The Ghost of Resolutions Past: Understand Past Behaviors to Make New Year’s Resolutions That Succeed
Nov 29, 2017 02:35PM
● By RANDY HAMPTON
"Marley was dead … . Old Marley was as dead as a doornail.” And so begins Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey of transformation in the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. In the story, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve: his dead business partner, Marley; the Ghost of Christmas Past; the Ghost of Christmas Present; and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
While the tale of Scrooge was written to help people understand kindness to those less fortunate, it can also offer a clue about how to make positive changes heading into a brand new year. Master Hypnotist Beverly Craddock, of Hawaii Hypnosis Center, in Honolulu, says Scrooge’s ghosts can help make sure that New Year’s resolutions won’t fall flat.
“Making meaningful behavioral change means understanding our past change efforts, understanding our current goals, and knowing what achievement will actually look like in the future,” Beverly explains. “It all starts in the past. Change only occurs if a person can truly understand how they got here in the first place. That means you’ve got to communicate with the Ghost of Resolutions Past.”
Beverly recommends taking time to really consider how the behavior started. She says negative behaviors like smoking, overeating or laziness did not begin as a negative thing, rather they began as socialization, relaxation or coping mechanisms that became habitual over years of repetition.
“Only addressing the habit will leave you with the underlying social or emotional need unaddressed,” she says. “And that generally leads to failure. If smoking started socially, you’ve got to make sure to address social needs to give up the habit.”
The Ghost of Resolutions Past can also help a person understand how they failed to change the behavior in the past. She says that a person trying to quit smoking for the fourth year in a row should probably examine how each of those efforts failed. “If resolution alone has not been sufficient, it’s probably time to develop a new strategy,” she says.
Making achievable resolutions requires taking a hard look at the current elements of life.
“The Ghost of Resolutions Present is about making a plan for what you really can achieve,” Beverly adds. “Waking up hungover in a house full of Twinkies and Marlboros isn’t going to help you accomplish the goal of starting 2018 on a healthier note.”
Analyzing your present situation also allows you to set achievable resolutions. For example, Beverly recommends considering resolutions to walk more, drink more water, or eat a healthy lunch, instead of going for the typical resolution of merely losing weight. By setting an achievable resolution, it becomes more likely that larger goals will be reached over time.
Another key player in behavior change success is the Ghost of Resolutions Yet to Come.
“If you’re going to get your mind on board with a change, it’s critical that you know what that change is going to look like and feel like when achieved,” Beverly says. “The natural tendency of the mind is to focus on our problem. Without some help, the mind will continue to monitor for the negative behavior instead of guiding toward positive actions.”
Beverly says starting a goal without really knowing what success looks like is like planning a vacation without knowing where you want to go.
“You might know that you don’t want to go to Cleveland and you don’t want to go to North Korea,” she adds. “But if you can’t see yourself sitting on the beach in Fiji or laughing with the kids at Disneyland, then you aren’t ever going to get there.”
Several studies have indicated that less than 40 percent of people make New Year’s resolutions and less than 8 percent of people succeed in keeping them for the entire year. Professor John C. Norcross, of University of Scranton, says many people have gotten away from making resolutions because they have been notoriously hard to keep.
“Plan your steps in advance to avoid the things that have kept you from succeeding before,” Beverly concludes. “The calendar showing ‘January’ is rarely enough of a magic boost to help people accomplish a major behavioral change. You’ve got to understand the past behavior, have a plan for your present situation, and know how that is going to look and feel in the future.”
Randy Hampton is a writer, social scientist, hypnotist and blogger living in Honolulu.