Blogs are all about acting on change. We love action. We suggest it and call for it all the time. Let me tell you about the 5 stages of change, or more specifically, stages of being ready to make a change. Or not. Not everyone is ready to leap into change, even if the suggested change is a good idea.
Stages of Change
A while back some researchers into smoking cessation figured out five stages of change. These are five ideas about making a change that we go through to actually add a change to our lives. I’ll use quitting smoking to show each stage and what it means.
- Don’t need a change. “Smoking problem? Not me. I only do a pack a day. Who needs to quit?” My reaction to my doctor telling me to quit for my health. It’s not being ready to think about change right now.
- Maybe I need a change. “What good will quitting smoking do me now?” Maybe I’ll think about this some more. I might decide to quit and I might decide to keep on smoking.
- Researching. “OK I think I should quit smoking. What kinds of help can I get? Everyone tells me it’s really hard to do alone.” At this point I’m exploring how to make the change in a way that suits me. I’m interested in success here.
- Making the change. “Patches, my help line on speed dial, and a friend to help me–check. I have half a pack left. I am smoking less frequently so that the lower dose from the patch will be an easier step down. My plan is ready and I am doing this.”
- Maintaining the change. “I am now off cigarettes and the patch. No more nicotine! Now I can stay in touch with my support people to stay free. My friends are all happy for me, so I won’t backslide and disappoint anyone.”
When planning for a change we generally are in stages 2, 3, or 4. Notice we don’t go for action till stage 4. I won’t go into Stage 1 here because that’s just denial. It takes awareness to change.
So, Stage 2 is when I think there’s a problem but I am not convinced I need to do something yet. At this point I need to decide whether there really is something going on.
I’ll pick on myself and go with exercise. I hate it. Always have. But I noticed that if I don’t walk around some I get stiff and it hurts. So I am guessing I may need to do something regularly to keep from getting all stiff and painful. I suppose.
But the last few times I tried I hurt myself by wrecking my knees on the stationary bike and by falling off the Nordic Trak. What’s a couch potato to do?
On to Stage 3–Researching
Now I am pretty sure I need exercise but I don’t have a plan or even a real notion of what to do. I do know I want my mobility to stay good. So I have to figure out what kind of exercise will help me stay upright and mobile. Time for research.
Walking evidently is a good one, but winter’s coming. Possibly that with some strength building exercise I could also get my knees to accept the bike. The pool in town also offers free swim and water aerobics classes twice a week. For balance I could go to tai chi at $5 a lesson up at the martial arts school. I could snowshoe once the snow gets deep enough. I might get a friend to walk with me or get some portable music to take along. If I mix it up I might stick with it better. Certainly a mix will reduce the possibility of injury from overusing my knees.
Next, Stage 4–And, Action!
So now I have researched what there is for exercise that helps me keep moving. Time to set up a plan. On Mondays and Thursdays I can go to the pool. Wednesday is when they have tai chi. Tuesdays and Fridays I can do a little strength training at home and then go for a walk. Saturdays and Sundays I’ll do whatever comes along. I will try that for 3 months and hopefully not injure myself, and then I will see how it is going for me.
Stage 5–Fine Tuning
I’ve been exercising for 3 months and I have better energy, muscle tone and balance. Even though it’s winter my pants still fit in the “summer” size. There’s a new dance class I’ve heard about and a friend and I are going to check it out. That will replace the Friday walk, but now I like to walk on Saturdays with another friend. Tai chi is great fun, but the water aerobics is kinda slow for me so I just swim instead. And we have enough snow to go snowshoeing now!
Different problems, different stages
It’s worth noting that one person can be in several different stages at once, depending on the problem at hand. I can be deciding whether to exercise, be totally ready to do an overhaul of the basement, and not be convinced I need to go to a hairdresser instead of cutting my own hair. And that’s okay.
If you suspect you need to make a change but you’re not feeling ready, honor that feeling. You need time to weigh the benefits of changing or not. You need to check out your options and make a plan. Then you can spring into action. Down the road you can always fine tune your program. It’s yours to do with what you will.
Is there a change you are considering? How ready do you feel to make that change?
If you are ready for action, read about using SMART goals here.