REVIEWS

Book Review: Take-Charge Living by Marion Kramer Jacobs, PH.D
Submitted By: Simon Barrett

There are a flood of self help books on the market, for the most part it is almost like some one has written a piece of software that churns them out, same ideas, different buzz words, oh and the chapter order is scrambled! Most of these books have the credibility of an out of date milk carton. Often using outrageous titles like “10 Days To A New You”, or “The 10 Secrets To Free Your Inner Self”. My eyes roll into the back of my head and I want to crawl into a fetal position. The one thing that has always nagged at me is why you always seem to encounter these books in Airport book kiosks. Is this some subliminal message? Flying is mind numbingly boring, so why not read a book in the same vein while traveling.

Yes, Take-Charge Living does indeed contain many of the tried and tested formulas, but with a very unique addition, and one that I have not previously seen in print. What are others going to think about the new you?

This a great question, and one that everyone contemplating a Self 2.0 should give serious consideration to. If you are currently viewed as a social Door Mat chances are that if you become more assertive you may well incur the ire of others. On the other hand if you are overbearing and climb down from the mountain, you may be perceived as having other motives. It is not an easy problem to resolve.

Marion Jacobs suggests that you hold a steady course, you will not be able to please everyone, but what is your goal? To please your associates, friends, family, etc, or to please yourself?

The other aspect that makes Take-Charge Living stand apart from the regular fare is that Dr. Jacobs recognizes that change take time, it is not something that can be achieved overnight, it is something that should be tackled in small easy to bite off pieces. I guess the immortal words “Rome wasn’t built in a day” reflects the sentiment quite well. Change takes time, change will cause controversy, change may even lose you some friends, of course that begs the question, were they really friends to begin with?

Marion Jacobs suggests that the key to change is not to launch into the deep end of the pool, but rather, spend time to evaluate what aspects of your life you are unhappy with. It could be some aspect of your job, or, a personal relationship, maybe even a family member, but you do want to change the circumstances. Spend some time evaluating what it is you want to change. Play scenarios in your head, practice what you wish to say, and contemplate the outcome. The author suggests that change is very much like a theatrical production, in fact she peppers the text with quotes and comments from George Bernard Shaw’s classic play Pygmalion, and its subsequent conversion to Broadway My Fair Lady. Using the analogy of life being a play, the author explains how in ’six acts’ you can move gently from contemplation to completion.

Take-Charge Living is available from Amazon. Marion Jacobs also has an informative web site that gives some further insight.

 

Review for Take-Charge Living
TITLE: Take Charge Living
AUTHOR: Marion Kramer Jacobs
GENRE: Self-Help
RATING: 3 Stars
Take-Charge Living: How to Recast your Role in Life...One Scene At a Time has an interesting message - if you wait to feel "absolutely ready" for change in your life - you might be waiting a very long time. This book basically tells you to "fake it until you make it" which is a premise that we are often told in 12 step groups. I was a little surprised to read this as the author basically argues that by consciously changing something (even if it goes against the grain) your body and your spirit will eventually buy into it and will go with the flow - that the faking will actually become reality. I have mixed opinions about this - on some level, I do agree that it is a good idea to be more open to change - more willing to do something different, on the other hand, I find it incredibly challenging to do this. This book takes a detailed look at why we resist change - and why it is so hard for human beings to actually change. Interestingly enough, the comparisons of life are made against a backdrop of a play - which I thought worked very well to convey the messages. I did enjoy reading this book and it certainly brings another point of view to the subject of change and how to deal with it.

Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life . . . One Scene at a Time by Marion Kramer Jacobs, Ph.D.
Book Review by Susan Haley

Do you think of changing your lifestyle, ingrained habits, or even your personality and how you react to things as beyond your control? Or do you think of it as a choice, either conscious or unconscious? In her book, Take-Charge Living, Dr. Marion Kramer Jacobs tells us “As long as more than one way exists for a person to respond to a situation, the way you actually respond is your choice. Even choosing to do nothing is a choice”. I would like to add to that statement that from the perspective of a layman on the subject that there is also more than one way to teach this premise.

