Myth: Crisis is a powerful impetus for change
Reality: Ninety percent of patients who've had coronary bypasses don't sustain changes in the unhealthy lifestyles that worsen their severe heart disease and greatly threaten their lives.
Myth: Change is motivated by fear
Reality: It's too easy for people to go into denial of the bad things that might happen to them. Compelling, positive visions of the future are a much stronger inspiration for change.
Myth: The facts will set us free
Reality: Our thinking is guided by narratives, not facts. When a fact doesn't fit our conceptual "frames" — the metaphors we use to make sense of the world — we reject it. Also, change is inspired best by emotional appeals rather than factual statements.
Myth: Small, gradual changes are always easier to make and sustain
Reality: Radical, sweeping changes are often easier because they quickly yield benefits.
Myth: We can't change because our brains become "hardwired" early in life
Reality: Our brains have extraordinary "plasticity," meaning that we can continue learning complex new things throughout our lives — assuming we remain truly active and engaged.
A version of this article appeared in the May 2005 issue of Fast Company magazine.