Don’t doubt yourself. Try to not let the doubt of others fill you either. But, are you ready for the things you want to accomplish? I’m not just talking about your health, but in general, everything you want – do you really want to put your words into action or are they just words right now?
I talk about goals a lot because I feel better and more in control when I have a goal in mind – either continuous or deadline driven. I have a mostly Type A personality meaning I like structure, but I’ve also figured out how to go with the flow and be more fluid with my methods and goals. However, not everyone is like this and that’s completely okay.
Whether you realize it or not, as you think about tomorrow, next week, next month and next year you are going through The Stages of Change Model. I first learned about this model in my psychology course last fall, since then, it’s been discussed in five out of nine of my program’s classes.
In 1979, James O. Prochaska developed a transtheoretical model of change in a study that compared 18 different therapy systems and reviewed about 300 therapy outcomes. His model categorized the systems of therapy into five processes of change. “These processes are differentiated along two dimensions.”
1. verbal and behavior categorized the change process according to application – therapy that relies of verbal interaction or behavior manipulation.
examples: feedback and awareness of a problem like smoking, education about a problem like smoking
2. experiential and environmental categorized the change process by the individual’s experience or the individual’s surrounding environment
examples: finding new coping mechanisms instead of smoking, removing triggers like ashtrays and cigarettes
In 1982, Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente worked together using Prochaska’s model to examine self-change and therapy change in smoking behavior. Their study was titled: Self-Change and Therapy Change of Smoking Behavior: A Comparison of Processes of Change in Cessation and Maintenance. It was published in Addictive Behaviors volume 7 that year.
The sample was small, but there was a mix of gender (29 males to 34 females). Smokers who quit on their own (n=29) were compared with two different groups of smokers: an aversion group (n=18) and a behavioral-management group (n= 16). The sample was random with self-quitting participants recruited through various methods like fliers, advertisements and newspaper – remember, this is 1982. Participants from the two therapy groups were recruited randomly as well through fliers handed out after meetings.
Within seven weeks of quitting all subjects were given a change-process questionnaire verbally with all responses recorded on tape. They also answered a variety of smoking history and demographic questions. They were told they would be interviewed a second time within six months.
From these responses, Prochaska and DiClemente looked six verbal and four behavior process of change, and three stages of change (decision to change, active change and maintenance).
Here’s what they found:
1. Attempts to quit among the three groups were similar, gender didn’t necessarily make a significant difference among the three groups either.
2. The group that did see signification differences (p < .01) were from the behavioral-management group. These participants were older with an average age of 42, the age range varying from 30.4 years to 53.6 years. They smoked for a longer time than the other two groups with a mean of 25 years and a years-as-a-smoker range from 14 years to 36 years. These participants were more invested in quitting this time.
When looking at the different processes of change they found:
1. Individuals who quit on their own rated feedback, stimulus control and social management as less important than the other two groups.
2. All three groups rates self-liberation as quite important, however, the aversion group said it was more important than the other two groups.
3. The behavioral-management group rated counterconditioning as more important than the other two groups.
During the follow up they found:
1. Two-thirds of all subjects remained abstainers.
2. There were no differences in proportion of successes and relapses for all groups. Looking at the variables such as age, education, occupation, years smoking, etc. didn’t have any significance.
When speaking to participants who relapsed:
1. They struggled to find other coping mechanisms to deal with personal problems like consistency with exercises or health-related physical activity.
2. Some said they believed the habit was under control even with the relapse.
3. Some said they missed the habit.
Prochaska and DiClemente conducted new study a few years later where they used a sample of 872 smokers. This study was an extension of the first.
This model of behavior change is taught in all areas of the health field from psychology to sociology to nursing and public health. While I don’t blatantly tell my clients they are going through this model when we have our screening, I assess them with this model.
Many who talk with me are usually past precontemplation and contemplation – they’re ready for action, however, some are still determining the right course of action. It’s not about how bad they want change, it’s about being ready for change and finding the right way to go about making changes to their lifestyle.
There are some cases where a client and I will discuss their goals and I’ll say, I think these are great, but be aware that it’s possible that they may change, that you may realize there are other things that will assist with these goals that may become more important for the time being. This isn’t too discourage them, but to let them know that I’m acknowledging that goals can change and that as their coach, I think it’s okay. An example may be the client who says they want to lose weight, but doesn’t realize that they have a poor relationship with food. The goal eventually will be weight loss, but for the moment it’s about working on building a better relationship with food so it’s not used as a coping mechanism or so that they don’t restrict themselves and feel incapable of adhering to their nutrition goals. We will work on stress management, meal planning, meal creation and setting micro-goals that work towards a healthy lifestyle that assists weight loss for eventual weight loss over time.
It’s completely okay to not be ready for a goal, it’s also completely okay to change your immediate goals in order to work towards the bigger picture.
When we think about our goals and what we want out of life, what direction we want to take, we also need to look at the driving force behind it. I always ask my clients why their goals are their goals. The responses have ranged from “I want to be able to get on the floor with my kids” to “I want to be stronger”. There are also some who say they want to lose weight because they believe they will be happier or feel better when they have. I have said to them that size doesn’t equate happiness, but if being a healthier smaller size means that they will be more outgoing and their mental well being will improve – then yes, it’s reasonable to say that you believe you may be happier when you’ve lost weight.
But for all clients, regardless of their reasoning behind their goals, I ask them to dig deeper to make sure that their goals are truly something they want.
Living a healthy lifestyle is more than the time that it takes to lose weight. It’s more than the time it takes to learn to allow freedom and flexibility. It’s about building lasting habits and truly implementing and learning positive behaviors.
Now, that’s not to say that you won’t ever “mess up”, you won’t ever not want to eat off plan,. It’s human to have set backs. It’s human to take a break. It’s crazy to think that every day has to be perfectly lived towards these goals. I don’t believe that’s realistic, but it’s about small behaviors that add up over time that make meaningful change.
I challenge myself often to remind myself why I’m back in school, why I’m coaching, what health means for me in this moment. I want you to think about your why’s, your life, your plan – are you ready? Do you have the support around you? Do you truly support yourself to make the changes necessary to accomplish whatever it is you want to?
I hope you can see the greatness inside you. There’s nothing more rewarding than the light bulb going off when something finally clicks for a client or they start seeing the greatness I see in them.
I wish for you empowerment in the New Year. I wish for you that you allow yourself time as you start to figure out your next steps. Don’t rush – good things can come slowly, we just need to learn to be patient.