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Monday, September 17, 2007

Making Changes

Autumn and two teenagers in High School for the first time has stimulated my thoughts about change. Changes are constant. Sometimes it seems like “it” is happening to us. When we face change we are challenged to discern what to “grab on to” and what to “let go of.” My kids might say I am struggling to let go of asking to many questions (my perception is that I am trying to stay connected). Admittedly it is an occupational hazard. Most three year olds eventually out grow the phase of rapid-fire questions. I didn’t. Lucky for me that is in part what I do for a living. I help folk to get “unstuck” or to create positive changes and questions are an inevitable part of that process.

Asking questions leads to knowledge which can help to “connect the life dots.” Making sense of things can lead to new actions which can result in positive changes (at least that is one on ramp for making change happen).

Have you ever wondered about the process of change and why it is so difficult to sustain change through sheer will power? There are a few folk like my father who experience making change as a matter of simply making a choice. He describes the process of stopping smoking as simply making a choice and sticking to it. Long before Nike made the phrase popular, his motto was “just do it.” Unfortunately, I didn’t inherit the “just do it” gene.

For most of us exerting our will power will result in short term changes but fails to sustain significant changes in the long run. Making change happen is about setting goals (in writing), building in support systems and getting out of your own way. The following research might help you to understand the change process and where you are located in the phases of change.

Three clinical psychologists from the Rhode Island area conducted a study to discover if there was any structure to the process of making change happen. What they discovered is that “self changers” who were able to reach their goals and sustain them went through six stages. James O. Prochaska, John C. Norcross and Carlo C. DiClemente authored a book entitled “Changing for Good: The Revolutionary Program That Explains the Six Stages of Change and Teaches You How To Free Yourself From Bad Habits.” The stages are roughly as follows:

1. Precontemplation “Get off my back!” Folk confront you with the need to change but you feel helpless or aren’t ready.

2. Contemplation“I want to stop feeling so stuck.” You desire change but aren’t quite ready.

3. Preparation “I’ll start tomorrow.” You know change is best, but you’re not sure how to begin.

4. Action“Here I go.” Life is often exhilarating, sometimes terrifying. So is change. This is the time to learn the methods needed for change and to get the support you need.

5. Maintenance“Keep moving forward!” You are know reaping the rewards of change but are concerned with relapse. You need to create a plan for dealing with slips and lapses in order to achieve long-term success.

6. Termination“Home free!” Maintaining change is effortless: no temptations, total confidence.

I have found it helpful to place myself on this roadmap for change. It is easy to think that you in are in the action phase only to discover the reality of being stuck in endless “preparation.” Hope you find this research helpful in finding your path to making change happen.

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”
Gospel of John 8:32 – 1st Century Blogger

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