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The Stages of Behavior Change

Changing our habits or behaviors is not something that comes easy for many people. The process of change can be a hard and painful process that can be a long tedious road for some. At times we do not even know that there is something in our behavior that we want or need to change and without that recognition, changing is next to impossible. Today, I am going to break down the stages of behavior change and what it takes to complete that stage and change your behavior.

Stage 1: Precontemplation

The first stage is known as precontemplation. In this stage people are not yet thinking about making any changes to their behavior. These people can be seen as in denial or have yet to see the change that needs to be made. If you are at this stage, asking yourself some of the questions below can help you find reasons for change and give you the step toward the next stage.

  • What is one thing that could be holding me back from being the best version of myself?

  • Who could I ask for feedback about my areas of potential growth?

  • What do I constantly procrastinate on?

Stage 2: Contemplation

The Second stage is contemplation. In the contemplation stage people are slowly coming more and more aware of the benefits of making a change, but are discouraged by the cost of making the change. The cost that comes with the change is something that can hold people back from making the step to the next stage for a long time, months or even years. In many situations, people do not make it past the contemplation stage. Moving to the next stage consists of making tangible steps. Some questions that may help make this jump are:

  • Have you ever tried to change this behavior before?

  • How do you recognize you have a problem that you want to fix?

  • What would have to happen for you to consider changing your behavior?

Stage 3: Preparation

The third stage is preparation. During this stage one might make small, experimental changes to test the waters for the entire lifestyle change. For example, if someone is planning to lose weight, they may try new food that is not common in their current diet. In this stage, there are some things you can do to better prepare yourself for the next stage and make the behavior change as smooth as possible.

  • Find my why! Why do I want to make this change?

  • What are some things that could help me make this change?

  • Is there anything preventing me from making this change?

Stage 4: Action

The fourth stage is action. In this stage people take action toward their goal. In many cases this first action toward the goal is a failure due to not enough time given or spent on the previous stage. One of the most common examples of this is the New Years resolution. The process can be long, so using some tips and tricks along the way can help you get through the difficult part and continue to be successful.

Tips and Tricks:

  • Write down goals.

  • Find an accountability partner.

  • Do your research.

Stage 5: Maintenance

The fifth stage is the maintenance stage. The maintenance stage involves avoiding former behavior and keeping up with new behaviors. Staying successful can be maintained by continuing to avoid temptation and rewarding success. If you falter, do not quit your new changed behavior. Forgive yourself and continue to maintain your new behavior. Developing a coping strategy will help you avoid temptation and will give you strength when you feel like you may be slipping back into old habits.

Making a major change to your behavior is not something that is easy or comes naturally to anyone. Failure or relapse is part of the process and will help you build strength throughout the process. These steps can be used to stop smoking, fat loss or even starting something new. These steps are a long process, but if you want to make a change they are a great guideline for you to achieve that goal.

  • Reward your successes.

  • Tell people what you are doing.

  • Take inspiration from others on the same path

Stephen Duff


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