Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are, and doing things as they ought to be done. – Josh Billings
The Stages of Change: Understanding Your Motivation
People often expect to make changes in their lives quickly. “I’ll go to the gym five times a week,” they say, or “It’s no big deal to cut out sugar.” And then reality hits, the fatigue sets in and the cookies start calling from the cupboards. Whether it’s starting a new exercise program, learning communication skills or a career transition, understanding how change works can help you find and maintain your motivation.
Six Stages of Change
According to University of Rhode Island researchers James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, there are six stages of change: pre-contemplation is the mindset before you even think about making a change; contemplation is the stage in which you start to think about making a change; preparation is the stage during which you start to get ready for a change; action is when you are in the midst of changing; maintenance is remaining consistent with your new behaviors; and relapse (which people tend not to realize is one of the stages of change) is falling back on former behaviors.
To best set yourself up for lasting change, there are several things for which you can plan. Gathering resources and information about the change you want to incur can put you on the path to success. Asking yourself what in your life will need to look different and what are the specific steps you need to reach your goal will help as well. Getting really detailed and breaking your goal into the smallest objectives possible is a great way to ensure being less overwhelmed with the process.
Once you figure out where you are in the stages of change, think about what you might need to transition from one stage to the other. Maybe you’ve been exercising with regularity, but the flu set you back two weeks so your new habit has suffered a setback. How will you get yourself back to your regimen? Taking a step back and an objective assessment of where you are can help you refocus on what you need to budge. It doesn’t have to be a big thing that gets you going, because solid change usually comes from a gradual process.
It is completely normal to lapse into former behaviors. If you notice that you’ve slipped, instead of beating yourself up, consider relapse as an opportunity to examine what helped you succeed and what were your blockades. Coming up with a new plan to address obstacles, whether they are old or new, may give you the adjustment you need to dive back into your new behavior.
Rarely do people make it through changes without support. Look at the people, institutions and environments in which you interact and ask yourself which are helpful and which may be detrimental to you. Setting your sights on positive influences and asking for help will assist you in your new behaviors. No doubt, if you have the bug, you can do it alone; but why struggle when there are likely many people just like you with whom you can share the efforts of the challenge and the celebrations of success?