• Jason Carrasco MSc., RP, RMFT

How to know if you are really ready for change

If you coul

If you could imagine three things you want to change in your life, what would they be?

Perhaps, given the time of year, some of you might be after physical changes in your bodies, while others may be looking for changes in how they spend their time and/or money. Whatever the change it is that you are after, how do you know if you are actually ready for it? If you have been keeping up with the Relationship Matters podcast, and our other blog posts, you may have noticed how this month we have been focusing on change and goal settings. As a reminder, whenever you are setting a goal for yourself, make sure that it is SMART (Specific; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; Time Bound). For more on SMART goals, check out last week’s blog post, or tune into the Relationship Matters podcast! What happens if you set up your SMART goals, and do not follow through with it? The question for us therapists becomes, how ready were you? To address this question, we can look at it in so many different ways. Luckily, theres a stages of change model that may help us shed some light into this topic. In the podcast, we had gone over the stages of change model briefly, so let’s go over it in some more detail. This model is comprised of five unique stages that any one person may find themselves in when going through the process of change. Those stages are: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, and Maintenance.

Pre-contemplation

In this stage, what you will find is that people are not thinking seriously about change, and are not interested in any kind of help. As a therapist, what I sometimes see are people defending their current habits and express to me how it is not a problem. At times, these individuals may get defensive when faced with the efforts of others to encourage change. In other words, people in this stage simply do not yet see themselves as having a problem. Do you think you may be in this stage? Well, given the fact that you are reading this - chances are you are not as you are ready to consider ways to implement change. Contemplation At this stage, you can think of people as a “see-saw”. People will begin to weight out the pros and cons of change, and may not yet be committed fully to the process itself. At least they are thinking about it (hence the name). What you may find with people here is doubt. There may be doubt that the long-term benefits associated with change will be beneficial and outweighs the short-term costs. When beginning to think about change, many people may very well be “stuck” here. How long people stay here is not a universal number and is certainly situational in nature. Just a fancy way of saying - it depends on the person, the nature of the change, and motivating factors among others. The good news though, is that while here - people are going to be much more receptive to hear others and their perspectives on reasons for change. Preparation When reaching this stage, people have made a commitment to make a change. You may hear their commitment and motivation when people say things like “I have got to do something about this” “Something has to change”. With that commitment in place, it is now time to enter research mode. Small steps are being taken in order to put into place everything that may be needed to help with successfully initiating the change that is being sought after. People may begin to read articles or blogs (like this one), call professionals for consultations, and even begin to talk supportive people in their lives. Here is a bit of a warning - people sometimes skip this step and jump straight into stage 4 - action. In doing so, you may not have had a chance to fully look at what it will really take to get change going and in turn, you inadvertently set yourself up for potential failure. Like one of my favourite fitness coaches always says when talking about setting yourself up for success “no ego, amigo”. The tendency to jump straight into action may be great, but ask yourself why that may be. Are you underestimating the work involved in change or, rather, over estimating your abilities to get this done. Ask yourself - if it was truly that easy, wouldn’t you have done this already? Preparation is key - so make sure to plan adequately! Action Now that you have thought about change, weighed out your options, and have done your research…it is time to do something with that! Here you will find people who believe that they have the ability to change while also being actively involved in taking the necessary steps to implement the desired changes! The amount of time people spend in the action stage will vary, but the good news is that this is the shortest of all of the stages! Here, people are going to depend on their own willpower - while making overt efforts to truly change whatever it is that they are after. While here, you will find that people are going to be open to receiving help and are also likely to seek out support from others themselves! Maintenance This stage involves being able to keep up with a “new normal”. A great way to keep progress going is to look back and really take in how much process has been made in seeking this change. People are often going to be able to anticipate their own needs and be more proactive about asking for help or avoiding certain “triggers” which may lead them back to a former way of living. Though this is all great, one of the biggest and perhaps most meaningful pieces is that there is a new found sense of patience. Particularly being both patient and kind towards themselves and their progress as they truly recognize what it takes to let go of old behaviour patterns and replace them with brand new ones. As you progress through your own stages of change, it may be helpful to re-evaluate your progress in moving up and down through these stages. Take in the effort that you have put into getting to where it is that you are now. If you begin to feel discouraged, find little things that may resonate with you that could serve as that little “push” to keep going. One of my favourites is this quote “you didn’t come this far, to only get this far. Keep going”. Lastly, remember this - it is normal and natural to regress, to get to a stage only to fall back to a previous one. This is just a normal part of making changes in your life - whatever they may be. Change is never linear, and change is always possible!