Understanding where you are in the stages of change is an excellent way to track your thought evolution and stay the course of transformation. Also, when we can identify where we are in life phases and thinking processes we have a better sense of control and community. Control allowing us to deal with whatever arises using our life skills. And community giving us comfort in the knowledge we are not alone. Together control and community lessens the fear of the unknown and the resulting anxiety.
In this article, I use the example of someone changing their perspective while house shopping. Whether amid a life change such as career or marital or looking to change unhealthy behavior like cutting back on drinking or compulsive shopping- think about where you are in the process as I break down each phase. Then ask yourself if you are ready to move fwd.
If yes, what do you need to move forward?
If no, what do you need to move you forward?
Okay, let’s start breaking things down.
At this point, change is not on your radar, but you may be getting messages from others that prompt you to start to reevaluate a path. Precontemplation is the time to activate self-awareness and self-reflection.
For example, one might ask themselves why they want to live in certain areas. Further, what is it about their desired neighborhoods that appeal to them? Finally, is this something you can get elsewhere, and if so, where is that?
Next comes contemplation, where you are considering a change – gathering information, thinking about options, and determining the best plan for you. During the contemplation phase, you need your decision-making skills.
Contemplation can be a time of ambivalence and wavering or what people may term as wishy-washy without the decision-making life skill. Contemplation is not just weighing your options. During this phase, you strategically outline your opportunities and weigh each against your values and overall goal and purpose.
In this change phase, you have decided that you want to make a change. Make the most out of this phase of evolution and utilize your self-control and confidence skills. Commit to change by creating an action plan including immediate next steps and be proactive, think ahead to obstacles and how you can circumvent anything that comes in your path or at the very least resolve to do so.
In the implementation phase, you put that action plan to work. You start to take action and initiate changes at the same time. But don’t simply go through the motions. Keep using your self-awareness skills to engage consciously and continue growing and learning as you metamorphize.
During the maintenance phase, you are continuing your Implementation and mixing in the rest of the preceding stages as needed. Why? Well, you are entering a high-risk time for a lapse because excitement wanes and commitment wavers. Obstacles may arise, and you may be prone to excuses when faced with obstacles. Now is the time to bolster that self-control, decision, and toss in some critical and creative thinking skills. Commit to not giving up and meeting each obstacle as new opportunities.
Lapse/relapse is not a given. These stages are not the rule, but they do happen. Typically during changes that go awry and take longer than we originally planned, we can lose focus and resolve.
During a lapse, it is important to practice patience and gratitude for yourself and others. Thank those you are working with on your change for their efforts. In addition, reframe your thinking to look at this stage as a moment to breathe and get some clarity. Also, of greater significance is to forgive yourself and not beat yourself up. Pausing is good when you have lost your way. You don’t want to keep going down the wrong path!
When starting over, don’t start at the implementation phase. Start over by contemplating and re-upping your determination to get back to action as soon as possible. One trick is to reflect on the energized feeling you had; where did that come from? Okay, go get that!