“What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think, feel and act? If you didn’t, your time would end soon. Could you change when change mattered most?”

This is the question Alan Deutschman poses in Change or Die. Research shows that, even when shown the dire need to change, nine out of ten times, people don’t change. Deutschman illustrates this point with three case studies:

1. Heart patients are unable to make the required lifestyle changes in order to prevent their cardiovascular health from deteriorating even further and eventually causing their deaths;

2. Repeat offenders in the criminal justice system are unable to change their behavior patterns in order to avoid going back to prison;

3. Employees and companies remain trapped in the mold of unsuccessful business practices which they know will put them out of business.

The reason we fail in our attempts to change (ourselves and others) is based in some common misconceptions of how change occurs. We erroneously think that the facts will convince people to change and that people are essentially rational— that they’ll act in their self-interest if they have accurate information. We believe “knowledge is power” and that “the truth will set us free.”

After we try rationally informing and educating people without success, we resort to scare tactics. We like to think that change is motivated by fear and that harsher consequences will force people to change.

Despite its threatening title, Change or Die delivers a passionate message of hope: we actually can change the deep-rooted patterns of how we think, feel and act, as long as we replace our misconceptions about change—our trust in facts, fear and force (the three F’s)—with three new keys to change: Relate, Repeat and Reframe.

1. Relate: form a new, emotional relationship with a person or community that inspires and sustains hope. Find someone or a community who believes you can and will change.

2. Repeat: it takes repetition over time before new patterns of behavior become natural and automatic. The new relation-ship gives you guidance and direction while you practice and drill the new skills and habits required for change.

3. Reframe: during this time of training, the new relationship helps you reframe your thoughts about your situation. Eventually, you see the world so differently that your former perspective now seems foreign.

As a journalist for Fortune magazine and Fast Company, Alan Deutschman learned a lot from interviewing leaders of big companies and public figures such as Bill Gates and Dick Cheney (whom he uses as examples) but he draws just as much from his own life experience. Finally, Deutschman says, think of change as what you do to remain successful and keep growing, not as something you’ll have to do when things go downhill. Instead of Change or Die, learn to Change and Thrive.

Hardcover, 241 pages, $26.95; HarperCollins, 2007