With the start of the New Year, many of us resolved to make life changing alterations in our behavior. However, after a few days into the New Year we may already be feeling frustrated, discouraged, disillusioned and even deflated, questioning whether we can truly incorporate these new behaviors into our daily lifestyles. Sometimes, we give up on our goals too early in the process because we are afraid that change is not possible or that we are not capable of changing.
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Change Happens in Stages
Change, though we love to hate it, is an important part of the human existence; and, often occurs whether we want it or not. Our notions of self-determination and free will may lead us to conclude that change will occur simply by our desire to make it so. While a strong desire for change is key, it is also important that we remember that change is a process. Approximately 2 decades ago, researchers Carlo C. DiClemente and J.O. Prochaska introduced a theory for understanding the process that we go through when trying to make a change. The theory of change suggests that we go through 5 stages when trying to change our behavior.
While the theory of change was initially applied to understanding the process of changing addictive behaviors, the stages, which include pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance (See e.g. http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/stages-of-change/all/1/) have been applied to understanding the processes of changing other behaviors.
“I know what to do, so why can’t I just do it?”
Depending on where you are in the stage of change your efforts at trying to change your behavior may be met with a variety of defeating thoughts including:
· I feel stuck.
· Is this change really worth the effort?
· Can I really change?
· Do I have what it takes to change?
· Will the changes I make last?
· Will others like me if I change?
· Will I like me if I change?
We Have to Expect Push Back
On the journey to change, we have to expect that we may encounter push back from our own internal discomfort. Sometimes when trying to incorporate healthy behaviors or discontinue unhealthy ones, we may encounter the obstacle of self sabotage.
Self sabotage, our tendency to continue to engaging in unhealthy behaviors despite the negative impact it may have on our lives, is an important “pop-up” in our process of change, one that we must learn how to block effectively.
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Change is Possible!
Understanding the obstacles we may encounter is an important tool for navigating the path toward change. By preparing ourselves for the internal obstacles we may encounter we can begin to greet each obstacle with a “Hey, I’ve been expecting you, and I have just the thing for you” rather than “What do I do now?”
(c) 2013 Dr. Lori C. Thomas