by Leta Herrington, LPC
612.332.7743 ext. 221
If you're like me (and the Apostle Paul) when you step back from your life and take a look, you may find yourself doing things you don't want to be doing and not doing other things that you wish you were. While Nike suggests a simple solution, telling us to "just do it," experience tells us that change usually doesn't happen quite so easily.
James Prochaska, Ph.D. outlines six stages that are generally involved in making a lasting change:
Stage One: Precontemplation is when we are aware that something is bothering us or does not feel quite right, but think that's just the way it is, that there is nothing we can do about it, and therefore don't put any thought or effort into doing anything about it. We may complain about the situation because we're unhappy with it but generally feel rather helpless.
Stage Two: Contemplation When we actually identify the issue/problem/concern and begin to put some thought in to what it might take to resolve it. Though some may want to jump to some sort of immediate action, it is often helpful to talk with someone at this stage to get some clarity about what is really bothering us and to identify what is likely necessary to get the desired results. We may feel considerable ambivalence during this stage when we realize the costs/risks/losses of actually making a change, and in fact may find ourselves stuck in this phase because of the risks.
Stage Three: Preparation If we hope to be successful, it is important to develop a plan of action before actually taking action/making a change. We need to be thoughtful and realistic in making a plan that is feasible (one that we can succeed at) and clear (we know what we're after), to have adequate support in place (people cheering us on), to anticipate likely barriers or reactions, and be prepared to respond to those possible resistances.
Stage Four: Action This is when we put our plans into action. You'll note that actually taking action isn't recommended until the fourth stage. Prochaska suggests that the more attention we give to the work of thoroughly thinking through and preparing for change (stages two and three), the more successful and lasting our actual changes are likely to be. Prochaska emphasizes that taking action is neither the first nor the last step in making a change.
Stage Five: Maintenance This is a critical stage. Though action has been taken, when we're making a change, we're daring to do something differently, that is, attempting to do things in a new and hopefully more satisfying way. So while we may pull off doing a new behavior once, it will take time to "get used" to doing things the new way. It is inevitable that we will occasionally "slip up" or "relapse." Many may get discouraged or even give up because of this. During the maintenance stage we need to keep catching ourselves doing it right, to identify what is working and continue to celebrate and build on that.
Stage Six: Termination This is when we've incorporated the new behavior and no longer include it in on our list of "I find myself doing what I don't want to do and not doing what I do want to do."
Are you ready for a change? Find yourself stuck or struggling with any of the above? Give us a call!