Kenenth Nowack, Ph.D.


Did you make a New Year’s resolution?

Nearly four out of 10 adults will make one or more resolutions for the new year, according to a study done by the University of Scranton (Norcross, J., Mrykalo, S., & Blagys, M. (2002). Auld Lang Syne: Success predictors, change processes, and self-reported outcomes of New Year’s resolvers and nonresolvers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 397-405).

  • After the first week of carrying out the goal, about 75 percent of people maintain their goal.
  • After week two, nearly 70 percent of people will maintain their goal.
  • After one month, about 64 percent will stick with their resolution.
  • After six months, about 46 percent of people are still on track with their goal.

Rehab is for Quitters

Old habits are indeed very tough to break and relapse seems greatest when we are under stress. Starting new behaviors is indeed more challenging than sustaining them over time. Quitting is indeed something that some of us are pretty consistent in doing well.

According to new research, quitting may actually be better for your health. Psychologist’s Gregory Miller and Carsten Wroshch have found that people who are able to feel comfortable quitting when faced with unattainable goals may actually have better mental and physical health than those who persevere and push themselves to succeed (Miller, G. & Wrosch, C. (2007). You’ve Gotta Know When to Fold ‘Em: Goal Disengagement and Systemic Inflammation in Adolescence. Psychological Science, 18).

This study was based on their previous research which found that those persistent individuals experienced higher levels of an inflammatory protein called C-reactive protein (an indicator of stress) as well as increased cortisol. They also reported lower psychological well-being. On the surface, this might not seem like a big deal but inflammation appears to be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and other stress related conditions.

Contrary to what we might have been taught, it appears that it might be in our best interests to “cut our losses” in the face of unattainable goals and life challenges and actually disengage from the goal to ensure optimum well-being and potentially long-term health. This appears to be true whether we are in unsatisfying long-term relationships, working for leaders who are toxic or targeting a goal that is beyond our skill and ability “set points.”

So, any good things for those who persist? In other research Carsten and colleagues found that in the face of life challenge and disengaging from unattainable goals, those who redefined and set new goals were more likely to be able to buffer the negative emotions associated with failure. Maybe “rebound” relationships and new entrepreneurial goals might actually serve to help us find closure to the past and re-engage us for future journeys (Wrosch, C., Miller, G. E., Scheier, M. F., & Brun de Pontet, S. (2007). Giving up on unattainable goals: Benefits for health? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 251-265).

Want Help to Facilitate Successful Behavior Change in Clients?

Our new book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Dont’ Get it is based on a new three stage individual behavior change model. These stages include:

  1. Enlighten
  2. Encourage
  3. Enable

We have developed over 80 free coaching exercises to help your clients translate awareness from coaching and feedback into deliberate practice. Over time, these new behaviors become automatic requiring less cognitive load (concentration) and rehearsal and greater effectiveness.

Have a look at our book and free exercises to see what might be useful for some of your challenging (and easy) coaching assignments….Be well…..