If only change were that simple. Just think about what you would like to change, make the decision to change it, alter your behavior, and move on with life. Mission accomplished. Unfortunately, I think we all know it seldom works out that way.
As a wellness coach, I talk to people everyday about how they would like to make a difference in their lives. Perhaps it’s a question of weight or nutrition. Sometimes it’s about find that elusive work/life balance. Other times it’s about changing a stressful job or learning to manage the stress in the job they have. The one thing all my clients have is common is a desire to change without a clear concept of how to make it happen.
There are various (actually five or six depending on the model) stages of readiness when considering the possibility of making a major change in life. When I begin to work with clients, they are in one of two possible stages. The first is the contemplation stage. It is a state many people find themselves in. They are not satisfied with something in their lives and want to make a change for the better, but find there are many issues keeping them from moving forward. Oftentimes the client is reticent about making a change because they don’t feel it is possible for them. Or perhaps they have tried in the past and failed and feel guilty about not reaching their goal. Trying again seems like a lot of work just to end up back where they started. It’s not unusual to stay in this stage for long periods of time–sometimes never leaving it–unless someone can help them realize that change is a viable option, even if it is going to take time and considerable effort.
The next level of change is considered the preparation stage. This is when someone not only designs a plan of action, but also creates a realistic list of possible barriers and obstacles that may stand in the way of their success. In a sense, this can be the most exciting stage because it is here that different options for achievement are explored. During this period, a person can be as creative as they wish when drafting a plan. Working with a coach gives a certain sense of security and support that a person may not necessarily feel when trying to devise a blueprint on their own.
Another thing that can hold a person in the preparation stage longer than necessary is an “all-or-nothing” mentality. This is very common with Type-A personalities, the idea that all changes need to be made at the same time in order to be considered successful. The truth is that not all change needs to happen at once, nor is it likely to. By understanding this, a person is able to create an environment with more fluid expectations. Some changes will move quickly, others not so much. The key is not to remain in the preparation stage until you feel completely ready to tackle every possible change. That is called procrastination and is the topic of another article.
Once the plan has been created, the obstacles imagined and addressed, and the outcome clearly defined, the client moves into the action phase of change. In this stage, the steps toward the outcome are put into play and behaviors start to change. It is one of the most rewarding periods of the process as new patterns begin to emerge and the goal can actually seem achievable. It is also one of the most dangerous times in the change process since the risk of lapsing back into old behaviors is at it’s highest level. One of the most important things a person can do during this period is to remain non-judgemental about any shortfalls. By maintaining a positive attitude and refusing to let negative self-talk reverse any advances, you have a much better chance of not backsliding into a previous phase and thus avoiding a type of “change yo-yo” situation.
This is what people do when they decide to change. Can we change on our own? Absolutely. Is it harder to do it alone? Of course it is. As a society we are busier than ever with obligations stretching us close to or past the breaking point. Very often we just don’t have the energy to focus on our own situation for any extended period of time. However, that doesn’t stop us from trying, even if it is the reason we so often miss the mark. Doesn’t it make sense to let a professional guide you through the change process to reach your desired state more quickly?
Are you sick of trying and failing to change your life on your own? Contact me and let’s have a conversation about how to make that change a reality.
Next week: The Three Main Reasons For Change