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How to make your New Year's resolutions real for 2012

Most of us hope (secretly!) that change will happen magically and we won't have to take responsibility for taking action.

And what New Year’s resolution do you plan to make, and then break, this year?

This is the time of year when newspaper editors all over the country assign reporters to talk to people about their new year’s resolutions. There are invariably two answers – people who have some kind of resolution for the new year – and the others, who contend that they don’t make resolutions because they don’t keep them.

We can change that.

Let’s start with the change of the word “resolution,” which implies a resolve, much like a commitment to marriage.

Fact is, many people aren’t ready for the incredible commitment that marriage takes. So let’s use another word – dating – which implies that you are getting to know someone new, sometime that you just might want to build a relationship with. With this attitude, change becomes less of an event and more of a process.

With the page turned to a fresh new year, we have the opportunity to make changes in our lives. We might wish to become a more patient parent, to eat more vegetables and less French fries, to exercise more, or expand the attitude of gratefulness in our lives. Maybe we desire more quality friendships or want to start a garden – or to gain more relaxation time and reduce hurry and stress.

All changes involve some kind of personal growth. When change is easiest, we simply stretch ourselves to develop a new regular behavior in our lives that brings us more happiness and contentment. When we find change challenging, we wrestle with the idea of what is “good” or “right” for us – the “should” of the conversation within our head – but what our  full self is not yet ready to begin.

When people struggle with making changes – even though they intellectually want something new in their lives – I always refer to Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo DiClemente.

In this book, the trio of authors has elegantly sketched a six-stage process of change. It begins with "pre-contemplation: -- which most of us would call "clueless" -- to the final stage of "termination" -- which most of us would call "success." In the middle, there are the steps of contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.

It's those middle steps that we need to identify. We identify them because we need to know where we fit with them.

Among the first questions that we need to ask is, "Am I really serious about this change?"

Most of us hope (secretly!) that the change will happen magically and we won't have to take responsibility for taking action, including actions that are new and challenging, perhaps even anxiety producing. Other times we may be wishing for change, but the people around us don't want to see us change. Then we need to have a plan to pursue our goal even when other people may not approve, support or understand. Or we may intuitively know that change will involve reaching out for help and that we have a long personal tradition of the do-it-yourself approach.

Good luck in your new year. And good contemplating and good planning as you ponder what changes you would like to make in your life. Take all the time you need to sort out what you really want, and what you are not yet ready to do

And if your change does not go smoothly? Figure out where you stand in the six steps of change and start again.

P.S. Have you been pondering a personal growth change that you would like to make in 2012? Do you want help with it? Write Karen at Lake House Health & Learning Center and she may blog about your question.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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