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Write a Change Agreement
with Yourself

by Dr. Beverly Potter


Good intentions alone are not enough to change behavior.


What is a Self-Contract?

A "self-contract," is a written agreement with yourself stating what you will do. A self-contract is something like a New Year's resolution, but differs in a few notable ways.

New Year's resolutions tend to be global statements like, "I will be more receptive to change," or "I will lose weight and take care of my health."
By comparison, the contract contains a pinpointed statement of what you are going to do, when and where you will do it. "I will ride the exercise bike for ten minutes when I get home from work."
The contract describes the outcome.
New Year's resolutions are rarely stated as contingencies: if I do X, then I'll get Y.
The contract has a term or termination date: "Today I will not smoke during breakfast."
A resolution is open-ended: "I will stop smoking."

How Does it Help?

The contract teaches you that you can do what you decide to do.
You can go without smoking for one day during breakfast. You learn that you can successfully do what you determine. Your self-esteem and confidence in yourself grow.
By comparison, the open-endedness of the resolution sets you up to fail. Most smokers don't stop "cold turkey" which is what the resolution demands. If you go all day and then have one smoke your resolution has failed.
You learn that you can't do what you decide to do. Your self-esteem and confidence in yourself can decline.
Self-Contract Format
I agree to (action) in (what situation) for (how long, how much, to what degree)  When I complete this I will (win you wil give yourself).

Sign and date your contract.

Term of the contract
Make the contract for only as long as you are sure you can stick to it.
Set yourself up to win.
This might be an hour, a day, or a week. For example, the person riding the exercise bike for ten minutes might write a contract to do so for three days. A person cutting down on smoking may make a contract for a single day.
When the contract term ends, you are free to decide if you want to renew it.
Put it in Writing
Write down the agreement with yourself. This promotes commitment.  You may want to have it counter-signed by a friend or family member to boost your commitment even more.


Copyright © 1980, 1993, 1998: Beverly A. Potter, from "Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work", Ronin.  All Rights Reserved. This article man be down loaded for person use.  Any other use requires written permission from docpotter.

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