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Ready For A Change?

You set a goal. It seems right. You know it's something you have to do, but it fades away rapidly. What happened?

It's possible you weren't prepared for actual change. Prochaska, respected behavioral health scientist, once became quite confused in his work with smokers. It appeared to him that folks were genuinely seeking his smoking cessation services who genuinely wanted to quite smoking. He believed he had a good treatment program, yet the relapse rate was terrible. 

He buckled down and began to research the change process. I think you'll find it interesting what he learned. Here are the six steps he came up with.


Someone in this stage may say, "Uh, what problem?" We often say these folks are in denial of what appears so obvious to those around them. But, it would be important to remember that all these stages appear to be a natural part of the change process for most people. Getting stuck in one stage may prove painful however.


There's a lot of ambivalence in this stage. A person may feel anger, fear or grief when considering the need to give up a way of living like stopping smoking, going back to work, or the need to be more patient with the children. It's common for someone in this stage to identify the barriers which would make it impossible to make a change right now.


This stage can fool you. It looks like change is on the way. A person acknowledges, in this phase of change, the need for change. This is the part that can be misleading. Acknowledging the need for change does, in no way, mean that change is imminent. This rung on the ladder of change is appropriately named as a prep period before actual change can take place. This is a time to solidify the desire for change and to assess the needed resources it will take to begin to enact change in your life.


Ahhh... finally change is happening. Here, after much thought is given to whether or not a problem exists, and after lining up goals and resources the plan begins to unfold. Objectives are set in motion. Action is taken to access necessary resources and there is forward motion. Additionally, there may be tweaks needed to the original plan and then one begins to achieve the desired goals.


Once a goal has been initially obtained, there is often a need to maintain some of the behaviors that were put into place to achieve the goal. If you acted on a 6-step plan to clear the clutter from your house, it makes sense that you will have to do a minimum of maintenance activities to sustain the gains you've accomplished. Relapses are expected. No one is perfect. It's vital to use relapses as a learning ground. Use the experience to "fail forward," versus throwing in the towel when things don't continue as smoothly as in the first part of the action phase.


For some, termination may never come. The recovering alcoholic may feel compelled to trim back to one AA meeting a week after one year of recovery, but no less. 
Yet, in the case where someone makes the goal to save "x" number of dollars for a down payment on a new home, the budget crunch goals may be over with after the initial goal is completed. I tend to coach folks to maintain good habits once established though, because it tends to bleed over and make other parts of your life much more full.

You will naturally see yourself in these stages from previous changes you've made. You may even find yourself within this change process now. Whether you or a loved one is wrestling in these stages, I can help. There are strategies which can shorten the time spent in each of these areas. Let me know if I can help you reach that new goal in a shorter time than it might take on your own.

Here you can check out Prochaska's book Changing For Good.  It's a great book with much more detail.


Dave Turo-Shields (email)
Veteran Psychotherapist, Trainer & Life Coach

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"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another."  

~ Anatole France

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