Book Review: Switch

“I’ve got a book you should read.”

It was my first conversation with the lead pastor at my new job. The Head Honcho. The Big Guy. He’d been on sabbatical when I was hired. Had been understandably busy when he returned and I tend to keep my head down in new situations – at least until I get the lay of the land and have sussed out all the players.

But my team had just given a presentation at an all staff meeting. We were laying out changes to the way communications would be handled starting in the new year and what we needed everyone to do to make it successful. Very logical, very detailed and yet somehow there was the sense it was all for naught.

So, as we broke for lunch after the presentation, Jeff came up to me and started talking about how the presentation could have been better. Not in a complaining way or in a critical way, but in what I can only call the way of a True Believer. He started talking about change and how the church needed to change and how staff needed to change and there was this wonderful book he had, only it wasn’t his, it was Sandy’s and I should really track her down and borrow it because it would change my life it had changed his and oooh are those brownies?

So, bowled over by Jeff’s enthusiasm (and my natural tendency to be a suck up) I emailed Sandy and by the end of the day I was holding a copy of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard.

And a few days later I was recommending it to a bunch of other people.

Well … that was a few months ago. I tend to get really enthused about non-fiction books of the “change your life and the world” sort for about three chapters, then I feel like I got the point and move on. A lot of them would make better pamphlets than hard cover books, in my opinion. But I wanted to return the book and it seemed like a good idea to finish it first.

I’ve gotten enthused again. Not as much as the first time, but enough to keep reading. And then enough to start taking notes. And now enough to start recommending it again.

I still have problems with the book. The main one being it falls into a rhythm familiar to anyone who watches TED talks or reads best sellers that blend pop psychology with business and a splash of enlightenment. Thought provoking idea. Simplified description of research that supports idea. Heart-warming/mind-blowing story of idea in action.  How this guy used a display of gloves to save his company millions of dollars. How this gal changed the way cancer patients are cared for. How this small group of inspired teens and one 80-year old woman saved their town. After a while it feels ready made for an Upworthy video.

And then familiarity starts to breed contempt, or at least cynicism. This isn’t a new idea. I’ve heard this before. Where was it? Oprah? An inspirational poster? A fortune cookie? But I am beginning to see that cynicism as a part of being an enneatype six. The “skeptic” part of the Loyal Skeptic. I can listen to what it has to say, but I don’t have to give in to it or let it have the last word.

Those are minor problems. To give you an idea of how minor, I read over 100 pages yesterday and will probably read the rest this weekend. So far I have ten pages of hand-written notes. I can see how we could have made our all staff presentation better and what we will have to do as a follow up to make these changes stick.

Most of those notes are tying what I read to other things I have read or new ideas it has sparked in me. That’s becoming the new standard of a good “change your life/change the world” book: can I incorporate it into other things I am thinking about these days?

I will be referencing this book in future posts, as I twist and turn pieces of it to fit into other things I am thinking about. But let me start with the first thing that really struck me.

Self-control is an exhaustible resource.

Most of what we do in in life is automatic. We know where things are – where we are – and there they need to go, and what we need to do to them to get them there. We use self-control (or self-supervision) when we do something new or hard or something that requires us to be deliberate and careful. It exhausts us – we even have less physical strength and endurance after we have been exerting a lot of self-control [insert vague description of research and heart-warming research here]. This relates to change because change is hard. Things are different and we are different and the goals are different. We are supervising something that used to be automatic. Change wears us out. A lot of times, what looks like laziness is exhaustion.

This struck me so hard I wanted to have it tattooed on my forehead. I have spent so much time in my life berating myself for being lazy – most often after a big change in my life. Someone moves, someone dies, relationships and jobs shift and suddenly it seems I can’t do anything but watch Netflix and endlessly check my social media – even when I want to be doing something else. The idea that I am exhausted – for good reason – seems so kind, so gentle, so forgiving.

The only constant is change. That was the mantra at one of my old jobs. We helped health care organizations through major changes and while we talked about change and ways to make it easier and less painful we rarely said, “This is going to wear you the hell out.” That was almost ten years ago, and it seems we are still changing. And by “we” I mean really everything you name. We talk about the changing family, changes to Facebook and changing societal norms. Every church goer I know is talking about change in the church; some fear it, some insist it happen faster. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on after the State of the Union is that “things” needed to change.

If we are constantly changing, if nothing is where it was yesterday, if the goal posts for being happy or safe or correct are constantly being shifted, what does that say about how exhausted we must be getting?

I am going to try to be more aware of how my self-supervision is doing. I’m recommitting to a mediation practice. I am going to let go things that are TBU. And mostly, I am going to cut myself some slack.

One thought on “Book Review: Switch

  1. Pingback: Sure it’s True, But is it Useful? | Building Ebenezers

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