This week I've posted articles on Viktor Frankl, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Virginia Satir, all of whom have brought us valuable insights into how we deal with change from observing people in very bad situations - in a Death Camp and when told they are dying.
Forgive this rather morbid streak of posts this week, but it reminded me of what I wrote a while back about observations of patients who had critical cardiovascular disease. This was pulled together in Alan Deutschman's book Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change at Work and in Life . In this instance these patients could do something about it. By lifestyle changes - more exercise, eating more healthily, giving up smoking, etc - they could either avoid costly invasive heart surgery or prevent the same thing happening again.
The remarkable evidence is that so few of them seemed to have the will power to sustain these life-giving habits longer than about six weeks! One in nine, in fact. And the same seems to be true of all of us.
However, Dr Dean Ornish, in remarkable research with a group of patients with acute heart disease, was able to buck this trend with a combination of:
1. making the change radical. It seems we can engage with more radical change than keep with minor changes of habit. Others have pointed out that people are rallied to BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals) or WIGs (Wildly Important Goals) that connect with emotions;
2. repeat: positive visualization through meditation, etc., help establish new habits drawn by a positive vision rather than a negative threat; and
3. relate: working in small support groups and communities where there is mutual accountability and encouragement.
Put these three things in place and it seems that 80% stuck with the changes some two years after, thus avoiding heart bypass surgery. Quite a reversal from the statistic of 9 to 1 against prevailing with a change, wouldn't you say?
There are vital lessons here for embedded transformational change in our organisations. Are these three things in place to help people form new habits and stick with them?