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Are You Ready To Make a Change?

How the Stages of Behavioral Change can help you reach your goals.

How the Stages of Behavioral Change Can Help You Reach Your Goals. Have you been thinking about starting to exercise or spending less time on social media? Have you decided you want to make a change to be more active or eat healthier? The six stages describe the process by which all behaviors change which helps you maintain realistic expectations and minimize your frustration. Click through to read the full article. #behavior #positivechange #selfcare #personaldevelopment #wellness #goals


This is where my vision of combining my profession, psychologist, with my passion for health and fitness have come together. I use this model for change often when I work with teachers and how to interact and motivate junior high and high school students at school. When we look at behaviors students are [or aren’t] doing, i.e. the student doesn’t study, but “they should study every night.” True they should. But, they don’t and if they’re not ready to make that big leap from zero studying to daily studying we need to meet them where they are and move toward the end goal. The same model has also been effective with personal training clients.

Have you been thinking about starting to exercise, adding cross training to your fitness plan, or spending less time on social media?  Have you decided you want to make a change to be more active or eat healthier?

The premise for helping a student see value in and beginning to study can also be applied to becoming more active and beginning to exercise or to make a change to an existing habit.

John Prochaska developed the Stages of Change Model. The five stages describe the process by which all behaviors change and by recognizing which of the six stages of change you find yourself in with respect to any one behavior you’re trying to change, you can maintain realistic expectations and minimize your frustration.

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Stages of Change + Action Steps 

Precontemplation In this stage, we have no intention of exercising. We might give it a little consideration – often from the suggestion of family, friends and doctors, but, in general, we’re resistant to even giving it serious thought. Much less taking action.  Why would we? At this stage we’re happy with our current habits and see no value in changing.

  • Action Step(s): Education and fact finding. Get more information about exercising and become aware of the specific benefits as they apply to you.

Contemplation Here we’re actively thinking about the need to change a behavior, to fully wrap our minds around the idea and see the value in it. In this stage a person does not exercise, but they’re thinking about becoming more active. This is often where obstacles and sometimes misconceptions arise. You’re ready to start exercising, but you can’t afford a gym membership or you don’t have time.

  • Action Step(s): Consider the implications and risks if you don’t make a change and begin exercising.

Preparation In this stage we exercise occasionally and have started considering exercising more regularly. We begin to mentally (and physically) prepare to take action. We begin to move away from what we’re trying to change and begin to move toward the motivators.

  • Action Step(s): Clarify realistic goals and expectations and focus on believing how important it is [in your life] to make a change. Know your why and take baby steps. Seek support from friends.

Action In this stage you’re already active, but have not maintained this level of activity for more than 6 months.

  • Action Step(s): Find ways to overcome barriers. Anticipate and have a plan for potential obstacles and disruptions. Whether it’s going to a gym or setting up a home gym to workout at home, make your environment conducive to exercise. Preplan rewards for achieving short term goals.

Maintenance In this stage you’re exercising regularly, but maintaining a new behavior is the hardest part of making a change. Yes, even harder than starting. There is temptation to return to old habits. You may relapse and find yourself back at a previous stage, but don’t view this as complete failure and give up. See a relapse for nothing more than a  and move forward.

  • Action Step(s): Constantly remind yourself of how far you’ve come and your WHY. Reaffirm your commitment and belief and enjoy the benefits. Learn from your mistakes and figure out how to avoid them in the future.

Termination You’ve done it! You’ve changed your sedentary habits and replaced them with healthy ones. Feels great doesn’t it!

  • Action Step(s): Acknowledge your accomplishments. Feel good about the change you have made.

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The stages are sequential and conditional. Try focusing on moving from one stage to the next rather than the ultimate goal. This can help make the change feel less BIG and less overwhelming

Knowing which stage you’re in and understanding your readiness for change can help you set realistic goals. Goals that you’re ready for.

Remember. We were not born with any habits. They were all learned; therefore, they can be unlearned.

I would love to chat:

What stage are you in? Does it even matter? What can you do to begin moving to the next stage? What is one change, fitness or otherwise, you would like to make?