It seems to me the first step in making any decision on a problem of a psychological nature is to recognize that it is you that has the problem. Many folks tend to hole up in the shadows of denial, fear, or assign the blame to others. It’s easier that way. But, once you’ve decided to face an issue and deal with it, a bit of guidance on methods and attitude is invaluable. Yet, many get discouraged with long technical dissertations on physiology and psychology, or repetition in the deluge of books of the self-help genre. Dr. Jacobs has come up with a unique way of presenting it. She approaches it as if life is more like a stage play and you are your own director once you’ve prepared the script.

Take-Charge Living starts out with tips on making the decision to take charge of your life and then helps you to systematically write the script for your play. You’re given tests to analyze your story and possible angles on how to proceed . . . or “prepare for the stage”. Then, you learn how to overcome “stage fright”.

Next, you will start the ‘dress rehearsals’ and it becomes fun and begins to warms your heart with a sense of accomplishment and creativity, a sense of growth. When you bask in the glow of your first opening night, you will be alerted to the possible pit falls of the critics. You are warned that some will want you to fail as your failure may insure their power over you or your life. If you happen to be a timid soul that has never learned to say ‘no’, your successful play may have you taking control over your available time to help others without putting your own goals on the back burner. That will be their loss; it worries them.

Lastly, but more importantly, the confidence you gain with the success of your debut effort will inspire you to attempt another hit performance! But first, you must take a moment to appreciate the accomplishment you’ve given yourself. It quite possibly will be the best gift you ever receive and you gave it to yourself.

I personally want to thank Dr. Marion Kramer Jacobs for her great little book. I’m a writer with a hectic schedule and I find myself now mentally writing little screenplays to help me ‘take charge of my time’. Her book is my guide to a ‘first draft’ so to speak. I always wanted to write a screenplay. “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear . . .” There are many versions of that old saying and I’m not sure who the original credit goes to, Buddha maybe, but it sure applies here. I recommend it to anyone who wants to take responsibility and write their own life choices rather than always taking a back-up role in another’s play.

Susan Haley, Author
RAINY DAY PEOPLE
FIBERS IN THE WEB

**Susan Haley is the published author of two books, several articles on networking, an award-winning poet, contract copy editor and book reviewer for Author Marketing Experts. She is a columnist for “The Florida Writer” the official magazine of the Florida Writers Association, and serves as Facilitator for the Sarasota County Chapter. The audio version of her novel RAINY DAY PEOPLE was awarded runner-up Finalist in the 2008 Indie Excellence National Book Awards. She also contributes a variety of editorials and excerpts of her work to various E-zines, newsletters, and local papers, and is currently working on her second novel, The House is Burning. Susan can be contacted at www.sucarha.com or shaley1112@verizon.net.



Take Charge Living
Written by Our Reviewer
Saturday, 28 February 2009

Change is always difficult. What makes it even more difficult is when there are deep fears that stand in your way. What do you do when these fears plague your life and control your life?

This is the subject of Dr. Marion Kramer Jacobs’ book, Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life…One Scene at a Time. “Dr. Jacobs is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Laguna Beach, California and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at UCLA.” (Jacobs, 2006, 2008) She takes the reader step-by-step through the process of taking back control of your life. She compares it with the work that Professor Henry Higgins has Eliza Doolittle do in order to change her way of speaking into that of a lady of high society in “Pygmalion, Bernard Shaw’s classic play, and My Fair Lady, the smash Broadway musical.” (p. 1)

It is not possible to change habits that have taken years to form in an instant. It takes hard work and determination. But as the title indicates, it’s comparable to starring in your own play. In Part I, “Star in Your Own Show”, you must decide what it is that needs to be changed. It is here that you learn to not blame your difficulties on others, but figure out what you can do to change yourself. This is where you will write your script or take questionnaires and learn more about what it is that makes you behave the way you do.

