We are reaching the end of January, which means we are also 1 month in to 2015. According to the Toronto Star, about 50% of Canadians should still be going strong with their resolutions. As a behaviour change enthusiast, you would think change would come a little easier than to the average person. But whether you are trying to be happier, or sneaking in exercise it clearly is difficult to create lasting change.
Stages of Change
In order to get my second wind for behaviour change, I chose to take a look at the Stages of Change Theory. The Stages of Change theory suggests that everyone is somewhere along this scale of willingness to change, and that depending on where someone is, different strategies should be employed to promote change. People in contemplation are often a good target for social marketing campaigns, and strategies are designed to support them through the rest of the model. Since New Years Resolutions are voluntary, people are long past this stage. So, we should be looking at the action and maintenance stages of change for strategies to keep them.
I think a major issue with New Years Resolutions, is that once people go into relapse, they consider it failed and they give up on their resolution. True behaviour change is not easy, and people often end up cycling through these stages a few times before they see real change. The key to increasing New Years Resolution success is to support yourself in the action and maintenance phase and to have a plan should you fall into relapse.
We have already discussed tips on how to go from action to maintenance (which is commonly defined as over 6 months of behaviour change). Rewarding yourself to stay positive and motivated is also very important in this stage.
How to deal with
One way that you may be able to avoid relapse, is to try using an upper bound goal. The key to this is that when you create a goal, such as exercising for 10 minutes a day, you also create an “upper bound” goal, that you will not exercise more than 15 minutes. This way you are achieving sustainable and constant growth. By starting easy and very gradually increasing the difficulty, you will have slow improvement and you may find that keeping resolutions is a breeze.
When you relapse, and chances are you will, fear not! Create an “if-then” plan and your slip up might not be the worst thing to happen. “If-then” planning allows you to think of challenges that you might face while attempting to change your habits and what you will do when faced with those challenges. Let’s say you are trying to put 20% of each paycheque into a savings account. The “if-then” plan might be something like “If I am unable to save 20% of this weeks paycheque, I will put 25% of next week’s paycheque in my savings account”. The last thing to remember is not to be too hard on yourself, studies have shown those that are too hard on themselves end up doing worse than those who see their slip up as an opportunity to do better moving forward. If you slip up, just accept your mistake and use it to get back on track to do better.
And if all else fails, try this :
I will be your supervisor, and if you don’t do it, at least you will know that money is going to my college fund 🙂
See you next month!
Photo Credit: Dangerously Fit