Just a few weeks ago I finished reading Switch, written by the Heath brothers. I admit, I have not read their early book, “Made to Stick,” but I’ve added that to my list. If it’s anything like Switch, it’s worth reading. Confession: This is one of the best books I’ve read in recent years. If you do not have this book on your readin list for this year, get it on there now.

Switch is a HIGHLY practical book about the psychology of change. Filled with hundreds of case studies, Chip and Dan Heath walk you through a the process of change. Why is change hard? Why do some changes stick where others don’t? Why are some people motivated to change about certain things, but lack all willpower to change on other thing? Chip and Dan offer practical insight on on all these things.

What I’ll never forget is the change template that they’ve created. They identified three elements: The Elephant, The Rider and The Path. When addressing or leading change, you have to take these elements into account. Sometimes you only have to address one and other times you have to deal with all three. I’ll quickly describe what I’m talking about;

The Rider: The Rider is the rational you. It’s your mind. You often make up your mind to do things a certain way. Reason appeals to the rider and logic motivates you to change.

The Elephant: The emotional you. It’s your heart. It’s your passion. The elephant can do incredible things when motivated with compassion and concern.

The Path: The Path is simply the environment surrounding us that helps us do things the way we do them. This environment often makes change easy and natural or it can make change very difficult.

Here’s how this works practically. When you go to bed at night, you set your alarm to get up at 6:00 AM. The logical you, the rider knows that you need to get up early. When the alarm goes off at 6:00 AM, it’s your elephant that doesn’t want to get up. The elephant is highly influential. When watching that moving video about starving children in India that brings a tear to your eye, your elephant prompts you to open your wallet and give money you didn’t have budgeted to this cause. The path is a little simpler. When I have to wake up before 5:00 or 6:00 AM for a flight or something, I put my alarm clock on the other side of the room. When it goes off, it requires me to get out of bed to turn it off. Although my elephant will want to stay in bed and my rider is powerless to motivate the elephant… the fact that I’ve created an environment that requires me to get up is changing the path.

The book is filled to the brim of case study after case study where you see these three elements in change related opportunities and how manipulating certain things caused lasting change. When looking at changes you need to make in your ministry, you need to understand what will help make change much easier and lasting for your team. What are some of the changes you need your volunteers/staff to make?

  • Moving your volunteer teams to serve every week
  • Getting small group leaders in a routine of calling/sending cards to their kids every 7-14 days
  • Getting you volunteer to arrive 30 minutes before service starts

Have you ever felt hopeless about these kinds of situations? It could be that you’ve not looked at helping make this change easier by understanding what motivates people to change. Read the book!