In this post I’m going to introduce you to a model for behaviour change that’s often used in healthcare for people who need to overhaul their lifestyle in order to achieve better health.
It’s a formula based on the process our thoughts go through before, during and after a change of habit is needed. That process is:
This model can help you if you can easily spot the stage where you tend to fall back, so that you can get over the hurdle and end up successfully putting a new habit in place.
Pre-contemplation is the period where you know you need to make a change in the future. You can harness this period by gathering facts, paying attention to your feelings, labelling them so you really understand what you are up against and so that you can start to develop confidence in your ability to make this change by taking tentative steps, or trying something out for research purposes!
Contemplation is the period when you are really strongly considering the need to make a change. To give yourself a head start on the next stage, start making sure the pros outweigh the cons. Continue to pay attention to your feelings about why you want to change and the new way you will feel when you have made the change. Try one single action, like you did in the last stage, just to see how it goes. No pressure, just one step.
Preparation – this is the time to make a commitment to yourself and draw up an action plan that includes the steps ahead and also safety nets for the times you might falter. Gather support from the people around you. Start visualising yourself as the person who [fill in the blank here]. Assume the identity of a person who runs regularly, eats well, says no to a toxic substance – whatever the change is that you want to make. Become that person now in your head. How would that person think, behave, or speak? What words or tone do they use, what clothes do they wear, what do they do every day, what decision do they make without over-thinking? Be that person now.
The fourth stage is Action. This is where you start to take regular steps, like the single steps you took before, but more regularly. Start leaning on your support network. Rewards are very important at this stage so don’t forget them. Have a zero-tolerance policy for any negative thoughts or pushbacks in your head. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones immediately. Practise practise practise. If you lapse once, don’t give up; it was just one lapse, not a complete failure. You didn’t learn how to walk or catch a ball without making mistakes, but I’d safely bet you didn’t give up learning either of those until you had mastered it. Do the same now. If you lapse, reflect on why you lapsed and if you can, put measures in place to try to prevent that happening again.
The final stage is Maintenance – this stage requires as much attention and focus as the first four. Keep your self-confidence high. Plan for unexpected roadblocks. Keep things fresh by setting new rewards. Recognise and acknowledge your progress so far. Manage your environment so that you are surrounded by helpful people, feelings, and even items that are helping you embed the new behaviour.
If you are planning a behaviour change in the next few weeks now is the perfect time to check in and see where you are on this journey.
If you need professional help with this to really hit 2020 running, contact me to enquire about booking a Half Day Clarity Session – a truly worthwhile investment in yourself that will reap rewards long after the session has been completed!
Until next time, take care,