Switch Book Summary

One Paragraph Book Summary Switch tries to answer the question What makes change so hard to accomplish. If you struggle to bring positive change into your life, this book will help you tremendously.

Switch Book Summary

How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
A book by Chip and Dan Heath

Did you try to bring positive change into your life, but failed? Well, who was not in a similar situation before? If you want to understand why we often fail and how to remedy this, read this book. Switch can make it so much easier for your to reach your goals and conquer your self-sabotage.

These are the things I learned by reading the Blinks:

  • Your mind and your heart need to be aligned
  • Allow yourself to fail
  • Value action over knowledge

This post is based on the Blinks I listened to while walking to work. I learn from Blinkist's content each and every day. So if you enjoy this post, you will like their content even more.

Key Ideas

 The rider, elephant, path analogy explains why change can be so hard for us: a rider tries to lead an elephant down a path to the desired destination. The rider is the analytical, rational you. The elephant is your emotional side. The path represents the environment in which the change should be achieved.

The rider might have decided that getting up early in the morning and exercise is good for your health.

But then the next morning, the elephant likes to sleep just a little longer. The elephant is stronger than the rider. The rider will give in and skip the exercise session.

The path in this picture is the warm, cozy bed, which did not help to get the rider to win over the elephant.

The rider can change the environment (the path) to conquer the elephant effortlessly. For example by putting the alarm clock out of reach, so that he is forced to get out of bed to turn the alarm off.

The three components that influence the outcome of your goals are the analytical you, the emotional you, and the environment in which you want to achieve that change.

Implementing change is like riding an elephant: choose a direction, give your elephant some peanuts and stick to an easy path.

Our brain (the rider) is magnificent with analyzing problems, but often it concentrates too much on the problems. Instead of overanalyzing the problems, you should look for what is already working in the environment (the path). Then apply that, which is working, wherever possible.

We all know analysis paralysis. Often we get nothing done because we get stuck in the analysis process instead of taking action. The rider and the elephant might get confused when there are too many options available.

If you want to help the rider, give him clear goals. Instead of telling him to eat more healthy, you better tell him to eat fresh salad for lunch, each and every day.

Also pave the path for the elephant: if you do not buy sweets in the first place, you will not be seduced to eat them, while you’re at home.

Always outline clear steps which will lead to the desired change.

If you want to make it easier for the rider and the elephant alike, paint an attractive picture of the near future. Make sure the image appeals to the rider and the elephant alike. Chip and Dan Heath call this a destination postcard. Other authors speak of having a vision.

Black and white goals are often easier to achieve. Often it is a breeze to follow clear directives. Again, it is better to give yourself the clear direction to never eat ice cream than to allow yourself to enjoy a cone once in a while.

It is easier to steer the elephant in the desired direction with powerful emotions. Look at some advertisements around you to get inspiration. Emotions can be positive like desire, or negative like for example fear. Both can work wonders to get the elephant moving. Other authors, like Tony Robbins, talk about the powers of those emotions in their work as well.

Because the elephant is sensitive to emotions, it is good not to shy him away by trying to make the path too steep. Try to accomplish that big goal, by implementing small changes first. Reaching those small goals, will give hope and allows for more changes. So make the elephant climb a small hill first, before leading him up a big mountain.

Adopt a growth mindset. Allow yourself to fail and learn from your failures. Your brain is like a muscle and needs to be trained. You do this by taking action, even if there is the chance to fail. The trick is to allow yourself to fail. Fail, learn, repeat.

My First Learning: Your mind and your heart need to be aligned

The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently. — Dan and Chip Heath

The analogy about the rider who tries to steer an elephant down a path to the desired destination is very compelling. It clearly shows that there are two powers in us. The one power comes from your brain, the analytical thinking. The other power comes from your heart, the emotions.

If we want to see positive change becoming a reality in our life, we need to align both powers and make sure they pull in the same direction.

One useful tool we can use to align your heart with our mind is to have a clear vision, or destination postcards, how the authors call it. I read and improve my personal vision every day. And it helps me to see where I want to go and how it will feel when I am there.

My Second Learning: Allow yourself to fail

Failing is often the best way to learn, and because of that, early failure is a kind of necessary investment. — Dan and Chip Heath

You find this in a lot of self-improvement books, but it is worth repeating because it is very hard to internalize: allow yourself to fail.

I first read about the concept of allowing yourself to fail, in Cal Newport’s book So Good They Can’t Ignore You. The Heath brothers reinforce the importance of this concept. For me, it has been very helpful because it allows yourself to take action faster and helps in preventing to get stuck in the analysis process. The concept will help you, even more, when you have the tendency to be a perfectionist.

My Third Learning: Value action over knowledge

Knowledge does not change behavior. We have all encountered obese doctors and divorced marriage counselors. — Dan and Chip Heath

You do not become a tightrope walker by reading books; you need to take action and get on the rope.

We probably all know enough about building a side business, but often the first step we take is to buy ten books about business administration.

Certainly, you never can learn enough. But what does the knowledge help, when we never take action and apply it?


If you want to bring change into your life and struggle to do this, the book Switch will help and make it easier for you to get to your destination faster. I would especially recommend the book if you feel there are various powers inside of you, which you find hard to fully align with your goals.

The Heath Brothers have written two other books: Decisive and Made to Stick


  • Do not overanalyze the problems, but look for solutions in your environment that already do work.
  • Do not get stuck in analysis paralysis. Analyze and learn, but then apply what you have learned as soon as possible.
  • Have a destination postcard which is appealing to you from the rational side as well as from the emotional side.
  • Use strong emotions to address your emotional side. Use pleasure and pain to get the elephant moving.
  • Tackle small problems first, before you work on the big problems. Or, try to chop that big goal, into smaller goals.
  • Allow yourself to fail. Ready, fire, aim.

Switch Book Summary—related resources

  Read more about Dan and Chip Heath on their website.

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If you liked reading the Switch Book Summary, you should also read the The Power of Habit Summary.

Posted on CuteMachine in personal growth and self-improvement.

Jo's Profile ImageWritten by Jo who lives and works in Frankfurt building digital doodah. Stalk him on Twitter.

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