New Year’s Resolutions You Can Actually Keep

Every year right around this time, or even a little bit earlier, we take a look at New Year’s Resolutions.(I’ll resolve to write this blog post sooner next year.) Here are a few of our attempts to help you resolve to change your ways in the New Year:

At the end of the day—and at the end of the year—we do what we do because of who we are. Changing that requires behavioral change. The Transtheoretical Model, an integrative, biopsychosocial model to conceptualize the process of intentional behavior change (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transtheoretical_model), describes the five stages of change this way:

  1. Precontemplation (Not Ready)
  2. Contemplation (Getting Ready)
  3. Preparation (Ready)
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance

The very notion of a New Year’s Resolution suggests that we are all in the Action phase of intentional behavioral change. We are not. Most of us are in Precontemplation or Contemplation, which means we’ve got a ways to go before we get to Action and Maintenance. And then there are those stages between Preparation and Action including: Delay, Postponement, Mindful Regret, Mindful Forgetfulness…But you’ve gotta start somewhere! Real behavioral change takes time, energy, and enthusiasm. You have to want to change.

It’s like that great lightbulb joke: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?
None. The light bulb has to want to change. Be the lightbulb. Gandhi is famously misquoted saying, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” {What he really said was  “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.”}

In terms of New Year’s Resolutions, Gandhi might say, “Be the change you wish to see in yourself.” According to the Transtheoretical Model and our history of broken New Year’s Resolutions, it’s not all that easy. But it is possible! A tiger can change its stripes!

  • Take small steps. Make one change at a time. Small goals are easier to achieve and success breeds success.
  • Celebrate small successes.
  • Make positive associations. Connect good thoughts and memories with the change you are trying to make. This will help in the process of “rewiring” your brain.

Our favorite tip for this year’s round of New Year’s Resolutions is: Make It Fun!

Happy New Year!

Photo by Marion Michele on Unsplash.