The 6 Stages of Change
Announcer: Welcome to Lift Your Future, a podcast that teaches you coping skills through stories, methods and proven techniques to improve relationships and outcomes in your personal and professional life. I'm Nicole Winkler, a licensed therapist and executive coach. On this podcast, we'll share a relatable life experiences designed to help you grow. I will provide easy, practical ways to develop thoughts, feelings and behaviors to impact your life, both personally and professionally. My goal is simple to help you lift your future. Hi and welcome back to lift your future.
Nicole Winkler: Today, we're going to talk about the stages of change. A lot of people think I make a change or make a decision to make a change, and that's it. But there's actually six stages of change. And so I want to walk you through each of those and I want you to be thinking about a change that you want to make in your life. So the very first stage of change is pre contemplation. This is usually what we consider to be denial. We usually find out about this that maybe we need to make a change because somebody else tells us about ourselves, like, Hey, you don't listen very well. What are you talking about? Yes, I do. So that's what pre contemplation looks like. Somebody else is usually telling us that we need to make a change. Second of all, pre contemplation is also a phase where there's not a problem. So why would I fix anything? Why would I change anything? This happens in at work. This happens at school. This happens in relationships. Just use the example of you don't listen to very well. Well, that's one in my house. At least we talk through that a lot with either my husband or my children. Hey, you're not listening very well. Yes, I am. Ok. How do you think you're listening? Very well? So that would be something where I'm telling somebody, this is what you need to change. Pre contemplation The next stage of change is contemplation. This is when I realized that there's probably something I should work on, but I'm not there yet. So an example of contemplation stage would be I know that I should quit smoking. I know that I should quit drinking every night. I know that I should eat healthier. I know that would be better for my body, but I don't really necessarily want to make a change about that yet. I see how it might benefit me, but I'm on the fence about it. It's not something I'm really bought into. So therefore, I'm not really going to do anything about it. Then the third stage of change is content. I'm sorry. So the first stage of change is pre contemplation. The second stage of change is contemplation, where I'm on the fence about it. The third stage of change is preparation.
Nicole Winkler: So in the preparation stage of change, the pros of making the change outweigh the cons of making the change so I can see why it would benefit me. And I also really want to make this change. I've decided at this point I'm going to go ahead and quit smoking. I'm going to go ahead and cut back my smoking. I'm going to cut back my alcohol use. I'm going to maybe put some boundaries up in a relationship that isn't serving me anymore. Perhaps I'm going to meal prep or make a plan for eating healthier or going to the gym and working out, getting up earlier. Hey, I know that it would benefit me to get up earlier. But man, when my alarm goes off early in the morning, I hit snooze. I'm not getting up. It's way too early. Who gets up at five o'clock in the morning? Right? Well, when I reached the preparation stage of change, I know that it would benefit me to get up earlier, and I'm going to start preparing and making plans to do that, to get up earlier, to cut back on smoking, to eat healthier. I'm in the preparation stage, so I'm in the planning stage. This is the goal setting stage. So a lot of people think I have decided I want to make a change now. I'm going to set goals and I'm going to move forward with them.
Nicole Winkler: Well, I think it's important to look at the stages of change completely because if we don't look at those stages of change, then we don't really know where we are and it's hard to create lasting change in that. So the preparation stage is where I'm going to start setting my goals and making my plans for that change. What am I going to actually do if I want to wake up earlier? Then I'm going to set my alarm 15 minutes earlier. Like research tells us if we just say, OK, I'm going to wake up three hours earlier than usual. We have a really hard time sticking to that. That's kind of a huge change. It's a little too much at one time. Not to say it's not possible, but most of us need incremental changes in our lives in order for those to stick. So then from the preparation stage, those are those smart goals specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive. So it's not saying I'm going to wake up early and I'm just going to wake up earlier. I need to make an actual plan or I'm going to cut back on my smoking. So instead of smoking a pack a day, I'm going to smoke. How much and when am I going to do that by? So I give myself to the end of the week to implement those changes? Or am I going to start that change today? Then, from the preparation stage of change is the fourth stage, which is the action stage.
