By Bill Hemmer
Last week I talked about how change is a daily part of your life, like it or not. I am here to tell you change can be your friend, but you must realize the process of change is nothing to mess around with. You have to change in steps. And if you miss a step you will fall short of the positive changes you want to make in your life. This is the trap that over 90 percent of us fall into. But how are we supposed to know about the process of change?
I have been researching my wellness concepts for years, and I discovered the book CHANGING FOR GOOD, A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward – by James O. Prochaska, PH. D, John C. Norcross, PH. D, Carlo C. DiClemente, PH.D. This book gave me insight to the process of change that I have never had before. It made me realize why so many people, including myself, have tried to change without real success over and over again.
These three individuals studied what they called self-changers. Self-changers were people who changed their bad behaviors on their own without any help from the outside world. These people quit smoking, lost huge amounts of weight, and over came alcoholism among other bad habits. They did extensive interviews with these people and discovered that each and every one of them went through specific stages to make their changes. So, you can learn these stages to help you make the changes you want to make in your life.
The 6 stages of behavior change described by Prochaska et.al are pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination. Each of these stages must be passed through according to the book in order to make the change and sustain it for the rest of your life.
The first stage is called pre-contemplation. I like to call this stage “you don’t know…you don’t know.” In other words, you don’t even realize that the behavior is a problem that must be fixed. Examples of this are the alcoholic in denial or the smoker who still doesn’t believe smoking causes cancer. The second stage of change is called contemplation. I call this stage “now you know.” You know you have a behavior you need to change, but you’re not quite ready to tackle the behavior just yet.
The third stage is called preparation. I like to call this stage “making your bed.” In this stage you are preparing your life to sustain the coming change in behavior you want to make. Next week’s article will go into much greater detail about “making your bed” because I feel this is the area that is most overlooked and leads to the most disappointment when a change cannot be sustained.
The fourth and fifth stages are called action and maintenance. I call these stages, “dancing with the one who brought you.” In other words, you have planned your work, now it’s time to work your plan. If you haven’t prepared properly, results can come quickly and often then become harder to sustain. This is when preparation really helps you stick to your plan.
The final stage is called termination. Even the authors admit that very few people ever reach this stage. I think this stage really doesn’t exist so I will just mention it. But next week I will talk in detail about the stage of change that really makes or breaks our attempts to a better life. Don’t miss it.