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by Tonya Ladipo

How is it that we can struggle with making changes that we know are good for us? We all have big and little things that we could do differently and it would significantly improve our lives.

So why is it that going to bed earlier, writing about our feelings, or seeing our friends more often is so hard to do? Does it feel selfish to do something that is good for you? Is it laziness that prevents us from making these changes? Do we feel unworthy of the goodness that would come from these changes?

Maybe. But another factor that is at play is the process of change. “What process?” you think, we should just be able to do what we need to do. Well not exactly. There is a process involved when it comes to making changes.

Fortunately for us, researchers have gone to great lengths to understand this process. Prochaska and DiClemente identify 6 stages of change. Pre-contemplation (aka “blissful ignorance”) is the first stage. Not too much is happening at this point.

Next comes Contemplation where we’re ambivalent and “sitting on the fence” about whether or not to make the change. Preparation follows where we start planning and testing the change.

The fourth stage, the action phase, lasts for several months and involves practicing the new behavior. The maintenance phase can last from several months to several years as we make an ongoing commitment to the new behavior. The final stage is Relapse where we result back to the old behavior.

Making a lasting change takes more than motivation and incentive. It takes thought, planning, practice, commitment, and yes, relapse. And then re-commitment. It’s not that we’re lazy, unworthy, or incapable of making the changes that we need to make. Instead we don’t understand that making a change is a process in itself. The process takes time and energy.

So the next time you’re beating yourself up for not making the change that you want to make, consider these 6 stages and see which one you’re in. Having an understanding of this may help you move to the next stage!

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