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How ready are you to make changes this New Year?

Well we’re a week into the new year and with the attitude of a fresh start most of us are pretty keen and eager to make big changes in our lives. “This is going to be the year,” we tell ourselves.

But really how ready are you to make the changes you desire? Just because you’ve set a goal, written down a resolution or created a vision board, doesn’t mean change is going to happen.

You can dream all you want about new realities in your life — what it’ll be like once you lose that 10 lbs., are sculpted like a greek goddess, and comfy romping around in that string bikini — but the fact is none of this can happen until you’re absolutely ready.

You may see the need for change. You may understand your emotional reasons for wanting to change. But no convincing, coercion, persuasion, manipulation or threat can actually make you change until you’re ready.

Unfortunately, changing your behaviour is not like flicking a light switch. You can’t simply turn it on or off. And if you rush into action around a change, you’re likely to end up sabotaging your efforts. You many be ready to change in one area of your life, but that doesn’t mean you’re good to go in other areas.

Understanding the levels of change can help you identify which stage of readiness you are in and what the most appropriate action steps are for that stage.

In their book Changing for Good, Prochaska, Norcross and Diclemente, identified six stages of change.

1. Pre-contemplation

You have no thought or awareness of changing even if others have encouraged you. Perhaps your doctor has advised a lifestyle change due to some recent medical test results. Essentially, you’re not ready and are in denial.

2. Contemplation

You’re actually thinking about making a change. You’re weighing the pros and cons and considering changing a behaviour. You have good intentions but are finding excuses and road blocks.

3. Preparation

You’re getting ready to make the change. Researching, gathering information, exploring options and taking some initial preparatory steps.

4. Action

You’ve taken steps toward making the change, are practicing the change in your life but need some more consistent action and commitment to start seeing results.

5. Maintenance

The change has taken place and you are working on maintaining it as part of your daily life. You’re seeing positive results. This is where relapses and falling off wagons tend to happen.

6. Termination or Adoption

The new behaviour has become a part of your daily life, you’re seeing consistent positive results and have truly adopted the change. Time to celebrate!

Research shows only five per cent of people actually make it through a full process of change without falling off track and relapsing into their old ways. For most of us, change is not typically a linear process, but a spiraling one. We tend to spiral through the various phases a few times before reaching our goals.

To me it is reassuring to know that 95 per cent of people slip up. We tend not to get it right the first time. Changing our behaviours is hard and we can do it.

Understanding where you fall in the stages of changes and if you are ready to change are the first steps. If you’re ready, then, as social learning theorist A. Bandura indicates, it’s important to have the following factors present in your life to make change successful. You need to:

  • See that the benefits of changing outweigh the risks
  • Have the resources and opportunity to change
  • Have the time and energy
  • Have the support of family and friends
  • Believe in your capacity to change
  • Have the self-esteem to make the change

Equipped with this understanding of the change process and the “must-haves” for change in your own life and hopefully 2014 will be the year you make progress, stick to your resolutions and realize your dreams.

* This post was originally published in the Herald Community on January 9, 2014

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