Posted At: January 7, 2014 9:28 a.m.
by Jacquie McMahon
It’s that time of the year again, when everyone swears to hit the gym at least three times a week, cut down on soda and eliminate all bad habits. Every time January 1 rolls around, people across the world are looking for change. By February 1, most of those people fall back to their couch-potato alter egos. Little do they know the secret to their undiscovered success lies in the bestselling book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. In this book, Chip and Dan Heath address how to make this change stick, despite that craving for an Oreo cookie.
“It’s Your Move!”
The “It’s Your Move!” campaign helped fight childhood obesity in the Tuscaloosa, Ala., area. Led by four undergraduate students and faculty adviser Teri Henley, the public relations initiative urged children to make healthier lifestyle choices, specifically emphasizing exercise during the hours of 3-5 p.m.
Setting a specific time period enhanced the success of the campaign, and it was inspired directly by Switch. Henley, who encouraged the “It’s Your Move!” team members to read Switch prior to the campaign planning process, found inspiration for behavior modification campaigns within the book’s suggestions.
“When campaigns try to change everything rather than focusing on the tangible doable, it is overwhelming for the target audience,” Henley said. “If an audience doesn’t get an immediate take-away, they tend to tune the message out.”
“If you want people to change, you don’t ask them to ‘act healthier,'” the book suggests. “You say, ‘Next time you’re in the dairy aisle of the grocery store, reach for a jug of 1% milk instead of whole milk.'”
The book uses case studies and psychological evidence to prove the success of campaigns focused on improving one lifestyle trait, like improving health simply by drinking a different type of milk.
Jessica Melton, current editorial coordinator for Software Advice, worked on the “It’s Your Move!” campaign when she was a student at The University of Alabama.
“Switch gave us a direct purpose,” Melton said. “We knew if we wanted to make a difference among these children, we had to give them something simple, direct and effective.”
The health initiative proved to be challenging, but Switch‘s principles helped the team conquer the national issue.
“It just seems overwhelming to ‘get healthy,’ but when you break it down to a small practical change, it seems easier,” Henley said.
Encouraging movement for two hours each day made the anti-obesity campaign easier for children to understand and act out. The team’s successful strategies earned them an Honorable Mention in the 2012 PRSSA Bateman Case Study Competition, placing in the top 19 schools in the country.
Henley called Switch “inspiring” and commented, “It makes you want to find a cause and use the principles presented to go address it. I highly recommend it to students, educators and professionals.”
The book reveals that to accomplish lasting success, campaigns must appeal to a rational side as well as a much larger emotional side of the brain. This is true for any behavior change, from public relations campaigns to slimming down for a great beach body.
Throughout Switch, the authors reference self-control. Believe it or not, self-control can run out. Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. Dan Heath pointed out that what seems like laziness (e.g., swearing to go to the gym several times a week and quitting after the first month) is exhaustion.
“I have observed professionally and personally that dietary changes may be the most difficult to make,” Henley said.
Anyone who has tried a crash diet or wished for more motivation for gym time would agree. However, Switch provides insight that helps make that change easier and permanent. This way of inspiring change is not only important for industry professionals; Switch can influence personal lives, helping to reduce bad habits or encourage good ones.
“Switch‘s principles are easily translated into everyday life,” Melton said. “I definitely keep them top-of-mind when establishing new goals for myself since reading the book.”
Melton suggested setting simple, doable tasks for self-improvement goals like New Year’s resolutions. She recommended opting for a “healthy routine change” instead of counting calories or pounds, which can often lead to frustration.
The exhaustive aspect of self-control is why it’s important to set realistic goals. For this New Year’s resolution, focus on a change you can accomplish — or focus on reading Switch!