Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Stages of Change: Break a Habit, Achieve a Goal, Transform Your Life

The human condition leads people to be in constant flux. One can look back on his or her life and see the changes that have been made along the way from how we handle tough situations with friends or family to how we have resolved to live healthier lives by eating right and exercising.

Hence, we come to the stages of change -- otherwise known as the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM) -- which involve a multistage process embraced by many behavior-change experts. This model which came about in the early 1980s has led many people to reevaluate their expectations and find ways to best support themselves to reaching the goals they intend to keep. 

The creator of the TTM process, James O. Prochaska, PhD, brings to light the fact that when it comes to making big changes in our lives that just doing it is definitely not easy and can certainly lead to discouragement and even quitting the attempt for change all together. How many times have you heard of people wanting to lose 10, 15, 20 or more pounds as a New Year's Resolution? How many have actually done it? It's not easy for sure!

As the six-stage model discussed in the article explores, one needs to be not only prepared, but emotionally ready to just do it. As we all know, good behavior change does not happen over night but instead goes from taking two steps backwards to taking one step forward then back again. These stages of change can easily apply to everything from wanting to lead a healthier lifestyle to targeting goals at work to even improving relationships within your inner circle of friends and family.

Start the stages with:

1)Precontemplation: In this first stage people simply undervalue the benefit of changing and see more cons than pros. It's good to at least get them to start seeing the benefits of making a change. At this stage, you just don't want to do it (i.e., eating healthier, exercising more, spending less time watching TV) -- even if your doctor or family member highly recommends it.

2) Contemplation: In this stage, at least there has been some serious thought to making change and there is even more serious consideration to making a change. The tricky part in the process is moving from a place of not wanting to change at all to beginning to see the benefits to changing. 

3) Preparation: In preparation, there is more of a decisive action to finding ways to change and by doing so the encouragement of others is helpful. 

4) Action: At this stage, the person is pretty much on board with going forth to make a full commitment to change. Having support is absolutely important to solidify good plans for action success. It is helpful to have a buddy be a support system and even hold the person accountable.

5) Maintenance: In this stage, the person who has attempted to make the change has succeeded for at least 6 months. Once again, this is a great time to seek out good personal reinforcements to stay on target with the action plan. 

6) Termination: This is the last and final stage and one that is long lasting. At this point, the particular habit or behavior to change has been done for at least 2 years. Here the change is fully implemented and there is no going back to how things were!

These stages are good reference points to look upon and determine where you are in the behavior change process. Regardless, no matter what stage you are in, its a good reminder to keep up with reaching positive life-changing goals. 

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