Nicole Winkler: I'm putting my plan in motion. I am. Seeing all the way through, I'm making changes and tweaks where I need to. So maybe I thought that I could eat chicken and broccoli every day, and I have realized after one day of eating chicken and broccoli for lunch and dinner, that is just not going to happen. So I need to do something else. I need to make a tweak to that. Not all is lost. I don't have to go back to the preparation stage. Oh my gosh, this is so hard. Why am I doing this? I can just go back one stage to stage three step three, which is preparation, and I can prepare to do a different action if getting up earlier to two hours earlier each morning as too difficult, I can readjust that to say, OK, I'm going to get up 10 minutes earlier instead of two hours earlier. And so this week I'm going to focus on 10 minutes earlier next week. I'm going to focus on 20 minutes earlier and so on and so forth. The fifth stage of change is maintenance. So after I have gotten through pre contemplation, which is I don't have a problem at all. What are you talking about to the contemplation stage, which is OK, I could see how making a change here would be beneficial for me to the preparation stage, making a plan for that change and making those goals and setting those.
Nicole Winkler: And then the four stages action and I make actionable steps to do it. I'm doing it the action stages. I'm actually doing it and making those changes. Maybe I need to go back to stage three and adjust a little bit, go forward into my action, test it out, see how it's working out. Then the next stage is maintenance. So once I have achieved the change, once I have quit smoking or cut back smoking, once I am getting up at the desirable time that I want to get up in the morning, once I have decided I want a new job, I'm applying for the new job and I have applied for the new job I'm interviewing. Those are all action phases and then we go into maintenance. Now I've made the change. I'm eating healthier now. I want to maintain that. So what do I need to do? I need to follow the plan. So stage three is always with us. We need to always go back to our plan. We need to adjust our plan when necessary. What we made a plan for six months ago, one month ago may not fit what we're doing now. Once we hit that maintenance stage, maybe we need to go back and make some adjustments.
Nicole Winkler: So we are in the maintenance stage. Once we're in the maintenance stage, some people will stop teaching the stages of change at that point, and I understand that I was taught the stages of change with six steps and I think the sixth step is really actually critical and important. So that six step is relapse or a lapse, that doesn't mean that it's always going to happen, but we do as humans slip back into old habits in old ways. So I might have I might have had a really bad weekend of eating. I might have drank a lot more than I intended to. Maybe I bought a pack of cigarettes because I was super stressed out, and now vaping is kind of the thing. So maybe I have a vape and I want to quit vaping. So lapse. A lapse is a one time use or a one time slip up, and a relapse is kind of off to the races. I am back to my old ways, back to my old habits, and it's really remarkable how quickly we can fall back into those old patterns because those neural pathways are really wired. Well, together they know what to expect. Our brain is kind of on automatic pilot when we do that. So it's OK. I've had a relapse now. What am I going to do? That doesn't mean I have to start back at stage one. I go back to my plan stage three, stage three, my preparation stage.
Nicole Winkler: Now, maybe I need to refine that. It'll take me a day. Sometimes it takes an hour. Maybe I need to call somebody. I need to get some support on board to help me. That's part of my new plan and I put that in place. I go back into action and I can get back into action and maintenance pretty quickly from there. So this can be any change you want to make in your life. We go through these cycles of change and sometimes they ebb and flow. Ok, so I understand why I should get up early. I used to do that. I was really good about it. I accomplished a lot in the morning, but now it's just so hard and I'm I'm in that contemplation stage, maybe preparation. Maybe I'm preparing for it, but I'm really not ready to take it into the action phase yet. So OK, I would ask, what are those barriers to that change? What is holding you back, what is in the way? And if it's I'm staying up too late watching television or I'm scrolling through social media too late or I just can't fall asleep. Ok, then what do we need to implement at that point to help you and to assist you and to get you to sleep earlier so you can get up and still feel rested throughout the day? And so those are the six stages of change that you can use in any change that you want to make in your life.
Nicole Winkler: I'm going to do a quick review and summary of them right now. The first stage is. Contemplation, which is I don't have a problem, it's not me, it's hard. Denial phase The second stage is contemplation. I'm on the fence about it. I don't know. I could go either way. The third is preparation where I know that I'm going to make a plan and these are my goal setting stages. I'm going to make a plan for how I'm going to implement this change. And then the fourth one is action. I'm going to take action on my plan. The fifth one is maintenance. So once I have achieved this change, I am doing it, then I can maintain it and go back and maybe adjust my plan a little bit, but continue to maintain it. And the sixth stage is a lapse or relapse, and this is falling back into old habits, and I don't want to do that. So I'm going to reassess. Go back to the third stage, my planning, preparation, what do I need to do differently and move forward into action and then hopefully maintenance from there? So I hope that this is a good lesson for all of you, and I hope that you can take something with this.
