For everyone, there are things we would like to do more of, or do less of, or do differently. Whether it is eating healthy, or stopping smoking, or being more patient, or ending your marriage, or changing careers. Professionals working with clients on any type of change realize that change is a marathon and not a sprint. It happens gradually, small step by small step, over a period of time, sometimes even years.
Why is that?
It is all about our mind and how our mind works. Change can be scary, uncertain, overwhelming. We must process through these feelings before we can get to the powerful, positive, life-altering aspects of change.
Five Stages Of Change:
Precontemplation: In this stage, we have either never thought about change or have never taken it seriously. Change is literally not on our radar. If others encourage us to change, we will respond with defensiveness because we do not see a problem. This is so often a frustrating stage for family and friends who see a loved one struggling with addiction yet in denial.
Contemplation: In this stage, we begin to actively think about, or contemplate, change. We begin to wrap our head around the idea of change. This is the stage wherein we have to develop motivation for change. It’s a shift from “exercise is good for you” to “I want to be healthier.” It’s a shift from an abstract concept to applying that concept to ourselves personally. We ask ourselves questions such as, “why am I unhappy,” “why change now,” “what stops me from changing,” “what are my options.”
Preparation: In this stage, we begin to prepare for change. We think about the steps necessary, identify barriers, and put supports in place. We join a gym, hire a career coach, locate a therapist. We also mentally prepare ourselves for the fears that often accompany change and the negative, self-defeating thoughts that may hold us back.
Action: This is the state wherein we actually engage in behaviors directed towards change. We go to the gym. We send out our resume, network, and contact our connections. We set goals and outline the steps, some small and some large, needed to reach those goals, taking action day by day.
Maintenance: This stage is about continuing the change. Continuing to go to the gym or eat healthy or be organized. It is within this stage, once we have accomplished our goals that we can become complacent, lose focus or direct our focus elsewhere, and unfortunately slip back into old patterns.
The good news is that this is normal and part of the change process. Some professionals even identify this as a sixth step, Relapse. Recognizing that this is typical, can help to diminish shame or embarrassment associated with mistakes or missteps. It makes it easier to regroup, refocus, and continue the cha-cha of two steps forward, one step back.
Can you see now why change can be so hard and take so long? Do not fret, you are not alone. It is a matter of psychology.
Think about one area that you would like to change and identify what stage you are in. And if you need help working through the stages, making decisions, and taking actions, contact us here.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Barack Obama