Lasting Change, Step One: Why “But I really want it!” is not enough.

“Your body is like the quiet talker with the most important thing to say.”(Anonymous)

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, making up the mind in between our ears just isn’t enough “juice” to get us to real and lasting change.

I also mentioned that change is a process. Let’s talk a little bit about stages of readiness for change.

Pre-Contemplation – Contemplation – Preparation – Action – Maintenance (in a circle) Those steps again are, * Pre-contemplation (not even really thinking about the change,) * Contemplation (noticing that change is possible and considering it,) * Preparation (working at what would need to happen in order to pull that change off,) *Action (Making the change itself,) and Maintenance, (having a plan in place to stay on track or get back on track, learning more about what needs to be built into the Preparation stage in order to be successful.) These steps are presented in a circle, because lasting change very often means taking at least a few trips around the stages as we grow into our new, changed life.

Back in 1977, Joseph Prochaska, Carlo DiClemente and their colleagues did an extensive study that showed us we had been approaching addiction recovery all wrong. Addiction treatment at that time assumed that everyone who showed up for treatment was ready to make a change. What they figured out instead, is that there are stages of readiness for change.

Success is much more likely when the goal is not change, but rather, moving the person along to the next stage of change.

Notice also, that the model moves in a circle. This is not a one and done. Even if we come to a place of successful change, we will likely at some point either relapse, (lose traction with the change altogether,) or lapse, (experience a temporary setback and then need to re-engage the cycle again at Contemplation.) When we do this well, we have a plan already in place for lapse and relapse.

(For a good 2.5-minute explanation of Prochaska and diClemente’s Transtheoretical Model of change, click here.)

Putting Legs On It For example, Person A wants to start exercising regularly. Clearly, Person A is thinking about it, so Person A is in at least “Contemplation.” Very often we assume that means we’re ready. “Ok! I’m going to start working out 5 days a week. I’m READY!” Guess what doesn’t work? Yah… that.

What would be more useful, would be to focus next on “Preparation.” Preparation in this case would mean looking at what kinds of exercise Person A might be willing to do, where and how Person A can do it, what things might get in the way, etc.

And that is one of the important places those three brains come into play.

All the Data As we work through “Preparation,” we are going to have all kinds of gut brain/heart brain reactions. Listening to our bodies, (what I call “Biolocation” and the fancy schmancy people call the “Interoception,”) is essential to gather the rest of the data.

For example, when Person A says, “I’m going to run outside for 45 minutes a day!” and tunes into body, Person A’s stomach lights up red in a thousand places that all scream NO. The queasy tightness reminds Person A that their knees swell and scrape whenever they even walk too much, that it has been below 20-degrees every morning and that Person A despises cold! That would be a total set up.

Pivot! (But gently on those swollen knees) So… listening to this helpful information from gut and heart brain, apparently Person A will need:

  • To find an exercise that doesn’t hurt the body.
  • To find exercise Person A can do in an environment that they least don’t hate.

As Person A considers options, Person A has this sinking in their chest. Heart Brain is not ok with… something. Well that’s weird. Exploring a little farther we realize that feeling is grief. Person A has no idea why it’s there at first.

Coming back to Biolocation, we discover together that Person A was once a gifted runner until injury stole that dream. Since then, Person A has fallen deeply in love with swimming. AAAAaaannndddd… thanks to COVID, Person A no longer has access to an indoor pool.

To be ok with working out regularly, Person A has a little work to do around letting go of their running dreams, and also being ok with an exercise that might feel like second best.

Keep Going Person A will keep working through the possibilities for feasible ways to work out while also managing the feels that come up along the way. Chipping away at both sides of the equation will land Person A smack dab in the middle of actually ready for change! Woot! Woot!

Recap Ok, so, success with Step One asks two things of us:

  1. Listening to our gut brains and heart brains for more information on all the ways we feel about the change.
  2. Understanding where we are on the cycle of readiness for change and concentrating our efforts on what it will take to move us from whichever stage we are in, to the next. At some point that will mean moving from preparation to action. Don’t skip stuff. That just doesn’t work.

Once we’ve got that all in alignment, we are ready for Step 2: Making the easiest path possible.

But that’s for next week.

And we’ve already figured out we can’t skip steps. So, get to it people!

You have excavation work to do! Your long-term success and satisfaction are worth the work you put into this!

Are you working at making lasting change in your life?

Contact Tiffany today and let’s figure it out together.