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Resolution Rescue: Overcoming Immunity to Change

Mar 20 2024
8 min read
one on one woman consulting

Break through resistance and achieve lasting change with this effective model that proves old habits can be kicked to the curb with ease.

Change: It’s hard. Especially when it happens to us, comes out of nowhere, or brings on something we weren’t prepared for. But it’s perhaps even harder when we actually want it, can’t get it, and we’re the reason why.

That's the premise behind a new presentation offered by Laura Christoph and Kenly Brozman, the Health and Performance Coaching team at Canyon Ranch Lenox.

“Resolution Rescue” is based on the Immunity to Change Model. We aim to ignite your personal well-being, empower your strengths, and nurture your wisdom. We'll help you craft a powerful wellness vision and turn it into a solid wellness plan with short- and long-term goals, providing support and accountability to you along the way.

And for those of you seeking our assistance after more than one unsuccessful attempt at achieving a goal, provide you with a whole new approach to change.

What is the Immunity to Change Model?

The first basic premise of the Immunity to Change model is that humans have an innate aversion to change, even change we sincerely want. That’s because we also have a built-in psychological immunity to change, a brilliant self-protection system that keeps us safe (not unlike our physical immune system).

But this system isn’t trying to protect us from the change itself, rather from the uncomfortable feelings that change can bring forth in us. In other words, this immunity is kind of like having one foot on the gas pedal and one foot on the brake at the same time – and we're often not even aware we're doing it. Engaging in this work is not for the faint of heart or for anyone in a hurry or looking for a quick fix. But it is for anyone who really wants sustainable change.

The people who are most successful at this method are the ones who understand the three essential aspects of behavior change:

The Gut: Logical reasons aren't enough for sustainable change. Logic speaks to the "ought" and "should" realm of our brains. What we need is a sufficient desire for the change. These visceral, “gut” feelings prepare us to take action in three ways: Either the cost of the status quo has become too high, we experience the hope of seeing a new way forward, and/or we have experienced a deep discrepancy along the way.

Head and Heart: Sustainable behavior change must simultaneously engage thinking and feeling. Learning that it's possible to think and feel safe while pursuing change is the essential challenge you must overcome.

Hand: Change must simultaneously involve your mindset and behavior – success follows from taking intentional action.

How to Use the Immunity to Change Model

Working within this frame of mind, there are four steps to the Immunity to Change process:

  1. Identify an improvement goal.
  2. List all the behaviors that keep you from the goal.
  3. List your competing commitments.
  4. List your big assumptions.

To clearly understand these steps, let’s look at a client example.

Each January for the past few years, Calvin has resolved to go to bed by 10 p.m., but always fails two weeks in.

“I know I need to get at least seven hours of sleep and finish my eating for the day around 7 p.m.,” he says. “But I just can’t seem to get myself to do it. By January 10 each year, I'm back to staying up late again, eating chips in front of the TV at midnight. I don’t know why I can’t just stick to the program!”

Calvin has a classic “resolution mindset.” He tells himself he will stop staying up late, relies on sheer willpower, and as soon as he goes back to an old pattern, he decides the resolution has failed.

Immunity to Change is different. Coaches and clients work together with openness and curiosity to slowly but surely move toward sustainable change. Let's see how Calvin's problem fits into the model.

Step 1: Identify an improvement goal.

Calvin’s improvement goal is to get to bed by 10 each night.

Step 2: List all the behaviors that keep you from the goal.

Calvin can identify several actions he currently takes that are in opposition to his goal, including:

  1. Working late (getting home between 7:30-8 p.m.)
  2. Eating dinner too late and/or late-night snacking
  3. Eating a late dinner in front of TV and binge watching shows (usually cooking shows about food)
  4. Scrolling on his phone in bed
  5. Using the phone as an alarm, so it's always next to him in bed
  6. Opening his laptop and doing more work after dinner
  7. Starting projects around the house after 9 p.m.
  8. Binge watching five to six shows after dinner

Step 3: List your competing commitments.

When Calvin takes a good hard look at these behaviors, he realizes that there are a number of competing commitments he did not consider before:

  1. This is the only time for me
  2. This is the only quiet time I have (everyone else is asleep)
  3. This is the only time I'm uninterrupted
  4. I need my phone in bed in case of an emergency
  5. Binge watching shows helps me relax
  6. Snacking helps me relax
  7. It's the only time I am unstructured/free to do what I want
  8. It's more important to do this or that than sleep

Step 4: List your big assumptions.

Calvin realized at this point that some big assumptions would need to be challenged in order to move from his current behaviors to a 10 p.m. bedtime. His assumptions include:

  1. I can operate on four hours of sleep and I’m fine.
  2. I’ll have no time for me if I go to sleep earlier.
  3. I’ll feel like a robot. All I do is work if I don’t have time for myself. I’ll lose my sense of self.
  4. I’ll be a wimp if I need to sleep seven hours.
  5. I’ll have to sacrifice something and can’t afford to.
  6. I'll be constantly stressed without time to relax.
  7. My stress will overtake me and keep me up all night without my snacks and binge watching.

Based on this information, Calvin and his Canyon Ranch coach decided to design an initial experiment to test his big assumption that “stress will overcome me and keep me up all night without my snacks and binge watching” by implementing a new habit of brushing his teeth and then watching two shows prior to bed. This would challenge his need to watch six shows for stress reduction and reduce the likelihood that he would eat snacks in front of the TV.

After two weeks of experimentation, Calvin was pleasantly surprised. He noted that 12 out of 14 nights he was able to watch two shows without eating a snack and go to bed by 11 p.m., an hour and a half earlier than his typical bedtime.

Although this experiment did not bring Calvin to his optimal 10 p.m. bedtime, it did bring him a lot closer, while helping him gain self-efficacy so that he can become the type of person who goes to bed earlier. This first step may be small, but it's more effective than five years of failed resolutions.

Over six months, Calvin was able to do some additional experiments, such as getting an alarm clock, doing some meditation before bed, stopping work earlier and finding some pockets for more “me-time” throughout the day. By the end of 2023, Calvin was thinking about his next big behavior change to tackle, as sleep was no longer an issue.

With time, attention, and patience, the Immunity to Change Approach can create long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes. Connect with our Canyon Ranch Health and Performance Coaches if you, too, need to overcome your resistance and be rescued from your resolution mindset.

Headshot of Laura Christoph, Director of Health & Performance Coaching at Canyon Ranch Lenox.

About the Expert

Headshot of Laura Christoph, Director of Health & Performance Coaching at Canyon Ranch Lenox.

Laura Christoph

PhD, NBC-HWC, Director of Health & Performance Coaching

As Director of Health & Performance Coaching, Laura's role includes leading a team of Health and Performance Coaches at Canyon Ranch in Tucson and Lenox and providing group and individual coaching to resort guests before, during, and after their stay at Canyon Ranch.

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