All change efforts have something in common.

For any change to happen, someone must decide something and start acting differently.

Knowledge rarely changes behavior.

That’s why we have obese doctors, and divorced marriage counselors.

3 Things to successfully implement any change

  1. Direct the rider What often looks like resistance is often the lack of clarity. So, provide crystal clear directions to rational part of a brain.
  2. Motivate the elephant – Self-control can be easily exhausted. Only way for a lasting change is to have emotional drive.
  3. Shape the path – What often looks like a people problem is a situation problem. Clearly tweak the environment to make the change more likely to happen.

Rider cannot drag the elephant for long. You’ll get exhausted quickly and the effort won’t last long. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.

If the rider has no idea where to go, the elephant goes in circles. It’s called analysis paralysis.

Both the rider and elephant need motivation. They both need the lowest friction on the path to destination.

Direct the Rider

  1. Investigate what’s working and lone it.
  2. Think in terms of specific behaviors.
  3. Change is easier when you know where to go.

Every dark situation has some bright spots. Carefully replay the scene when things were working like you hoped.

Start strong. Finish strong. Get moving. Don’t worry too much about the middle. Middle is going to look different when you get there.

Turn unclear directions into concrete behaviors.

Motivate the Elephant

  1. Make people feel something.
  2. Breakdown the change to smallest bits.
  3. Cultivate a sense of identity and instill growth mindset.

Change most often happens by speaking to people’s feelings. There’s a big difference between knowing how to act and being motivated to act. Change happens in see-feel-change sequence, not in analyze-think-change.

Shrink the change. People find it much more motivating if they’re partly finished with a very long journey than at a starting point of a much shorter one.

  1. Limit the investment you’re asking for.
  2. Think of small wins that are within reach.
  3. Make the advancements visible.

Elephant wants instant gratification. On top of that, it wears rose-tinted glasses. Positive illusions pose enormous obstacle about change. With the rosiest picture of where you are and where you end up, it seems there’s no need to change.

Grow the people. When you build people up, they develop the strength to act. People make decisions based on 2 models:

  1. Consequences model – you weigh the costs and benefits of options and choose the best
  2. Identity model – who am I? what would someone like me do?

Good news is people are receptive to developing new identities (esp. from small beginnings). Bad news is a new identity can take root quickly but living up to is awfully hard.

Create the expectation of failure. There’s no change without learning first.

Shape the Path

  1. When situation changes, behavior changes.
  2. Look for ways to encourage habits.
  3. Behavior is contagious. Help it spread.

What looks like a people problem, is a situation problem. You always have some control over the situation. To encourage new habits:

  1. Install action triggers – motivate you to do things you need to do
  2. Build checklists – help you avoid blind spots in a complex environment.

Keep the Switch Going

Praise every small act, every time instead of punishment. We are all terrible reinforcers because we’re quicker to grumble than to praise. Learn to praise more often.

Remember snowball effect – the more you’re exposed to something, the more you come to like it.

When all is said and done, the world doesn’t always want what you want. You want to change how others act but they get a vote.

You can control, inspire and motivate but sometimes an employee would rather lose his job than get out of his routine.

Remember the story of act healthier vs buy 1% milk.

You must help people figure out how to get there. You can’t simply say try it harder.

Solution-focused therapists believe there are exceptions to every problem. And these exceptions when clearly identified can be carefully analyzed.

Brian was working with the mother whose kids were out of control.

What was different about the last time your kids obeyed you? In one circumstance, do they seem to behave better?

You know it’s funny, I think it’s when I stop ranting and raving at them, and my voice goes very very calm…

An old-fashioned steel manufacturer once asked employees to sign “Innovation Contract”.

The program succeeded beyond any reasonable expectations. An average employee submitted 145.2 ideas.


Kyaw Wai Yan Tun

Hi, I'm Wai Yan. I love designing visuals and writing insightful articles online. I see it as my way of making the world a more beautiful and insightful place.