The party season has begun. Before we know it, we will be facing January, that month of contrition, when we resolve to undo the excesses of November and December. Contrition often takes the form of New Year’s resolutions. They remind me of soda cans, soon discarded along the road of good intentions…that ancient, long, and well-traveled road, worn smooth by many shoes. Like many of us, I have made and abandoned these resolutions and felt worse for it. Despite this, I keep making new ones. One change I need to make is to cut down on refined sugars. But every day, when I’m making my morning cup of tea, I slide my teaspoon into the sugar bowl, and my mind plays the same script narrated by my own little Glinda, the good witch, who debates my Wicked Witch of the West.
Glinda: “You know you should eat less sugar.”
Wicked Witch of the West: “I know I should, but I love that jolt of sweetness first thing in the morning.”
Glinda: “You really should cut back. You know sugar isn’t good for you.”
WWW: “I know, I know, but it’s just one little teaspoon. What’s one teaspoon?”
Needless to say, the Wicked Witch often wins. But the fact remains that my Glindas, or good intentions, are not enough to change my behavior. This mental battle is explained in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. The authors argue that our minds are ruled by two systems: the rational and emotional. In my little script above, my Glinda would be my rational mind and the Wicked Witch would be my emotional. Therefore, I need to engage both Glinda and the Wicked Witch (my emotional love of sweets). Their compelling argument, supported by decades of research in psychology and sociology and case studies from business, health sciences, education, and the government, shows how to support the structure of lasting change. The Heath brothers give detailed examples of how to engage our rational minds, motivate our emotional system, and structure a path that will lead to the final destination or goal. In their chapter on “Overcoming Obstacles,” I can quickly find my problem: “I know what I should be doing, but I’m not doing it.” Their diagnosis and advice? 1) My rational mind is on board, but I have an emotional problem. I am not convincing my Wicked Witch (lover of sweets) to jump on the bandwagon; 2)) I can start out small and think of one tiny change that I can make right now, which will get one step closer to my goal; 3) I can change my “path” by making a change in my environment so that I’m “forced” to change. For example, I could stop buying sugar or I could replace sugar with Stevia; 4) And finally, I can enlist the help of someone else so we can reinforce the new behavior.
I have decided to choose option 2–starting out small. I am going to gradually decrease the amount of sugar I use every day. So instead of 4 or 5 teaspoons over the course of a day, I’ll use 2 …or 2.5. I will keep you posted on my progress!
If you’d like to take a look at the Heath brothers’ book, here the link: http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard/dp/0385528752/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322413303&sr=1-1