As we approach another New Year, many of us are thinking what “resolutions” we are going to make (or at least do a good faith attempt). I have heard for years that “it takes 21 days to create a habit” which would lead one to believe that if I can persevere for 21 days, I will be good to go… umm… I have changed things for 21 days and on the 22nd, or 44th day or the 66th day, the behavior I was trying to change somehow snuck up behind me in the darkness and bit me in the rear again. I apparently did not have this whole change thing down very well!
I recently read a book by James O. Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo Diclemente: Changing for Good (1994). Almost twenty years after this book was published, the stages of change they presented are still rock on into today’s world:
Stages of Change:
When we are resistant to change. We don’t see the need to change but we may think others around us need to change. Case of a “problem drinker”, “if he/she would just stop nagging me all of the time, it wouldn’t be such a big deal…I need a drink to relax after listening to her/him complain, complain, complain…”
This is when we know there is a problem and we are starting to think seriously about making a change to solve it but we’re just not ready to commit to any action yet. For me, this was when I was a pack a day smoker – I thought seriously about quitting smoking for a few years, talking about it frequently with a co-worker before I was willing to take any action and quit. When he was diagnosed with severe heart disease and was told he had to have a quintuple cardiac by pass (that would be 5 – the guy never could do anything in a small way), I went home that same day and smoked a few more cigarettes and quit with never another one touching these lips. Why? The light-bulb, fate, epiphany or whatever we want to call it finally hit me – the risks of continuing my 30 year habit far outweighed the pain of quitting…
This is a biggie! Preparation is where most of us are ready to take action and we are making some final adjustments before taking the plunge and actually making the behavior change. This reminds me of the Chantix commercials for a medication to assist in stopping smoking. Apparently the medication is taken for a period of time before the actual smoking “quit” date. Best to live the old Boy Scout motto and Be Prepared. If we do not make our environment (mental and physical) prepared for our moments of weakness, our chances of a lapse or relapse are significantly higher.
This is when we actual change our behaviors and our external surroundings to accommodate our changed behavior. This is the time that requires our greatest “commitment of time and energy” per Prochaska et al. Blue Cross and Blue Shield had a commercial in Minnesota a few years ago advising everyone to Just Do It – to get a little exercise on a regular basis. I think that it a fantastic tag line for all of us who are wanting to make some changes in our lives.
This is the time where we will struggle between taking small backward steps and possible relapses to our changed behavior. As a person who has struggle with weight most of her adult life, I have been very successful in losing the 20 – 30# at any one time but then it starts creeping back up when I lose focus and stop weighing myself regularly to “catch the creep” or when I stop journaling what I am eating everyday (because that 10 oz. steak really only looks like 5 oz. in my world…).
This is our ultimate goal – to reach that stage where the behaviors are no longer a problem for us. I quit smoking over 11 years ago and I can safely say that another cigarette is not going to pass these lips again…the thought almost makes me physically ill and walking through a cloud of cigarette smoke only reaffirms that I am not longer a smoker in both mind and body.
What change are you thinking of making in the New Year?
What stage of Change do you think you are in right now?
I am pretty clear that the preparation step is my critical point because I am a fairly impulsive person. I am going to work very hard on prepping myself and my surroundings to give me the best chance of succeeding in my behavior change. My change in 2013 is one that I have been working on in 2012 – spending more time contributing to others and focusing on being in my “flow” more times than not! That means, making sure I have my calendar focused on having more 1:1 coaching time so I can contribute to others and doing what I love to do!
I would love to hear what is in store for you in 2013!