When we want to accomplish something that is important to us, we generally call it a "goal". When we want to work towards that goal, a good way to visualize our journey is seeing ourselves on a map, beginning at Point A. Before we can even move past Point A, we need to examine our readiness to change.
We talked a little bit about our readiness to change in our blog, How to Accomplish Your Goals. This week, we're going to look into the Transtheorectical Model of Change developed by Dr. James Prochaska and the Five Stages of Change.
"I Won't" or "I Can't"
"I won't" or "I can't" is part of the pre-contemplation stage where a person hasn't begun thinking about adopting a positive or healthy behavior and is not ready for change.
"I won't" signifies you are not interested in changing because it's not an issue for you. We see this a lot with smokers, right? It's generally our family members who are more concerned with our smoking habits then we are. "I can't" signifies that we would like to change, but we don't believe that it's possible. Regardless of what category you are in, it's good to recognize that at this stage, we aren't thinking about, let alone working to make changes in any particular areas of our lives that we feel this way about.
While this may sound like a completely hopeless stage, you'd be surprised to learn that it's not! What helps people in the pre-contemplation stage is to be met exactly where we are at. It's important for people in this stage to understand that we want to work on goals that light our fire! And while we may be saying "I won't" or "I can't", eventually, we'll be able to say "I may"!
"I may" moves us from the pre-contemplative stage to the contemplative stage. Where prior we were not ready for change to now we're thinking about it.
"I may" signifies thinking about changing unhealthy behaviors or adopting new, healthy behaviors. At this stage, we are considering taking action within the next six months. We are beginning to be unsatisfied with our current state of being, yet we're still having that internal argument with ourselves about how easily we can change. We often find ourselves looking at risk verses reward in this stage. For example, let's say you want to lose weight. You know it will take switching up your diet and changing your exercise plan. But are you willing to give up your current diet of soda and cheeseburgers? Are you willing to get up early in the morning to get a workout in prior to work?
If you find yourself in the "I may" stage, don't feel bad if you've been in this stage for what feels like forever! The contemplative stage is truly the longest stage that we can find ourselves in because we are sometimes struggling with that ability to change. Sometimes we can often call ourselves "chronic contemplaters" because we don't know HOW to make that change.
To move past the contemplative stage, it's important to focus on your strengths and get excited about the possibilities that can emerge with change.
"I will" signifies the preparation stage. Here, we have strong motivation and have planned to take action within the next month.
People who are saying, "I will", have a couple of motivating factors. They have identified barriers or complications and have solutions for those when they meet them. If something doesn't work out, they go back, and approach it from another angle. For example, maybe you want to exercise. You decide that you will work out before work, but you find that you are running out of time in the morning and it's making you feel rushed. No problem! You change your schedule so that you are working out after work. Not only does it not make you feel rushed, but you're able to release some stress and blow off some steam before you get home to relax in the evening.
Welcome to the action stage! This stage generally lasts six months or longer where we are working on practicing new behaviors and establishing new habits.
Here, we have identified one or more new behaviors and we are refining our new lifestyle. We're establishing and doing them consistently, building up week by week, month by month, to reach our end goal. While we feel super confident during this stage, there's still a risk of falling back into previous stages. It's important for us to see these moments not as failures but as learning opportunities and keep moving forward.
When we are able to state "I am", we need to keep our strengths and and values at the forefront to help us to stay on track. Finding support in whatever changes we are making can also be helpful. Look for systems of support (friends, family, new relationships, programs) that can help you in your common interest and help hold you accountable for your new goals.
While this may feel like you've reached Point B on your road map, it's still important to maintain your goals to continue your new healthy behaviors.
"A goal is a personal promise to your future self." Unknown
"I Still Am"
Once we are able to create a new habit and it's done automatically (at least six months), we enter the maintenance stage where we are working on maintaining our new positive behavior.
"I still am" signifies the confidence to maintain the new behavior showing high self-efficacy and self-reinforcement. Just because we've reached this stage does not mean that we don't need to work hard at our goal. It's just the opposite. Here we can sometimes suffer from boredom or slip back into our unhealthier ways. When we notice this happening, it's important for us to revisit our goals, revise them as necessary, reconnect with our strengths, values, resources, visions, goals, and motivators. It can also be helpful for us to participate in events that are goal related. Maybe your work is offering a quit smoking reward program, or there's an upcoming race to enter.
Maybe you reached your end goal already and you aren't sure how to maintain what comes next. Let's say your goal was to quit smoking. You maintained your goal of quitting smoking- now what? What other healthy behaviors would you like to include to help you not only maintain your freedom from smoking, but help you to live a healthier life? Maybe you want to change your eating habits? Maybe you're feeling great and want to start running!
Are You Ready?
Most people are in the contemplation or preparation stage for at least one area in their life. I highly recommend starting on one of those areas when it comes to creating your goals. Not only are you already thinking about change, but you are preparing for action when you find yourself in one of these stages. This already sets you up for success! However, if you find yourself needing to make change (perhaps for health reasons) and are sitting in the pre-contemplation or contemplation stages, you can always find the support you need at the Wholeness Hut! I understand the importance of your stage of readiness and appreciate the need of your full control over your choices. I'll meet
you where you are at, with no judgement, to help you to achieve your goals that lead to a new, healthier you!