Your Guide for Healthy Living
Ready for Change?
“People don’t change until they are ready to.” James Prochaska
Lifestyle improvement is all about change. When it comes to changing our thoughts, beliefs, and our behavior, the big question immediately becomes “How ready are you to change?”. The answer is not a simple yes or no, and extensive theories have arisen around this question.
The most important step for the person looking to improve their lifestyle (or the wellness pro helping them) is to ASK THE QUESTION: “How Ready Am I to Change?”. If we ignore the factor of “readiness” and forge ahead with a “call to action” we may just fall on our faces. The Transtheoretical Model of change (TTM) or “Stages of Change Theory” (best explored in Changing for Good, by James Prochaska, Carlo DiClemente, and James Norcross) dominates the wellness and health promotion field, as well as the addictions field, and for good reason. This model provides vital understanding of some fundamental aspects of change.
“Change is a process, not an event.” James Prochaska
There are five primary stages of change and it’s important to give each stage it’s due.
* Pre-contemplation – Haven’t even thought about change, am unaware of any need to change, don’t want to change, and sometimes will NOT change.
* Contemplation – Am giving change some thought
* Preparation – Am preparing to change, finding out more information, checking resources and options- will likely make changes in the next month.
* Action – Actually making the change- actively doing, experimenting!
* Maintenance – maintaining the change- 6 months or more
- We can be at a different stage of change for each different behavior. I may, for example, be ready to start increasing my activity level and improving my diet, but I’m not ready to quit smoking. Change is not a light switch. We aren’t as a whole person either “ready” or “not ready” to change everything all at once.
- The change process is often like a spiral staircase. We ascend from pre-contemplation to contemplation and then to preparation, etc. We also can get discouraged, slip and spiral back down to earlier levels where we must start again. But the place we start from the next time will be full of good information. What worked about that first try? What didn’t?
- Change is not just about will power and determination. It is a process that takes time to do right so it really sticks. Especially when we are talking about lifestyle behaviors that may have been in place for many years. Have you ever had the experience of making yourself do something (like go to the gym if it’s been a while, or for the very first time)? Maybe you were able to push yourself to do it a few times, but my guess is that the behavior change wasn’t sustained. Seeing change instead as a process will give you permission to fail a few times, as well as give yourself credit for trying something different. It truly is all about the learning, and deeply understanding your motivation for changing.
- If you’re stuck at one stage, get an ally to help. The “forever-contemplating” or “forever-preparing” person may look like they are working on change, but the truth is they are stuck! Talk about it with people who you know will be supportive of your growth, not negative or pushing their own agenda of how you “should” change. Get a coach!
- To maintain the change- keep track of it! Taking action is great, but the key is maintaining it. I’ve had a number of wellness coaching clients tell me “I’m great at losing weight! I just can’t seem to keep it off.” Recording your new behavior, in some way that works for you, is a real secret of successful change. Don’t let it be a subjective estimation, get serious about self-monitoring and you’ll see more results.
- Start where there’s motivation, readiness, and likelihood of success. Don’t start climbing mountains by choosing the “Mount Everest” of your life first! Go for the more achievable and attainable goals where you are motivated to change first. Gain confidence and self-efficacy there and then take on the more challenging climbs.
- Nothing succeeds like success! When you’ve achieved real progress in one area of your life, look at how ready you are now to improve your lifestyle in another area. Once you’ve seen success in being more active and eating better, take on getting more sleep or practicing relaxation training, etc. Take yourself through the Stages of Change from wherever you start, on up that spiral staircase.
Ready to discover your motivations? Need accountability? Get in touch!
-Tammy Jett-Parmer PA-C, CHWC