Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stages of Change

So it's a new year, right? And you're thinking about making a change or two... maybe? Well, here's an interesting theory about change and the phases you're likely to go through while making those changes.

The Stages of Change theory, developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente at the University of Rhode Island in the 70's, covers six different mindsets involved in the process of change.

The cycle starts with Precontemplation. This is the mindset where people -- especially the addicts that Prochaska and DiClemente studied at URI -- didn't think they needed (or wanted) to change. If you're still reading this and still thinking about a change, you're already past this mindset. (Just sayin'.)

The second stage is Contemplation. This is where you're sortakindasorta thinking about maybe making a change... someday. You see the obstacles really clearly, but not so much the benefits of making the change. This can be the longest stage, sometimes lasting moments, and sometimes lasting a lifetime.

If this sounds familiar, ask yourself these questions to help progress through this phase:
What are the benefits of changing?
What's preventing you from changing?
What are some things that could help you make this change?

The third stage is Preparation, which is essentially a research and information gathering phase. This is when you start asking around, maybe reading a book about getting organized or finding a new job. You read a blog like this one! (Hooray!)

If this sounds familiar, some things you can do to progress through this phase are:
Write down your goals and post them where you can see them
Find support groups and/or a supportive partnership with a coach
Gather information -- you may find it propels you into action

Following Preparation comes Action. This is where you start walking the walk and talking the talk. This phase is essential to making change, but all the previous stages support it -- if you skip research and go straight to action, you may not have the information you need. Similarly, if you don't really think about the change you want to make, you may not have the seed for change firmly planted inside you.

If you're in Action, things you can do to keep this moving forward are:
Reward your small successes -- isn't it ridiculous how we ooh and ahh at a baby who even thinks about rolling over, but we demand that we, as adults, execute a new behavior flawlessly? Ooh and ahhh at yourself!
Seek support -- you really will do better if you're not alone
Be prepared for setbacks

Next is Maintenance. This is where you've incorporated the new behavior into your life and are successfully avoiding the pitfalls that surrounded the old behavior. Keep looking for new and fancier ways to avoid temptation.

Ways to keep your Maintenance tip top:
Be patient! Recognize that real change takes time, effort, and energy
Anticipate temptations and setbacks, and think about ways to avoid them

And, of course, there's always Relapse. The tricky thing about Relapse is that it can come at any point. And the even tricker thing is that it likes to settle in and, like that ugly green mucous in those decongestant commercials, unpack all its negative feelings into you.

The key to getting through a Relapse, big or small is this: do what you can to NOT see yourself as a failure. Realize that every change involves some relapse. Analyze the situation for ways to better protect yourself next time. Also, be aware of where you go after a Relapse. Are you going back to Precontemplation? I sure hope not! Try, whenever possible, to land in Preparation, Action, or Maintenance!

Here's a video that sort of sums this all up neatly:

And, just because I came across it while doing research for this post and had a serious WTF moment, another video:

Oh! And I almost forgot! If you're in NYC and in the Contemplation, Preparation, or Action phase and want to make some changes, I'm offering a goal-setting class on January 22nd from 10-2. More details are here.

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