Change, as anyone who ever tried to stop smoking or lose weight knows, is though. But it wasn’t until I read Changing For Good by James Prochaska that I began to understand why.
You see, up to that point, I had no idea that change is achieved by going through a series of stages.
In the first stage (pre-contemplation) we don’t want to believe that there is a problem. As a matter of fact, it’s the people who can’t stop nagging who have a problem! We resist change and refuse to address the issue. Or maybe we believe that there’s nothing we can do to change the situation.
In the second stage (contemplation) we are sick & tired of being sick & tired. The problem is that we have no idea how to tackle the issue or if there is even a way out. We spend endless hours thinking and talking about our problem but we’re not quite ready for action. We’re stuck, afraid, and angry but it’s not until we shift our focus to possible solutions that we can move on to the next stage.
In the preparation stage, we are fired up and excited to get started but we need more information. So we research and troubleshoot the problem to death until we find the perfect solution. We even tell our friends and family that we are ready to do it! Or we just keep on searching for the perfect solution until we are ready for action.
In this stage, we put all the knowledge we acquired to good use and start working towards our goal. We implement a strategy, come up with a plan, make it fit in our schedule and struggle to keep up with our good intentions. However, we forget that action is not change and too often we drop our guard and revert to the previous stage (or fall off the wagon all together straight back to pre-contemplation).
It’s only through conscientious maintenance (keeping up with the good work until the new behavior is solidly in place) that we can reach the final stage of change, termination. Once we’ve reached termination the problem is just gone and we can tackle, well, the next one.
There is a lot more to this book than my simplistic explanation might imply, including self-tests and tools specific to each stage that will help you successfully transform any behavior you chose to work on.
This book was a revelation to me because it helped me understand why some people could be stuck at different stages regardless of how much I wanted to help them. I realized that it was OK to fail and try again. I learned to tackle one problem at a time.
But most importantly, it gave me the tools and awareness I needed to grow and be kinder to myself and others.
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