Resolutions: Friends Or Foes?

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There are a couple of days and counting to make your New Year's resolution.

As CBS News Correspondent Jon Frankel explains on Sunday Morning, it's the time of year when the drive for self-improvement reaches it's peak.

"Eighty-million Americans are trying to change their behavior in New Year's resolutions," John Norcross says, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton. "We should pay more attention to it."

Norcross studies why people change, and he says, annually, well over 90 percent of Americans will try to improve something about their life or circumstances.

"Everyone's seeking the opportunity for redemption and then improvement," he says. "It speaks to something deep within each of us."

Change is in the air, and there are plenty of places ready to help.

At one gym, one guy was either a source of inspiration or despair for most.

"Since Sept 22, 1970, I started counting my morning mileage," he says. "I get up at 3:30 in the morning and run. They just had a big party for me at work. I passed the 100,000 mile lifetime running mark yesterday. Honestly."

Just hearing that can make most tired.

At the New York Open Center, a self-improvement mecca for the spiritual and the physical, founder Walter Beebe says, "People are always going to be restless and searching for deeper meaning in their lives."

Tasha Bailey, a visitor to the center, was clearly restless.

"I've tried meditation, I've tried yoga, I exercise or I'm trying to get back into exercise; that also helps," Bailey says.

She was taking a class in aromatherapy, using the scents of herbal oils to soothe her body and soul. She also sniffed out some self-help books in the center's bookstore.

"I think it's becoming more acceptable, too," she says. "People don't look at you like you're mentally unstable. I think the reason why I read it is to help me to handle situations better. Problems and issues that come my way."

Wayne Dyer says the key concept in life is that you don't need to be sick to get better. That's a concept to which Dyer has dedicated his life, and his two-dozen self-improvement books. His 25th book is taking shape on his dining room table in Maui.

His books join 63 million other self-help books bought every year in America, helping improve how you look, eat, think and spend.

Dyer is about to be inducted into the "Books for a Better Life" hall of fame. But that doesn't make him "Mr. Perfect." When he runs on the beach, even he has self-help at hand.

"I very seldom go out and run without a tape in my ear listening to them," he says. "People would often say to me, 'My gosh, you're one of the gurus of this whole field. Why would you be doing this?' Because I'm in a constant state of growth and I think we're moving more and more in that direction in the country and in our lives."

Comedian George Carlin, though, raises one objection.

"If you're looking for self-help, why would you read a book written by somebody else?" Carlin asked at one of his concerts. "That's not self-help. That's help. There's no such thing as self-help. If you did it yourself, you didn't need help. You did it yourself. Try to pay attention to the language we've all agreed on."

There are some things you can't do yourself. Brite-Smile has a full house of mouths with teeth getting a white Christmas. Junior Pence got the $600 treatment from dentist Radford Goto.

"We get the people that are doing the full makeover," Goto says. "They're like, 'After this, I'm going to go for my manicure, pedicure, my dye job, botox.'"

But some would rather watch than undergo a makeover. Oprah has done so many television makeovers that she had a makeover reunion show this month.

If you're not squeamish, you can watch ABC's "Extreme Makeovers."

And one of cable's biggest hits is Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," in which five gay men go to work on a hapless straight man's entire life.

Erik Vidal was at one "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" try-out.

"I'd first like to concentrate in my mind on being a loving compassionate person," Vidal says. "If I looked great on top of that, there's nothing wrong with that."

If nothing else, the show has made Carson Kressler into a star.

"The areas that we teach guys about on our show are all areas that were kind of taboo," Kressler says. "Guys really want to know about what a good wine is or how to make an omelet or, you know, what colors look good on them and how to take care of their skin. But for many years it was like, 'Oh, if I ask somebody about that, people will think I'm, you know, people will think the next thing I'll be doing is looking for a boyfriend on the Internet.'

"They're kind of afraid to ask those questions and we provide the medium to say, 'Hey! It's okay.'"




Singer Cheryl Wheeler has felt the downside to all the good intentions -- self-improvement guilt.

She resolved to write a song with lyrics such as: "I should learn, to meditate and sew and bake and make gazpacho."

Wheeler doesn't particularly want to change, and she has decided that's OK.

"If you look at the people we really admire, the saints like Mother Teresa, I bet she didn't buy any self-improvement videos because, I guess, the first key to self-improvement is stop thinking about yourself," Wheeler says.

Sure enough, some are following Wheeler's way. But others have just given up trying.

At the New York Sports Club, trainer Ken Szekretar sees a large percentage of motivated people lose their drive.

"The statistics nationally show that over half the people that join, especially in January or the time of resolutions, won't stick with it after six months."

But, psychologist John Norcross prefers to see the champagne glass as half-full.

"You just need planning, rewards and persistence," he says. "[A resolution is] a cumulative learning process over the lifespan. My research indicates that the average 'resolver' will take three years to permanently capture their goal, so it really is a lifetime process -- a marathon of sorts and not a 100 yard dash through January."

Norcross says he is going to take up a resolution in the new year.

"I'm going to build on last year's partial success," he says. "I'm going to continue to exercise. This year, I hope [to exercise] three times a week."
  • Rome Neal

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