Five Stages to Real Change

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How do you make changes in your life or in your work? Change is hard, for a variety of reasons. We often fall into routines or habits, without any thought as to why we do things a certain way or why we think a certain way. Our habits, many times, develop because it is the easy way to do things. It is human nature to take the easy path and there is nothing wrong with the easy path, until we need to change.

Change becomes a challenge because we are breaking habits or routines on how we eat, exercise, think, or act. Psychologists tell us that there are stages that we go through in order to make changes in our lives. Here are the five stages of changes:

  1. Evaluation. Many people make the decision not to do anything because they feel they do not have enough information or the right information. The evaluation process may be conscious or subconscious, but we are evaluating constantly. For example, we may think about dieting, but quickly discount it because we have failed before at losing weight and we don’t like the emotions of failure.
  2. Observation. We move beyond evaluation and start to really looking at options, ideas or programs. We notice who is doing certain diet programs or what time management systems someone is using to be more effective and efficient. We start observing and separating real results from just claims. One of the reasons Pinterest has been such a success is that it gives people a chance to observe what other people are doing.
  3. Decision. You have evaluated and observed and now you have decided to change. The decision process is critical because now you are building momentum toward action. I always told my kids when they were growing up, “It doesn’t do any good if you sit up and take notice, if you keep sitting.” The decision to act is important and it has to be accompanied with the desire not to quit or give up.
  4. Action. You start to impement change and set realistic goals toward the ultimate outcome. The experts tell us we should have small and achievable “mini-goals” working toward our ultimate goal. When you start to take action, you also start to face challenges. Challenges are part of the process. If change was easy, everybody would do it. Understand that there are different paths forward to achieve you goal and developing alternatives is a healthy response.
  5. Maintenance. Once you have practiced your new behavior for six months, you are entering the maintenance stage and you may be tempted to stop thinking about the new behavior, but don’t. Your focus must stay constant to avoid any type of relapse into old behavior.

Each stage is an important part of change. Thinking you can skip a stage or rush through a stage only leads to failure. Be comfortable with the process and allow yourself the time it takes to change. Your old behavior didn’t happen overnight and your new behavior will not happen in a few weeks; it takes time and commitment.

See you in Mcallen!

As Featured in the Monitor October 15, 2017