Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions

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9781451657623: Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions
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“Finally, a self-help book based on solid scientific evidence by psychology’s smartest myth-buster. The science of change has finally arrived, and the you who starts this book won’t be the you who finishes it” (Daniel Gilbert, PhD, Harvard University, bestselling author of Stumbling on Happiness).

CHANGE IS HARD. But not if you know the five-step formula that works whether you’re trying to stop smoking or start recycling. Dr. John C. Norcross, an internationally recognized expert, has studied how people make transformative, permanent changes in their lives. Over the past thirty years, he and his research team have helped thousands of people overcome dozens of behavioral ailments, and now his revolutionary scientific approach to personal improvement is available in this indispensable guide.

Unlike the overwhelming majority of self-help books, the Changeology plan has a documented track record of success. Whether you want to quit overeating or drinking or end depression, debt, or relationship distress, Dr. Norcross gives you the tools you need to change within ninety days. In addition, you can personalize your journey with Check Yourself assessments and helpful tools on the author’s interactive website, ChangeologyBook.com.

Whatever your goal or resolution, Changeology will help you achieve a life filled with greater health and happiness.

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From the Author:

John C. Norcross, PhD, is Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton, Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical College, and a board-certified clinical psychologist in part time practice. He has authored more than 300 publications and edited or co-written twenty-two professional books.

Kristin Loberg has collaborated on a lengthy list of successful books, including three #1 New York Times bestsellers, most recently The End of Illness by David B. Agus, MD.

Jonathon Norcross graduated from St. Joseph’s University, where he studied English and film. He works in the TV and film industry in New York City.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

INTRODUCTION

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.

A LITTLE HISTORY

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.

HOW CHANGEOLOGY DIFFERS FROM OTHER SELF-HELP

At this point you’re probably thinking, “He’s making awfully strong claims!” Or perhaps you’re silently protesting, “The usual oversold promises of self-help books.” Correct on both counts: These are strong claims, and most self-help books do guarantee unrealistic and unproven results. Decades of research validate the methods described in this book: that’s the crucial difference between Changeology and the morass of other self-help books. I deplore the insulting, antiscientific fare of most self-help books. In fact, that’s been a huge motivator for my career as a clinical psychologist, university professor, and researcher focused on studying behavior change. I have devoted decades of my life to determining what works and what doesn’t.

After investigating people’s attempts to realize their goals for 30 years, I have naturally compiled a list of pet peeves about self-help resources. They tend to fail in four ways: they are not based on research; they don’t provide specific, practical strategies; they focus on only one part of the solution; and they don’t tailor advice to the individual reader. Let’s consider each of these in turn with an eye toward how Changeology corrects them.

A staggering 95 percent plus of self-help books present no scientific research that they work as self-help, and some bestsellers even contain advice that is contradicted by available research. If FDA approval were required for the usefulness and safety of self-help books, fewer than 2 percent would be published. Flip through a popular diet book and look for research studies on how much weight loss was achieved for at least one year by people on that particular diet. You’ll find lots of testimonials and “amazing stories” but almost never any hard numbers based on controlled research. Authors’ boasts and client anecdotes don’t constitute, and should not replace, scientific research. Therein lies the first crucial difference between other self-help books and Changeology: the science.

But a self-help book that simply imparted the science would not prove helpful; it would be about as effective, as Sigmund Freud once observed, as offering a dinner menu to a starving person! Though I do have a tendency to use scientific terminology on occasion, and though I’ve written this book to appeal to the most science-averse reader, it will be useful for you to learn a few key terms as you come to appreciate the science behind the magic of self-change. But I will go further and translate that science into an abundance of specific, realistic strategies. I will lead you through the most powerful means of behavior change with armloads of examples and illustrations.

Another problem with most self-help books is their narrow focus on only one part of the change process. Imagine if someone promised to help you do your taxes but gave you advice on how to organize your receipts and nothing else. The rest of the process would remain frustrating and unfinished. Well, that aptly describes most self-help products: they feature a single part of that process: setting a goal, getting inspired, securing hugs, or learning a few behavioral strategies. But the reader winds up like the proverb...

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