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Understanding the Stages of Change and How to Stay Committed

How many of us have wanted to make a change but could never get started or weren't able to stay the course? Guilty as charged here! There really is a reason, more like a science as to why you may struggle getting started or staying committed.

There are several Stages of Change which each plays a contributing role to how you progress or regress during change in your life. Whether you're making lifestyle changes like fitness, trying to eat healthier or even eliminate excess calorie intake, the stages of change are in play day after day, month after month. Let's breakdown the 5 stages and how you can use this information to start or even continue your lifestyle changes.

1. Pre-contemplation

When we are in the stage of pre-contemplation we ultimately haven't even thought about making changes to our current state of being. During this stage of change many people don't recognize that a change, whether it's health related or financially related, may be necessary or imperative. Ultimately, this is an area where something drastic may take place pushing one to to consider changes but no dedication is made as of yet.

A great example of this stage of change is a friend notices that your health has started to decline and suggests being accountability buds to help start this new process of taking care of your health but you refuse, say it isn't something you think you need and continue living as usual. Eating whatever to your hearts content, depression continuing to over run your mind with feelings of unhappiness. It becomes a cycle that many can't get out of. I've been there a few times myself. However, once you start to take notice of these overwhelming feelings you step into the next stage, Contemplation.

2. Contemplation

When contemplation starts to take place, we find ourselves in a stage of considering and thinking about implementing change in our lives but haven't yet taken any steps to start. Contemplation is an area that many people get stuck more often than not. In this stage we find ourselves repeating the old saying, "I'll start Monday first thing in the morning!" and then never following through. Even if the thought hasn't left your mind and you find yourself considering the change more often than not, you're more likely to start taking action within the next six months. The more you think about it the more you'll start to transition to the next phase of change, the preparation stage.

3. Preparation

Preparing for anything is a process in itself! Behavioral changes during this stage, people can find themselves becoming more curious about what health changes might benefit them if they start exercising or eating healthier foods. The thought process has started, educating yourself on several different subjects but not fully dedicating yourself to the process. This is a very common area for people when considering changing. This applies to all things that we can change in our lives like diet, exercise, financial decisions, parental skills, and even your work skills.

In the stage of preparation you may find yourself considering how you'll mange these changes in your life, like scheduling workouts in your day, or planning meal prepping to save you money from buying out lunch during the weeks. Whatever your desire to change in your life, at this stage you are more likely to be making minor changes but not fully dedicated to the process. At this point you are headed into the fourth stage of change, Action.

4. Action

When you have finally taken action in making the changes you want to apply to your life you have become dedicated to the process and are taking action daily to stay on track with your goals. During this phase, you're most likely scheduling your workouts everyday, scheduling your meals, even when you go out being mindful of what you consume or how much you spend. The action stage is the point when your excuses no longer hold power over you and you have fully implemented change within your life. Once you've become fully active in your health and fitness or your financial future, you have now moved your process of change into the fifth stage, Maintenance.

5. Maintenance

AH, the maintenance stage. Finally, after taking slow and methodical steps to change your health or life now is the time to maintain what you've achieved! At this phase, you have most likely been implementing behavioral changes for six months or more. And if you like the changes that you've made, maintaining them can become easier the longer you stick to the process. However, we should never forget that relapsing back to our old ways is a very real scenario!

6. Relapse

Just like anything, relapsing back to previous negative behaviors is a real issue you have to mentally be prepared to possibly overcome. Falling back into old behaviors happens more times than you'd even imagine. Sometimes our "comfort zone" lulls us back and we fall back into to negative routines of overeating, not exercising, binge watching your favorite TV series for a week with your favorite comfort food cause life happens. Whatever it may be, we have to remember what we overcame before and get back to it. So here are a few tools you can use to implement change in your life.

Make a plan! Write out the things you'd like to start taking action with, or the thing you want to eliminate from your life. Categorized them by most to least important and then from easiest to hardest change. Now we are going to write ourselves a game plan on how to make these small changes one day at a time. Trust me when I say the "one day at a time" method is the best to follow. Our game plan will fall along the S.M.A.R.T set up, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

Specify the change you want to make!

Make sure this goal can be Measurable!

Make sure the goal is Attainable!

Make sure the goal is realistic!

Make sure you can achieve this goal in a timely manner!

Having a game plan, a course of action laid out can help you hold yourself accountable to the goals you've set. Going back and reading over you reasons why you want to do this and the steps you plan on taking, if you get stuck, will give you the power you need to continue even on the tough days. Cause lets face it, life loves to throw us a few curve balls to surprise us!

So remember this, when it comes to change it is a process. It can't happen over night but with hard work and dedication to yourself and your goals, with a good game plan you can achieve them and maintain them as well!

Remember--- Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes!

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