Most people don’t change a habit with a snap of their fingers. Oh, you’ve noticed that? So have many psychologists. In fact, some psychologists, notably James Prochaska, Carlo DiClemente, and John Norcross, have done extensive research showing that most people change their habits step by step, in predictable stages, over time. The “quick-change artist” is the exception, not the rule.
Still, you may be able to change faster if you have the right guidebook. Using the stages-of-change idea (and taking a little poetic license with it), I’ve created a one-page "book" of successful habit change below. It will be the shortest "book" you've ever read on willpower and habit change--and hopefully the most helpful for its size. Use it for New Year's resolutions--or for any time of year.
Preface: You are not aware that anything is wrong with your harmful habit. True, there was that one time...but you’d rather not think about that. Your habit and you are a happy couple.
“I can resist everything but temptation.” ~ Oscar Wilde
“How often it is that the angry man rages denial of what his inner self is telling him.” ~ Frank Herbert
Chapter 1: As a result of your habit, you get a figurative or literal kick in the backside. You think about changing.
“We must embrace pain and welcome it as fuel for our journey.” ~ Kenji Miyazawa
“A man too busy to take care of his health is like a mechanic too busy to take care of his tools.” ~ Spanish proverb
Chapter 2: You get a Big Idea. This inspiration could fuel the change you want to see in yourself! This is your personal motivator!
“There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” ~ Victor Hugo
“We generally change ourselves for one of two reasons: inspiration or desperation.” ~ Jim Rohn
Chapter 3: You make the decision to change.
“(Y)ou only need one decisive act of free will to transform the course of your own life.” ~ Jill Ker Conway
“You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage -- pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically -- to say 'no' to other things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger 'yes' burning inside.” ~Stephen Covey
Chapter 4: You make a simple plan or choose a program to guide you as you change.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery
"He who has a why can endure any how." ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Chapter 5: You begin your change.
“To be in hell is to drift, to be in heaven is to steer.” ~ George Bernard Shaw
“Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action.” ~ William James
Chapter 6: You stumble. You lapse into your old ways. You try again. You alter your plan. You find better support. You fall again. You get up again. You keep going.
"He who never makes mistakes never makes anything." ~ English proverb
“To be enlightened is to be without anxiety over imperfection.” ~ Buddhist saying
“Courage is not the absence of despair; it is, rather, the courage to move ahead despite despair.” ~ Rollo May
Chapter 7: Time passes. You hang in there, working on your goal. It’s getting easier. Slowly a new habit, a better habit, takes shape.
“Discipline is remembering what you want.” ~ David Campbell
"Energy and persistence conquer all things." ~ Benjamin Franklin
Chapter 8: Your new way of life has become second nature. You’ve improved your life, your health, or your relationships, probably all three. You did it!
“He who controls others may be powerful, but he who has mastered himself is mightier still.” ~ Lao-tse
“I am, indeed, a king, because I know how to rule myself.” ~ Pietro Aretino
Do you have a quote that has inspired you as you changed your life in some way? Share it in comments!
(c) Meg Selig, 2012
I am the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009), the 232-page version of the one-page book above. For more nuggets on topics of habit change, willpower, and healthy living that are even shorter (!) than the one-page "book," like me on Facebook, and/or follow me on Twitter.
Podcast alert! I was recently the guest on Dr.Tim Pychyl's podcast.You can find the podcast at http://iprocrastinate.libsyn.com/webpage/changepower, or you can subscribe to the iProcrastinate podcast on iTunes. Dr. Pychyl, a fellow PT blogger, is a procrastination expert and interviewer extraordinaire.