Book Review: 'Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success'

Looking to forge new personal habits, establish healthier behaviors, or improve your professional performance? Change Anything: The New Science of Personal Success by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, David Maxfield, Ron McMillan, and Al Switzler aims to help you achieve success by making changes in your behaviors and patterns. 

Change Anything is the fourth book from this group of co-authors, whose previous works include Crucial Conversations, Crucial Confrontations, and Influencer. This new work develops some concepts from their previous writing, but includes some new trains of thought as well.

Sources of influence on behavior

The authors take on the myth that determination and willpower are all that are needed to create success or change behavior. They identify six key “sources of influence” that the reader can align to his advantage. These sources of influence are paired into three domains, and include personal motivation and mobility, social motivation and ability, and structural motivation and ability. 

The authors contend that these forces influence every action a person might take, and therefore shape our futures. Understanding these forces, and taking control of their influence over us, is the key to mastering change, according to the authors. 

Techniques for changing behavior

The heart of the book is a lengthy discussion of these interdependent domains of influence. Along the way, readers learn techniques for disarming impulses, creating a positive environment for change, and incentivizing their own behavior. Readers will find themselves nodding along as they recognize these forces at play in their own lives, and may feel relieved by the idea that willpower alone is not enough to create sustainable change.

Action-oriented approach to change

Some readers will appreciate the structure and orderly approach of this book. Thinking in terms of the six sources of influence provides a mechanism for recognizing and understanding the factors that affect judgment, perception and behavior. The book offers clarity and an action-oriented approach that will appeal to readers who are looking for a concrete approach to making changes in their lives.

However, much of what is in the book is common sense and will seem like a lengthy discussion of the obvious, especially to those who’ve read widely in the area of personal change and success. Eliminating negative people and environments from your life, cultivating positive thoughts and feelings, and similar concepts are not new or earthshaking ideas. The canon of literature surrounding personal development and change includes works with much more robust methodologies.

Those who are looking for a concrete approach to making sustainable change will find an interesting model and plenty of concrete advice in the pages of Making Changes. Those who enjoyed the previous works of Patterson et al. enjoy this deeper exploration of the six areas of influence. Readers who are well-versed in change literature, however, may feel like the book is thin on new approaches and actionable content.


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