The Secret to Successful Personal Change
How Ready Are You?
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
– A.A. Milne
If you are considering a positive personal change, how ready are you to take the actions needed to move forward?
I want to (fill in the blank):
- Declutter my home or office
- Lose a few pounds
- Share more time with family or friends
- Exercise more regularly
- Start a new sport, hobby, or practice
- Manage my time more effectively
- Begin to journal or write a book
- Learn a musical instrument
- Meditate daily
- Or something else
The Change Process
Do you dig in, persevere, or give up? Readiness for change is a big ingredient for success. Decades of research on behavior change show that it’s important to be ready. Behavior change typically evolves gradually as we move from little or no awareness/interest, toward considering the change, to planning and taking specific actions (Zimmerman et al, 2000). By understanding this process, we can proceed more effectively and with less discomfort.
Researchers Prochaska, Norcross & Diclemente (1995) outline a cycle of six stages that has revolutionized our understanding of successful personal change. Knowing about these steps can help us more effectively navigate our goals and increase the possibilities for success.
Brief summary of the six stages of change (Prochaska et al, 1995):
- Not yet thinking about it (pre-contemplation). We have little or no awareness that the behavior is a concern or causes negative consequences; have no intention to change or feel unable to change.
- Beginning to think about it (contemplation). We see positives about making the change. We begin to think about moving in that direction, but have no true intention to take action.
- Planning, setting goals, and beginning small steps (preparation). We are developing specific plans to create action within the next month and may already be taking steps toward the change.
- Taking steps to make it happen (action). We are actively changing behaviors and making choices to move forward. Coping with challenges, we are building momentum toward the chosen personal change.
- Keeping it up — continuing to sustain the change (maintenance). We have made the changes and achieved the goal for a significant period of time; actively intend to keep it up going forward.
- It’s a well-practiced, long standing habit (termination). The new behavior is automatic and it’s no longer a temptation to return to the old behavior.