Celeste Owens
Psychologist

Celeste Owens

A motivational speaker and licensed psychologist with a PhD in counseling psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Change takes time

Q: Why do most people abandon their New Year's resolutions so quickly? How much of a role does goal-setting play in achieving success? What are the most effective resolutions you have made?

If I had a dollar for every time I vowed to change but failed (be it New Year's or some other time), I might not be rich, but I would have a lot of dollars.

Apparently, I am not the only one.

According to John C. Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton who has conducted studies on resolutions, most who resolve to change -- don't. In fact, only 46 percent have fulfilled their resolutions six months after Jan. 1. In one study, 71 percent of participants kept their resolutions for two weeks, 64 percent for a month and 50 percent for three months.

These findings reveal that change isn't easy. Even the most well-intentioned individual with what appears to be a foolproof plan can err.

Prochaska, DiClemente and Norcross (1992) devised a theory to explain this phenomenon. In the Stages of Change Model they outlined steps that occur before one sees lasting change:

1. Pre-contemplation -- "ignorance is bliss," unaware there is a problem.

2. Contemplation -- "sitting on the fence," ambivalent about change.

3. Preparation -- "testing the waters," trying to change.

4. Action -- practicing a behavior for three to six months.

5. Maintenance -- continued commitment to sustain new behavior.

As indicated by this theory, setting goals is fine but more is required. There is a phrase in the hip-hop culture: "Don't just talk about it. Be about it!" Translation: Giving lip service to change is not enough; there also needs to be a shift in one's behavior.

Understand that change takes time and one or two "backslides" doesn't mean it won't happen. It simply indicates that you need to regroup and move forward. As the old saying goes, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." The operative word here being "try."

This year resolve to stay focused. Write yourself a vision statement and revisit it often. Change will come if you don't give up.

By Celeste Owens  |  December 31, 2009; 1:50 AM ET  | Category:  resolutions Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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