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.
- What are your concerns about this behavior change?
- What are the benefits of changing this behavior? How will your life be different?
- What are the negative consequences of this behavior (or not doing it, if it’s a behavior you want to start, such as looking for a job or starting a new hobby)?
- How does this behavior, or lack of it, get in the way of your ability to achieve your goals in life/work?
- How important is making this change?
- How ready are you to commit to what it takes to change?
- Are your goals and plans realistic?
- What support systems can you call on for encouragement or to help you hold yourself accountable?
- What obstacles might get in the way and how can you deal with them?
- How will you celebrate successful milestones?
How’s Your Self-Efficacy? Self-efficacy is believing that you have the capacity to do what you say you will do – feeling able to make the change. Based on the ground-breaking research of Albert Bandura (1994), when we believe we are capable of succeeding – beginning and maintaining a behavior – we’re more likely to work toward and achieve our goals. According to Bandura, when our sense of personal efficacy is higher, we tend to be more firmly committed to achieving the goals we set for ourselves. Strategies such as observing others as role models, visualizing yourself taking action and achieving success, and talking about our wins can promote momentum toward mastery.
Get motivated and stay motivated to win. Consider partnering with a professional coach or other colleague to assist you to generate wins and stay on your path toward our goals.
- Assess your readiness for change.
- Build your self-efficacy.
- Choose and implement goals, strategies and accountabilities to help you do what you say you will do.
- Set clear, measurable steps to create action and assess your progress.
- Develop contingency plans identifying what you will do when things don’t go as planned.
- Get motivated and maintain your momentum.
- Rebound more quickly from setbacks.
- Improve your chances to create the successful and long-lasting changes you choose to work toward.
Resources and References:
- Bandura, A. (1994). Self-efficacy. In V. S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 4, pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted in H. Friedman [Ed.], Encyclopedia of mental health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998
- Moore, M., Jackson, E., Tschannen-Moran, B. (2016). Coaching psychology manual, (2nd ed.). Philadephia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.
- Prochaska, J.O., Norcross, J.C., Diclemente, C.O. (1994). Changing for good: A revolutionary six-stage program for overcoming bad habits and moving your life positively forward. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
- Zimmerman, G.L., Olsen, C.G., Bosworth, M.F. (2000). A ‘states of change’ approach to helping patients change behavior. American Family Physician, 6(5), 1409-1416.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD is a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator. Ilene has dedicated much of her career to the personal and professional development and integrative well-being of others. As a life and leadership coach, psychologist, and educator, she inspires others to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online and access free resources at http://ileneberns-zare.com.
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