Earlier today, during my morning run, I was thinking about a blog post I had in mind concerning motivation. And as often happens during physical activity, at least for me, my brain got all revved up and thought, “Hey, Sheryle, you are putting the cart before the horse.” There’s a couple steps involved before the motivation can step in. So I think it is wise to just start at the beginning, work from there, and get to motivation in it’s proper order. I know, I know, you want to get to the good stuff, but you’ve got to do the steps to create a solid foundation for your change or the whole project is likely to fall to pieces.
According to over two decades of research, before any change can occur, individuals move through a series of changes referred to as the stages of change model. I use this model in my personal training assessments to determine where my client’s headspace is concerning the change they are contemplating. And if we should even proceed at all. My frugality knows no bounds, and I won’t waste someone else’s money on training when I can clearly see they are not ready to change. I have used this model personally while making changes of my own. And several times ditched my plan because it became quite obvious I simply wasn’t quite ready.
Stage 1) Precontemplation (Not ready)-generally in this stage the person kinda knows there is a need for change intellectually, but they do not intend to take any action at this time. I used to wonder why this would even be in the model, but now know it is where the seed of change gets planted. It is the beginning of the beginning.
Stage 2) Contemplation (Getting ready mentally)-Hey, the seed took hold. The plan is growing some roots, not just blowing around in the wind. This is good. Usually when in this stage people intend to change within the next 6 months. Costs and benefits of the changed get weighed. People get stuck in this stage a lot. Procrastination can rule here. weighing pros and cons are a good thing, but it is easy to get tangled up in this state. It is not a state of action, but rather one of thought.
Stage 3) Preparation (getting ready physically)-The roots are getting deeper. In this stage people intend to take action in the immediate future. Joining a gym, creating a budget, shopping for healthy food, throwing away ashtrays, consulting with a physician are all examples of a person in the preparation stage. This and the following stages are where I will commit to training with the client. I want my clients to be successful. And at this stage, it can become a reality.
Stage 4) Action (time to get after it)-Wow, I see some leaves on that plant! Time to put the plan into motion. Preparations have been made. The day is highlighted on the calendar. It is time make the change, and depending on your individual goal it lasts…until. It varies and I would be remiss to give you a time frame. It can be both a productive and frustrating time, and if you are here, I will try to get the post on motivation completed soon. This is where you will need it. Sometimes during this stage we have a lapse, sometimes a total relapse. With a lapse we may fall off the horse, but we get right back on. If we relapse, the damn horse runs away, and we get to start over. I cannot tell you how many dozens of times I quit (and started again) smoking. That project alone makes me an expert on the stages of change model. But eventually I got strong enough and I found myself here….
Stage 5) Maintenance (I did it!)- The plant is in full bloom. The plan has been worked, goal has been achieved, and needs to be maintained. This is where we must feel committed to the change. Our change becoming our lifestyle. It’s a hard stage to get to. And I’ll be honest. Many fail. I did. I quit smoking for 17 months once, lit one up, and BOOM, I was right back at the preparation stage in no time. I am a true nicotine addict, one’s too many, a hundred is not enough. I wasn’t even sure how it all happened. We get all comfy and smug with our goals. Don’t let your guard down at this phase and get all cocky and stuff. It’s a recipe for failure. It does get easier, and most professionals believe once we have maintained for 5 years, we are probably free and clear. It has become as much of a lifestyle choice as choosing to brush our teeth every morning and night. It is ingrained. Woot, woot, you win!
It should be noted, many people do not ease from one stage to the other in perfect order. Some people, like me with smoking, flop around the stages for a long time, going from one to another, digressing, lapsing, even relapsing. And there are a few individuals, oh how I wish I were one, who easily transition from one stage to another. The tougher the goal, the tougher the process. Achieving goals is not easy, but then again nothing worth having rarely is. Do not be disappointed if your whole plan goes awry. You will have learned something valuable. You will use it next time, because if it was important to your core values, you WILL try again. I learned a lesson from every single failed smoking attempt I had. There is value in failure. In this model, your failures can actually add to your strength, as long as you keep trying.
I hope the understanding of the stages of change model helps you make some of those tough lifestyle decisions. It will be right here waiting for you when you are ready.