How the Stages of Behavioral Change can help you reach your 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,