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What Is the One Key Factor in Successful Change?

Is it "nature" or "nurture?" Luck? Find out here!

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Key to London, for Charles Lindbergh
Source: Image by Robert Lawton, wikimedia, CC0 Share-Alike 2.5

This blog will reveal the one golden key that absolutely, positively guarantees success or failure with that change you'd like to make.

To find the answer, start by taking this one-question quiz. Finish the sentence with one of the five choices below: "I believe that the determining factor in whether I successfully change my habit or life is _____."

__1. "My genes"

__2. "My upbringing"

__3. "A combination of genes and upbringing"

__4. "Genes, upbringing, and luck"

__5. "Something else: _________________"

There is a long-standing debate over which is more important in shaping human life—"nature" or "nurture." If you checked "My genes," you are on the "nature" side of this debate. If you checked "My upbringing," you are on the "nurture" team. If you checked both, or added in "luck," you probably figured you'd cover as many bases as possible, right?

It's true that genetic inheritance, the way you were raised and your environment in general, the interaction of the two, plus a little bit of bloomin' luck all play a part in habit change success. But none of these are the key factor in successful change.

So the answer is #5, "Something else." But what?

The something else is this: "Your decision to change."

This statement may seem so elementary. But effective change can take place only when you decide you really want to change--you have an aha! moment, and you are willing to make a specific resolution to do it. The resulting vow is your existential choice, propelling you across the line between past and present, the old and the new. The research of psychologist John Norcross shows that people who make a specific resolution to change are 10 times more likely to change than those who want to change but don't make specific resolutions. That's an amazing result! (See this blog for more specifics.)

Of course, you don't need to change all on your own. It's wise to find allies, support groups, and healthy environments, and to set up some automatic systems, like directly depositing part of your paycheck into your savings account or IRA. All these external supports—I call them "changepower"—make it less necessary to rely on your limited store of willpower.

But no matter how much help you decide to get, you are still the CEO of your change. You are the CEO even if you use a treatment program, a class, or a support group. No one can be your watchdog, monitoring you 24/7. If you haven't decided to change, you won't.

You can only change when you overcome your passive acceptance of a harmful habit or life situation and make the active choice to change for your own benefit. You can change by choice. Now that you know the golden key to change success, can you resolve to make the change you truly want to make?

© Meg Selig. All rights reserved.

Note: This blog has been adapted from my book, Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (2009), NY: Routledge. For updates, comments, and humor on the topics of habit change, willpower, and self-change, please like me on facebook or follow me on twitter.

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