Monday, May 31, 2010


Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath. Terrific book about tweaking your mind to break those tough habits. These two scientific Heath brothers have devised an image to help you understand how your brain responds to making changes in your life.

As you probably have read or studied, the brain is divided into two segments (you know, that whole left brain, right brain thing). You have your artistic (or emotional) and your rational (or analytical) side. The Heath's call the emotion side the "Elephant" and the rational side the "Rider".

It's the Rider (analytical) that is supposed to direct the Elephant (emotion) down the path of life. Example: You know that to accomplish certain things in your life you need to get out of bed at 4:45 am Monday through Friday. The Rider says, of course you will do that so set the alarm and get out of bed when it rings. The Elephant says, are you kidding? I am tired, I did not sleep well, and I can skip my cycling class this once to get a little bit of sleep (who could I possibly be talking about?)

So, to change behavior you do the following: 1.Direct the Rider: provide crystal-clear direction such as saying "I need to get up at precisely 4:45 am no-matter-what which means I need to be in bed by 9:30 pm." 2. Motivate the Elephant (if I get up at 4:45 am I can get then get to my fitness class and have my exercise finished and get to work on time). 3. Shape the Path for the Elephant and the Rider: lay your clothes out the night before and ask someone in your household to flip on your bedroom light at 4:45 if they don't hear you get up. Or in the case of one individual, invent an alarm clock that when it goes off runs around the floor and you can only turn it off by chasing it down and turning it off (that should wake a person up).

Direct the Rider: be specific, point to destination

Motivate the Elephant: find the feeling or emotion needed to make the change, shrink the change

Shape the Path: tweak the environment, build habits

Obviously I am really paraphrasing here but the bottom line is I found the book to be well-worth reading. It certainly has helped me get to my spin class six days in a row.

Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers is a favorite of mine. I read it once years ago and listened to it twice--I love it. Lord Peter Wimsey continues to be my favorite fictional hero and once again saves Harriet Vane. She can be a bit of a pain but they are suited to one another.

It also doesn't hurt that the entire story takes place at Oxford, you know, my Alma Mater. More about that in a future post.

Garden Open Tomorrow by Beverley Nichols - I love the way Nichols constructs a sentence. I prefer his other books about refurbishing battered English country homes, but his prose is so charming that before I know it I've read several pages about peonies, a flower which will never ever grow in my Arizona garden.

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell is a darling story about a small English village filled with predominately older, single women. You may have seen it on PBS and if you haven't then put this series on your Netflix queue as soon as possible.

And, of course, there is nothing like a little Jane Austen to listen to on the way to work. Sense and Sensibility is always a treat.


  1. I am so impressed with 6 days of spinning. You go girl!!!

  2. I recently finished "Switch" and liked it so much that Chris bought it for his Kindle. Loved some of the examples they use, particularly the highly visual ones (table of gloves; Target buyers' colors) and the 1% milk.