53. Know where you are in the stages of change

Uncategorized Aug 19, 2020

Nearly everything we do together requires some shift from old habits to new ones. 

Regardless of good intentions many of us fail to accomplish the changes we want. Especially the first time around. This is partly because we tend to see changes as a singular event instead of a process that requires preparation, has several stages and takes time to succeed. 

For example, it's common for someone to go cold turkey to quit smoking or drinking or being a lazy turd. Such changes rarely work because they are started on a whim.

Most of the research concerning change shows us that we have to go through a series of mental and emotional stages over a period of months to properly be ready to change our behaviors. Psychologists have found six stages of change and grouped them into the 'transtheoretical' model of behavior change.' Despite the mouthful it's not too hard to understand. 

The six stages are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance, and termination. 

Precontemplation is the stage where people have no intention to change. They might have tried to change and given up previously or are in denial and unaware that a change needs to happen. 

Contemplation is the stage where people realize they have a problem and start to think about changing it within the next half year or so. People can hang out in this stage for months or years even though they have an obvious need for change. They cite not having the time, energy, or commitment to make their desired changes. 

Preparation is the stage where people are within a month or two of making a change. They have thought about what they might do and maybe even made a plan. Instead of thinking about why they cant start they begin focusing on what they can do.

Action is the stage where people begin to execute. Too many people try to jump right into this stage without spending time in those leading up to it. Without planning, publicly stating the desire to change, getting help from others and setting realistic goals they are likely to fail. 

Maintenance is the stage where people work to prevent relapse to old habits. They do so by constantly practicing the skills they learned in the action stage. Maintenance requires vigilance, attention to detail and long term commitment. You know you are in the maintenance stage once you have kept up your new behaviors for six months without falling back to old habits. Common causes of relapse include overconfidence, stress and emotional distractions, and poor self talk. It is important to guard against relapse by getting help to maintain your good behaviors. 

Termination is the stage where people have ingrained their behavior as habit. Risk for relapse is essentially none and people here maintain their behaviors without the need for additional help. 

It is important to remember that you can be in a different stage for different behaviors. For example, I am in the termination stage when it comes to working out - I have done something weight lifting or aerobic like 4-5 days a week for years. However, I am in the maintenance stage when it comes to flexibility work. I have only been stretching consistently for about half of a year. Furthermore, I am in the actin stage with meditation. 

Knowing where you are in the stages of behavior change helps. 

 

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