Changing a habit or behavior? Planning is key!

This time of uncertainty and dis-ease has no doubt brought on many changes for most, if not all of us. There are so many discussions of the new “norm”. In many cases, this “new norm” has created or even exacerbated unwanted habits and behaviors.

After following 1000 smokers and ex-smokers for two years, researcher and author of the book Changing to Thrive, psychologist James Prochaska created the Stages of Change model. 

Through his research, Prochaska found that there are 5 stages that one had to go through in order to achieve success in changing a habit or behavior, progressing from one stage to the next.

The 5 stages of change are:

  1. Pre-contemplation – the stage at which there is no intention to change the behavior in the foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware or under-aware of their problem. Some refer to this as “denial”.
  2. Contemplation – the stage in which people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it, but have not yet made a commitment to take action.
  3. Preparation – the stage where one gathers information and sets up a plan. According to Prochaska, the preparation stage is the most important one. His research shows that 50% of people who attempt behavior change and skip this stage will likely relapse within 21 days.
  4. Action – the stage in which individuals modify their behavior, experiences or environment in order to overcome their problem. This stage involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy. During the action stage, the information gathered and plans made in the Preparation stage are being implemented. 
  5. Maintenance – the stage in which people work to prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during action. For addictive behaviors, this stage extends from 6 months to an indeterminate period past the initial action.

What habit or behavior are you struggling to change?

  • Write down the 5 stages and determine which stage you are in.
  • Decide how you can move to the next.
  • Remember, change starts with awareness!
  • Planning is key. When planning, keep in mind the following:
    • What is getting in the way of creating change?
    • What triggers might jeopardize change?
    • Is there a positive habit or behavior that can replace the habit you’re looking to change?
    • Monitor self-talk. Talk to yourself as you would to a friend. How would you support that friend through their change? 
    • Seek support.

Know that you are not alone, and that I am here to support you!