Let’s cut to the chase here. New Year’s resolutions, which 45 percent of Americans make, are a waste of time. After all, only 8 percent are successful at keeping them. In fact, 25 percent of those who make resolutions don’t even get past the first week. Would you bet your career on those statistics?
Yet, of your clients who make resolutions, 47 percent will make resolutions for self-improvement, 38 percent set resolutions related to their weight, 34 percent resolve to do more to improve their financial situation and 31 percent make it their goal to improve their relationships.
More than 90 percent of these resolvers will fail in their wishes. Year after year we advise our clients to make SMART goals, to break their wishes down into small and manageable steps, to find an accountability buddy or use an app like www.stickk.com, to write down their goals and share them with others in group exercise programs or on apps like www.runkeeper.com. These are empty tools, at least for more than 90 percent of resolvers.
What’s the problem? Do your clients really want to change? Do they have the ability to change? And are they prompted to change at the right time and in the right way? Author B.J. Fogg suggests that behavior is the result of motivation, ability and triggers. In other words, highly motivated clients with high abilities facing an easy task will succeed. Fogg suggests 15 ways behaviors can be changed. For most new behaviors to begin “from now on,” such as most New Year’s resolutions, the behavior must be triggered at the time your client is both motivated and able to engage in the behavior. This likely means, according to his model, that you help build motivation if necessary, build increased self-efficacy and enhance percieved ability by breaking down the steps toward achieving the new behavior, and whoosh, pull the trigger for the new habit.
I’m going to suggest three contemporary cognitive-change, positive-psychology tools that DON’T include making empty resolutions for habit change. Bye-bye New Year’s resolutions. Hello real behavior change.
Radical, big-bang disruption? You bet! Unless you first understand that your clients ARE what they THINK and that their thoughts are energetic MAGNETS that attract what they want, you may erroneously believe that all you have to do is pull a few levers, write down a few goals, ensure your client desires and has the ability to do what he or she resolves to do and your session is complete.
Your clients create everything that shows up in their lives, including a greater than 90 percent failure rate in making New Year’s resolutions. They can make changes immediately by changing their thoughts and negative emotions and focusing on what they positvely want, instead of what they don’t want. This is certainly consistent with Fogg’s behavior change model.
1. Ask your clients about their level of happiness. Ed Diener, Ph.D., suggests several questions to open the discussion:
-Are there controllable things in your life that could be changed to make your life more meaningful and happy? What are the obstacles to change and why haven’t you taken them?
-Do you generally see the bright side of things? Can you develop more positive mental habits, such as being grateful to others for all of the things they do for you?
-Are there people around you who make you feel good about yourself and who make your life more enjoyable? How can you reduce the number of “downers” who might surround you?
2. Help your clients eliminate noxious toxins from their lives. No, this is not a juice cleanse. You wouldn’t let your clients work out in a littered, filthy, obstacle-filled gym would you? Why let them make resolutions in a mind that’s filled with hindrances, impediments and blockades?
Teach your clients about the value of looking for the good, acting as if it’s already there and thinking better thoughts. “I don’t eat properly and never have” can be changed to “I allow myself to eat properly on a regular basis.” Help your client recognize that, for example, toxic friends, processed foods and negative images oppose the Law of Attraction and impinge on self-efficacy. Instead help your clients see the value in introducing high-end vibrancy enhancers such as uplifting music, happy friends, physical exercise and daily gratitude. This “magnet” helps your clients attract the very kinds of things they want and wish for, all for the greatest good. Ask them to imagine this internal magnet working daily.
3. Do you ever discuss meditation and visualization with your clients? The most successful folks I know meditate routinely. Professional athletes I coach practice meditation and visualization during practices, before games and before going up to bat or onto the field. They create a direct access to improve motivation and focus, and report rejuvenated empowerment, stress reduction, synchronicities and success.
Ask if your clients would like to learn a very powerful tool they may have read or heard about. If they give you permission, suggest that they turn off all access to the outside world for about 10 to 15 minutes, sit straight with feet on the floor, take some deep cleansing breaths and simply “be.” They don’t need to “do.” They just need “allow.” Thoughts may enter—teach your clients all they need to do is watch them, not push them out. Simply observe thinking and sensations, and enjoy. These 10 to 15 minutes can become time to power up and really tune into the bigger picture of positive life goals. Seeing achievements as if they are already manifest turbo charges this tool to increase success in lifestyle behavior change. Thinking “I am already grateful for having a healthy body, exercising five times a week, and being in balance with eating, sleeping and thinking in a healthy manner” will help your clients create the abundance for which they are searching. They will no longer be searching and resolving; instead, they will be acting as if they genuinely have accomplished their goals.
Radical? Yes. But so is actually accomplishing resolutions at New Year’s time. Be a source of real behavior change for your clients throughout the year using these techniques from positive psychology, motivational interviewing and cognitive behavior change and reap the rewards with your clients.