Are You Ready for a Change?

by Dr. Kevin Polk

Copyright 2000. All rights reserved.

"Change" is a word we use a lot. We use it a lot because we do a lot of it. We even have a great saying for it, "The only thing that doesn't change is that things change." We are constantly bombarded with messages that we need to change. We are told to change how much we weigh, how much we eat, what we eat, how we interact with others, how we work, etc. You need only to pick up a magazine, look at TV or listen to the radio to be bombarded with messages about what you need to change.

The problem is that change is stressful. Being told to change is stressful as well. There is a good reason we get stressed when we are told to change. Where I am from we call it "being set in your ways." It's only natural. Being set in your ways is a lot like autopilot. That means you don't have to think much about what you're doing. If you had to think about every little thing you did each day, you would be exhausted in no time. So we tend to keep things the same to save energy. This tendency is useful until we really need to change.

A scientist named Dr. James O. Prochaska and his colleagues have studied the stages people go through as they change. They have found that there are five stages of change.

Knowing what stage you are in can help you get out of a rut and make the changes you need to make. In my opinion it can also help you decide to pass up the changes you don't need to make. Think about it. If you made all the changes you are told to make each day, you would do nothing but change.

Here are the stages of change:

  1. Pre-contemplation: This can mean that you are not thinking about that change you need to make. It can also mean you are thinking about changing, but not for six months or more. For example, you did not know you needed to lower your cholesterol level until you found it was too high. Maybe you are thinking about getting to work on lowering it...six months from now.
  2. Contemplation: Now you are thinking about making the change within six months. For example, you know you need to lower that cholesterol. You're thinking about doing something about it soon, but that's all you're doing.
  3. Preparation: Now you've thought about it and know you want to change. Now you are putting the pieces together to make the change within the next 30 days. You're close to action.
  4. Action: Now you go on that diet, you start exercising, you take your medicine, whatever. You are spending time each day doing the change. You have been doing so for six months or less.
  5. Maintenance: You have made the change and kept it up for more than six months. In terms of cholesterol, you lowered the cholesterol and have kept it low for more than six months.

Use these stages to help observe and analyze your self as you change, or if you are like a lot of us, as you don't change. So are there changes that you need to make but you are keeping them in pre-contemplation? Are you just thinking about doing something and not preparing? Maybe you keep preparing and don't take action. Maybe you take action and don't keep it up.

Whatever you do don't lose sleep over what stages of change you are in. Treat this as another tool you can use to help yourself feel better. You will probably want to use it when you are feeling stuck solving a problem. Then you can determine at which stage you're stuck. Maybe it will make it easier to get going. Maybe you will decide to stay where your are. There's some comfort in knowing where you are.

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