For Impact


The Joy of Living

For Impact Ideas | | Tom Suddes

Given real choices in matters of LIFE or DEATH, scientifically studied odds are 9 to 1 AGAINST CHANGE!

Alan Deutschman expanded a provocative Fast Company cover story (May 2005) into a full-length book called, CHANGE OR DIE.

Deutschman’s conclusion from his two-year project:

    90% of patients with severe heart disease fail to CHANGE their own lifestyles… even after their doctor tells them that they’re in a “CHANGE or DIE” situation!

600,000 people have bypasses every year and 1.3 million heart patients have angioplasties, all at a total cost of around $30 Billion. These procedures are temporary and rarely prevent future attacks or prolong life. However, the patient could avoid the return of pain and the need to repeat the surgery by switching to a healthier lifestyle. However, after two years, 90% of these patients have not changed their lifestyle!

The Health Care industry consumes over $3 Trillion a year in the U.S. alone. (20% of our gross domestic product.) 80% of our health care budget is consumed by five behavioral issues… too much smoking, drinking, eating and stress, and not enough exercise.

This is not about the debate, discourse, disagreement on a Health Care Plan or the roll out of website. The fact is that…

We know the cause of these health problems.
We know the solutions.
Yet, people won’t, don’t CHANGE.

This CHANGE is not always about ‘life or death’. Studies have found that six weeks into the New Year, 80% of people had already broken their New Year resolutions (or can’t even remember them anymore)!

A National Institute for Health study found that 97% of people who lose weight end up gaining it all back within five years!

There is an alternative: CHANGE TO LIVE.


Dr. Dean Ornish, a Professor of Medicine at the University of California in San Francisco and founder of Preventative Medicine Research Institute, has actually figured out a way for heart patients to CHANGE. He says,

“Providing health information is important but not sufficient.
We need to bring in the psychological, emotional and
spiritual dimensions that are so often ignored.”

Ornish’s holistic program actually reverses heart disease without surgery or drugs.

*For what it’s worth, I believe STORIES and NARRATIVES are the best ways to make these emotional appeals FACTS are just FACTS. STORIES change our THINKING and our FRAMEWORK.

A three-year Mutual of Omaha Study found that 77% of Ornish’s patients have stuck with their lifestyle CHANGES and avoided bypass or angioplasties surgery, saving Mutual of Omaha $30,000 per patient (a little over $7M) as well!

Ornish basically re-casts the reasons for CHANGE:


Ornish helps convince people that they can feel better … not just live longer … and enjoy things that make daily life pleasurable.

Stop for a moment and realize how much this applies to everything we do.

It’s about the POSITIVE vs. the NEGATIVE.
And, it’s about our ATTITUDE.

Conventional wisdom says that ‘CRISIS’ is a powerful motivator for CHANGE. Obviously, since severe heart disease or health-related matters are the most serious of personal crisis, that doesn’t seem to motivate.

John Cotter, Harvard Business School Professor, adds this insight:

“Behavior CHANGE happens mostly by speaking to people’s FEELINGS.
In highly successfully CHANGE efforts, people find ways to help others see the problems
or solutions in a way that influence EMOTIONS, not just thought.”

That is sound advise regardless of the area of ‘CHANGE’.

One of the most powerful lessons from Ornish’s work is that RADICAL SWEEPING CHANGES are easier and faster to make … and sustain.

For example, people who make moderate changes in their diet get the worst of both worlds. Deprived and hungry because they aren’t eating what they want, they also aren’t making enough changes to quickly improve how they feel.

Ornish’s tough, radical program sees quick and dramatic results, including actually reporting a 91% decrease in frequency of chest pains in the first month!

This radical CHANGE/transformation thing works with organizations as well. Bain & Company, a management consulting firm, studied 21 companies’ corporate transformations where the means were drastic and the results were almost always quick and tangible … including a 250% on average stock price increase!

My own experience has proven that talking with investors and philanthropists about RADICAL TRANSFORMATION (VISION) is significantly easier, more compelling and generates way more results than talking about ‘survival,’ ‘budget cuts,’ ‘incremental tweaks’ and ‘kaizen.’

of the FUTURE … are the

*‘Survival pitches’ only work for tsunamis and hurricanes (and even that story line is built around people’s future.)