Progressing Through the Stages of Change
Have you ever wondered why your mind desires change but your actions may speak otherwise? You may ask, “Is my heart really in it?” or more simply, “Am I ready for change?” The Transtheoretical Model (TTM) is a useful tool to better understand what may be causing the stop and go you have created while trying to accomplish your goals.
The TTM developed by Dr. James Prochaska comes from the field of Behavioral Physcology. Prochaska’s model supports that individuals going through self-change go through a series of steps or stages while modifying behavior. The TTM further supports that though the time an individual remains at a certain stage can vary the stages themselves do not differ. The Stages of Change can help measure change for various health related behaviors like exercise, smoking cessation, and healthy eating. Understanding which stage you may be in can better help you overcome obstacles and continue to progress forward with your well-being goals.
Here are a few helpful tips to work through the stage you may be in!
1. Precontemplation – You are not ready for change.
Precontemplation is when you are not considering adopting a healthy behavior in the next six months or so. Typically, individuals who fall into this category adopt words like “I don’t” or “I can’t.” Those who often say “I don’t” are not interested in change because they do not feel they have a problem, while those who may say “I can’t” tend to desire change but genuinely believe it is not possible. Both types of precontemplation individuals may find change undesirable at this time because they do not fully understand the consequences of their present behavior or they have been unsuccessful with change in the past.
Tips for precontemplators to move forward with change:
- Make a list of pros if your behavior changes. Choose your top 1-3 to elaborate why it is important to you.
- Make a list of barriers or cons of change. Write ideas of solutions to overcome the barriers and how to overcome the cons.
- Make a list of what motivates you to change your behavior.
- Write down your top 3-5 hopes if you adopt a healthier behavior.
- If you are not ready for change, you just simply are not there yet. Accept you are not ready. And that is FINE! Just reach out to your Wellview Health Coach when you decide you are.
2. Contemplation – You are considering change.
Contemplation is when you intend to change an unhealthy behavior in the next six months. Those in this stage of change are usually aware of the benefits of change yet may experience some mixed feelings.. “I may” tends to be the voice of contemplation. Though the benefits of change may be acknowledged by those in this stage, contemplators do not fully understand the cons, thus they may not be ready for conventional action oriented programs that require immediate action.
Tips for contemplators to move forward with change:
- Make a list of your top strengths and brainstorm ways to use them in your favor to change.
- Explore your best experience with change in the past.
- Write down your vision or desired behavior. Then make a list of how this connects to your personal values.
- Think of your greatest motivators for change. Write them down on a post it to hang up as a reminder or if it is someone close to you, keep a picture of that individual nearby.
- Write down barriers you may have to make the change and list 1-3 ways to overcome each of them.
- Write down or share stories with a friend or your health coach of positives or possibilities for behavioral change.
3. Preparation – You are preparing for action
Characterized by “I will,” a preparer intends to take action within the next month or in the immediate future. Those in this stage may have already taken some actions to ready themselves for change or are looking to do so. Preparers fully understand their motivators and barriers for change, have come up with solutions to these obstacles, and have tossed the mixed feelings they once had. Action planning takes place while in Preparation.
Tips for preparers to move forward with change:
- Write down the change you are committing to. Define your change by being specific-who, what, when, where, how, etc.
- Discover the best of “now” and dream about the best of what could be.
- Design an action plan and jot down small steps you can take to start off on the right foot.
- Write down your vision with a list of things that will be if the vision were true.
4. Action – You are taking action.
In this stage, you are doing your desired behavior consistently for at least six months. Individuals in this stage use words like “I am” to describe their behavior. Action stage individuals have moved from Preparation, or doing actions that prepare the desired behavior, into doing and refining the behavior itself with the goal of maintaining it. This stage is critical to reaching the end goal, making it the most critical to combat the possibility of lapse or relapse to previous stages. The Action stage of change encourages you to build new relationships, form new habits and establish new behaviors.
Tips for Action individuals to move forward with change:
- View this stage as a trial and error experience that you can continue to learn from.
- Develop new relationships with role models or others that sustain your desired habits for the right kind of support.
- Identify how your strengths and values connect to your new social environment and behaviors.
- Set small, doable goals each week and month.
- Think through times that may be difficult to maintain your healthy behavior and pre-plan a strategy or come up with ideas to combat potential lapse of your desired behavior.
- Always keep in the back of your mind your greatest motivators.
5. Maintenance – You are maintaining your new, healthy behavior.
This stage begins when your desired behavior is a habit or most typically about six months after the original behavior change date. Those in the “I still am” stage, usually evoke confidence in maintaining their new behavior. This step in the stages of change is essentially where all individuals looking for change wish to end up. However, behavior change does not always stay here. It is important to ensure those in this stage do not slip into old habits by remaining positive and motivated versus being overwhelmed or underwhelmed.
Tips for Action Individuals to move forward with change:
- Reconnect with how your values link with your overall vision.
- Set new interesting and doable goals to keep moving forward.
- Continue to broaden your social network with those that are living a similar lifestyle and have like goals.
- Rediscover your motivators or make a list of new motivators to continue to stay on track.
- Share your story with others. Sharing with others will help you stay focused on what brought you to overcome all of the obstacles and make change as well as set you up for being someone’s role model just like others that may have helped you through the journey.
Remember your Health Coach is here to provide you with assistance and accountability, help you brainstorm, weigh the pros and cons of change, focus on your strengths and values, plan the right steps to take, talk through any concerns, encourage and energize your goals, and give you a neutral, supportive voice to walk through the stages of change to a new, healthier self!