5 Steps to Behavior Change

In the world of behavior change there are many models out the that show a way, a process, to make behavior changes.  My advice is pick one that works for you.  My goal is to share the information with you, and my hope is that it finds a way to help you in your growth and development.

In the 1980’s, alcoholism researchers James O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente developed and tested transtheoretical model (TTM), the one most widely applied and tested in health settings.  TTM presumes that at any given time, a person is in one of five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, or maintenance.

The idea is that people move from one stage to the next. Each stage is a preparation for the following one, so hurrying through or skipping stages is likely to result in setbacks.

Most of the evidence for this model comes from studies of alcohol, drug abuse, and smoking cessation, but it’s also been applied to various health behaviors, including exercise and dieting.  Anyone motivated to change can use it to assess their situation and formulate strategies.

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation: At this stage you are not aware that a change needs to be made and have no intentions of doing so. You may lack the necessary information or you may have failed in the past to make a change. To move past this stage you have to become aware of new information that points out that this behavior is preventing you from accomplishing what you want to accomplish.

Stage 2: Contemplation: In this stage you are aware of the behavior and know that you need to change it.  However, most people tend to stay in this stage for months at a time before actually doing something about it. You will actually start thinking about adverse effects of making a change.  For example:  If I start working out, then I won’t have time to work as much and I could lose my job, because I won’t get certain things done like a should.  I know this seems like an extreme example, but people do it.  Another example: If I stop smoking, I will gain weight.  So in our minds we think the current behavior is better than the negative effects of changing the behavior.

Stage 3: Preparation: At this stage, you know you must make a change and you also believe you can.  You start making plans to make the change quickly, maybe in the next week or so.  At this stage it is important to make measurable goals that you can hold yourself accountable to.  For example:  I will make sure I get up at 5:00 am at least 3 times this week.  I will work out at least 4 times this week for no less than 30 minutes.  It is critical that you create measurable goals that you can track.  Like the ones I give here.

Stage 4: Action: At this stage you have made the behavior change.  You have had some obstacles of making the change and worked through them.  You’ll need to continue to work through these obstacles because they will continue to challenge your new lifestyle and well-being. It is also important that you stay very clear about your motivation to change and constantly remind yourself of your reasons for the change.  This will keep you pushing through to make this change a permanent change.

Stage 5: Maintenance: At this point you have been practicing this new behavior, this change, for at least six months. Now you’re working to prevent yourself from falling back into the old way of you. It is critical to also continue to put in safeguards that protect you from yourself, I always say.  For example: I don’t buy sweet foods and put them in my house.  Items such as cookies, ice cream, snacks, etc.  I know on a late night, it is easy for me to eat those things, so I just protect myself from them by not buying them.

I have been studying people for most of my life, however, in the last 10 years I have had the front seat to watch people and their actions and reactions to life, leadership, personal growth, career advancement, and other facets of life. My conclusion is this. Change is hard and it is extremely hard if you don’t have a process and someone holding you accountable.

Applying the process above can get you headed down the road to make a change, but the chances are you will need a good coach or mentor that can help you identify the behaviors that need doc change and coach you through the changes.

Lastly: 

Here is the sad thing: Most people are good at making decisions.  I can make a decision to lose weight, eat healthier, not be an ass to my coworkers, budget better, be a better husband, spend more time with my kids.  Most of us can state this and make the decision to do one of these things.  Here is the challenge though, we typically aren’t very good at managing these decisions. A coach can help you manage these decisions.  Make a decision and then manage those decisions until the change is made. The easier part is making the decision and the hard part and the real work is managing the decision.

To your success and your future.

 

 

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