Sunday, January 17, 2010


New York Times Square New year celebrations in...Image via Wikipedia
Remember those New Years' Resolutions?

How are you doing with them? The promise to stop smoking at midnight on New Years Eve?

The resolution to exercise every day?

The commitments to walk more, eat less, and clean all that stuff out of the hall closet?

Chances are, not a lot has happened. It's understandable, because the very behaviors we often seem to be the most eager to be rid of are the ones actuallly most diffucult to change. Why is this? Because as bright as we van be about some things, we remain downright stupid about how people change.

If it was as easy as making a resolution and setting a date, then change would be simple and easy. We'd say, here's what I want to change, and have at it. That's how we like to think about change. Every family has a story about Uncle Joe who drank for twenty years and then saw the light. That was that, never touched another drop. Or Aunt Lucille, who ran on Newports and coffee for forty years, then had that cancer scare and never touched either, just like that!

That's how we tend to think about change. And that's part of what makes change difficult. It's a process, not an event. The Uncle Joe and Aunt Lucille stories are impressive, and often true. They are inspiring, but do very little to suggest a model for change. and the reason may be genetic. This link explains more.

No kidding, those pesky genes may well be playing a part in the process of change. It appears, according to some current research, that scientists have linked genetics to difficulty stopping cigarette smoking. It seems that some of us have "easy" genes and some of us have "tough" genes. If you are blessed with easy genes, then guess what? You quit smoking just like Aunt Lucille. If you have "tough" genes, though, quitting is likely not to be a walk in the park. You'll try, fail, have some success, try again, and so forth. Eventually, you'll quit.

I say that with a degree of confidence, because I quit smoking almost three years ago, and I was no Aunt Lucille smoker. I smoked in earnestr for over 40 years. My first serious attempt to stop smoking was in 1977 and I finally made it to non-smoker in 2007. None of this is delivered so that I can pat myself on the back, or eexpect you to. If anything, it indicates that I am a very slow learner with some seriously stubborn genes. But it does say something about a different way of looking at change.
  • We think about change before we change. It took a lot of thinking about being a non-smoker before I was ready to try it, even for a day.
  • Support counts; shame sucks. Having people in your corner who want to see you change is great. You can tell who they are because they always say, I know you can do this.  If they don't, and especially if they talk a lot about what you "should" do and "should" have done, watch out. Especially if the person telling you what you "should have done" is you!
  • Perseverance usually trumps everything else. If you keep trying, you will achieve your goal. It's that simple. It's no coincidence that the greatest fellowships for helping people tto change use the motto "One Day At A Time." That's a way off keeping things very simple: just keep trying to do your best every day.
And if you do, you will change. I promise!
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1 comment:

  1. I too believe in perseverance. I read the book Outliers which is about successful people and the fact that they had determination and continued to work at something over and over. Recovery is like that for me--being determined and working the program every day over and over.