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Review: “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath

For one of my projects this year as an intern, my manager instructed me to do some research on the idea of change. She sent me to Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath, with the intention of reading the first few chapters focusing on what they call “bright-spots” in the book. The first few chapters flew by, and I continued reading intrigued by the different examples of change the novel pointed out, and the advice the authors share in motivating big changes among people with resistance. Suddenly I was spending my free-time thinking about ways I could impact change among myself and among the things I’m passionate about.

Switch refers to change as a three-fold metaphor throughout the entire novel: an elephant, a rider, and the path they go down. The elephant represents the emotional and instinctive side of resistance, the rider represents the logical side, and the path is exactly that. In order for change to succeed, these three elements must be working together. When your elephant and rider are in conflict (logic and emotion), the elephant will usually overpower and win. If the path is not easy, the elephant and rider will have difficulty finding their way. The three of them must work together to create the least resistance and most effective change.

Dan and Chip describe each of the scenarios within this metaphor, and back them up with a real-life example for evidence. Their examples provide solid footwork to follow along with, and inspire you to make the same monumental changes in your life and surroundings.

Every afternoon I finished reading, I was motivated to make changes within my own life. As anyone else, I constantly find myself setting goals and New Years Resolutions that go forgotten within a matter of weeks. Switch provides a checklist of things to accomplish in order to keep these goals alive and accomplish them in a matter of time. By working collaboratively with yourself, you create the fool-proof method to completing a change.

The genius in Switch lies in the versatility of it all. As a college student, I find it most applicable to my personal goals—organizational, lifestyle, etc. Beyond that realm, I see how it applies to businesses, schools, families, and any surrounding you can think of. The examples in the book range from personal to saving hundreds of thousands of lives with a simple change. That to me, makes this book a great read for anyone.

I completely recommend picking up Switch if change is something that has been a personal struggle for you, or you are taking part in a big structural change. No matter where you stand on the subject, there’s something to learn from the examples that the authors provide in this novel.

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