May 19, 2016
Question: So, if we resist change for emotional and psychological reasons, usually related to “fear of the unknown”, how is it that we do, indeed, make changes? What does it look like to take action? What are the steps?
The answer, again, is not science. However, there are four main stages that we all move through when we go from inaction to action.
The Four Stages of Change
Precontemplation. This is the stage when we don’t even realize that something needs to shift, even though it is affecting our life in some undesirable way. This can be a result of being being too busy or too stressed to notice, lacking understanding, knowledge, or awareness, or clinical denial. We are often shaken out of this stage over time by other people, interventions (divine or otherwise) and by broadening our horizons and getting educated.
Contemplation. Here we begin to become aware that something needs to change, even if we cannot name it, see it, or explain it. At our core, we begin to realize that something is not where it should be and it is somehow limiting our potential and/or the expression of our fullest self. Depending on the issue, some people will spend their entire life here. This can be from an absence of resources, lack of knowledge and support as well as the emotions of pride, stubbornness, and fear. However, when the fear of staying the same outweighs the pain of change, people will change.
Preparation. Once we have sufficiently acknowledged that something needs to shift, we move toward this stage: Preparation. Here, we begin to research and define what exactly needs to change. We get specific and find ways of naming both what we are experiencing as well as what triggers this feeling/need. Most importantly, we begin to make a plan. When we do this, it is wise to move ahead and keep an open mind. If we have been living a certain way and tolerating certain behaviors for years and years, we might experience new feelings of helplessness, anger, and overwhelm. What is important is to focus on the very first step by asking ourselves, “What is one action that I can take now that will move me in the right direction?”
Action. Now, we have overcome our denial, done our research and established the first step, we are now able to take a meaningful action. Although we may want to change overnight, when we allow ourselves to make progress incrementally and learn by trial and error, we set ourselves up for success and lasting change. The main component here is literally taking action—not thinking about it, not talking about it, but DOING it. This will require some faith, some fear, some discomfort, and some letting-go…but when we’ve positioned our mind in the right place, we will know (in our gut) that it is worth it. Once a change has been made, however, it generally requires ongoing attention until it becomes the “new normal”, which is why a fifth stage—Maintenance—is required.
Tune in next week for that!
Be your greatness. Start. Do. Go.
Zach Carlsen is the grateful lead blogger at StrengthsLife.com
His strengths of Ideation, Connectedness, Input, Strategic, and Empathy have taken him all over the world. He is an inventor, athlete, joyous wanderer/wonderer, translator, poet, and Transformation Coach.
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