Part II is called, “Dress Rehearsals.” Just as an actor needs to go over the script and practice it, so too must someone who needs to put into action the area that they have been analyzing in part I. It is important to be somewhat comfortable in what you are about to endeavor. Perfection is not the goal. Progress is.

Part III is called, “Backstage.” It is where you evaluate what took place in your first “performance” and learn from your mistakes and pat yourself on the back for the accomplishments you made.

This book is excellent for anyone who wants eliminate unwanted behaviors and fears, but has no idea where to start. If you follow the instructions in this book, you will discover that change is good and it is within reach.

Jacobs, Marion K. (2006, 2008). Take-Charge Living. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse
Reviewed byJennifer Barke

Jacobs, Ph.D., Marion Kramer
TAKE-CHARGE LIVING:
How to Recast Your Role in
Life…In Six Acts
iUniverse Editor's Choice (152 pp.)
$15.95 paperback
March 23, 2006
ISBN: 0-595-37260-0


A straightforward, practical toolkit for identifying and overcoming barriers to change.
As clinical psychologist Dr. Jacobs demonstrates in this slim, efficient volume, our minds and bodies often work together to keep us from making changes that would improve our lives. Though the title may turn away some readers, the book's structural concept, acting, is an integral component of the process. Not just a gimmick, this overarching theme helps reinforce the fundamental principles of rehearsing and repetition in working toward change. Jacobs's caring, direct approach will engage even the therapy-averse. She teaches readers how to identify a desired change, to examine the emotional barriers that prevent one from making that change and to devise a practical plan of action for working
toward a goal. Illustrating how the mind and body are deeply and intricately bound, she outlines the four systems that interact to shape how we act and feel: emotions, bodily reactions, thoughts and behavior. Since we can't directly turn on or off the first two, Jacobs advocates focusing on changing the latter two. What distinguishes this book from much self-help hokum is the realistic discussion of the intense negative feelings that often arise from enacting change, and the techniques required for withstanding those feelings and moving forward. As the author explains, it's necessary to take swift action, to forge ahead using a step-by-step plan, gradually diminishing fearful emotions by giving the brain evidence that engaging in the new behavior isn't as dangerous as it had thought. Her methods are grounded in years of experience as a therapist, as shown through the case studies she uses to illustrate steps and challenges encountered in taking charge.
A self-help book that could actually work.


-Kirkus Discoveries
Kirkus Discoveries, VNU US Literary Group, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 646-654-4686 fax 646-654-4706
discoveries@kirkusreviews.com


Reviewed by Simon Barrett in Book Reviews, Reviews,
January 2nd, 2009

There are a flood of self help books on the market, for the most part it is almost like some one has written a piece of software that churns them out, same ideas, different buzz words, oh and the chapter order is scrambled! Most of these books have the credibility of an out of date milk carton. Often using outrageous titles like “10 Days To A New You”, or “The 10 Secrets To Free Your Inner Self”. My eyes roll into the back of my head and I want to crawl into a fetal position. The one thing that has always nagged at me is why you always seem to encounter these books in Airport book kiosks. Is this some subliminal message? Flying is mind numbingly boring, so why not read a book in the same vein while traveling.

Yes Take-Charge Living does indeed contain many of the tried and tested formulas, but with a very unique addition, and one that I have not previously seen in print. What are others going to think about the new you?

This a great question, and one that everyone contemplating a Self 2.0 should give serious consideration to. If you are currently viewed as a social Door Mat chances are that if you become more assertive you may well incur the ire of others. On the other hand if you are overbearing and climb down from the mountain, you may be perceived as having other motives. It is not an easy problem to resolve.

Marion Jacobs suggests that you hold a steady course, you will not be able to please everyone, but what is your goal? To please your associates, friends, family, etc, or to please yourself?

The other aspect that makes Take-Charge Living stand apart from the regular fare is that Dr. Jacobs recognizes that change take time, it is not something that can be achieved overnight, it is something that should be tackled in small easy to bite off pieces. I guess the immortal words “Rome wasn’t built in a day” reflects the sentiment quite well. Change takes time, change will cause controversy, change may even lose you some friends, of course that begs the question, were they really friends to begin with?

