Most people buy into making changes when the benefit of changing outweighs the benefit of remaining the same. In other words What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)? What’s In It For Me to quit my job? What’s In It For Me to start a new business? What’s In It For Me to leave a toxic relationship? What’s In It For Me to Eat Healthier and/or Exercise? What’s In It For Me to quit smoking or drinking? To some of you, making the decision to change these behaviors may seem like no brainers. Have you ever attempted to undo a behavior that you engaged in for months or even years? Inviting one to change a behavior that has become part of their daily routine can be a tall order. We are creatures of habit and we fight change!
Allow me to note the Stages of Change as a frame of reference in discussing the Change Process. There are 6 Stages of Change which include:
1. Pre-Contemplation: Individual is not ready for change, does not view behaviors as problematic and has no intent to take action.
2. Contemplation: Individual begins to view behavior as problematic and weighing the pros and cons of change.
3. Preparation: Individual is ready, creating a game plan for change and begins to take small steps toward action.
4. Action: Individual begins making noticeable changes and replaces problematic behaviors with healthier behaviors. **Back sliding and relapsing is normal in this phase. Coaches, mentors and counselors can assist individual in viewing this as an opportunity to get back to the drawing board and remember their motivation for wanting to change.
5. Maintenance: Individual has taken action for at least 6 months and is working to prevent relapse.
6. Termination: Individual has no temptation and does not see the benefit in reverting back to old behavior.
It is imperative to identify where an individual is in the stages of change. Some questions to consider when assessing one’s readiness to change include:
What would get in the way?
Why is this important?
What are your reasons for wanting to change?
What are some reasons for remaining the same?
What are some benefits of staying the same?
What are your concerns about staying the same?
What are the benefits of changing?
What are your concerns about changing?
As a practitioner, I invite many people to accept my invitation to change various behaviors through a technique known as accommodating and challenging. I accommodate to empathize with the struggle and offer support through a difficult process. I challenge by giving individuals an objective perspective and push them to do something different.
“It will get worse before it gets better” is a phrase often used to describe what most people experience in the change process. Hearing this phrase may sound invalidating to someone considering changing a behavior. Informing someone it will get worse is preparing them for the discomfort that comes along with change. Which brings us back to “What’s In It For Me” (to sacrifice my comfort).
I also like to describe the change process as scary in the beginning, messy in the middle and beautiful in the end. Everyone’s journey through the change process will look different. Some may experience bouts of joy, pain, clarity, confusion, relief, ambivalence, disappointment and defeat. All of these feelings are normal reactions to doing something different and pushing to get on the other side of change.
How long will it take for one to successfully change a behavior?
There is no time table for change, so we must have patience with ourselves. It is imperative to set realistic expectations about what you are willing and able to do. Expect to have setbacks, disappointments, relapses and failures. When experiencing these uncomfortable moments take some time to reflect on these questions: What lesson can I take from this setback? How can I get better at handling disappointments? Allow these experiences to enhance your toolbox for dealing with the unknown void best described as change. Embracing change is inevitable, growth is optional.
I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes: “Choices, Chances and Changes: You must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change.”
Please share your thoughts and experiences in attempting to change your behavior or help someone to change their behavior.