Are You Ready to Change?
Posted on September 10, 2011 by Renee Smalling, One of Thousands of Health and Fitness Coaches on Noomii.
Ever wonder why you have trouble making healthy changes last? Learn how your stage of readiness to change determines what action you should take.
The desire to get healthier requires changes in many areas of your life such as eating habits and exercise participation, just to name a few. When embarking on lifestyle change, the first thing to consider is how ready are you to change and how soon? Usually, you will find that you are more ready in one area than another. For instance, you may be ready to start eating healthier, but you are not ready to exercise regularly.
Nearly three decades ago, two researchers, Prochaska and DiClemente, identified that people go through distinct phases when considering lifestyle changes and developed what psychologists refer to as the Transtheoretical Model. Many people refer to this model as the Stages of Change. Depending on your readiness to change, different strategies may be useful to help you move forward in the process.
Not Ready to Do It
The first stage of readiness to change is called the Precontemplation Stage. Simply put, people in this stage are not ready for change. They either have no interest in changing a behavior or feel too overwhelmed to even consider making a change at this time. If you are in this stage, providing you information and support may be the most useful tool. Then, at a later point, when you decide a behavior may be change-worthy, you will have some resources on which you can depend to begin the process.
The next stage or Contemplation Stage is when people start thinking about making a change. There are two considerations. One is based on Janis and Mann’s concept of Decisional Balance which is the weighing of pros and cons. Are there more good reasons to make a change or stay the same? The second consideration is based on Bandura’s idea of self-efficacy or confidence in yourself that you can be successful in making change. Do you believe that you can be successful?
This is an important step. Thinking about change is not a waste of time. In fact, it should be used very productively. So, if you are in this stage, identifying the benefits and challenges to change is your first priority. In order to progress from this stage to the next, you have to get to a point where you feel the benefits of change outweigh the challenges. This is often accomplished by finding solutions to some of the challenges. As some obstacles seem manageable, your self-efficacy in being successful can also begin to increase.
Planning On It
The third stage is the Preparation Stage where people make the decision that they will make a change and begin making plans to support the change. This stage is crucial for long term success and often the most common one skipped. We’ve all been there at one time or another. Something gets you excited about change, and you jump right in and begin doing without planning ahead. However, the first time an obstacle surfaces, your efforts are completely derailed. For example, you decide that you’re going to walk around your neighborhood every night as exercise. You start walking, and for the first two nights everything goes well. Then, the next two nights are rainy, so you stay home and you start to lose your motivation. There was no alternative planned to bad weather, so this setback ruins your good intentions to exercise. When behavioral change is not backed up by a support structure, progress tends to very difficult.
Coming up with possible solutions to obstacles and then testing them out are the purposes of this stage rather than demonstrating that you can stick to a goal. For instance, if one of your obstacles to exercising is finding childcare, you may decide to swap babysitting duty with a neighbor. So, one day this week, you plan for the neighbor to watch your child and you talk a walk around the neighborhood. The point isn’t the work-out itself, but rather was the babysitting a reasonable solution to the obstacle of childcare? Maybe on the walk, you realized you need new athletic shoes. So, buying those in the next few days is another crucial component. Working out the kinks to your plan before implementing the plan will make you more likely to be successful. So, if you are in this stage, planning and strategizing solutions to barriers is your first priority.
Acting on It
The next stage of readiness is the Action Stage. This is when you actually commit to behaviors that help you move closer to your long-term goal. So, maybe in 3 months you’d like to see yourself walking for 30 minutes 5 days per week. But, right now, your short-term goal may be walking three times per week for only 15 minutes. The action stage is not exactly where you want to be, but you are moving in the right direction going beyond the thinking and strategizing stages to the doing stages. The priority here is trying to establish a habit that gets you closer to the new pattern of desired behavior.
Been Doing It
Finally, when you have sustained the change you wanted to make for about 6 months, you are considered to be in the maintenance stage. Overall, this change is part of your current lifestyle, but if you get on auto-pilot, there is a risk of slipping. One way to sustain the behavior without lapsing is considering being a mentor to someone else who would like to start a similar behavior change. It’s empowering to be a role model for others.
So, when it comes to making healthy changes, ask yourself the following questions to determine your readiness to change:
- Are you not ready?
- Are you thinking about it?
- Are you committed to change and making plans?
- Are you taking action and moving closer to the goal?
- Have you been doing it for a while?
Bandura, A. (1977). Social Learning Theory. New York, NY: General Learning Press.
Janis, I. L., & Mann, L. (1977). Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment. London: Cassel & Collier Macmillan.
Prochaska, J. O., DiClemente, C. C., & Norcross, J. C. (1992). In search of how people change. American Psychologist, 47, 1102-1114.
Prochaska, J. O., & DiClemente, C. C. (1983). Stages and processes of self-change of smoking: Toward an integrative model of change. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 390-395.
Copyright © 2011 Fit Pursuits, Inc. (used with permission)