Stages of Change
Posted by Kimber Harding
June 3, 2015
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Rehabilitating Your New Year’s Resolutions
Did you know that only 8% of people are successful at achieving their New Year’s resolutions? Getting fit, staying healthy and losing weight were among the top resolutions set for 2014. In fact one third of Americans set some sort of resolution for the New Year. Of that third only 64% stick with it after the first month and after 6 months only 46%. Ask yourself: “Did I stick to my New Year’s Resolutions till the end of 2014?” If you answered “No”, but would like to improve your chances to succeed this year, than this post is for you.
New Year Resolutions are goals we set to help us to make needed or desired lifestyle changes. While situations, influencing factors, and attitudes can vary between people, the stages one must go through to create lasting change is the same. We will explore these stages of change, how to set SMART goals, and why waiting till the 1st of January to start a New Year’s resolution is a recipe for failure.
Stages of Change:
One common misconception about behavior change is that it is often referred to as a single event or moment in time such as quitting smoking or beginning to exercise daily. The Stages of Change model refer to a process of progressing through stages over time. Success is best achieved when going through these 5 stages:
- Pre-contemplation- People in this stage do not intend to take action in the next six months. An individual in this stage will most likely not set a new year’s resolution because they either don’t see a need to or simply just don’t want to.
- Contemplation- Contemplation is the stage in which people do intend to make a change in the next six months. They often have mixed emotions or contradicting idea’s which will often lead to behavioral procrastination “I will start next week” or “I’ll try again next year”. Individuals in this stage are not ready for immediate action. Trying to go from this stage straight into the action stage on January 1, 2015 with a new year’s resolution will not likely succeed.
- Preparation- Preparation is the stage in which people intend to take action within the next month. These individuals have consciously created a plan for action. They have made SMART goals (below), anticipated potential slip ups (i.e. how to prevent and handle them), and have completed all necessary steps to be ready for action (i.e. purchased gym membership, found a sponsor, written goals, budgeted funds, made adjustments to schedule etc.).
- Specific –This will tell exactly what you are expecting to achieve. A specific goal will answer what you want to accomplish, why you want to, who is involved, where it will happen, and how you plan to achieve it.
- Measurable – If you can’t measure it than it is probably not a very good resolution, it is much easier to follow a plan with set milestones or checkpoints signifying that you are making progress.
- Accountable – Share your resolutions with friends and family, this will help deepen your commitment and resolve. It is much easier to finish the race when people you care about are cheering you on; this concept applies for goal setting and resolutions too.
- Realistic – Is this resolution one that can actually be achieved in real life? There are certain things that can’t be adjusted such as 24hrs in a day, personal workload, needs and responsibilities. Consider the things you do have power to change. Ask yourself; “Am I prepared to make this commitment and ready to tweak aspects of my life?”, If not would a different target be more realistic?
- Timely – Don’t expect success to come overnight! Remember that a New Year’s resolution is for the entire new YEAR! We need to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint! A resolution is one that you can sustain for 1 full year.
- Note: We are constantly overwhelmed with flashy fad diets, health guidelines, products, services, quick-fixes, and miracle pills. Most of us know that these “one-size-fits-all approaches” don’t last and leads to discouragement. Yes, we all want to see fast results, but it is apparent that quick results don’t equal permanent and sustainable change. Although either you or someone you know might have had success with a given diet, it is almost always short term. Extreme restrictions can lead to quick weight and fat loss but cause muscle and bone loss as well. To make it worse these restricted diets lower the body’s metabolism. Then as an individual goes back to normal eating, they gain all the weight back (in fat) and then some.
- 4) Action- Action is the stage in which people implement their plans and are making specific observable modifications to their lifestyle. This is what we hope takes place on January 1 each year when people attempt to begin their resolutions. However, many of us try to jump right into this stage with our resolutions without adequate preparation.
- 5) Maintenance- Maintenance is the stage in which people have made specific modifications to their lifestyles and are working to sustain the behavior changes made. Individuals in this stage find themselves becoming more confident that they can continue their changes.
Note: During both the action and maintenance stages the majority of people will experience slip ups or “relapse”. Does this mean that you have officially failed and should just try again next year? No it doesn’t, you planned what to do for slip-ups during the preparation stage! You can quickly return to the action or maintenance stage by reviewing your plan, identifying your strengths that have helped you so far, and then learning how to prevent the same slip-up next time.
Take a minute to consider possible New Year’s resolutions for the 2015 year that you might make. Assess which stage of change you feel that you are in, and ask yourself what needs to happen for you to progress to the next step. After all, when it comes to making your own change, nobody knows what it takes better than you do. Start making the necessary preparations, find support, and prepare for action over the next few weeks. This will help to ensure that you are ready January 1, 2015. For additional info and tips to move through the stages of change, check out the following:
A ‘Stages of Change’ Approach to Helping Patients Change Behavior. American Academy of Family Physician
Transtheoretical Model (or Stages of Change) - Health Behavior Change. Prochange.com.
New Year’s Resolution Statistics. University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology, 1 Jan. 2014
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