Nicole Winkler: I think you know what, the new year coming we are now in February. But with the New Year having come and gone, a lot of New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside at this point. So pick it back up, go back to your preparation stage, decide what you need to change about the plan that you made earlier this year and put it in place because you deserve it. So a real world example of using these stages of change that I deal with on a day to day basis with clients is time management. I even do this for myself, but time management, when somebody when I say I don't have enough time, well, the answer to that is you did have enough time, you just chose to do something else with it. And so from there, if somebody is telling you you don't manage your time well or you're not on time and you're always late or these meetings are important, there are priority, but you come in 30 minutes late or you don't show up at all. That's a time management problem, usually. And that's, you know, very much if somebody else is telling you that. And a good rule of thumb with this is if you hear it from three people, it's probably true. If three separate people have told you that this is a problem, it probably is a problem. So that's where if you're in pre contemplation and you don't know, it's like, I don't know, that's my blind spot.
Nicole Winkler: I have no idea if three people have said the same thing to you. It's probably true. It's worth at least exploring in depth. So that's how you know, if you're in the pre contemplation stage, getting into the contemplation stage for clients is OK, well, I understand if I use my calendar that that would benefit me more or if I were to end meetings on time, that would benefit me. But it's so hard to do that. And so I I get stuck up in meetings and I get caught up with things and things come up and there's fires to put out everywhere, which it is like. I completely understand that, but that's the contemplation stage. I see why it would benefit me to use my organizer or use my calendar. Have somebody else maybe take over this meeting. For me, that's not beneficial for me right now, or I can't provide my best. I can't show up and be my best self there. And so the contemplation stage is usually when I get people that come to talk to me about it, OK, this is a problem. I'm not sure what to do about it. So then we go into the preparation stage and we set up plan. We set goals in a plan. Ok, one of the things I love to do for time management for people is to every 15 minutes.
Nicole Winkler: For one week, I have a spreadsheet that I send to them and you can make your own if you want to and you're listening to this and you struggle with time management. I send a spreadsheet and every 15 minutes I want to know what you did for those 15 minutes. So throughout the entire day, from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, that is a really good representation of how we spend our time. And it also kind of focuses us to say, OK, what am I doing with this? Fifteen minutes am I? Am I checking my phone? Am I engaged? Did I go over in that meeting? Is this a consistent problem that I'm going over in meetings and then they're running into each other? Or do I need to set up my schedule? So I have 15 minutes in between each meeting that I schedule? And so then I'm not back to back to back stressed out all day and late and missing things and not managing my time very well. And also, I ask to to schedule in lunches and breaks. I think that's really important. If we don't schedule those, then we generally don't take those. So that's part of the planning process. That's stage three. We're planning, we're preparing and then we're going to set a date. We're going to that time piece of the smart goals.
Nicole Winkler: We're going, when are you going to implement this? What are you going to do with it after we've reviewed your time log, after we know how you're spending your time, how you want to spend your time differently, the changes you want to make with that, what are we going to do about it? What are the actionable items and when are we going to implement that? It's usually within one. To two weeks is what clients say, OK, I need a week to prepare and put this plan in place, and then let's come back next week, readjust. Make some tweaks and go from there. So that's the third stage. And then the fourth stage is action. I'm doing it. I'm doing it, I'm trying it. I'm putting these new strategies in place, seeing what works for me, what doesn't work for me, and then I'm coming back and I'm reassessing. And then once I've made these changes and I have a good handle on my time management, I feel like I'm managing my time pretty well. I'm getting all the things done that I want to get done. You know, I have people tell me, know we all have twenty four hours in the day. Why are some people so much more productive than I am? Well, let's assess that. And then that goes that goes back to the planning and preparation stage and then back into action and into maintenance once you're happy with it.
Nicole Winkler: How's it going? We are maintaining it now. Will there be a lapse where maybe you get invited to five more meetings a week and that's taking up five more hours and now your days are more crammed, then OK, we need to reassess and back off on those meetings or set time limits on those meetings and really adhere to it. And that can be with family as well. Is something getting in the way of you spending time with your family and how is that happening and what do you want to do about it? And so then we get to the maintenance phase. We may go into the relapse and kind of back into old habits, but then we can very quickly pick right back up and that third stage preparation. What is my plan? What worked? What didn't work? What can I implement now and get right back into action? So that's a real world example. Time management, I think we all could use a little bit of help with that some days. I know I definitely can. And so that is how I would use the stages of change when it comes to time management. If you or someone you know, struggles with changes making changes, please contact me at Lift your future. My email address is Nicole@liftyourfuture.com
Thank you, and we'll see you next week.
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