Resolutions that Stick: Resolving for Real Change in 2008

New Year’s resolutions are a tradition that 40 to 45 percent of U.S. adults will make this year, according to renowned psychologist and author John C. Norcross, Ph.D. Emphasizing self-improvement, most resolutions focus on healthy behaviors including exercise regimens, weight loss, smoking cessation, and curbing alcohol use.

Norcross’ research suggests that 40 to 46 percent of those making resolutions will be successful. Meanwhile, those who attempt to make life changes via New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to do well than “non-resolvers” with the same goals. Norcross offers the following tips for initiating and keeping resolutions:

Realistic, attainable goals – “Vague goals beget vague resolutions. Grandiose goals beget resignation,” he says.

Develop a specific action plan.

Establish genuine confidence – “Confidence, or self-efficacy, as psychologists call it, is a potent predictor of who succeeds in the new year,” he says.

Declare your resolution publicly – “Public commitments are generally more successful than private decisions,” he advises.

Cultivate social support – “The buddy system works! And buddies can be coworkers, family members, friends, or fellow resolvers,” he says.

Track your progress by recording or charting your changed behavior.

Build in a healthy behavior incompatible with your problem – Norcross makes the examples of learning to be assertive, if your resolution is to be less passive, or working on relaxation skills if you want to lower your stress level.

Arrange your environment to help, rather than hinder, you.

Expect occasional slips in your resolutions – He advises that most of us slip in January, but that need not predict a fall. “Pick yourself up and recommit to your resolution after a slip,” he says, adding that one research study showed that 71 percent of successful resolvers said their first slip actually strengthened their efforts.

Think of resolutions as marathons, not 100-yard dashes.

Create a “slip plan” – Norcross recommends preparing for slips that come with social pressures. “Consider, for example, leaving the pressured situation, distracting yourself, and calling a friend, and reminding yourself that a slip, or lapse, need not be a fall, or relapse,” he says.

Avoid getting negative about yourself – “Remember that meaningful change takes time,” Norcross says. “It takes three to six months before a change becomes routine.”

To read more of Norcross’ article, click here.