Behavior Change – I think I can, I think I can…maybe

Spring is here! Time for re-birth, re-growth, and re-booting our New Year’s resolution to get moving and shape up (you know the one that quickly fell by the wayside). If you’re like about 80% of us trying to change behavior it happens in fits and starts. But, have heart and don’t give up too soon!  It might help to understand the well documented five step pattern to change outlined by James Prochaska:

Pre-contemplation:  Not intending to or ready to change

Contemplation: Thinking about it, but pros and cons of change judged about equal.

Preparation: Intending to change and have a plan of action for change within six months

Action: Taking action on a regular basis

Maintenance: Sustaining the change for at least 6  months; becomes part of the person’s lifestyle.

Unfortunately, on average, fewer than 20% of people trying to change a behavior make it to the action stage at any one time.  

Failed attempts at changing a specific behavior, mean you’re likely bouncing between stages. Try pin pointing which stage of behavior change you get stuck in most often, and why.  

 Stages and Triggers

Are you in Pre-contemplation? Think, Uncle Phil who claims smoking “gets a bad rap because his grandpa smoked, and lived to be 90”. With no desire to change, often only an “index event” that shakes the very foundation of his beliefs, can motivate change: something like a sudden hospitalization, or stark realization that although he’s always identified with being a former athlete, he’s having difficulty catching his breath after a short flight of stairs.

Contemplation? If you made a resolution (even if you didn’t follow thru) then you’re at least in the contemplation stage. It’s a start!! A Contemplator might say, “I probably should get more exercise but I’m doing alright so far without it, right?” Judging the pros and cons pretty equal makes it hard to move into action.  Ultimately you have to really believe this change will be positive, so dig a little to see what belief/idea may be blocking your desired change.

Preparation? Many of us are great preparers!  Have you bought an exercise machine or DVD lately? Did it change your behavior; change your life?  Bouncing from preparation into bursts of action, and back -sometimes all the way back to contemplation- is common. Make it as easy as possible to stay “in action” by putting your exercise gear in the car if you know going home from work before a class is usually a deal breaker.

Achieving a goal

Ultimately, there’s no special book or guru with more power or insight than you have to make lasting change in your life.  Positive change comes directly from your own personal beliefs about whether change will result in a net positive or negative in your life.


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