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‘Changeology’: How to bring your resolutions to fruition

In "Changeology," psychologist John C. Norcross, PhD, helps you define, adhere to and realize your goals and resolutions to effect meaningful change in your life. Here's an excerpt. INTRODUCTION CHANGEOLOGY: What It Is and What It Can Do for YouLet’s begin with the end in mind: think of one, maybe two, things that you’d like to change in yourself, something you really want to modify about your
/ Source: TODAY books

In "Changeology," psychologist John C. Norcross, PhD, helps you define, adhere to and realize your goals and resolutions to effect meaningful change in your life. Here's an excerpt.


CHANGEOLOGY: What It Is and What It Can Do for You

Let’s begin with the end in mind: think of one, maybe two, things that you’d like to change in yourself, something you really want to modify about your behavior. If you’re like most people, it doesn’t take long to come up with something. Perhaps a laundry list of goals and ambitions rushes through your mind, some harder to achieve than others. Maybe a quick smile breaks out on your face when you proudly recall a goal you have recently realized. Perhaps, too, you feel a brief pang of guilt for not trying to change certain things or a fleeting sense of dismay because your previous attempts have proven unsuccessful. All of these complicated feelings are part of the universal constellation of emotions toward change.

Now take a deep breath and consider the following: whether you’re hoping to stop smoking or gambling, commit to exercising more hours a week (maybe run a marathon), eliminate fast food and bike to work, or learn a new skill that will earn you a promotion, following the scientific program outlined in this book can dramatically increase your chance of success—without drugs or other types of formal treatment. This proven program shows you exactly how to execute the steps necessary to change on your own. And best of all: you can experience lasting results within 90 days.

Sound too good to be true? Much in the way Elisabeth Kübler-Ross distinguished stages of grief, my colleagues and I have identified five distinct stages of behavior change. This is hardly an inconsequential finding; these stages, which I’ve simplified to just 5 straightforward steps, reflect three decades of scientific research and millions of dollars in funding. Finally, this well-documented program for successful change is accessible to everyone in this practical book.

From chronic addictions to minor habits, the range of behaviors that we can change is vast but the process of change is the same. In other words, the steps an overweight individual has to take to lose pounds permanently will be the same as those taken by a workaholic seeking to cut back on time spent in the office so he can spend more time with his family. Granted, as each person passes through the steps, he or she will have different goals, but the overall experience will be astonishingly similar.

How do I know this for sure? That’s what part of this book is going to reveal to you; I’ll be detailing what I’ve learned as a clinical psychologist and university professor helping tens of thousands of people—in both research and clinical settings—achieve permanent changes.


I was there at the beginning. Not at the creation of the world, mind you, but at the start of defining one of the most effective and celebrated systems ever for changing human behavior: the Stages of Change. Before I detail exactly how you’ll create successful change in your life, let me take a few moments to introduce myself and provide the backstory. It will help you understand just how different Changeology is from any other program that you might have tried in the past.

It all started in 1980. Jimmy Carter was in the White House, and Dallas was flickering across the nation’s TV screens. I had just moved to Rhode Island to earn my doctorate and to work with Dr. James O. Prochaska on his first National Institutes of Health grant to study self-change—how people modify their behavior without professional treatment. He and one of his recent graduates, Dr. Carlo C. DiClemente, were studying how a thousand people stopped smoking on their own. Little did any of us imagine that those early studies would lead to revolutionary advances in understanding how people change their behavior on their own.

Five years later, I had my clinical psychology PhD in hand and an internship at Brown University Medical School under my belt. I accepted a professorship at the University of Scranton, nestled in the rolling foothills of the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania. I continued my research into self-change and psychotherapy, much of it in collaboration with Jim Prochaska.

In the 1990s, the research got really interesting as research assistants and I conducted three nationally publicized studies that tracked New Year’s resolutions. We learned, scientifically speaking, what predicted some resolvers’ success and others’ failures. Our investigations also looked at change in psychotherapists—the most educated and experienced change agents. How do the experts change themselves?

After the new millennium, my comrades and I conducted another series of studies—a dozen, in fact—to identify the effectiveness of myriad self-help resources. We separated the chaff from the wheat among thousands of self-help books, autobiographies, films, and websites. We managed to determine what kind of self-help resources work and what constitutes ineffective, unscientific pabulum.

Today, there is a staggering number of published studies that have been done on the stages of change—more than two thousand and counting. Our work has added to this undeniably impressive body of research, which has enjoyed the support of $80 million in federal grant funding. Although the early studies concentrated on addictions, such as smoking, drinking, and overeating, over the years they have expanded to include three dozen challenges that millions of people face in daily living, including distressed relationships, anxiety, getting ahead at work, troubling finances, depression, and procrastination.

The program resulting from this research works across a variety of problems, across countries and cultures, and across the spectrum of healing. It’s been used successfully by individuals, couples, families, organizations, and entire health systems worldwide. What’s more, it’s been proven to work whether you’re attempting to change on your own or are armed with a self-help book, assisted by a formal support group, treated by a psychologist, bolstered by medication, or any combination thereof.

Our change system has a documented track record of success. It has guided tens of thousands of research participants and psychotherapy patients to lives filled with greater health and happiness. That same research can now guide you through the labyrinth of self-change to your goal. This revolutionary system has been translated into the step-by-step program explained in this book. In other words, you can reap the same benefits of our research that our patients have experienced—just by reading and following the advice offered in Changeology.

Excerpted from CHANGEOLOGY: 5 STEPS TO REALIZING YOUR GOALS by John C. Norcross, PhD. Copyright (c) 2012 by John C. Norcross, PhD. Reprinted by arrangement with Simon & Schuster.