Moving through the Stages of Change

Recognizing the Stages of Change

First, try to see where you are at in your readiness to change. The Trans-theoretical model of change suggests that there are 6 stages of change that include:

Stage 1: Precontemplation – No intention to take action to change in the next 6 months.  Person is unaware of the problem and consequences.  Underestimate the pros of changing and focus too much on the cons.

Stage 2. Contemplation – Person intends to start changing in the next 6 months.  Behavior is starting to be seen as problematic as pros of change start to match the cons of change. Ambivalence remains.

Stage 3. Preparation (Determination) – Person intends to act within the next 30 days and makes small steps towards change, believing change will lead to a better life.

Stage 4. Action – Behavior has been recently changed and the person intends to maintain the change.  Person begins to acquire healthy new behaviors.

Stage 5. Maintenance – Behavior change has been sustained for more than 6 months and the person intends on maintaining.

Stage 6. Termination – Person has no desire to return to the unhealthy behavior and relapse is very unlikely.

There are 10 major processes of behavioral change that can help you move through the stages of change which include:

1. Consciousness Raising – Increasing awareness about the healthy behavior.

2. Dramatic Relief – Emotional arousal about the health behavior, whether positive or negative arousal.

3. Self-Reevaluation – Self reappraisal to realize the healthy behavior is part of who they want to be.

4. Environmental Reevaluation – Social reappraisal to realize how their unhealthy behavior affects others.

5. Social Liberation – Environmental opportunities that exist to show society is supportive of the healthy behavior.

6. Self-Liberation – Commitment to change behavior based on the belief that achievement of the healthy behavior is possible.

7. Helping Relationships – Finding supportive relationships that encourage the desired change.

8. Counter-Conditioning – Substituting healthy behaviors and thoughts for unhealthy behaviors and thoughts.

9. Reinforcement Management – Rewarding the positive behavior and reducing the rewards that come from negative behavior.

10. Stimulus Control – Re-engineering the environment to have reminders and cues that support and encourage the healthy behavior and remove those that encourage the unhealthy behavior.

Motivational Inertia

What is Inertia? Simply speaking, inertia is the tendency for objects in motion to stay in motion or objects at rest to stay resting.  People are also subject the law of inertia. Often the hardest thing to do is starting a task and overcoming our tendency to stay at rest. Once we begin the task though we find that we have created the momentum to keep going.

The natural state of motivation is to remain the same. Begin a task you want to be motivated to do and you will find that motivation begins AFTER you start the task and not before. Each good act adds to our momentum.  Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service… however small and incremental, adds to our…momentum. Like Newton’s Second Law, there is a transmitting of acceleration as well as a contagiousness associated with even the small acts of goodness.” (Neal A. Maxwell)

Be careful about your decision as choosing the wrong makes it easier to continue doing wrong. Use the law of inertia to your benefit.  Understand that beginning a change is the hardest part because of inertia. However, each act of change adds to your momentum until change becomes easier and easier.

Simplicity and the Hindsight Bias

Another important principle is not to dismiss simple solutions.  Steve Jobs said: “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

We often ignore simple solutions.  Dale Furtwengler observed: “A part of our human nature causes us to overlook simple solutions in favor of more complex solutions.  The result is that we often slow our own progress and, occasionally, we completely miss our goals because we’re overlooking the obvious answers to our problems.”

It is through consistent simple acts that great things are accomplished.  Vincent Van Gogh said: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

If we humble ourselves and perform simple prescribed acts then we can be healed.  This is illustrated in the story of Namaan in the Old Testament.  Namaan was a mighty captain of Syria who became infected with leprosy and was eventually sent to Elisha the prophet to be healed.  Elisha told him to wash in the river Jordan 7 times and he would be healed.  Namaan was prideful and refused until hsi servant pointed out that if Elisha asked him to do some great thing, Namaan would have done it.  Namaan humbled himself and performed Elisha’s simple solution and was healed.

The same principle is also taught in the story of the Brass Serpent found in the Book of Numbers chapters 20-21. Speaking of this story, Nephi said: “He [the Lord] sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Ne. 17:41).

Hindsight Bias is one of the reasons why simple solutions are often dismissed.  Hindsight Bias occurs when you overestimate how likely you would have predicted the correct outcome after hearing the outcome.  his is also known as the “I knew it all along” phenomenon.

Psychologist David G. Meyers writes:

“One problem with common sense, however, is that we invoke it after we know the facts. Events are far more “obvious” and predictable in hindsight than beforehand. Baruch Fischhoff and others  have repeatedly demonstrated that when people learn the outcome of an experiment, that outcome suddenly seems unsurprising…People overestimate their ability to have foreseen the result.

Daphna Baratz (1983) tested college students’ sense of the obvious. She gave them pairs of supposed social findings, one true (for example, “In prosperous times people spend a larger proportion of their income than during a recession” or “People who go to church regular tend to have more children than people who go to church infrequently”), the other it’s opposite. Her finding: Whether given the truth or its opposite, most students rated a supposed finding as something “I would have predicted.” (Excerpt from: David G. Meyers, Exploring Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994, pp.15-19.)

The “I-knew-it-all-along” phenomenon not only can make social science findings seem like common sense but also can have unhealthy consequences. It is conducive to arrogance — an overestimation of our own intellectual powers. (Excerpt from: David G. Meyers, Exploring Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1994, pp.15-19.)

Reasons to Change

One simple but powerful exercise is to brainstorm all of the benefits of changing and the cons of not doing the same.  You can use the following worksheet to help you find the motivation to make positive changes in your life:  Pros and Cons of Change

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