Change isn't easy, but it sure isn't impossible. There are five stages of change. Generally when making a change our readiness transition in a chronological order. After you've completed the cycle with one change, the cycle can begin again with a new one. This isn't to say though that multiple changes at once aren't possible- they definitely are! But you might sit a little longer in one of these stages than you normally would. The first step to any change is recognizing where you are.
Pre-contemplation Stage: You're not even thinking about making a change. There isn't the slightest idea in place about making a change because you might not even know that it's a change you want to make. However, your friends, family, coworkers, might realize that you would benefit from changing this habit. In other words, you can't make a change if you don't even know what the change ought to be.
Contemplation Stage: So you've discovered that there's something that you want to change. You're thinking about making a change, but not sure if you're ready to take the plunge. You're weighing out the pros and cons of making a change. Typical pro: I will have grown and developed in the way I want to. Con: It's going to require work and I might rather be okay with staying with the status quo.
Preparation Stage: You've decided on making a change and are beginning to lay that ground work to make your changes successful. You're probably taking those baby steps but it might not be quite enough to say you've really accomplished your goal… yet.
Action Stage: You're making real substantial changes! You're probably actively making a change in a habit, routine, or thought and overcoming those little obstacles that pop up. This time period lasts anywhere between one day to six months.
Maintenance Stage: The change that you once made before has become your new normal. You're focusing on keeping the change that you've made (which can be just as challenging as making the change in the first place) and preventing relapsing into old habits. You've successfully accomplished this level of change once you have been able to keep the new habit for 6+ months.
Now let's apply these stages of change as if we were applying it to beginning a yoga routine.
Pre-contemplation Stage: I'm feeling stressed, unfocused, and tired. I haven't found a physical activity that I enjoy yet that is rewarding and I'm really not interested in adding one into my routine yet. My best friend keeps raving to me about her morning asana routine, but it's all gibberish to me.
Contemplation Stage: Okay, so, I have to admit, that this yoga idea is starting to sound somewhat appealing. I heard that it can help me to reduce my stress, give me a better sense of clarity, and it will help me build up some strength. The problem is that I'm not flexible and I really don't have the time for a 30 minute daily workout. I also hate that I'd have to change into and out of gym clothes, buy a yoga mat, and maybe even have to join a yoga studio. Who has the time for that?!
Preparation Stage: I've weighed out the pros and cons. Yoga really sounds like a good fit for me and a part of how I imagine my future life to be: less stress, more strength. I started researching yoga studios, online yoga instructors, yoga videos, yoga classes in the city recreation department and local YMCA/ YWCA. I started reading reviews for which yoga mat to buy.
Action Stage: I decided on a yoga class once per week at a nearby studio and to combine it with shorter daily yoga flows at home from videos I found online. I've discovered that I'm better about showing up for yoga class when I pack my workout gear in my car before heading to work and planning dinner ahead of time. I was using these as excuses not to go to class a few times.
Maintenance Stage: I feel like a total yogi. I could not imagine my life without yoga in it on a daily basis. I feel like this workout is a part of who I have become. I am fearful of returning back to my more stressed and weaker days. I am motivated to continue on this healthier path for me. What else is possible!
Share with me where you are in your change journey. Is there one change where you feel you are in contemplation stage but another where you feel like you are in the action stage? I'm excited to hear your thoughts.
Norcross, J. C., Krebs, P. M. and Prochaska, J. O. (2011), Stages of change. J. Clin. Psychol., 67: 143–154. doi: 10.1002/jclp.20758