Marion Jacobs suggests that the key to change is not to launch into the deep end of the pool, but rather, spend time to evaluate what aspects of your life you are unhappy with. It could be some aspect of your job, or, a personal relationship, maybe even a family member, but you do want to change the circumstances. Spend some time evaluating what it is you want to change. Play scenarios in your head, practice what you wish to say, and contemplate the outcome. The author suggests that change is very much like a theatrical production, in fact she peppers the text with quotes and comments from George Bernard Shaw’s classic play Pygmalion, and its subsequent conversion to Broadway My Fair Lady. Using the analogy of life being a play, the author explains how in ’six acts’ you can move gently from contemplation to completion.

Take-Charge Living is available from Amazon. Marion Jacobs also has an informative web site that gives some further insight.

Reviewed by LibraryThing, November 5, 2008

Many people live life just coasting along and never really becoming empowered to take charge of their own lives.You may want to make changes in your life large or small and feel that it's just impossible to do it. But the truth is that you are in charge of your own life.In Take Charge Living, Marion Kramer Jacobs,PhD will show you just how you can take charge of your life and make those changes that you desire.


Reviewed by Dr. Tami Brady on TCM Reviews, November 30, 2008

Fake it until you make it. Essentially, that’s the message of Take Charge Living. The author compares the process of change to the transformation of Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion. After a great deal of effort and practice, she becomes a lady.

Often we wait to be ready for making our lives better. We assume that in order to make any difference in our lives we have to feel ready. Somehow we believe that great alterations are going to feel comfortable and fall into place smoothly. Unfortunately, that’s not the way the process works. Behaviour changes first and only once it’s integrated then the new practices become comfortable.

Throughout Take Charge Living, the analogy of being in a play is used. I thought this very perceptive as no one modifies years of learned behaviour and unhealthy habits overnight. It takes time, practice, and learning through the mistakes that we make.



5.0 out of 5 stars Taking control of your life and your "self", November 4, 2008 By Michelle Dunn "Columnist, author, credit expert, marketing guru" on Amazon

Everybody is resistant to change, and making changes is a hard task but Marion Kramer Jacobs shares with us how we can accept and even welcome change in order to be in control of our own lives. She explains how to recast your role in life, one scene at a time, literally. Now is the time to step up and take control of our lives, with all of the turmoil going on in the world, you are the only one that can make your life what you want it to be. Learn how to focus on your expectations about change, confront your fears, deal with the emotions that hinder us when we start to make changes, and set the wheels in motion to make significant changes that will affect our outlook on life, how we live and how successful we can be.
When you read this book you will gain the confidence you need to make positive decisions and to be more assertive in a healthy way that will bring you more joy in your everyday living.

WomensSelfEsteem.com, August 2008:

Are you a self-reliant person?

Can you carry out self-help strategies in the real world?

Is your emotional reasoning being filtered in a positive or a negative way?

Do you suffer from personal change stage fright?

Do you know who you are and what your purpose is?

Take Charge Living is written in order to help you understand and learn how to reason and rationalize your emotions. You will find yourself content and confident with the knowledge this book offers. Which will enable you to embrace all of your natural strength in order to reach your most inner balance and personal powers.

Marion Kramer Jacobs uses very effective analogies which work well in relaying her thoughts to her readers. Her thoughts and ideas help guide you in staying the course needed to reach your personal and emotional change goals.

Womensselfesteem.com highly recommends: Take Charge Living as a well written, clearly defined and accurate book of effective information and guidelines.
Change is but the first step, the key is to be able to maintain a balance once your goal has been reached. In reading this book, you will achieve your personal change goals toward a happier and healthier Self-esteem.



