Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Change or Die

I loved Alan Deutschman's article "Change or Die" when it ran in Fast Company, and I love the book he expanded the article into: Change or Die: The Three Keys to Change in Work and in Life.

In 2004, Deutschman attended a conference to explore solutions to the world's biggest problems. A dream of experts who spoke on health care said, "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."

Smoking. Drinking. Eating unhealthily. Stress. Not enough exercise.

And only 1 in 10 given the "change or die" choice changed their behavior.

Deutschman spends the bulk of his book examining the components of successful change. It is possible to change the way you think, feel, and act. Deutschman identifies three motivators that don't work -- fear, facts, and force -- and three that do -- relationships, reframing, and repeating. He uses three major case studies and a number of others to illustrate these principles and describes how individuals and organizations can use these processes to make deep-seated, lasting changes.

In clear, practical language, Deutschman explains important tools for change:
  • Frames
  • Denial and other psychological defenses
  • Short-term wins
  • Community and culture
  • Acting as if
  • Recasting a life story
  • Walk the walk
  • The brain is plastic
  • The solution might be the problem
Giving people hope is far more important than giving them facts, says Deutschman. Then give them the skills they need and help them practice, practice, practice.

Nothing in the book is really groundbreaking (Deutschman himself points out that the patterns for successful change have been known for decades), and I think his model is simplistic at times, but that's part of what I enjoy about the book. Deutschman takes a range of change models and in clear, direct language synthesizes their mutual and most powerful elements in a practical handbook for change. For me, the real strength of Change or Die is that simplicity.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Steve's story

In the September 2008 issue of The Journal of Hypnotism, there's a brilliant article by Stephen Greco in John Weir's column on "Enthusiastic Professionalism."

Steve was 22 years old when he awoke one morning with a tiny blind spot in his right eye that quickly grew until he was 80 percent blind in that eye. The doctors did tests, diagnosed probable multiple sclerosis, and asked if he had any tingling or numbness in his limbs. He became watchful for those symptoms, which soon manifested. Steve had been avoiding further tests, but when is arms became weak, he called the doctor.

"Both arms?" asked the doctor.

"Yes," said Steve.

"It's usually one arm at a time," said the doctor.

Immediately, Steve says, his life changed. He thought, "If he had told me that it was going to be one arm at a time, it would have been." The power of suggestion had done a number on him.

Steve began to systematically dismantle all the negative suggestions he'd been given (and had been giving himself!) and within two weeks, his eyesight returned to normal.

I tell this story to people to illustrate the power of expectation, suggestion, and belief. What we expect tends to be realized.

But often, people respond to this story with disbelief and analysis. "You mean it was all in his head?" As though it were imaginary blindness. As though somehow an illness created by the mind were less measurable by objective standards.

In 1982, in my home town of Monterey Park, California, a few people fell mildly ill at a high school football game and after being questioned by authorities, an announcement was made that no one should drink any soft drinks because of suspected contamination. Immediately, the stands were filled with fainting, retching people. One hundred and ninety-one persons were hospitalized.

There was nothing wrong with the soda. It was a case of "mass hysteria," which does not mean symptoms were imaginary. It means the symptoms were stimulated by mental processes instead of physical ones.

Many people think "in the mind" means "not real." Steve's story makes clear this isn't the case at all. Placebos operate on the same principle. Recovery after taking a placebo doesn't mean the illness was imagined or the recovery was imagined.

I once had a severely sprained ankle just days before I was supposed to drive to Seattle (with a standard transmission). I was desperate to go. I used a hypnotic process and the swelling and discoloration subsided enough that I could drive. (I once had a person look at me skeptically and say, "You'll forgive me if I don't believe you." Sure, dude. No problem. For me.)

Everything starts in the mind. Whatever you're sitting on -- started as an idea. The computer you're typing on. The TV programs you watch, the books you read, the people you interact with -- all a product of thought. Change your mind and change your life!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Is it real, or is it satisfying?

The brain can't tell the difference between a real experience and one that is vividly, fully imagined.

That's right. The brain processes the thoughts identically. Especially in hypnosis, when a person is told they're hearing a sound, the same part of their brain lights up on an fMRI as when they're actually hearing the sound.

In the June 2008 issue of The Journal of Hypnotism, Richarde Harte, FNGH, OB, in his column "The Heart of Hypnosis," writes about how he lost weight by satisfying cravings with hypnosis.

As a pizza aficianado, he had put on some pounds. There was a yummy pizza take-out joint near his office, and after stopping in (too frequently) for a quick and easy lunch, he'd gained a belly more suited to Santa than a hypnotist.

So he began eating a hypno-pizza whenever he got a craving. Dropped himself into a trance, imagined eating a delicious slice of pizza, slowly savoring every bite, amplifying the experience to a high level of satisfaction, and then, when he was done, ate a salad.

He lost weight and didn't deprive himself.

It works with other stuff, too. Smoking, desserts, morning coffee... give it a try! The key is a vivid, fully imagined experience, with lots of sensory details. Take your time. Let me know how it goes.