Thursday, March 20, 2014

Making Change

As I've shared earlier this month, I am not only blogging as part of the Slice challenge this month but also participating in a nutrition challenge.  Three years ago, writing every day was a change. Now I've got it, it's routine. I know I can do it, I've done it twice. Change is hard, for many different reasons. I've sharing some of my thoughts and learning from Switch: How to Make Change When Change is Hard, a book I loved both personally and professionally.

The research that resonated with me was the finding that "self-control is an exhaustible resource." (Heath & Heath 10). Students and humans run out of self control which is why your students in 7th period are out-of-control or you find yourself mindlessly eating at night.   According to Heath, people vacillate on a continuum between supervised behavior and automaticity which is what makes change so hard because when people try to change things, they’re usually tinkering with behaviors that have become automatic. Making change therefore is exhausting.  Heath also found that the bigger the change, the more  it will sap people’s self-control. Therefore when people make change, they literally are wearing themselves out. People perceive this exhaustion as laziness or attribute to something else.  I don't offer this as a reason to give up, but more so as a reason to be more gentle or forgiving with yourself as you try to make changes In your personal or professional life,  In this age of great educational change, you will feel more exhausted and your colleagues will as well as our students. It pays to be aware of the physiological effects of change.  Our personal resources are finite. So how can we change? 

To truly change behavior, we have to create action triggers. For example, instead of having students write down the homework, have them write down where and when they will do it.  The specificity in the action matters no matter whether you are working out, studying or eating.  As part of my nutrition challenge, we must post on our Facebook group, record our food & water intake daily on My Fitness Pal, and attend a certain number of workouts. I record each step nightly at the same time. That is my specific step, not only the what, but the where. 

I have pages and pages of notes from this book, but I wanted to write about this part tonight, because we are losing a little momentum in week 3 of our nutrition challenge, but we've actually made several changes and should be proud of the work we've done. As should you too, if you are blogging each day and that's not your regular routine, because change is hard.  


  1. I like the idea of students writing down where and when they will do homework. We are struggling in my 5th grade reading group to make home reading (and a parent's initials) a nightly routine. I agree about change being exhausting!

  2. I bought and read this book based on your recommendation, and this is a terrific reminder! (Also, I feel better about completely ditching my white flour rules when I moved to Japan.)

  3. I just learned something from reading this post, Beth. "To truly change behavior, we have to create action triggers." I need to create some action triggers of my own. Something that will help me eradicate my bee-line for chocolate and reach for a healthier snack when I get tired during my afternoon writing sessions.

    Good luck with the rest of your challenges. I'm so impressed you're taking on two at the same time!


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