Editor’s Note: I’m on a two-week trip to Peru! Follow on me on Twitter for updates. I had a little down time after an exhausting surf lesson and wanted to share one of my favorite pieces on change research. – Jason
It’s a new year and many folks are thinking about goals, resolutions, and habits for 2014. I’d like to offer a resource from a great study done by researchers at Dartmouth and Harvard that analyzes 119 stories of either successful or failed attempts at “major and sudden change”.
“Personal Accounts of Successful Versus Failed Attempts at Life Change”
Todd Heatherton (Darthmouth) & Patricia Nichols (Harvard) Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin 1994
Subjects completed the experiment in one mass testing session. Subjects were randomly assigned to write stories either about an incident in which they made a major and sudden change (n = 64) or about their inability to make a major and sudden change (n = 55). The instructions for the story were:
“There are times in our lives when we suddenly change. For example, people suddenly quit smoking, or they suddenly quit their jobs and start new careers, they leave abusive relationships. Please try to recall you if you have experienced such a sudden and dramatic change in any aspect of your life at anytime in your life. If so, please describe this event in as much detail as you can. Describe exactly what happened as well as why it happened. Again, provide as much detail as possible.”
The “no change” people were shown a very similar prompt, except that it asked them to write about a time where they were unable to change and the reasons why they were prevented from making the change. To ensure a level of consistency, two raters independently reviewed all the stories and tagged specific set of standardized tactics/themes .
Some key findings:
Change is more likely when you believe you have control of the situation
Changers reported more control over the specific behavior (78% vs 45%) and greater self-control in general than non-changers (62% vs 40%). Non changers were more likely to mention external barriers, outside forces, and in general report that the change was difficult (64% vs 42%). Continue reading…