Replace Bad Habits with Good Habits: Know the 6 Stages of Change

The New Year is here. Are you making resolutions to change your bad habits into healthy habits? What’s your record on resolutions? If you want to make changes that produce lasting results, then listen up! Today I am introducing you to the six stages of change and how applying the six stages of change can help you fulfill your New Year’s resolutions. Then, it is up to you to make powerful resolutions that give you what you want.

What Does Change Have to Do with Resolutions?

You make a resolution to effect a change in life either by doing something new or by discontinuing something as it is usually done. “I’m going to get into shape!” or “I’m going to quit drinking.” Knowing the six stages of change, you may consciously apply them methodically when you make your resolutions and throughout the year as you fulfill on your resolutions.

Where Do the Six Stages of Change Come From?

Psychologist James Prochaska distinguishes the six stages of change in his book, Changing For Good. This is the product of his study of smokers who successfully quit and those who attempt to quit, and relapse. The stages of change apply to any  implementation of change. The change may be to quit smoking, to get into shape, to have a customer adopt your product, or to implement a new business process in your department.

How Do the Stages of Change Work?

Relapse is when an attempt is made at change and the condition returns to as it was before the attempt at change. The key to effect lasting change is to complete each of the stages, in sequence.

What are the 6 Stages of Change?

Join me on my journey through developing a consistent yoga practice.

Stage 1 – Pre-Contemplation

In the pre-contemplation stage, you might just have an idea of making a change. You are talking about it, but not seriously contemplating. I start with the thought that I want to improve my joint health and have a new exercise routine. In this stage I have not yet created the target of having a yoga practice. Stage 1 is a stage of ideas. When I choose a yoga practice as a tangible and actionable change to implement, the pre-contemplation stage is complete and I’m ready to move on to …

Stage 2 – Contemplation

I contemplate a yoga practice. What will it take to keep me going? What can take me out and have me relapse? Is there enough fun to keep me motivated? What might I like and dislike about it? I want to have it convenient because I know I have a busy schedule. What kinds of yoga are available? How will it impact my daily routine and my time with my wife? The contemplation stage is a time of reflection and information gathering. When I understand major opportunities, hurdles, and impacts of the change I am contemplating, I am complete with stage 2 and ready for …

Stage 3 – Planning

Having contemplated what it means to my life to have a consistent yoga practice, I know what planning there is to do. There is a hot yoga class 8 blocks away at 6:00 AM. Practicing with others motivates me. My wife is up early, so I have support in waking early. I try a class. I can go to yoga, shower, and get to work before 9:00 AM.

Planning is information intensive and involves communication with others who will support you or be impacted by your change. My planning is complete. I’m ready for …

Stage 4 – Action

Not until planning is complete am I ready for action. Bring to mind a time you’ve seen action without sufficient contemplation and planning? How effective and lasting is action that is ill conceived?

I sign up for monthly auto-pay for yoga. As I begin going to yoga, I am fully supported. I get to the studio at 5:40, relaxed and a bit sleepy. I have what I need and without worry or stress.

Stage 5 – Maintenance

Taking action is just one stage in implementing effective change. The stage of maintenance keeps relapse at bay. I have much to do to keep my practice going: looking forward to seeing my new morning yoga buddies, having functional mat and clothes I like, practicing when I’m away on vacation.

After two years, I am maintaining a consistent yoga practice averaging more than three classes per week.

Stage 6 – Termination

Depending on the change, termination might never come. If there ever comes a time when my habit is to pull out a yoga mat for 60 minutes, class or no class, home or away, this is the time for termination of the efforts and structures of maintenance. When the desired change is a permanent part of life, the termination stage is appropriate. When the smoker finds a cigarette is not tempting, but revolting, then there is no need for maintenance, change is permanent.

In Summary

As you create resolutions for a positive change in your life, I invite you to employ the structure of the stages of change:

  1. Pre-contemplate and select a resolution that is specific, actionable, and fulfilling.
  2. Contemplate what it will take to fulfill and the hurdles you must surmount.
  3. Plan the structures that will overcome obstacles and sustain you on your journey.
  4. Take the action consistent with your planning to put change into place.
  5. Maintain the structures of change as long as there is any risk of relapse.
  6. Terminate your supporting structures only when the change you resolved is your only way of life!

Happy New Year!

David Lazaroff is author of Little Book of Big Love – 50 Ways to Express and Acknowledge Love With Words. David gives workshops and private coaching on finding and cultivating loving relationships.

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