How I Downsized Myself

Dean Ornish made this point too in “Change or Die.” He found that “radical, sweeping, comprehensive changes are often easier for people than small, incremental ones. For example, he says that people who make moderate changes in their diets get the worst of both worlds: They feel deprived and hungry because they aren’t eating everything they want, but they aren’t making big enough changes to quickly see an improvement in how they feel.” Yes, Ornish’s program is radical — but it comes in the form of highly detailed recommendations that are easy to execute.

3. Success breeds success. This may be my least surprising conclusion, but it’s the one I experienced time and again. It’s striking how losing a few pounds generates the enthusiasm to keep going and lose a few more pounds. In part that’s because little victories inspire greater confidence, in part it’s because outsiders begin to notice and offer positive feedback, which creates even more commitment to keep going. When it comes to change, big victories are the results of lots of little wins.

That’s a point HBS change guru John Kotter has made for years, including in the “Change or Die” essay. “It’s always important to identify, achieve, and celebrate some quick, positive results for the vital emotional lifts that they provide,” the article notes. “Harvard’s [John] Kotter believes in the importance of ‘short-term wins’ for companies, meaning ‘victories that nourish faith in the change effort, emotionally reward the hard workers, keep the critics at bay, and build momentum. Without sufficient wins that are visible, timely, unambiguous, and meaningful to others, change efforts invariably run into serious problems.'”

Here’s hoping your change efforts — personal or professional — don’t run into serious problems. And I hope I haven’t taxed your patience by sharing my personal case study in change.


I know, I know. There’s nothing more boring than when bloggers write about their own experiences as a way to make a broader point about life, work, or society. But I hope you’ll indulge me this one time, as I reflect on a small matter of personal improvement and ask what it might say about the bigger challenge of making change in organizations.

Now that Labor Day has come and gone, I can share the results of a project that has engaged me over the spring and summer — losing weight. I have lost 32 pounds over the last 22 weeks. This is a big deal for me, and not just because my new theme song is Bob Dylan‘s “Ballad of a Thin Man.” It’s a big deal because I achieved something I’ve been thinking about for years — getting to the weight I was in college, more than 25 years after I graduated.

As I reflect on what I learned over these last 22 weeks, I keep thinking back to a much-discussed article we published more than five years ago in Fast Company. Called “Change or Die,” it was a bracing reminder of how hard it is for people to make deep-seated changes in their habits, even when they know the price of failure may be death, in the form of a heart attack. Leer más “How I Downsized Myself”