Could You Change if Your Life Depended on it?

Statistically, the odds are 9:1 against you. Health care consumes $1.8 trillion dollars, but according to Dr Ray Levey, founder of the Global Medical Forum, "a relatively small percentage of the population consumes the vast majority of the health care budget for diseases that are very well known and by and large behavioral." (Fast Company May 2005) They are sick because of how they choose to live their lives.

The five diseases that consume 80% of the health care dollar: heart, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and depression. Too much smoking, drinking, eating, stress and not enough exercise. 90 percent of coronary bypass patients don't sustain life-prolonging changes in their lifestyles.

You are not hardwired

Scientists used to believe the brain became hardwired early in life and then couldn't change. New research shows that the brain has extraordinary "plasticity" or the ability to reconfigure itself as we continue to learn new things. Want to know more about this? Put the movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?" on your list of movies to rent.

Big changes are easier than small ones

In 1993, Dr. Dean Ornish persuaded Mutual of Omaha to sponsor a trial. 333 patients quit smoking and went on Ornish's vegetarian diet. Three years later, 77% were still living the new lifestyle and had avoided bypass surgery, saving the insurer $30,000 per patient. Need to make a change? Make a big one!

Fear doesn't motivate

While fear will move you in the moment, it doesn't have the lasting drive of a clear vision of a desirable future. Once the fear subsides, it's too easy to fall back into the old rut. With a vision of the future, you can tell if you've arrived or are still short of your goal. It gives you a direction to move toward, not just something to run away from. It's not the "fear of dying" that motivates people, it's a vision of the "joy of living."

Engage Body, Mind and Spirit

Dr. Ornish says: "We also need to bring in the psychological, emotional, and spiritual dimensions [of change] that are so often ignored. Working in Lean Six Sigma, I can tell you the issue isn't using the methods and tools, it's getting the employees to embrace the need to change and figure out how they want to change things. Otherwise, no methodology or tools in the world will work.


The brain doesn't think in facts, it thinks in frames or metaphors. If you think a company should follow the military model, then you will have wars, battles, lieutenants, and jeep drivers. If you think of a company as a "family" then a completely different frame will generate very different behaviors. If you think of business as "sport", you'll get teams, plays, fields, and referees. How can you reframe your way of living and working to create a new map of reality that will create more desirable outcomes?

Pumping Mind

Brain fitness starts declining at age 30, unless you keep learning. Being busy isn't learning; it's just activity. People who live to 85 have a 50:50 chance of becoming senile.

Here's my point: Learn something new every chance you get. Change the frames of your existence, even if you only do it for a day. Turn your metaphors inside out. Try them on. It builds mental flexibility. Take a different route to work. If you learn to change more easily and effortlessly, you'll find life's little surprises so much easier to take.

If you don't like your work life, think about the metaphor you've chosen for it (e.g., working on a slave gang) and test drive a new metaphor (e.g., becoming a master craftsman). If you don't like your home life, think about that metaphor (e.g., the old "ball and chain") and change it (e.g., the old "helium balloon").

Instead of running from a fear, create a vision of what you want. Run towards it. Master the art of change. It's easier to be flexible than it is to stay brittle. But it's up to you. Haven't you waited long enough to start fully exercising your mind?

Sound too hard? Not sure what's getting in your way? It may be a limiting belief. Check out Chapter 9 of Motivate Everyone, The Power of Beliefs.

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