TAKE-CHARGE LIVING How to Recast Your Role in Life . . . In Six Acts by Marion Kramer Jacobs, Ph.D.

iUniverse
2021 Pine Lake Road, Lincoln, NE
www.iuniverse..com
www.take-chargeliving.com
Genre: Nonfiction/Self-Help
ISBN: 0595372600, $15.95, 152 pp, 2006

I receive quite a few self-help books to review and have written one myself, Ladies Are You Lost? Options for Women in Unhealthy Relationships. But, Dr. Jacobs’s book is exceptional and stands out from all the rest. It’s exceptional on many different levels–for its content, for the years of experience Dr. Jacobs shares with us, for its presentation and creative style.

It is well-organized, well-written and designed to be a straightforward, no-nonsense approach to making constructive changes, of any kind, in ones life. Marion writes, and I quote from page 5:

"Without getting technical, Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life .. . . In Six Acts connects provocative findings from brain research with the best of my clinical knowledge. The result is a book that explains the dynamics of how people change and offers you, the reader, an easy-to-follow, carefully mapped out, six-act program for overcoming emotional resistance to change and successfully guiding yourself through the change process.

"Beyond changing any specific pattern of thinking or behavior, the overarching message of this book is that you can change the whole tenor of your life by adopting what I like to call a take-charge living perspective. That perspective says, as long as more than one way to handle a situation exists, the way you go about it as well as how you think, feel, and act is a choice you are making. Because many of our ways have become so habitual, it may not feel like a choice. But it is. . . ."

"Changing can be an exciting journey. I very much hope you will choose to make that journey with me. We only get one life, so please do not squander yours on endless mental dress rehearsals. The time to move forward is now."

Quoting from the rear cover:

"Dr. Jacobs is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Laguna Beach, California and Adjunct Professor of Psychology at UCLA. She was Coordinator of UCLA’s Psychology Clinic for 19 years as well as Co-Director of the California Self-Help Center at UCLA. .. . ."

For anyone looking to make a positive change in their life, I would highly recommend this book.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - July 14, 2006 - Copyright

5.0 out of 5 stars
A COMPREHENSIVE Step-by-Step Guide to Successful Life Changes

March 3, 2008
By Susan M. Velasquez (Laguna Beach, Ca.)
Dr. Jacobs has written an honest, straightforward, and in-depth game plan to facilitate life changes. She has generously shared the keys to creating a rich, rewarding life because she firmly believes that when the make-sense steps that she outlines are followed, success is assured. Instead of magical thinking, this book reveals smart strategies to implement change and in the process, your self-regard and satisfaction quotient will naturally be elevated.


ARTICLES

FASCINATING AUTHORS: Tell us a little bit about your book.

Author: Change is inevitable in our lives. This self-help book unlocks the keys to taking charge and successfully changing a behavior or attitude when doing so will improve your life.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: What inspired you to create a work of non-fiction?

Author: As a clinical psychologist who has helped lots of people change over the years, I knew that with the right information, there are many changes people can make on their own. I love putting that information out there for the public to use.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: What did you do to prepare – such as research – to write your book?

Author: I drew on my years of experience as an educator and clinician, as well as on some fascinating findings from neuroscience research.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: How did you decide which information to present in your book?

Author: It was a logical progression.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: What do you hope people will gain from reading your book?

Author: Two things. One is learning how to change a behavior that is not working for you. The other, a broader goal, is learning how to adopt a “take-charge living” attitude to how you run your whole life.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: How long did it take you to write the book – (was it longer or less time than you expected)?

Author: At least a couple of years. I really don’t recall anymore.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: Did you seek the support of a writer’s group or class?

Author: No.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: What surprised you the most about this process?

Author: The hard work of promoting and publicizing the book.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: What tips would you offer to anyone writing nonfiction for the first time?

Author: Be an expert on what you’re talking about.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: What can we look forward to in your next book?

Author: I’m not sure books are the way to go anymore. Shorter syndicated pieces seem more in tune with today’s public.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you would like to include?

Author: Change is a process. It takes a plan, practice and time. My book offers the roadmap for how to go through that process successfully.

FASCINATING AUTHORS: Thank you for taking the time to be part of this interview!