Peace + Wellness,


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  1. I absolutely love this article. It is like an aha moment for me! I am at maintenance after a long battle with wanting to better my health and exercise, 3 years ago I committed to it! I have seen every one of the stages!

  2. I know I really have a hard time getting motivated sometimes. Its really hard but sometimes you just have to make a change and stick to it

  3. These are all great reminders, Jill! Exercise is a habit for me but one thing I have learned is that exercising in the MORNING is best (personally). By afternoon/evening, my energy and sometimes motivation start to go downhill!

  4. So important to have all those steps! It is so hard to just change behavior. You have to think about the steps to do it and ‘get your head in the game’ for real change to happen

  5. Thank you for the encouragement!! It can be tuff with juggling, life and all, but I will do better this year with my fitness!!

  6. Thanks Jill I really like when there is good research to back up your suggestions! Thanks for encouraging us no matter where we are in our fitness goals!

  7. You are so motivating and amazing! Love your blog so much! I really want to be fit

  8. I love the way you broke these steps down. It is great to get yourself into the action step – because then you start getting rewards and that fuels more successes.

  9. I have been walking for months but I think I need to step my exercise game. I have made a permanent change but need to add some variety.

  10. Love this! Once I have this baby I plan to get back into my fitness routine. I’ve been slacking being sooo sick this time around and really need to get my butt in gear.

  11. Im completely in the maintenance step… I continually argue with my self to keep going. Ive been doing it long enough that its a part of my life … you would think that Id just accept that I have to do it EVERY single day without negotiating with myself tho….

  12. This is wonderful! It is so hard to get the motivation for exercise, anything you can do to make it easier on you helps!

  13. Yep, making a chance never is easy. It ALWAYS takes so much time and patience. Got to learn to love and enjoy the process.

  14. Love this! Such a great post…and an important one for fitness professionals, too. I think it’s super easy for trainers to forget about these very important stages of change. We get so caught up in the body aspect of making changes, that we (trainers and exercises) forget about the mind part quite easily.

  15. LOVE this breakdown, Jill! I’m finding I’m using the social work part of my brain alot more in working with clients these days – seeing how behavior and habits play a huge role in helping people reach goals!

  16. I like that you are combining your passion for psychology with fitness. I agree we can say that we will make a change but it is up to us to make that change and if we are not ready then there is not a lot we can do about it!

  17. I appreciate how clearly you broke it down. I’m a firm believe in the contemplation step, whether it’s fitness, career, or anything else in life. Thanks for hosting!

  18. I think maintenance is the hardest! Making the decision and doing it is actually easier than making the decision an sticking to it. Thanks for the link up and the awesome post!

  19. Jill, I’m all about that Maintenance step. I’m a big believer in affirmations and you really hit the nail on the head with the importance of reminding yourself why you started during an exercise adjustment.Another thing I like to remind myself is that the end game is “strong” and not “skinny” when I’m pushing through. So much more empowering.

  20. I’d like to spend less time on SM but it seems to make me be on more.

  21. Interesting topic, Jill. I think I jump back and forth between a few stages ;)) . . . Guilty of letting life’s demands get in the way sometimes. But I am getting better about it and if I exercise in the morning, so much better for me! Appreciate the link-up!

  22. Great post and very ideal way to combine your passion for pyschology and fitness! You could probably write a whole book on that topic and I would be very fascinated. Do you think there’s any self-bias when we place ourselves in a stage of change?

  23. Great way to put it all together. I think I’ve felt ALL of these myself in the course of an hour on a cold day- haha 🙂 Thanks for the linkup!

  24. Good timing on this as I am recommitting to better eating habits. I think I need to be more concrete in my preparation so the action can come naturally.

  25. Great refresher! I love these steps, its super valuable to know where people are in the process to help them get to their goals. Sometimes what seems like the easiest steps can get over looked! Thanks for the reminder!

  26. It is so important to have your brain engaged in change, otherwise, there is no chance that your body will follow through!

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