John C. Norcross is an internationally recognized expert on behavior change, the author of “Changeology” and an undisputed authority on New Year’s resolutions!

Unlike most self-help books, John’s book “Changeology” has a strong scientific foundation and is best suited to those who want to alter negative habits. It springs from three decades of scientific exploration and uses behavior modification tactics  that have worked successfully with tens of thousands of people.

However, that said, before starting, any client should meet these three criteria:

They know you have a problem

They faithfully apply the program’s lessons

They are willing to change

So here is his five-step system for achieving change within 90 days

lasting change

1. Psych: Getting Ready

Establish your goal. Prepare to change.

Be specific. Make your goal positive, not negative.

Increase your awareness of the problem you are addressing. Think through its causes, consequences and cures. Ask yourself three questions:

What led to my particular problem. What maintains it now?

What are the consequences, both desirable and undesirable, of my current behavior?

What are the cures, the paths to my goal?

“Believing in your ability to change and acting on that belief raises the probability that you’ll succeed”

Getting in touch with your emotions is another potent catalyst.

Examine your fear of change and your concept of the most enjoyable future you will gain by transforming your life.

Commit to your personal revolution with 100% dedication.

Talk about your change out loud to yourself: I am going to ________

Create a commitment slogan: “You’ve got this!”

Get around other people who want to improve themselves like you do too.

Think of a mentor (even someone from history) whose behavior can guide you (and imagine what that person would do in your situation).

2. Prep: Planning Before Leaping

Plan how you are going to change. Part of planning is refining your goals and making them manageable through short-term subgoals, so you set yourself up for small wins.

As you attain some of the changes you want to make, success will increase your motivation. Success begets success; the most robust and genuine source of self-efficacy is a success (while failure erodes it).

Display your action plan where you will see it easily and often keep it uppermost in your mind.

Enlist others to support your efforts. Determine whether now is the time to proclaim your intentions to your family and friends.

Become alert to the triggers that set off your negative behavior. This builds self-awareness, a vital change catalyst.

3. Perspire: Taking Action

With your preparation and planning now complete, you begin the actual work of change by upgrading your life.

Rewarding yourself is a change catalyst at this stage. Give yourself a treat, like an evening out, when you do something well or refrain from repeating a bad habit. There is a tight link between celebrating your growth and perpetuating that growth.

Note that when we alter something about ourselves, we increase the likelihood that we will alter other things about ourselves. Congratulate yourself for any successes. Don’t punish yourself if you slip.

Countering (counter-conditioning) is a worthwhile change catalyst at this stage. This involves engaging in behaviors that are the exact opposite. For example: Exercising instead of snacking, diversion or relaxation instead of working through your lunch hour, assertion instead of tolerance, healthy thoughts instead of dwelling on negative, imagery of future instead of your past and acceptance instead of blame.

Control your environment and heed the company you keep. If some people are roadblocks and impede your change progress, avoid them! Supportive relationships are essential at this stage. Stay in close contact with them.

4. Persevere: Managing Slips

To stick to your change path, stay focused even if you suffer an occasional slip.

Avoid high-risk triggers; anything associated with negative behaviors that you are trying to leave behind. For example, to quit drinking, don’t go to the bar to hang out with your co-workers after work.

Remember lasting change is a marathon, not a sprint! Develop a slip plan. Delve into your thoughts, actions and feelings at the time of your slip. Plan for all triggers.  Above all remember: A slip is not a fall.

Often, people feel almost uncontrollable urges to repeat their problem actions. Deal with such urges by taking slow, strong breaths. Engage in an internal dialogue, reminding yourself that you are not a child and need not give in to temptation automatically. Go for a walk. Get in touch with your support team. Discuss your urge to revert to a bad habit or give yourself an unrelated reward, like a massage.

Accept that slips are a normal part of the change process. If you slip, immediately return to your program. Just don’t give into destructive thinking. What counts more than the slip is your valiant response to it. Stay optimistic about your long-term progress.

5. Persist: Maintaining Change

At this stage, persistence and self-efficacy are vital.

If your motivation falters, soldier on regardless.

Don’t take on new challenges, at least for a while, so you can keep making progress toward your immediate goals.

Visualize your successful future. Continue to do the healthy opposite of your damaging behavior.

By this point, you should have a strong sense of confidence in your ability to maintain the changes you have made.

Can you now see how the process of making a change is indeed a process?

Contemplation: You think about fixing a problem you know you have, but you’re not quite ready to change it.

Preparation: You take small steps to fix your problem.

Action: You commit to change and work hard to achieve it.

Maintenance: You incorporate your changes into your permanent routine.

And that those who move through the process of change in this methodical way are more likely to succeed than those who don’t!

Anyone can change if they use the right approach and enlist the right support.

In Summary – The 5 Steps:

1) Psych: Define your goal. Analyze how the problem makes you feel; visualize the changes to your life once you resolve the issue.

2) Plan: Your change program. Establish sub-goals.

3) Preparation: Commence getting rid of negative behaviors. Control your environment to reduce exposure to temptation.

4) Persevere: Even if you suffer an occasional slip.

5) Persist: Establish a healthy lifestyle that works against your problem behaviors

“One of the colossal mistakes people make when trying to change is overestimating the value of motivation while underestimating learnable skills”

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Noel Lyons

Noel Lyons

Noel Lyons is a Masters & Wellcoaches certified Health Coach with 27 years experience in the health & fitness industry. An Ironman, he has also competed for GB (age-group) at 5 World Triathlon Championships.
Noel Lyons


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