Ready for a change? Identify your starting point.

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Before you set out on your journey to improve your overall health or join the healthy lifestyle club, you must first understand where you are beginning. Medical and fitness professionals use multiple tools to discover an individual’s readiness for change. Surveys, intake forms and lengthy discussions to better understand the needs of the individual so we have a starting point to start a corrective course of action.

One tool that is often used is the Stages of Change Model, also called the Transtheoretical Model (TTM). It describes the process of behavior change as occurring in stages. These stages include:

  • Pre-contemplation: There is no intention of taking action. People are not aware of any problematic behaviors, therefore do not see the need to change.

  • Contemplation: There are intentions to take action and a plan to do so in the near future. People are now aware of a problematic behavior and are considering making a change.

  • Preparation: There is intention to take action and some steps have been taken. Ready to make a change and start their journey.

  • Action: Behavior has been changed for a short period of time. People have made the decision to actively change their behavior and are practicing new habits. Have been in this stage for less than 6 months.

  • Maintenance: Behavior has been changed and continues to be maintained for the long-term. People have sustained their changed behavior and intend to continue on this path. Have been in this stage for more than 6 months.

  • Relapse: Behavior, habit or action has been paused or abandoned.

Let’s break down each stage and discuss the characteristics associated with the model.

Precontemplation: Again at this stage, people do not intend to take action in the foreseeable future. People are often unaware that their behavior is problematic or produces negative consequences. People in this stage often underestimate the pros of changing behavior and place too much emphasis on the cons of changing behavior.

If given the opportunity to meet an individual in this stage, ask them questions to better their viewpoint. A couple questions that I would ask, are the following:

  1. What is GOOD about not changing?

  2. What might be BAD about changing?

By asking these questions, you’ll have a better understanding of their mindset and possibly help the individual move from this stage.

After all the goal would be to:

  1. Increase awareness of the risks associated with any negative lifestyle choices. Explain and personalize the inherent risk.

  2. Provide education and explain the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle.

  3. Focus on addressing something relevant to them. Explore their personal values.

  4. Finally, lend your support, for if or when, they decide to take action towards change.

Contemplation: In this stage, people are curious and recognize that their current state, habits and behavior may be problematic. However more thoughtful and practical considerations of the pros and cons of changing their behavior are being made. Even with this recognition, people may still feel ambivalent towards changing their lifestyle.

In addition to asking the two questions above, here are two more questions I would ask an individual in this stage:

3. What is GOOD about changing?

4. What might be BAD about not changing?

By evaluating these questions, it may help you or a friend advance from this stage. The goal would be to validate feelings or concerns and work collaboratively to explore viable options. Be supportive and encourage the evaluation of the pros versus the cons.

Preparation: In this stage, people are ready to take action within the next 30 days. People start to take small steps toward behavior change, and they believe changing their behavior can lead to a healthier life. “Determination and willpower” are the terms often included in this stage.

Working with individuals in this stage, it’s vital to understand the “why”, creating a plan of action, frequent positive feedback and reinforcements on their progress. 3 strategies for success:

  • Evaluate skills for behavior change and start with small steps toward building your/their self-efficacy.

  • Identify and create preventive problem-solving measures to overcome barriers, setbacks, etc.

  • Build a social support system and monitor/adjust goals accordingly.

Action: In this stage, people have recently changed their behavior (on their journey less than 6 months) and intend to keep moving forward with that behavior change. There will be achievements and failures, being ahead or behind set goals, and highs and lows emotionally, physically and mentally in this stage. Consistency is key because there is a high risk for relapse or the return to one of the stages above.

Three key strategies for success: Consistency, accountability and support.

Maintenance: In this stage, people have sustained their behavior change for six months or longer and intend to actively maintain the behavior change or lifestyle. People in this stage work to prevent relapse to earlier stages. Some make new goals or practice new behaviors (ex. nutrition), returning to the preparation and action stage with this new goal.

Reviewing the information above, where would you place yourself on the Stages of Change Model? What strategies or ideas do you have to advance to the next stage? If you are in the maintenance stage, will you try to master a new behavior? Finally if you relapsed, how do you start again and when?

Join us for our next blog posting where we will discuss, finding your desire and setting personal goals. Thank you for joining us on The Self-ish Life, now go out and live life intentionally.

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