The end of January is right around the corner; if you made a resolution (or two) for the year, how’s that going for you? If you haven’t stuck to it, do you know why?
Before beating yourself up over a perceived failure, or assuming that it’s because you’re too lazy or weak to accomplish anything, it’s important to realize that people often make resolutions but may not have actually gone through the stages of change to create lasting differences. In therapy, one of the things we look for is where a person is in the process of change. Researchers James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente created a model regarding change that involves six necessary steps that indicate the individual’s levels of readiness and commitment. They are:
- Precontemplation – no awareness of a problem or need for change
- Contemplation – willingness to consider the possibility of a problem or need for change
- Determination – making a commitment to action; preparing to change
- Action – putting a plan into action
- Maintenance – firmly establishing the new plan; dealing with relapses toward old behavior
- Termination – old behavior or problems ceases
Let’s say you made a resolution to stop eating sugary snacks after dinner. Perhaps you’ve known for some time that it’s something you’ve wanted to change but on January 1st, you didn’t remove the snacks from your pantry, or consider how you’d handle it when your mother drops off a case of your favorite Girl Scout cookies.
Lasting change is really about creating a new habit. Some experts say that takes 21 days; others say it’s more like 90. Habitual or repetitive action lays down neural pathways in our brains that influence or even govern our future behavior. The good news is, your brain is capable of being reshaped—but only by doing things differently over time.
So, if you fell off the wagon (so to speak) regarding your New Year’s resolution, hop up, dust yourself off, and start again. But this time, have a plan in place and shoot for 21 days consecutively. You’ve got this!