The Five Stages of Change: Detailed Explication
Stage One: The “Denying Stage”
In this article we will look at the five rather predictable stages we go through when we make a change in our lives of any kind.
These changes might include quitting smoking, losing weight or ending a relationship.
In the first stage, it isn’t that we can’t see the solution.
It is that we can’t see the problem
We deny having a problem.
Most deniers don’t want to change themselves, just the people or circumstances around them.
They usually try to change because of pressures from others.
They may change, but only as long as there is great and constant external pressure. Once the pressure is relieved, they quickly return to their old ways.
According to the Surgeon General’s report on smoking, there are ten million smokers who refuse to believe that smoking leads to premature death.
How many troubled drinkers deny that they have a drinking problem?
Deniers place the responsibility for their problems on factors such as genetic makeup, addiction, family, society, or destiny, all of which they see as being out of their control.
They feel demoralized, that the situation is hopeless.
However, demoralization is a natural feeling and if you take yourself systematically through the stages of change, you can change.
Stage Two: The “Delaying Stage”
In the “Delay” stage, people acknowledge that they have a problem and begin to think seriously about solving it.
However, they may be far from actually doing anything about it.
They may even know how to get to where they want to be, but are not quite ready to go yet.
Self-changing smokers typically spend two years in the Delay mode before taking action.
Fear of failure is often a major stumbling block in this stage.
When Delayers begin the transition to the “Decision” stage, their thinking is clearly marked by two changes.
1. First, they begin to focus on the solution rather than the problem
2. Then they begin to think more about the future than the past.
The end of the Delay stage is a time of anticipation, activity, anxiety, and excitement.
Stage Three: The “Deciding Stage”
In this stage, people are planning to take action in the next month and are making final adjustments before they change their behaviour.
An important step now is to make public your intended change, announcing, for example, “I will stop overeating Monday.”
Although they are committed to action and might appear ready for change, they have not necessarily resolved their ambivalence.
In this stage, awareness is high, and anticipation is palpable.
People will often try to cut short the Decide stage.
For example, those who wake up one morning and decide to quit smoking cold turkey dramatically lower their ultimate chances of success.
You can make better use of your time in this stage by:
1. Planning carefully,
2. Developing a firm, detailed scheme for action,
3. Making sure that you have learned the change processes and strategies you need to carry you through to development and termination.
Stage Four: The “Doing Stage”
In this stage people most overtly modify their behavior and their surroundings.
In short, they make the move for which they have been preparing.
The “Doing” stage is very busy, and the one that requires the greatest commitment of time and energy.
The danger here is that we often erroneously equate action with change.
We overlook not only:
A. The critical work in the Decision stage that prepares people for successful action but
B. The equally important efforts needed in the Develop stage to maintain the changes following the action we take in the “Doing” stage.
The sometimes devastating result is real discouragement.
Stage Five: The “Developing Stage”
In this stage we consolidate the gains we attained in the other stages and struggle to prevent a relapse.
This stage can last from as little as six months to as long as a lifetime.
Without carrying out the five Steps prescribed for this stage, people usually relapse to the Deny or Delay stage.
The “Develop” Stage Exercise
Read and review the description of your particular stage, i.e. the Stage you were assessed as being at.
With your partner discuss:
1. How accurate is the description, i.e. does it portray your current state as it relates to your situation?
2. Where do you agree or disagree?
3. What conclusions do you draw from this assessment?
4. What do you think your next step should be?
This is not easy stuff, you know that.
You could argue that we don’t have our habits but that they have us.
However, if we want or more importantly need to change, these are the five stages we will undoubtedly experience along the way.
I wish you good luck and every success in your journey; indeed in all your endeavors.
For more on this topic, we recommend the following
The Key to Self Mastery
How to Master Your Personal and
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