3 Keys for Keeping Your Resolutions in 2010

I’m not exactly a poster girl for making and keeping resolutions for the New Year.  Here I am trying to write an inspiring column while, once again, beating myself up for not living a more balanced life, exercising more regularly or losing weight.  Luckily I’m a Pollyanna who always believes the answer is out there somewhere so I keep searching for the magic formula.

However today I don’t even want to think about making any resolutions.  Heck I’m still in my pajamas and working on my first coffee. Good thing there are millions who will make resolutions as it is estimated that nearly 80% of all healthcare costs could be reduced or even eliminated if we could figure out how to get people to implement lifestyle changes.

According to Google, our top ten resolutions include: spending more time with family and friends, fitting in more fitness, taming the bulge, quitting smoking, enjoying life more, quitting drinking, getting out of debt, learning something new, and helping others.

Knocking any one of these off our respective lists is sure to add quality to our life but the truth is that changing behavior is a tough gig. Yet, if we can figure out how to change behaviour, chances are we would all be able to implement the changes needed to achieve all of our resolutions.

Conventional thinking is that people change when there is a crisis – but research shows they don’t.  Health care statistics prove that an astounding 9 out of 10 cardiac patients who have had critical and expensive by-pass surgery and know they will die if they don’t change their diets, decrease stress, and increase exercise, are still not able to change.

Feel better now?

In his book, “Change or Die”, Alan Deutschman focused on what he could learn from cardiac patients as well as others in different situations who had been able to change.
 
What he learned is that the secret of those who were able to change their behaviour amounted to three keys. Their path to change began when they were able to identify with, or were inspired in some way by, a person with a similar story. Secondly, they got to practice over and over again thereby learning to think as if they had already changed. And then, having done that, they were able to reframe their experiences.

The first key speaks to the importance of an emotional relationship that inspires and restores your hope. It is not willpower that gets one unstuck, it is a relationship that makes you believe that you can, and are expected, to change.  In essence, the individual imparts a belief that you have the ability to change. Additionally, those involved in this relationship sell you on themselves as your partners, mentors, role models, or source of new knowledge and the specific methods or strategies that they, and now you, need to employ.

If that doesn’t make sense, then just think about any time you’ve changed significantly in the past. Chances are there has been a good teacher, family member, friend, coach or mentor jumpstarting your change by providing guidance, encouragement and direction to show you the way.  For many this means the answer to successfully implementing one’s resolutions may also be found within support groups - virtual or otherwise.  This explains the importance of groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Weight Watchers.  My work these days is similar in that it is focused on supporting a community of practice for aspiring community leaders.
 
The second key is that this new relationship, which is much more about heart and emotion than facts, helps you learn, practice, and master the new skills, knowledge, and attitudes that you need. In essence this speaks to the importance of training to ensure these new behaviours become automatic.
 
The third key is about reframing. Your new relationship helps you learn ways to think about your situation and your life. Ultimately you view the situation in a whole new way that would have been foreign to you before you changed.
 
So, the three keys to change are three new R’s that are well worth learning - relate, repeat, reframe. All in all what this could mean for your resolutions is new hope, new skills, and a new way of thinking about change.

Posted on 12-27-09


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