 

Take Control of Your Life!
Six easy ways to cut stress and feel in charge at work and at home

You know how it is: You’re cruising along, feeling that all is well, when wham! — everything falls apart at once. Your dishwasher breaks, the lawn becomes infested by grubs, work stress gets worse, and your kid needs 50 cupcakes — by tomorrow morning! It’s all too much — you feel like you’ve lost control of your life.

Surprisingly, while we expect to be thrown off balance by the big crises in life (an illness, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship), experts believe it’s more often the steady pileup of smaller annoyances that makes us feel really powerless.

Fortunately, there are ways to put yourself back in the driver’s seat. Here are the top six:

Slow down
Before you can attack a mound of tasks, work on short-circuiting the gut-churning anxiety that sets in when you have an overwhelming amount of things to accomplish.

One great trick: Pay close attention to some detail in your surroundings, such as a leaf on a plant at your office or the pattern on your curtains. “This is a form ofopen-eye meditation,” says Laura Berman Fortgang, author of Living Your Best Life. “It slows down the stress hormones coursing through your veins, and helps you focus and start thinking more clearly.”

Breathe deeply
Long, slow breaths send oxygen throughout your body, which relaxes you and, in turn, helps clear your head. Try one- or two-minute deep-breathing sessions each morning and evening.

Cut back on the coffee
“Caffeine makes you jumpy,” says Fortgang, and that can increase feelings of being out
of control. Keep reducing your intake gradually until you’re down to one cup in the morning.

Break down big jobs
Huge projects can feel utterly paralyzing, notes Marion Kramer Jacobs, Ph.D., author of Take-Charge Living. But cut them up into bite-size tasks and suddenly they seem manageable. In other words, don’t plan on organizing your tax records from the last seven years — just figure out what to do with one folder.

Assert yourself
Say no to doing things you don’t really want to do. Yes, it can be difficult, but paring down your obligations is essential to reclaiming control of your life.

And finally, lighten up. Sing in your car, watch feel-good movies and laugh at the silly things your kids do. Try to shrug it off when things go wrong, suggests Fortgang. The more you make light of life, the less pressure you’re bound to feel.


New Year, New You? Nice Try
By ALEX WILLIAMS, New York Times
Published: December 31, 2008

CHANGE — if only it were as simple as a campaign slogan.

Oprah Winfrey in September, wrote in the January issue of her magazine that she had gained back much of the weight she had lost. Her goal for this year, she said, is to be healthy.

It certainly didn’t prove to be for Oprah Winfrey, who recently demonstrated that change — at least lasting change — is often fleeting at best. A few weeks ago, Ms. Winfrey, who once weighed 237 pounds but famously whittled herself down to 160 four years ago, appeared on the cover of her O magazine, glumly displaying her new, or old, 200-pound girth.

“I didn’t just fall off the wagon,” she wrote in the January issue. “I let the wagon fall on me.”

Ms. Winfrey is hardly alone — nor is she alone in her vow to set off on (another) road to self-improvement in 2009. But if she succeeds she will be one of the few people to make good on what is essentially a New Year’s resolution. “Most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around,” said Alan Deutschman, the former executive director of Unboundary, a firm that counsels corporations on how to navigate change, and the author of “Change or Die,” a book that asserts that even though most people have the ability to change, they rarely do. “It’s exceptionally hard to make life changes,” Mr. Deutschman said, “and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own.”

In a season of change, in a year of change, most people who embark on a journey of self-renewal can expect anything but. Research shows that about 80 percent of people who make resolutions on Jan. 1 fall off the wagon by Valentine’s Day, according to Marti Hope Gonzales, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Minnesota.

Such revelations will hardly come as a surprise to the repeat offenders and recidivists — that is, most of us — who year after year make, and break, the same resolutions.

