New Year, New Opportunities for Change
Happy New Year! January can feel like a breath of fresh air, full of promise for new starts and clean slates. Have you been thinking of projects you’d like to take on, changes you’d like to make or goals you’d like to reach this year? If so, you’re in good company. Most of us have at least one goal for the new year, whether or not we want to announce it to the world. But, not everyone reaches their goals. In fact, resolutions are typically best known for not being achieved! Most of the time, it’s because while we are excited for the outcome of the goal we want to reach, we aren’t really ready for what it takes to get there.
It turns out that change isn’t an all-or-nothing thing. There are actually five different stages of change, and it’s pretty likely that you are in one of them right now. In fact, you might even be in more than one! Think about your goals for 2018, and then read the descriptions of the five stages of change. Can you tell which one you are in?
Stage 1: Precontemplation — This stage is sometimes referred to as denial. In other words, in this stage you likely see no need for a problem. Others may express concern or encourage you to change, but it isn’t a priority to you. A great example of precontemplation is a smoker who feels they can quit at any time, and that there is no urgent need to quit smoking. Their friends and family may be frustrated that they cannot convince the smoker to quit, but not much will happen until the next stage is reached.
Stage 2: Contemplation — Contemplation means exactly as it sounds: thinking about change. In this stage, it starts to make sense to change, even if you aren’t really motivated to do it. An example of contemplation is hearing your doctor tell you that without weight loss, you’re at risk for cardiovascular disease. You may know that nutrition changes are needed to lose weight, but you may be hesitant to give up foods you like. In other words, you’re thinking about it.
Stage 3: Preparation — When you move into preparation, things start to feel differently. This stage is all about getting ready to take action. You may look up recipes online, buy some new kitchen tools, dig out the old running gear, or ask a friend if they’d be interested in joining you at the gym. As the benefits of change begin to outweigh the challenges, your excitement begins to grow as you take the steps towards action.
Stage 4: Action — This is where the magic happens! Often times, the action stage is where we spend the most time. Once you are putting your plans into place - planning and preparing healthy meals, exercising regularly, avoiding cigarettes - you are solidly in action. Congratulations!
Stage 5: Maintenance — The maintenance stage might look like a finish line on paper, but in reality, it is a continuation of the stage of action. You have reached maintenance when you realize that your new habits are a seamless part of your life, something that you can see yourself doing forever. That doesn’t mean the work ends; this stage is also about preventing relapses and getting back on track when things go haywire! Remember how I said that you could be in more than one stage of change? It happens all the time. Consider a time when you may have been showing up for your exercise class consistently, but still not ready to embrace healthy eating. At that time, you were in action stage for exercise, but contemplation for nutrition! Can you identify which stage of change you are in for your different goals?
Don’t worry about rushing yourself through one stage to the next; you have the time you need to make the small steps necessary to move your health in the right direction. Meet yourself where you are, and enjoy the journey through change!
– HEATHER FUSELIER, CHWC, CFP, TTS
Health Advisor | Email Heather