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Making resolutions stick

Want lasting change? Building support for it is crucial

By Michael J. Solender
Correspondent

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  • Tips from coaches

    • Queens University professor John L. Bennett says for change to become lasting behavior it must move into the realm of routine and automatic. “Establishing a support network of people who know about the change you want to make is very helpful.”

    • “Look to others who have the skills or strengths in the areas you wish to develop; learn from and emulate them,” says Mary Howerton of Mary Howerton Consulting.

    • It’s all about balance, says Nicole Greer of Vibrant Coaching. “Commitment can easily be overdone. Try small incremental change. Build on small successes.”



For many of us, New Year’s resolutions are as much a part of our annual year-end tradition as popping champagne corks and watching the Times Square ball drop.

Getting them to stick and realizing lasting behavior change is an entirely different matter.

According to coaching experts, you’re more likely to succeed if you fully understand the motivation and reasons behind the desire for change and then adopt techniques that have demonstrated success.

John L. Bennett, 54, is associate professor and director of the executive coaching program at Queens University. Bennett says that personal goal setting at New Year’s is a natural occurrence, part of a cycle.

“People often slow down in reflection and look at what they have accomplished over the year and evaluate how that measured up against what they hoped for,” said Bennett. “Many people look to personal development in terms of shoring up need areas or acquiring new expertise.

“A challenge people struggle with is recognizing they may need to let go of certain behavior in order to achieve new behavior,” Bennett said. “Like a trapeze flyer, they need to let go of one bar before grabbing the other in order to be successful.”

Eliminating complexity

When local entrepreneur and real estate development professional John Culbertson was in the throes of an annual self-assessment 12 years ago, he was frustrated with the complexity in his life. He had a new child on the way and was not satisfied with the time invested in his career and the return he was getting on it.

Upon the recommendation of his brother-in-law, Culbertson, 47 participated in a nationally recognized entrepreneurial coaching program called Strategic Coach. He says it helped him recognize his core strengths and focus on those unique abilities, building his business around them.

“I’m a goal setter,” said Culbertson, managing partner for Cardinal Real Estate Partners LLC. “As an entrepreneur I have to be accountable for what I set out to do. Goal setting is not just an annual occurrence for me but a lifelong process.

“What’s been successful for me is taking away the activities and obstacles that prevent me from being focused on what I really get excited about. For me that’s pioneering, strategizing, promoting and negotiating,” Culbertson said.

Removing clutter from his life also allows him quality family time and time for personal development that is focused on the things that matter most in his life.

Getting unstuck

A recent study by the Journal of Clinical Psychology noted that 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions. Of that number, nearly half (49 percent) report infrequent success.

The study also showed that after losing weight the second most common resolution was getting organized. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and enjoying life to the fullest followed.

Helping others get “unstuck” is what Nicole Greer’s Vibrant Coaching business is all about. The 46-year-old Lake Norman area coach works with people who feel things are “not right” in their lives. Many are frustrated or bored with their routine, lack balance, or are looking for greater fulfillment.

“Ever since childhood, we have wanted ‘do-overs’ in our lives,” said Greer. New Year’s is an invitation for each of us to try another approach. “(For) most people I work with their challenges center around lacking focus, needing balance, wanting to be more productive or seeking greater fulfillment,” Greer said.

“One key element in getting unstuck is moving from the place in our head where we know we need to do something different to internalizing that in our heart and soul,” she said. “This requires an internalization of not just what we need to do, but why.”

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