Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Does the thought of never being able to eat your favorite foods again prevent you from changing your diet? Or how about the thought of being all hot and sweaty in a room full of hardbodies turning you off from ever wanting to set foot in a gym?
Traditionally, behavior change (or a change in habits) has been considered an event. You quit smoking, drinking, overeating or whatever. It was signified as a fixed moment in time, as Dr. Who might say. Stages of Change (or the Transtheoretical model) treats change as a process that happens over time. While we can step through that process in a very linear fashion, it often requires a series of recursive steps.
In other words, instead of looking at change as pre/post a moment in time (ie. I was a drinker, I quit and now I am not a drinker), long term change is a series of repeated attempts at quitting drinking. In that process, we often relapse into old, learned, behaviors before finally moving away from the old patterns.
Walking through the Stages of Change
The first step in the Stages of Change is Pre-contemplation (denial or NOT ready). In this stage, you may be unaware a problem exists and do not intend on making changes in the near future. This stage can be quite protracted until the awareness of such a problem arises. Why would you need to change anything if no problem exists, right? If it isn’t broken, why fix it?
Are there any areas of your life that aren’t great but aren’t terrible in your estimation? Like something that isn’t entirely healthy but you’re not sure is unhealthy? Too much of that absolutely yummy fried food? Nightly drinks or deserts? Daily drinks or deserts? You deserve those and they’re not hurting anyone else. Take a closer look at the costs of your behavior. The recognition a problem exists is the first step on moving from Pre-contemplation (denial) to Contemplation.
The Contemplation stage (ambivalence or getting ready) begins with an awareness of a need to change. The major focus in this stage is ambivalence or weighing the pros and cons of change. The stressor here is the balance between cost and benefit is about equal. These keeps most people from taking action.
Presuming you are overweight now, what would it feel like to be 20-30lbs lighter? Or if you happen to be underweight, imagine having another 5-10lbs of muscle? Wouldn’t that be awesome? Would you feel better and look better? Do you WANT to improve a habit and would an improved life be valuable to you? These are questions only you can answer and are key questions to move from Contemplation to Preparation.
If you’re still not ready to make a full scale change, look at the pros and cons of your situation like a balance sheet. How can you increase the number of pros and reduce the number of cons. Improved health would also bring increased stamina and could make your clothing fit better.
Your Action Item for this week:
If you’ve identified something that isn’t good but isn’t terrible that you might like to improve, take a few minutes and make a balance sheet. Make a list of all the things you have to gain and give up in order to make a change. Go back and take another look at your list and see if you can add more benefits by making a little change and/or eliminate negatives by making a small change. Change is a process.
I’d love to hear from you when you’ve identified the area that needs the most work and if there’s a problem in that area. Think of that as the first step…. Shoot me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have an incredibly productive week!