunity numerous times everyday to take advantage of or pass by in our lives.

They write, “small targets led to small victories, and small victories can often trigger a positive spiral of behavior. Marriage therapist Michele Weiner-Davis wrote about her clients Paula and George, who’d been married for eight years but had been fighting consistently for the previous two.” She had been counseling them for awhile but made little progress. “Then came the breakthrough— a kiss.

One morning, George kissed Paula. The kiss surprised her, caught her off guard a little and made her happy. Being happy prompted her to do a little thing she hadn’t done in a while; She brewed a pot of coffee. They used to drink coffee together often, but lately the tradition has fallen by the wayside.

George smelled the coffee and came down for a cup. He and Paula had a pleasant conversation. Both of them said the morning made them feel more “relaxed and lighthearted”. (Who wouldn’t want more of this?) Paula reported that her coworkers noticed the difference in her attitude that day. Even George and Paula’s kids seemed affected by the halo of good feelings (my note: The Oxytocin Response)—they were more relaxed that evening, less argumentative. George’s kiss launched a positive spiral.”

What is a take home lesson here? The authors say it like this: “Don’t ask a couple to stop fighting; ask the husband to give his wife a simple good-morning kiss.”

How would we interpret this? First, never underestimate the power of simple actions of loving kindness expressed in actions and thoughtful words. The oxytocin response can be a healing balm for ourselves that can affect our children’s regulatory responses. This is brain science, but not difficult brain science. Anyone can do it anywhere, anytime. And, we don’t need a degree to use it.

Secondly, the way to influence or change the behaviors of our children is by, well, by changing our behaviors first. Why us? Because that is the only thing we can control. And that is not always a given but certainly a good place to start.

David_JournalAnother interesting take-home lesson is, we can never know just how far reaching our words and actions, helpful or hurting, may be. One word or action may generate many reactions down the line. We might want to think about that before we act or speak.

Where can you start today, right now— a simple, small, manageable and specific behavior change for you?

— David Durovy