Having a goal is one thing. A great thing! But taking all the necessary action steps to get you there is quite another. And how do you make change stick?
Making changes to the way you live is no easy task. Particularly so when you’re feeling depressed. Even just getting out of bed and having a shower can cost you so much of your energy.
But you know you want to get better. To feel positive emotions again. To let go of negative thoughts and feelings. To be the person you once used to be. To enjoy your daily life.
And what’s great is that just by having these wishes and goals, you find yourself already on that path to better mental and physical health.
But how do you make sure that you’ll end up reaching your goal, or certainly coming close to it?
My previous post was all about re-activating feelings of hope in yourself. Hope comes first, motivation next, followed by action.
And being aware of where you currently are in your journey toward greater health and happiness can be not only reassuring but also empowering.
The 5 stages of change
A clever man called James Prochaska developed a model of behaviour change in the late 1970’s that explains how people can make change stick.
Say you decide to start moving your body in some form of exercise. It’s pretty unlikely that you decide to have this goal on day 1 and then start doing it on day 2, and keep doing it for the next 180 days.
Or perhaps you want to drastically reduce your sugar intake because you’ve become aware that it really messes with your mood. Again, you’re unlikely to just start doing it on day 1 AND persist over the next few months.
If you seriously are able to just radically change your behaviour from one day to the next and to make it stick, then please get in touch with me. I’d so love to have a chat!
But anyway, let’s face it: Most of us aren’t superheroes and changing your behaviour is no easy task.
So let’s talk about Prochaska’s model of change.
When you are trying to change your behaviour because of a certain health goal that you have, you’re going to be moving through a series of stages.
Changing how you live takes time and often isn’t a linear process. So you might make some real progress, but then fall back into previous modes of being and this can feel like you’re failing. But this “regressing” is actually pretty natural and you can certainly move forward again, perhaps even stronger than before.
So let’s briefly talk about what life looks like in the 5 different stages and then you can think about where you might be on your own health journey.
- You are not feeling ready to make any changes (certainly not within the next 6 months)
- Perhaps you don’t see the benefit of changing anything
- Or maybe you’re feeling like you couldn’t do it anyway. Maybe you’ve tried once before but it didn’t work, so you’re lacking hope and motivation
- You really want to make changes to your lifestyle in the next half year
- You appreciate the benefits of making these changes
- You have amazing ideas and can picture your path ahead, but taking action is still rather challenging
- Following the contemplation stage, you’re so ready to take action within the next month
- You are probably telling other people in your life about what you’re doing
- You have a plan of action and are taking gradual steps that will help make that new behaviour a part of your life. You are warming up!
- Amazing, you’re doing it! You are doing whatever you wanted to change to support your health and wellbeing
- You really want to continue with this new behaviour and are working hard to keep it up
- Feeling committed to your goal is a huge factor in this stage
- If you’ve moved from the action stage to maintenance, then you have changed your behaviour several months ago and have managed to sustain it.
- It can be super helpful here to surround yourself with other “health-conscious” people and also to really remind yourself of just how much you have accomplished
- Continue working your belief that you can overcome obstacles and have a “I can do this” attitude
There we have it. The 5 stages of change when you’re trying to adopt healthier lifestyle behaviours and make change stick.
The first 2 – 3 stages are really about your intentions for change: Why does this matter to you?
The last 2 or 3 stages are all about your behaviour: How committed are you and how can you keep doing it?
I personally really love this stage model as it so clearly shows that we can indeed change our behaviour. It’s not an overnight or magic wand solution, but this probably only exists in the movies anyway.
So think about where in this stage process you might find yourself with regards to a particular lifestyle change you want to make.
Maybe you want to start exercising, eat healthier or meditate, or perhaps you’d like to work on your sleep or morning routine.
Whatever it is, why does this change matter to you, which stage are you currently in and how can you keep progressing?