Take Christie Griffin, 27, a Web editor in New York whose annual January resolve to learn to cook invariably fades by spring. “I’m pretty sure that the guys I meet aren’t intrigued by me when they find out that I survive almost solely on Honey Bunches of Oats,” she wrote in an e-mail message.
Hilary McHone, a photographer who recently moved to car-friendly South Pasadena, Calif., from New York has been unable to make good on her longstanding New Year’s resolution to get a driver’s license. Ms. McHone, 35, said she had been putting it off since botching a driving test as a teenager. “When my niece and nephew were young, I joked that I’d at the very least get my license before they did,” Ms. McHone wrote in an e-mail message. “Well, they’re now 21 and 19 and have had their licenses for several years now.”
“I have another nephew who is 4,” she added. “I am determined to get that license before he turns 16.”

These women may joke about their broken resolutions, but to suggest that most people will never change, no matter how much they want to, seems almost, well, un-American. After all, this is a country born of change (revolution), and our most cherished historical archetypes (the Pilgrims, the pioneers, the rags-to-riches entrepreneurs) are parables of reinvention. Bookstore shelves are swollen with the latest self-help books, and life-change gurus like Anthony Robbins, Dr. Phil and, yes, Oprah are pop-culture icons.

But the numbers tell a different story.
Dr. Edward D. Miller, the dean of the medical faculty at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said more than 70 percent of coronary bypass patients revert to unhealthy habits within two years of their operation. Dr. Dean Ornish, the cardiologist and diet author, frequently cites a conclusion by a panel of nutritional experts convened in 1992 by the National Institutes of Health that two-thirds of dieters gain back any lost weight within a year.

The difficulty of changing may have evolutionary origins, said Marion Kramer Jacobs, a clinical psychologist in Laguna Beach, Calif., and author of “Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life ... One Scene at a Time.” If one believes that human beings are social animals, our hierarchies within families, governments and businesses depend on people who know their roles and perform them dutifully.
“We’re hard-wired not to change quickly,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Think of what chaos would ensue if you could snap your finger and change instantly tomorrow. You would be one person today, someone else tomorrow.”


This excuse might come as cold comfort to Caroline Leavitt, a novelist in Hoboken, N.J. For five straight years, Ms. Leavitt broke her New Year’s resolution to stop biting her nails. “I went to a nail salon and had fake nails put on, I bit those,” she said. “I tried Lee press-on nails, I bit those off. I tried the stuff where you paint on nails, I bit those off. I even tried psychological stuff — ‘If I bite my nails, terrible stuff is going to happen to me, I’m not going to sell my novel.’ Nothing worked.”

In the end, Ms. Leavitt said, she overcame her habit after visiting a hypnotherapist. “The hypnosis didn’t work, either,” she added, “but something he said did: that I would always want to bite my nails, but the key was that I would want pretty nails more. He was right. I still want to chew my nails to the nubs, but I keep admiring my hands instead.”

Indeed, people like Ms. Leavitt often fail because they rely on the same strategies that have failed in the past, said Karin Schlanger, the director of the Brief Therapy Center at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif., which works with people trying to break destructive behaviors.

But while change may be difficult, Ms. Schlanger and other psychotherapists, addiction counselors and life coaches said, it is not impossible.
Even Mr. Deutschman, who acknowledged the low success rates of most change regimens, said certain strategies were more likely to bring positive results. He boils his conclusions down to four steps.

The first, he said, is to “start with big changes, not small ones,” a strategy likely to yield immediate, noticeable benefits that inspire more positive change.
The second is to act like the kind of person you are trying to become; even if you hit the jogging trail with 30 pounds of flab, think of yourself as the jock you want to be. The third strategy is to “reframe” the situation. Recovering alcoholics, for example, have a higher chance of success if they reframe their sober life as a divorce from a tumultuous love affair with drinking, because they can then look back at their old life as a romantic adventure, rather than a sinkhole of regret. The fourth, and crucial, strategy, he said, is based on the “don’t do it alone” advice that is the bedrock of 12-step programs.

But even these strategies are up against some bleak numbers when it comes to New Year’s resolutions. John C. Norcross, a clinical psychologist at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania who has studied such resolutions, has found that after six months, only about 45 percent of the subjects managed to stick to their pledges.

