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The 6 rules of Change

Surely you know someone close or have experienced for yourselve the difficulty of following a diet, quitting smoking or exercise regularly. These are important habit changes that bring great benefit.

The big question is: Can we change? How many people who change a habit manage to maintain it after 2 years? 

The answer: Only 1 in 10 changes and maintains the new behavior after 2 years. People who want OR NEED to change have only a 10% chance of doing so. 

Dr. Edward Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins Hospital, has found that year after year since the mid-1950s 90% of people who undergo coronary artery bypass surgery return to preoperative lifestyle habits (diet, tobacco, alcohol, lack of exercise) even though they know they can die due to it. This doctor could not understand that despite giving them the solution to have a better quality of life and not die, patients did not quit smoking, eating too much, drinking alcohol or lower their level of stress. The results showed that many of them returned to the operating room and many others died. Only 10% of his patients changed. Dr. Miller could not understand how people faced with a real risk of death were not able to change. He didn't understand it because the answer is not in medicine, but in psychology.

Habits are difficult to change because we have formed fixed neural connections and follow them almost without realizing it. Establishing new habits requires time, repetition, effort, and a large dose of motivation.

As we have seen, change is difficult, but very important.  Sometimes our companies can disappear if they don't change. A change in market prices, a new competitor, a new technology or a change in the value of the currency can leave us out of the market. We have a short memory, but 50 years ago the textile sector was an economic force in Glarus, and disappeared. Fifteen years ago construction was the economic engine of Spain, and it sank. And 10 years ago WhatsApp didn't exist and now it's a revolution in communication. Until something better arrives.

As Alvin Tofler (an American writer with a doctorate in Letters, Law and Science) used to say:

"The future will belong to apprentices, because those who believe they know everything are living in a world that no longer exists.

Describe a situation where you tried to change and failed. Describe another one where despite the difficulties you got it. What failed in the first one? What was the key to success in the second one?

The capacity for change is not only a competitive advantage, it is also the basis for survival. Either you change or you die! So the big question is:

Can we increase the chances of change happening to more than 10%? The answer is yes.

The first step: Never use the phrase "Either you change or you die". I used it 10 seconds ago. Doctors, as we have already seen, use it. Don't do it, it doesn't work. Fear is a fantastic motivator in the short term but a disaster in the mid and long term. The reaction we have to fear is to attack or run away... And you don't want your employees to do either.

Let's go back to our heart operated patients.