To change or not to change? – Wellness Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021

The stages of behavior change, as described by Prochaska and DiClemente (1983) are;

  • Pre-Contemplation
    • Aware vs. Unaware
    • Experience & Failed
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

Any health behavior change is less likely to be a single moment of decision and more likely a series of stages over time that lead to action.  

Also involved in making any change is perceived self-efficacy, peer influence, fear, motivation and a zillion other inputs.  When I studied Public Health formally, I was fascinated with trying to predict human behavior.  It is just so varied that no one theory or construct really covers it, and in any given moment, given all the information possible, someone will choose something no one could have predicted. Complex we humans are. And ever changing.

But back to the 5 stages listed above, I love that the first stage is “pre-contemplation” – being unaware.  How exactly did they study what wasn’t there?  “Contemplation” as a stage makes lots of sense to me.  Thinking about thinking about whether or not maybe possibly there is some modicum of benefit or reward in doing something differently.  Most folks get stuck in this stage for a long time and can be in the void known as “paralysis by analysis”.  Too many “what if’s”.

“Preparation” is talked about as a small window of opportunity when contemplation meets desire for action.  I think of this as standing on a high dive.  As a kid I remember many days watching others jump or dive and thinking about if I could do that.  When I finally decided to go up the steps, I felt ready to leap.  At the edge of the platform though…my knees began to shake and I heard my friends egging me on…I tuned it all out, and jumped.  It wasn’t joyous until I resurfaced:)   But I know myself some and if I’ve done the preparation, I’ve got to let go of the fear and jump (physically or metaphysically).  If I wait too long, I’ll talk myself out of it.  

“Action” – need I say more?  Except that you really do need a thought out plan, with contingencies.  Thinking through how to avoid expected pitfalls is important.  And for most folks, sharing your goal with another person gives some external accountability.  Take one step.  I dare you. 

“Maintenance”.  They say it takes 60 days on average 60 days for a new habit to become automatic.

The journey of a thousand miles, starts with one step.   -Lao Tzu    

Note:  This is not a lecture on health behavior, or health beliefs or any of that.  This is thoughts on my observation and  personal experience working in health and fitness.  Take what you want, leave the rest.

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