There are many different stages of change, six to be exact. During the first stage (called the precognitive or…not ready) one doesn’t intend to start the healthy behaviour anytime soon. But in the meantime, we might start learning about alternative and healthier behaviours, weighing up the pros and cons of our current behavioural patterns and how we feel about the effects of our negative behaviour on others.
Then, we go into the contemplation or the ‘getting ready’ stage (stage 2). This is important because here we are actually ‘thinking’ about making a change but we’re still kinda ‘meh’ about it and may put it off.
Moving into the 3rd stage, we bring in preparation – this is when we think we’re ready. We’re taking baby steps in the right direction and we’re talking about it to our friends and family.
The 4th stage is the action stage and we’ve made that change to our behaviour and we’re working hard on maintaining that change. We might strengthen our commitments to this new change and fight off the urge to fall off the wagon.
At the 5th stage, we’re full swing into maintaining our new positive behaviour(s) but we may be tempted to slip back during stressful situations (think smoking).
Stage 6 is the dreaded relapse and we are all going to do it to some degree. We revert back into our old patterns because we know them and we’re comfortable with them. It’s important to note what may trigger a relapse.
While this seems simplistic, we may not move through these stages in perfect linear fashion. It’s a circle and we can and will skip all over the place before we find ourselves fully engaged and committed to the new way of doing things.
It’s important to know that while we may recognize which stage we’re in, the ultimate goal of change is to see it through and keep it up in a healthy manner. That said, don’t be too hard on yourself if you fall back, occasionally. It doesn’t mean that you’ve failed. It just means that you need to reassert/reset yourself and try again.
It takes, on average, about 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic.
What new, healthy, changes do you want to work on?