5 Stages to Changing Behaviour

Posted on August 1, 2017

Most of us have a behaviour we would like to change. This could be exercise and diet-related or simply wanting to be more organised. Some of us may be able to change our behaviour in the short term, but fail to maintain the new behaviour for the long term. Researchers Prochaska and DiClemente developed a ‘Stages of Change’ Model to describe the process of behaviour change.

Stage 1: Precontemplation.
People at this stage have either never thought about changing their behaviour, or at least not seriously. We often get feedback on things we should change about ourselves from the people around us, but react negatively to it by reflex. Try to find a way to be more open about receiving these messages. Remember that most advice are well-meaning with the intention to help you.

Stage 2: Contemplation.
At this stage, we have started to think about changing our behaviour. The duration of this stage varies from just a moment to our entire lives. According to Alex Lickerman M.D., the movement from precontemplation to contemplation could be because of the creation of a belief. For example, a change from the idea that exercise is important to the belief the person holds that he needs to exercise. The reasons behind the change from precontemplation to contemplation varies between people and is mostly unpredictable. What we usually associate with producing a particular change usually isn’t the reason behind it. For example, an overweight man with high cholesterol may start exercising not because of his health, but to keep up with his wife during shopping dates. This stage is also where factors impeding change arise. When this happens, try thinking of a belief that will motivate you to change.

Stage 3: Determination.
This stage is where we begin preparing for the change – mentally and through actions. For example, a smoker may throw away his cigarettes. We pick and schedule the days to start and quit. The “determination” in this determination stage is derived from a decision to change, and is the driving force behind it. When motivated by a strong belief, humans can be extremely determined to reach a goal.

Stage 4: Action.
Start doing the new behaviour. For example, waking up early to go to the gym, or quit smoking.

Stage 5: Maintenance.
This is the continuation of the new behaviour and the most difficult part of behaviour change. One reason why we fail at this stage is the mistaken belief that the strategies used to initiate change can be used for maintaining changed behaviour. A change in beliefs is required to bring about change, but we need to have a high life-condition to continue having this belief. If we are feeling low, we may revert to our previous beliefs and go back to a poor diet and exercise lifestyle. When we are feeling good and happy, it is easier to maintain the belief and motivation to continue the changed behaviour.

These stages should be done in sequential order. Focus on moving from the stage you are in to the next stage.

The last stage: Relapse.
This may be unavoidable sometimes. Try not to view relapse as failure, but as just one stage in the entire process of changing your behaviour. Don’t let a few days or week of relapse put you off trying to change the behaviour completely.

Category(s):Other, Smoking Cessation

Source material from Psychology Today

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