Does it pass the champagne test?

Making changes can be difficult, even when the changes are good. Getting better grades, exercising regularly, spending more time with your family—the rational knowledge that the change would benefit us often isn’t enough to carry us to our desired result. That’s why so many New Year’s Resolutions start with vigor in January, fall apart in February, and re-appear on the next resolution list the following year. So why is it so hard to create these good changes? Chip and Dan Heath’s Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard sets out to answer that question. And one of their recommendations that stuck with me is to ask the following question about any change you’re trying to make: Does it pass the champagne test?

The champagne test is simple. Is your destination clear enough that when you (or your team, business, organization, etc.) get there, people will know to crack the bottle of champagne and celebrate? I’m sure I don’t need to explain this, but just in case (as this is a blog frequented by readers too young to drink legally), the recommendation has nothing to do with actual champagne (although parents, knock yourselves out!). It’s entirely about identifying a moment when you’ve reached your goal. Is it clear? Will you know?

“Get in better shape this summer” doesn’t pass the champagne test. But, “Run a 10K by the end of the summer” is very clear. You know when you’ve crossed the literal and figurative finish line.

“Get going on college applications?” No clear passing of the champagne test. But, “Finish my college applications before Thanksgiving” certainly does.

“Improve communication for our counseling department” leaves it open to interpretation what “improving communication” actually means. But, “By January 1, hold six all-staff meetings to solicit new ideas” makes it clear when it’s time to celebrate.

It’s far from the only recommendation in the book. In fact, they present an entire system to make any difficult change, personal or professional. But the champagne test is easy to understand and to implement whether or not you’ve read the book. And if you use it successfully, you’ll know exactly when to celebrate.