Are you changing for good?
I've been reading the book "Changing For Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward" (Authors James O. Prochaska, PH.D., John C. Norcross, PH.D., and Carlo C. Diclemente, PH.D.). I first heard about it from a colleague who said it would be a good book for me to read to better understand how and why people change. As a coach, that's one of the BIG things I work on with my clients...CHANGE; whether it's changing their habits for greater success, changing their marketing for a clearer message and more business, or changing personally for growth and greater fulfillment.
I hope to enlighten you, as my reading has done for me, and encourage you to not give up too early on your changes. Below I've summarized the six well-defined stages of change as outlined by the authors:
Precontemplation - Precontemplators resist change.
In this stage there is generally no recognition of the problem or intention to change. On the outside, others may see the problem very clearly, but the precontemplator cannot. Often precontemplators don't want to change but rather desire those around them to change instead.
Contemplation - In this stage the problem is recognized, but the contemplator isn't quite ready to move into action.
When in this stage, a person acknowledges they have a problem and begin to think seriously about changing it. They may even have plans for taking action within the next six months, but no actual commitment to do so. When transition begins to occur from this stage of change to the next, a person begins focusing more on the solution vs. the problem and thinking more about the future instead of dwelling on the past.
Preparation - Plans for action are being put in place and being made public.
The person in the preparation phase may appear to be ready for action, but they may still need to convince themselves that taking action is what's best for them. They are often already beginning to make small behavioral changes. Their awareness of the problem is high and they are anticipating the changes and action to come.
Action - Now habits are modified and fears confronted! This stage is the only time a person makes progress for overcoming their problem.
During the action phase of change, "...a person makes the move for which they've been preparing." Action is visible to those around them. Encouragement and support are critical at this stage. This is the busiest stage and takes a great deal of commitment of time and energy. However, this stage does NOT complete the changes.
Maintenance - For change to be permanent, previous gains attained must be combined and lapses or relapses prevented.
The authors are quick to point out that, "change never ends with action...in fact [maintenance] is a critically important continuation that can last from as little as six months to as long as a lifetime. Without a strong commitment to maintenance, there will surely be relapse, usually to the precontemplation or contemplation stage."
Termination - This is the ultimate goal for all changers.
In this stage, the problem is no longer present any temptation or threat. There is complete confidence that lasting change has been made without fear of relapse. The key indicator a person is ready for termination is if they are able to maintain their change without any continuing effort on their part. If so, they are ready to exit the cycle of change and have won over their struggle.
Through their in depth research, the authors are quick to point out that every move from one stage of change to the next represents considerable progress. They note, "If, after years of avoiding a problem, you consciously begin to acknowledge it exists, and think seriously about changing it, the transition from precontemplation to contemplation is no less significant than from preparation to action." Action is certainly important, however, it is not the LAST step in the cycle. The danger here is equating action with change. Remember, there are still two whole stages to completing the change cycle after action takes place. Simply identifying where you are in the various stages of change can greatly improve your chances of taking effective action and making long term change.
Over the years I've worked on some of my own change, sometimes successfully and other times, not so much. At times this has left me, personally, feeling a bit like a failure. What I'm learning, by reading this enlightening book, is that these stages of change take place over a period of time. In order to successfully change, we actually have to go through each stage. I mistakenly thought you recognize a problem, decide to change it, take the action and you're done. I hope you now see, as I do, there is much more to it than that!
Your Guilt-Free Assignment (should you wish to accept it)
Now YOU know that change is a process. If you aren't yet where you want to be now you know it's because you haven't yet gone through each stage. If you're serious about making some changes:
- 1. Identify one change or habit you want to make, that will enhance your life or further your goal, you have yet to accomplish.
- 2. Review the stages of change and identify which stage you are currently in as it relates to making this change. Be honest with yourself.
- 3. In a journal, notebook, or on the computer, write out the previous stages you've already gone through and what you experienced in each. Make not of anything that was particularly helpful to you in progressing to the next stage.
- 4. Look ahead to which stage of change is next for you. Write down your thoughts on that stage and anything that comes to mind that raises your awareness of what's next or helps you move that direction.