In graduate school, I remember memorizing the five steps to change for a test in my counseling theories class. I can almost see the highlighted index cards in my mind now! I frequently go back to this model and these steps when working with children and adults. Change is hard work! Behaviors turn into patterns and patterns get fixed very easily. It takes insight, dedication, and commitment to make meaningful change. We are all capable of making changes in our life. However, some behaviors and conditions are more responsive to change than others. When deciding to make changes, it is important to set realistic goals and to be honest with yourself about the time and energy you are willing to commit to change. It is also super important to recognize that you can only make meaningful change for yourself. Because change takes insight, commitment, and dedication, you cannot change another person, so please do not waste your time trying. You will only end up frustrated! No matter how many conversations you have, articles you send, or other efforts you make, if an individual does not wish to change, they won’t. Always focus on changing and improving yourself. Let’s go over the 5 steps to change…..
1. Pre-contemplation– This means you are not willing to accept that you have a problem or need to change. Your friends and family may call your attention to your behavior but you still feel pretty good about keeping your habits. In stage one you do not really see the need for change and are not ready to take complete ownership or responsibility for your behaviors.
2. Contemplation– At this stage you are able to say aloud and recognize that you have a problem but you are not ready to take any action steps to make a change. This is the stage where people say things like, “I know I need to stop smoking or I’ll get cancer someday” but then they go and buy a pack of cigarettes. In stage two you are aware of the problem and what you need to do, you just are not ready to actually do anything.
3. Preparation/Determination– In stage three, you start to investigate. In this stage, you start to make appointments, read books, and gather information. You start to develop and consider different options to make change and set goals. You spend more time thinking about the behavior you want to change and how you are going to do it. Stage three is when you start taking baby steps toward action.
4. Action– In stage four you are actually doing new behaviors and you stop doing old behaviors. In this stage, you may be using replacement behaviors and relying heavily on good old fashion willpower to achieve your goals. If your goal is to lose weight and you are in stage four, you are eating a new more healthy diet, going to the gym, drinking more water, and getting lots of sleep. You may have even started to see some results.
5. Maintenance– In stage five you are frequently using your new skills, thinking, and behaviors to maintain your change. There is a risk of relapse at this stage and some people go back to the problem behavior. That is okay, you just go through the steps again. Once you get to step five you will absolutely see results and feel like you have achieved your goal. Your loved ones will also notice that you have made a change.
What behaviors do you want to change and what step are you in????????