What Does It Take To Change?

What happens if you aren’t satisfied with your life?  Maybe you have a history of broken relationships or go-nowhere jobs?  Perhaps on the outside everything looks good but you’re lonely and unhappy on the inside?  Or you’re overweight but not happy.

There is a process to make these kinds of changes.

1.  Resisting change (also known as pre-contemplation)

I do NOT need to change.  Others say I do and make suggestions to me, but I adamantly (some might say arrogantly) deny their logic and rationale.  I will NOT change; I’m fine.

2. Considering change (aka Contemplation)

Maybe, just maybe there is some little thing I could change.  Just saying… ‘maybe’ I might consider it.

3. Planning change (Preparation)

All right, I have a problem and I will change.  There I’ve said it and acknowledge it and I’m ready to move forward.  I ‘gird my loins’ and get ready to start.

4. Changing behaviour (Action)

I have made the decision and now I tell others what I’m doing.  Maybe I share with my spouse or start counseling or throw away all the cookies in my house, but I make a public statement of some sort of my intention.  This stage may last up to six months.

5. Continuing change (Maintenance)

Although many people say a new habit takes 21 days to form, they lie.  Making major changes takes months to implement successfully and consistently.  I have to practice over and over again.

6. Backsliding & beginning all over again (Relapse)

In the first six months of my new behavior, I typically ‘forget’ my decision and ‘slip’.  I grab a cigarette or a cookie or a drink.  I gossip with a co-worker.  Whatever I committed to change.  OOPS.  I recognize my poor decision, pick myself up, and begin again.

The cycle of starting, relapsing and re-starting may be repetitive.  (And frustrating for my family.) But it is normal.  If I stay in that cycle, the relapses will fade and the desired behavior becomes normal.

About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
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24 Responses to What Does It Take To Change?

  1. I think maintenance is the hardest part of any change–whether it’s starting an exercise regime, quitting smoking, changing a sleeping routine, etc. I’m learning that the worst thing we can do is to beat ourselves up for slipping into an old pattern. You’re right; change takes time, but it’s worth it. 🙂

  2. It’s the relapse part that sucks! I’ve never been a dieter, just someone who wants to make conscientious food choices. But it never fails that those potato chips and french fries and pizza end up in my house, on my plate, in my stomach. I remind myself constantly and yet, there I go doing it again.

    My husband figured it out. He’s an alcoholic but has been sober for 27 years. I admire that strength and grit.

    At the same time, I’m blaming him for the potato chips, the french fries and the pizza. There I said it. I feel better now!

    Now I’m going to go have a salad.

    Thanks for the post, Louise.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    • maintenance is the hard part. that’s what I appreciate about those people who can make a major change and hang in with it. sobriety for 27 years is awesome. give him a hug for me. I respect sobriety.

  3. and there’s no place for beating yourself up…pick yourself up, dust yourself off and begin again. because you’re right, it’s worth it.

  4. Louise, thank you for these posts. I like how you bring out that change doesn’t come overnight. That it takes months and lots of determination. And that it is normal to slip up. That also makes you feel better about yourself. That you can try again to succeed.

    LOL Patricia! Now I’m going to have a salad. You’re too funny girl! 🙂

  5. Louise,
    This post applies to everything in life not just dieting. I really need to get out of the habit of doing email first thing in the morning. I’m trying to, but it’s difficult.

    • Absolutely, Sandy. This process of change applies to everything – creating new habits for good (reading email first thing) or things to stop – like overeating.

      good luck. if you master the email goal, let me know – I still struggle with that.

  6. Coleen Patrick says:

    Yes try, try again! As long as you still have hope, all isn’t lost 🙂

  7. marcykennedy says:

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s normal to backslide and have to recommit. Once a change becomes habit, I have no problem sticking with it, but it’s that fight to turn it from a new change into a habit where I really struggle. I think part of it has to do with the fact that we don’t realize how many connections there are in our lives. We might think we’re changing something small, but it ripples out and means we have to adapt in other areas as well.

    • You are exactly right, Marcy. We don’t form bad habits because we’re bad people – they serve a purpose and that is usually tied into our self esteem or self-image or something that we believe about ourselves and our place in the world. So to begin changing one little thing means a ripple effect on all the others.

  8. “Although many people say a new habit takes 21 days to form, they lie.” Ha! Thanks for saying that, Louise. I look forward to your posts.

  9. LOL, Pat (above). I’ve always been skeptical of that 21-day thing. The only thing that’s worked in getting me to establish a habit of exercise is being able to read on the treadmill, and even then it’s sometimes spotty.

  10. Thank you, Louise! I’m with Jennette on that whole 21-day thing. Making a change for three weeks is easy…keeping it up over the long haul is the challenge.

    I hope you’ll tackle another issue that goes hand-in-hand for some of us. When you have no problem making long term changes, but experience no benefits (or very few thanks to thyroid issues in my case), it’s hard not to throw in the towel after awhile. How do you stay motivated when you know results will be minimal – even though you’re putting forth a great deal of effort?

    • I wonder who started that 21 day hoax? should be given a stern talking to, for certain.

      I so get you on the long term issue. I’ve worked on my weight for 2 years and lost 10 pounds. effort without results is most definitely on the list of topics I’ll cover

  11. The relapse is the most difficult part of change. You go along feeling great, slide back into the rut, then feel like a failure for doing so. Thanks for suck a great post, Louise. It encourages me to keep striving for the changes I want/need to make.

    • the relapse is actually a big part of the process, Sheila. it helps us affirm what we want and why we want it.
      I can’t tell you how many times I quit smoking. 3 times for one year and once for 3 years and again for 7 years. When I relapsed after the 7 year stint I felt like such a failure but I tried again and this time I have 14 years.

      Do I consider myself finished with cigarettes? Actually, no, I don’t. I know I’m one drag away from being a smoker again. And as long as I remember that, I don’t start. I’ve learned that I can’t afford even one drag. so I monitor my thoughts and remind myself of what I want – to live without cigarettes.

      it sounds silly, given I’m talking about such a disgusting, life-shortening addiction, but that’s how it is.

  12. Pingback: 3.5 Steps to Lasting Personal Change | Louise Behiel

  13. Kevin Jackson says:

    I am an alcoholic and addict. I have been sober for 19 months now. I have not had any real problems quitting drinking or drugging. A few momentary bad thoughts here and there, but thats about it. What I find VERY hard to do is, changing myself. I have so many character defects that, sometimes I feel that I will never get over these problems.I dont want to be rich. I dont want to be famous. I dont want to be liked by everyone. I just want to be comfortable in my own skin. I want to know that I give everything I have every single day, to love others as they are, not for what I want them to be. I want the courage to follow my heart and my conscience, no matter what others may think of me. I want to be humble. I want to be grateful for what I am blessed with. I want to look at every person as an equal. I want to keep bad thoughts out of mind.I want to be honest with myself. I just want to be happy with me. That, it seems is the hardest thing to do. But, I will keep trying. Thanks Louise, for just being positive. I need a dose of it everyday.

    • 19 months is great. Congratulations. the good news is that after a year or so, we become aware of our character defects and know they are ours. Your goals are awesome but I hope you’re patient — you’re talking about a lifetime of work on yourself I think we all work on things for a long time.

      one day, you will wake up and discover the day before was a good day and that today looks pretty good too. for what it’s worth, I continue to work on most of your list even today – 30 years later. but knowing that today, is not painful – it’s simply part of the process.

      keep in touch. I’m glad to get to know you

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