It’s spring! And I bet you’ve already forgotten all about those New Year’s Resolutions. We’ve all tried and failed. Remember that failure is inevitable if you’re not ready to change. Make sure you understand the 5 stages of change before embarking on a new routine…
1. Pre-contemplation Stage: “I’m not ready”
During the pre-contemplation stage, we do not even consider changing. Smokers who are “in denial” may not see that the advice applies to them personally. Patients with high cholesterol levels may feel immune to the health problems that strike others. Obese patients may have tried unsuccessfully so many times to lose weight that they have simply given up. If you’ve determined that you’re NOT ready, that’s ok. Take this time to make changes in your environment and remove the barriers so that you can be successful when you ARE ready.
2. Contemplation Stage: “I’m thinking about it. I need to change but I don’t know how.”
During the contemplation stage, we are usually ambivalent about changing. Giving up a behavior causes us to feel a sense of loss. During this stage, we need to assess these barriers (e.g., time, expense, hassle, fear, “I know I need to, but …”) as well as the benefits of change.
3. Preparation Stage: “I want to change. I’m preparing for action.”
During the preparation stage, we are preparing to make a specific change. We may experiment with small changes like avoiding the chips at the grocery store or buying a new pair of walking shoes. It might sound small, but even switching to a different brand of cigarettes or decreasing the number of daily alcoholic drinks shows that you have decided that a change is needed.
4. Action Stage: “I’m doing it!”
The action stage is the one that we all strive to reach. It is an increase in “willpower” when we are taking action to change behavior, experiences, or environment in order to overcome our problems. The action stage involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy.
5. Maintenance and Relapse Prevention: “This new lifestyle is great. I’ve been doing it for 6 months and I’m okay with it.”
Maintenance and relapse prevention involve incorporating the new behavior over the long haul. Discouragement over occasional slips may halt the change process and result in giving up. However, most people find themselves “recycling” through the stages of change several times before the change becomes truly established.
If you’re ready to make that change, congratulations! Just remember, we all get discouraged and we’ve all failed. Instead of focusing on the failures, realize your successes. Continue to set small, attainable goals…And always remember to take credit for the process, not just the end result.