Are You Struggling To Change Your “Wicked Ways?”

“Just snap out of it!” Perhaps you’ve told this or even said it to yourself when it comes to those money behaviors that need to change. But, if changing were only a matter of willpower, we would all be more successful at making changes and sticking to them. Making changes in your behavior is more about being smart than being strong.

Stages of ChangeIf you are going to attempt to make a change, it really helps to understand what you are up against. This is definitely a ‘knowledge is power’ situation, and I want to share a proven psychological model that will shed light on how and why we change. It’s called the “Stages of Change” model, and understanding it will benefit you by:

= supporting you in navigating behavioral change more smoothly
= helping you set realistic expectations as you begin the process of changing your habits.
=internalizing that change is not that simple, that most of us will “fail” many times before we make a permanent change in a behavior, AND that this is actually part of the change process
= silencing the negative self-talk when it comes to your “bad habits”
= tremendously increasing the odds that you will be successful in reaching your goals!

The model was originally developed in the1970’s by psychology professors Prochaska & DiClemente when they were researching how smokers were able to give up their addiction. It has since been used to help people with everything from weight loss to injury prevention.

This evidence-based Stages of Change model demonstrates that change is rarely easy and often requires a gradual progression of small steps toward a larger goal. And, each of us progress through the stages at our own rate.

There are 6 stages of change, outlined below. I have also included some helpful strategies for each stage, which will help you progress to the next one:

In this first stage, you are perfectly content with your current behavior, do not feel any pain from real or potential negative consequences, and basically have no motivation to change.

Helpful Strategies:
identify risks and consequences of the current behavior

Here, you are on the fence about changing your behaviors. There is a conflict between the part of you that wants to change and the part doesn’t. You may also struggle with believing that you have what it takes to actually make the change you’re contemplating.

Helpful Strategies:
weigh pros and cons of behavior
confirm your readiness to change
encourage confidence in your abilities
identify any barriers to change

You’re decided!  You are willing to take personal responsibility for the change you want and start planning to take action.

Helpful Strategies:
write down your goals.
prepare a plan of action.
make a list of motivating statements.

Stage 4: ACTION
In this stage you actively pursue the changes you want to make, and are incorporating new behaviors and habits.

Helpful Strategies:
reward your success.
seek out social support.
make a list of motivating statements.

When you reach maintenance, you have sustained change for more than six months. The changes have been integrated into your life, and the new behaviors take less effort….becoming ‘the new normal.’ Your main task at this stage is to prevent yourself from slipping back into those old, ‘wicked ways.’

Helpful Strategies:
develop coping strategies to deal w/temptation.
remember to reward yourself for success.

Stage 6: RELAPSE
Relapse is a return to the old behaviors. This is not inevitable – but is likely – and should not be seen as failure. Often people will relapse several times before they finally succeed in making a (more or less) permanent to a new set of habits and behaviors.

Helpful Strategies:
identify triggers that lead to relapse
recognize barriers to success and take steps to overcome these obstacles.
reaffirm your goals

Do NOT think of these stages as being a linear progression from Pre-contemplation to Maintenance. It is much more realistic and helpful to think of the stages as a spiral staircase where you can move up, but you can also come back to a place you have been before.

However, although having a setback can leave you feeling like a “failure,” it is important to realize that when you “fall,” you never go all the way back to the beginning because you have gained some experience on the journey. You can use what you have learned to increase the odds of success the next time.

Remember: Change is a process that happens over time, not overnight! So cut yourself some slack, hop back on the wagon if you tumble off, and combat that negative self-talk with a lecture on the stages of change.

At any given point, only 20% of us are able to make a permanent change with only one try. Prochaska’s research confirms that people typically go through the stages of change several times before they achieve success. Those who eventually reach their goal are determined and don’t let their “failures” stop them!

Whatever your goals are, keep this model close at hand to guide you to success!



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