The 5 Stages of Change: Keys to Creating Change
Have you ever wanted to make changes or begin a new habit only to give up before you even get started?
Or, told yourself you are lazy or worthless because you were unable to motivate yourself?
When looking at making a change in your life, you are neither lazy nor worthless.
For example, we are all told that we should move our bodies for 30-40 minutes every day. Walking in the morning or after dinner would fulfill this goal. Simple, right?
We all know how difficult this can be.
We know we “should” do something, and yet we stay sitting in front of the television mindlessly watching another boring show or with an electronic device perusing Facebook or playing a game, all the while beating ourselves up about not getting up and walking.
The truth is we simply aren’t ready to make the change.
The stage of change model is a transtheoretical model of change developed by James O. Procheska and Carlo DiClementa in 1977. This model states that there is a process to change that progresses through a series of stages.
Stages of Change
1. Precontemplation – In this stage, you aren’t ready to make any changes and may not even know that there is a problem requiring change.
2. Contemplation – Now, you realize there is a problem, and you may even know how to change, but you are still in the getting ready mode. In the contemplation stage, thoughts are often about the problem, and you are looking at solutions.
3. Preparation – At this moment, you are making plans to make the change. In some cases, you may even be taking small steps in preparation for making this change.
4. Action – Finally, you have implemented the plan you created during the preparation. This stage can last six months or more depending on the change you are working on, but this is the working stage.
5. Maintenance – During the maintenance stage, you’ve built the habit, and have little concern about not sticking with the change.
Let’s see how this would look in real life:
A woman in the pre-contemplation stage would go to the doctor with some minor health complaints. The recommendation is to begin an exercise regiment. This person may or may not be surprised at this information, and they either ignore the suggestion, or they accept the suggestion but do nothing about it.
As time goes on, she finds herself struggling to climb stairs and has less stamina than before. Remembering her doctor’s words, she begins to think about walking as her choice of exercise. However, she creates excuses to keep her from starting to exercise.
One day she spots her old walking shoes and decides that if she is ever going to make the change, she is going to have to prepare. She needs to replace her shoes because they are worn out and then begins making plans for when she will start.
Her thoughts may include the time of day, where she will walk and how she will manage this change in her life. She decides on a schedule that includes 20 minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and she will walk first thing in the morning and has marked in on her calendar.
The night before her scheduled start date, she sets our her clothes and new shoes and sets her alarm to wake up earlier. In the morning, she rises and dresses in the clothing she prepared and ties her shoes on. Closing the door behind her, she heads out into the quiet early morning.
Over the next several months she works up to walking six days per week, gaining energy and building stamina. Looking forward to her walks and has begun to walk in races, even taking up hiking. Her life has become fulfilling.
Of course, the process of making changes or building habits in your life is seldom as straightforward. Speed bumps can and do appear often.
Give yourself some grace and accept that life happens. There is always tomorrow when you can begin again.
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