Still, Dr. Norcross noted, 45 percent is a respectable success rate. “No one would expect one tennis lesson to make one a pro,” he said. Or one gig to make you a rock star. Aaron Agulnek, a lawyer in Sharon, Mass., spent much of 2008 wondering why he failed on his resolution to perform solo at a local open-mic night at least once, as a way to overcome stage fright. “Being in the profession I’m in, I thought that it would make sense to conquer that fear,” said Mr. Agulnek, 30. “I’ll tell you, there’s nothing better for that than standing on stage with your bad
voice and an acoustic guitar.”

He is still grappling with why his resolution failed. “Psychologically, maybe I’m not ready,” Mr. Agulnek concluded.

But that conclusion may have been the problem, Dr. Jacobs said. Many resolutions fail, she said, because people assume they have to be ready for a change before they make it. In reality, she said, “the only thing that convinces the brain that it is O.K. to change is to see it change.” Mr. Agulnek’s mind, in other words, will only conclude that it is safe to perform on stage after it sees him survive the experience.

“Don’t listen to your feelings,” Dr. Jacobs said. “Feelings lie.”
But they also evolve, at least to judge by Oprah Winfrey’s experience. While she is back on the treadmill and off the carbs, Ms. Winfrey is talking about different objectives.

“My goal isn’t to be thin,” she wrote in O. “My goal is for my body to be the weight it can hold — to be strong and healthy and fit, to be itself.” In concluding this, she may have stumbled across a more realistic form of change for 2009: self-acceptance.

A version of this article appeared in print on January 1, 2009, on page E1 of the New York edition.

Be Your Own Mentor | What It Takes To Keep A New Years Resolution ...

December 28, 2008 - Guest column

The Season for Fresh Starts
By DR. MARION JACOBS

Most of us have taken a hit in the current financial crisis. As with other stressful life events—a house destroyed by earthquake or fire, serious illness, death of a loved one, divorce—there are better and worse ways to cope.

We can face the new economic changes kicking and screaming, which of course only aggravates the situation. A much healthier choice is viewing the economic crunch as a challenge to think outside the box and react creatively. Not surprisingly, research shows that people who approach adversity as a challenge fare much better than people who stay focused on how bad things are and how helpless they feel. Sure, sometimes all of us hear inner voices of doubt and worry. That doesn't mean we have to turn up the volume on those voices, or let them control our decisions.

The best way to deal with stressful times is to assess what options you have in your particular situation and take charge of those things that are in your power to control. Obviously, you can't fix the market, or undo the housing crisis, but of the things that are impacting you, what can you do that is constructive?

The American Psychological Association recently put out a tip sheet titled "Managing Your Stress in Tough Economic Times." Here are some highlights. To read the entire tip sheet go to: http://www.apapractice.org/apo/in_the_news/managing_your_ stress.html

Don't overreact with either panic or passivity to bad economic news. Your best decisions come when you stay calm and focused.

Make a detailed plan with your family for reducing expenses. Write it down. Get everyone to commit to following it. Periodically review the plan.

Avoid responding to financial stresses with unhealthy behaviors like drinking, smoking, gambling, overeating, or arguments with your partner. If you need to, seek professional help.

Turn the situation into an opportunity for growth and personal change. Reset your priorities, spend more quality time with friends and family, exercise, get enough rest, think creatively. What are some new ways to manage the situation? What are some new ways to give meaning to your life?

Get help if you need it from professional financial planners, credit counselors, psychotherapists, support groups.

Some final thoughts for coping with unwanted change: Stay in charge of yourself and your decisions. Keep your eye on where you are heading, not on what has passed. Don't let go of your sense of humor. Stay in touch with supportive people. Pat yourself on the back for taking constructive steps forward. Keep a positive attitude. Keep at it. With New Year's just around the corner, you're in the perfect season for fresh starts.

Marion Jacobs, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Laguna Beach and adjunct professor emerita at UCLA, is author of the self-help book and audio CD, "Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life…One Scene At A Time." Her website is www.takechargeliving. com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LagunaWebs.com last changed October 20, 2009