by Angie Miller
Have you ever found yourself making excuses or searching for reasons to hold on to a person or situation that you know isn’t in your best interests, yet you can’t seem to find the courage to change? As the saying goes, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Meaning that often we choose to deal with the familiar even when the familiar isn’t ideal, as opposed to facing the unknown. Frankly it’s why so many people get stuck, in unhealthy relationships, jobs, and even unhealthy lifestyle decisions- smoking, sleep deprivation, overeating, or lack of exercise. Maybe in the past we’ve tried to change, but somehow we revert back to old patterns. Maybe we see the need for change, but we have no idea where to begin. Or maybe we don’t have what I call a driver and change isn’t even in our radar. To me a driver is something that motivates us to change, something that is making us uncomfortable enough to override our fear of the unknown.
Research supports that for lasting change to take place we have to go through a series of stages. These stages help us approach change gradually, thus preparing our mind and emotions and setting us up for success. The Transtheoretical Model is one such model of change. The Transtheoretical Model assesses our readiness for change and helps provide us with strategies to adopt new behaviors. There are six stages in the model, but we don’t necessarily go through them in a step-by-step fashion. For instance, we might backtrack if the change is especially difficult. The model reinforces the type of effort and commitment required for lasting change. Whether it’s exercise, healthy eating, or some other change you need to make in your life, check out these stages and see if you are ready for change.
- Precontemplation- In the precontemplation stage a person has no intention of changing. Maybe they’ve tried in the past and given up, maybe they’re in denial, or maybe they’re completely unaware they have a problem. In terms of exercise, a person in this stage is saying, “Exercise, what is exercise and why would I want to do that?”
- Contemplation- In the contemplation stage a person recognizes that they have a problem and they start to consider the need to change, but it’s not immediate. A person can stay in the contemplation stage for months or even years. After all, old habits die hard. In terms of exercise someone in this stage might say, “I really should exercise. My jeans are starting to get tight and my doctor says it would help me lose weight. Maybe I will someday.”
- Preparation- A person in the preparation stage is much closer to taking action. Rather than just thinking about change, someone in this stage is starting to develop a plan and identify what he or she can do to get started. In terms of exercise a person in this stage might say, “Next week I’m going to hire a trainer and start exercising two days a week.”
- Action- This is the execution stage where thoughts turn to action. A person in this stage has hired the trainer and started their exercise plan. This is an exciting stage, but there can be a downside. If we jump into the action stage before working through the other stages our likelihood of success decreases. Without preparation and realistic goals our exercise routine is typically abandoned long before it becomes a lifestyle; thus why the earlier stages are important.
Action, when it’s well planned and executed, is where we start to see results. When it comes to lasting change, however, there’s more work to be done. Next week I’ll share the final two stages for successful behavior change, and how to avoid relapse and common pitfalls that stand in the way of our success.
Best In Health~
Angie Miller, M.S., is a fitness educator, university instructor, and Licensed Professional Counselor who blends her skills and expertise to empower individuals, mentally and physically, and provide them the tools they need to succeed. A veteran group exercise instructor and personal trainer, Angie is the star of acclaimed exercise DVD’s, including the Bedroom Body™ workout. Her passion for progressive education brought her to Northern Illinois University, where she teaches in the Dept. of Kinesiology & Physical Education. Outside of the university, she presents at fitness conventions worldwide and leads industry trainings as an AFAA Certification Specialist and Kettlebell Concepts Master Instructor. Angie writes for fitness journals and digital communities, and blogs for Collage Video. Connect with Angie at: http://www.angiemillerfitness.com