Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success

When I first read this book, written by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler, I recognized that its simple techniques would be perfect for a couple of nonprofit organizations I work with. I developed a curriculum by combining real-life experiences and the concepts found in this book. I taught classes for two entirely different communities; one was with formerly incarcerated individuals, and the other was a group of young people who were overcoming addictionA common denominator with both groups was the need and desire to change behaviors.

Unlike many self-help books, Change Anything does not offer solutions. It offers a process that allows its readers to develop solutions: solutions based on their own circumstances and challenges. The text encourages the reader to become both the “scientist, as well as the subject of [their] unique experiment.” The process is divided into a matrix with six sources of influence, split between motivation and ability. These columns are separated into three categories, personal, social and structural.

Source 1: Love What You Hate

This fits in the first block of the matrix, marrying personal with motivation. The first key to making lasting changes is to reframe your point of reference to create a sense of enjoyment in your new habit or desire. I have heard several people who use the following quote to help keep their weight off. “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels,” as opposed to, “I hate to diet.” Recognize and celebrate the result of all the hard work you put into making changes.

Source 2: Do What You Can’t

The second category combines personal and ability in the matrix. The authors claim that if change is taking too much will power, it is simply a matter of you lacking ability. They state that you need to possess the skills necessary to create and sustain real change. Malcolm Gladwell claims that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to master a skill; Grenny, et al. believe that it takes just a few weeks of deliberate practice to hone the skills you may need to create the change you are looking for.

Sources 3 and 4: Turn Accomplices into Friends

These sources combine social with both motivation and ability. Many of us have heard that we become the average of the five people we spend the most time with. All this means is that the people who surround us have far more influence on us than we typically recognize. We are social creatures, and as such, we seek others with similar interests. As we look to make changes in our lives, this could mean eliminating some individuals who may hold us back. It also means to seek out those who can aid and abet our goals.

Source 5: Invert the Economy

This source combines structures and motivation. It can be as simple as bribing yourself to encourage the positive behavior. It can also mean you can create even greater punishments for the negative behavior. What if you rewarded yourself with something enjoyable every time you chose an apple over an apple pie? Instead of the instant gratification and pleasure you receive from that Snickers Bar, you create disincentive such as running an extra mile.

Source 6: Control Your Space

This source fills out the space in the matrix reserved for ability and structure. It means that you are in control of the structures you encounter. Going back to the weight loss goal, one of my triggers is to grab a snack every time I go to the gas station when I am on a road trip. I can’t avoid gas stations, but I can decide not to run into the convenience store when I have to stop for gas.

The authors suggest that change is difficult, because of personal, societal and structural forces. The authors break these areas down between motivational forces as well as those which require your ability. Each of these sections requires deep thought to combine motivation with practice, and the authors suggest that deep and lasting change becomes easier when you engage each of these sources.

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