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Don’t Mistake Preparation for Action

Changing our lifestyle really does follow a process of change. Don’t let yourself get trapped in the preparation stage of change. I remind people that at this point we do a lot of talking with occasional action moments but it usually becomes another mantra that gets repeated without action. As an example, I’ve heard people talk about getting more fit or changing jobs for years. They’ll occasionally try a new diet or exercise, or redo a resume but with no real commitment. They may do something to satisfy the inner voice that wants change for a moment but without really committing.

We run in circles in the preparation and action stages because we don’t want to believe that we accept the situation we are in even if we aren’t willing to change it long-term. The ideation of change becomes another thing we tell ourselves without real follow-up. My advice, let it go. Accept where you are for the moment. This way when you are really ready for a change you are more likely to believe your inner voice and take solid action. If not, you run the risk of letting the idea of change become just another part of your daily routine.

Below I’ve included the stages of behavior change for your reference to help you identify where you are at. No matter where you are in the process of change, even if stalled, you have the power to go through a new doorway at any point you choose. Today, right now even, you can decide to make that call, go grocery shopping for healthy foods, sign up for the course you’ve been talking about, submit your resume, and so on!

Precontemplation: Not thinking seriously about changing and tends to defend their current actions, believing they are not problematic. At this point the pros of change are underestimated and they focus on the cons of change.

Contemplation: Intends to start a healthy change soon, even if they still feel ambivalent. At this stage they tend to weigh pros and cons more evenly.

Preparation: May have already taken a few small steps towards change or intends to very soon. They believe change is beneficial. However, some people at this stage decide not to do anything.

Action: Actively taking steps to change their behavior and acquire new, healthier options. Ambivalence is still very likely and are at the greatest risk of relapse.

Maintenance: Have successfully sustained behavior change for a while and have managed the occasional lapse in progress. Learning to anticipate and handle temptations to relapse into earlier stages.

Relapse: Most people experience relapse. Relapses can help show triggers and roadblocks and help a person to become stronger in their resolve. Likewise, they can cause a person to give up their goals. Identifying what triggered the relapse and how it could have been prevented is key to getting past it the next time.

Termination: The stage where a person has no desire to return to previous behaviors.

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