Change of any caliber is often difficult, whether good or bad, big or small, diet or fitness, environment or lifestyle. According to the transtheoretical model (TTM) of behavior, there are 5 different stages of change, which you will find below. Understanding each of these stages may help you reach success easier, or ease your adjustment to making and maintaining your desired change. Think about a certain change that you have been working on, go through the list below, and identify which stage you are on.
- Precontemplation. In this stage, you are not even thinking about changing anything. For example, your family and friends all think it is a good idea for you to quit smoking, but you have not really considered it or are not ready. The emotion connected to the change is "hopeless."
- In the Contemplation stage, you have considered making a change, but are still on the fence. An example is someone who is just barely considering quitting smoking cigarettes. You are thinking about the pros and cons about quitting to help you decide whether this is a change you want to commit to. The emotions often felt in this stage include "apprehension," "anxiety," and "ambivalence."
- Preparation. In this stage, you have already considered the pros and cons and have decided to go ahead with your desired change. You are now ready to prepare whatever is needed to increase your chances of success. For example, you would want to write down a clear goal, such as, "I will smoke 9 cigarettes a day, which is one less cigarette a day." Then, you would want to get a calendar in which you can mark down how many cigarettes you smoke each day. The most common emotion connected to this stage is "excitement."
- Action. This phase is exactly what it sounds like. You are actively tallying each cigarette you smoke on the calendar each day. You are actively adjusting your goal as you go along. People often feel "charged" and "motivated."
- You may think that the Action phase is difficult, but oftentimes, Maintenance will be even harder. What if you are at a party and everyone is smoking except you? Will you maintain your goal? The emotions that you may feel in maintenance cover all ends of the spectrum and can go anywhere from "hopeless" to "hopeful," "defeated" to "motivated."
Did you figure out which stage of change you are in? These stages are not mutually exclusive, and it's very possible that you may find yourself identifying with more than one stage. So the questions to ask next are:
Where do you want to move to next? how will you get closer to achieving your goal? What are some things you need now to move? Does this model even work for yOU?
Check out the following weeks' blog posts to find out more about each stage, some tricks of the trade about "moving on to the next stage," and how to deal with the emotions associated.
Littell, J. (2002). Stages of Change: A Critique. Behavior Modification, 26, 223-273. doi: 10.1177/0145445502026002006
Prochaska, JO. & DiClemente, CC. (2005). The transtheoretical approach. In: Norcross, JC; Goldfried, MR. (eds.) Handbook of psychotherapy integration. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 147–171. ISBN 0-19-516579-9.
This week's post is inspired by my own family, who show me that change often comes at the most unexpected of times, but if you make the best of it, you will come out a winner. Here's to my dear grand-uncle who, at age 75, recently married his 72-year-old girlfriend after meeting on a tour trip and dating for 2 years. Here's to my mother, who for 20 years made a great living as a medical writer, and at age 45, decided to quit and go back to school to become a licensed project manager. Here's to my brother, who went to school to become a fine arts photographer, who now works at REI and is constantly going on exciting, physically demanding, adrenaline provoking trips with people who enjoy the outdoors as much as he. Cheers to all the people who are not afraid of facing change and finding a way to make it happen. May the rest of us also learn to do the same.