Provision #598: New Year’s Resolutions

Laser Provision

What’s the difference between therapy and coaching? The answers are many but here’s a distinction that’s easy to remember: therapy helps people to resolve past hurts while coaching assists people to realize future hopes. Get the difference? Therapy spends more time looking in the rear-view mirror while coaching spends more time looking at the road ahead. That’s why many people choose to hire coaches at this time of year. The New Year is a time for resolutions and coaching can assist you to make those resolutions stick. Sound intriguing? Read on to learn how it works.

LifeTrek Provision


‘Tis the season to set goals for the year ahead. We call them New Year’s Resolutions and most of them are never fully realized. Specifically, 25% of all New Year’s Resolutions get abandoned after one week, 29% after two weeks, 36% after one month, and 54% after six months.

Does that mean we shouldn’t bother to make resolutions? Hardly! Most people make resolutions regarding problems they want to solve. After six months, 46% of those who make resolutions report progress compared to only 4% of those who do not make resolutions. Although it may be harder than it looks, and although it’s seldom a magic cure, life responds to human intentions.

Life responds more effectively when those intentions include the necessary infrastructure. It’s not enough to say, “I want a new job.” or “I want to lose weight.” One must also develop appealing strategies for making it so. They must be appealing because motivation is essential when it comes to making changes and developing new habits. They must be strategies because making changes and developing new habits progress over time. No one can lose all the weight they want to lose, for example, in an instant. Most things, especially things of value, take time.

Understanding this, the media are prone to share many helpful tips at this time of year for people who are making New Year’s Resolutions. The Daily Press, for example, recently included nine tips from local therapists on putting bad habits to rest. Given the distinctions between therapy and coaching, I found it interesting to look at these tips through my lens as a LifeTrek coach. If the coach approach sounds intriguing, then perhaps it’s time for you to give us a call.

1. Make a list. Write down all of the reasons why you want to stop a certain behavior • how it’s hurting you and why getting rid of it will help. Look at that list often.

Coach Approach: Write down how your behaviors are serving you. All behaviors, including destructive behaviors, are designed to meet constructive needs. The more we understand about the needs we are trying to meet, the more open we become to developing and trying alternative strategies.

2. Become more aware. Many habits are hard to break because they are unconscious impulses. Turn them into choices instead: Make a written or mental note every time you do something unwanted such as biting your nails or yelling at your kids.

Coach Approach: Make every moment a conscious moment through mindfulness and choice. The more conscious we become of the choices we are making to meet our needs, including the choices we affirm and celebrate, the more motivated we become to make even better choices in the future.

3. Substitute other activities. It’s easier to replace a bad habit than stop it. If you lose your temper often, for example, practice deep breathing or go for a walk.

Coach Approach: It’s easier to do what you love than to do what you ought. Doing something because you “should” is a recipe for failure. So imagine your ideal life, make sure it’s something you would enjoy, and arrange to sample that life regularly. The more often you try the good stuff, the more often you’ll go back for more.

4. Break it down. Think of the steps needed to shed a habit and tackle them one at a time. To stay motivated, keep your goals simple and realistic.

Coach Approach: Make sure your first steps, no matter how small, are great steps. Baby steps are for babies; adults need to see a connection between the road ahead and the final destination. The more you connect the dots between point “A” and point “B” the more success you will have.

5. Reward yourself. Before you take on a bad habit, decide what you’ll do to celebrate with every baby step you complete.

Coach Approach: Success, as they say, is its own reward. You risk losing both motivation and integrity when you set up systems of external rewards and punishments. The more pleasure you take in the process of change the more you increase the likelihood of making changes stick.

6. Remove temptations. If you overeat, keep junk food out of your house. If you crave cigarettes with coffee, switch to tea • and avoid smoky bars or friends who light up.

Coach Approach: Design environments that support your best intentions. Nature abhors a vacuum and will-power is not very powerful. So surround yourself with the places, things, systems, technologies, and conveniences that will make it easier to be successful. The more you focus on what you want, rather than on what you don’t want, the more possibilities you will see.

7. Be patient. Bad habits develop over years, so you likely won’t be able to ditch them immediately. The average smoker, in fact, tries to quit about seven times before being successful.

Coach Approach: Miracles can be arranged. Although it’s true that big changes take time, the best changes generate quick wins and immediate gratification. When we see the fruits of our labors in the moment, not just as stepping stones to some desired future state, we build excitement and hope. Did-do generates can-do every time.

8. Find support. Tell family and friends about your goal. If there’s a local or online support group for people with your problem, join it.

Coach Approach: Human resources are yet another environment to be designed. Support groups, while helpful to many, reflect a victim mentality; special interest groups, which focus on things people love to do, encourage a mastery mentality. The more you engage with others who share your interest, the more excited you will be by the process and prospect of change.

9. Get help for addictions. Some habits, particularly substance abuse and smoking, involve a real physical or emotional dependency and may require professional attention.

Coach Approach: Many people break free of addictions and other serious problems, without medical assistance, once they become passionately interested in something new. That’s where coaching starts: with the assumption that mobility is within everyone’s reach. The forward look, made tantalizingly real, has transformational properties. The more we experiment, the more we discover. That’s as true when people work with other professionals as when they work with coaches.

I hope you had as much fun reading those distinctions as I had describing them. There is certainly overlap between coaching and other professions; we do some of what they do and they do some of what we do. But the orientation of coaching is towards the future. That is what we do best! And I hope, in the New Year, that you will find ways to get some coaching for yourself. It really is rewarding, enjoyable, and productive all at the same time.

Coaching Inquiries: How often do you find yourself looking backwards to solve problems? How often do you find yourself looking forwards to seize opportunities? How could you nurture more forward-looking conversations? What changes would you like to break open? Who could be your coach, professional or otherwise?

To reply to this Provision, use our Feedback Form. To talk with us about coaching or consulting services for yourself or your organization, Email Us or use our Contact Form to arrange a complimentary conversation. To learn more about LifeTrek Coaching programs, Click Here.

LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)

Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob..


Great Provision on O Holy Night. I am thankful for your insight.


I’ve never connected O Holy Night to the fact that it’s sung on my birthday • Dec 24 • how wonderful that its meaning is to celebrate the beauty of life to which I will dedicate my entire day! Thanks.


I liked the audio version! I hope you’ll be doing more of these 🙂


Wow, what a treat to hear your voice! Hopefully Christmas blessings will keep you dancing joyously throughout 2009!


It’s Christmas Day and I am away from my family and friends. I am in transition out of active ministry. I am profoundly moved by your message. It has helped me to make this day and those that follow, days of gratitude. I have so much for which to be grateful. Thanks for the reminder. Merry Christmas.  



May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC

President, LifeTrek Coaching Internationalwww.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformationwww.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coachingwww.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a TimeOnline Retailers

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