Change starts tomorrow… Maybe?
Are you thinking of making a change? Perhaps you are contemplating changing your diet or starting an exercise program. Change can a daunting prospect for many people and when we are at the contemplation stage it can be a difficult to know where to start. In Prochaska’s and DiClemente’s, “Stages of Change,” Model, they list five areas that need to be of focus if you are contemplating change; consciousness raising, social liberation, emotional arousal, self-re-evaluation and helping relationships. In a moment we will look at what each of these 5 processes of change mean and how you might apply yourself to them but first, how do you even know if you are truly contemplating making a change to your life?
How to know if you are truly contemplating change.
The gift of the Contemplator is that they are thinking about their problem, they have accepted it and understand that their current situation is possibly causing them harm. If this is you and you find yourself using terms like,
I want to stop feeling sad and depressed.
I’m tired of feeling unwell all the time.
I don’t want to look like this anymore.
I’m tired of being tired.
I need to change.
Then you’re most likely truly contemplating change…
One possible pit-fall of being in contemplation is that you can get stuck there, trapped in a place of unending procrastination. There is security in being where you are and knowing you need to change. That security is lost the moment you step into action. But in order to move forward action must be taken. The first step in avoid procrastination is knowing what it looks like.
Avoiding ambivalence and the traps of procrastination.
The search for absolute certainty.
Thinkers often fall in to this trap. They are not happy to move forward until they have viewed all the science, all the angles. We can become trapped in thinking we cannot move forward until we know it all. If you only ever learn but never act you will spend a lifetime learning but never changing.
Waiting for the Magic Moment.
A plan is built and now you are just waiting for the magic moment, to begin. But the Magic moment will never arrive. In truth every moment is the magic moment, every moment that passes. What makes the moment magic is the decision to act! The time to act is not when it feels right, because it will never feel right. The action itself is what makes the time right.
Contemplators can get stuck in the knowledge that change needs to happen, but they want it to come without them having to make any changes.
I wish I could smoke and for it not to affect me.
I wish is could lose weight but eat anything I want.
If what you are doing right now is not making you healthier or happier then steps towards change need to examined and accepted.
A person can bring this on themselves but more often than not it comes from outside pressure. I am no longer willing to wait for you to lose weight. Lose it now or I am gone. The person then jumps into a diet plan they are not ready for and fail within just a few weeks, blaming themselves for being weak and a failure…. yet again.
Premature action can also be triggered by events. The big 40 being a “time trigger,” of change. Before successful change can happen, awareness needs to come first.
Move from just contemplating change to making it happen.
There are many ways to turn contemplation into action but there are a few must-do’s to help make it happen; Consciousness raising, Emotional arousal, Self-re-evaluation, social liberation and helping relationships all play a big part in not just thinking about change but initiating it.
Ask the hard questions
So, this is where we say goodbye to all the magic pills and wishful thinking. Now is the time to ask real questions. Some of the answers might be hard to take at first or you may not even have the answers… but start asking the questions. Here are a few examples a person looking to lose weight might ask themselves.
What does a body look like if it has been eating badly for 20 years?
What are the signs that you may have a problem with food?
What effects can removing certain foods have on your mood and behavior?
How long does it take for these feelings and reactions to calm down and go away?
How long does it take to break the habit of eating something sweet after every meal?
What are the most common triggers that cause you to eat badly?
How long does it take for the body to start to look and feel like you are getting in shape?
Define your goals
This is the realm of the well-defined goal. It is not enough just to say, I want to lose weight. Now is the time to start making more precise goals. I want to start a plan by… such a date. I will measure my success by tracking cravings, weight, inches, mood… (whatever works for you).
Collect the correct data.
It is not enough to say you only eat carbs twice a day, if they that amounts to 500 grams of carbs a day, or that you like something sweet after every meal. Start paying attention to what you do, feel, eat, don’t eat, the foods that seem to cause you to binge, the foods that don’t. Become aware, don’t criticize or judge, simply observe.
Go to the movies.
There are lots of inspiration movies out there for you to find based on your problem, find them and watch them. Rocky for example is the tail of an underdog fighter who makes it to the big times. If you are the underdog, go get your rocky moment…. Remember the song “Getting Faster”?
Create your own Propaganda
This can be done by creating ways of demonstrating to yourself what your habit is doing to you. An example might be to get a big Mason Jar. Every time you lose a pound add a pound of soil to the jar, or butter if you want to represent fat better (Just remember the butter might start to go off after a while and its expensive to.) Watch the jar fill and get heavier as you get lighter and smaller.
Pin a pair of trousers you’d like to fit into to a pair you ware now. Keep them visible as a reminder of your goal.
Use your imagination.
You can also work on your own vision as a movie idea, or a story of success. Create your story, write it down. What will you do in this movie to become successful. What will be your obstacles, how will you over come them… does your move have a sound track… what songs are on it?
If you know you always eat a donut at 11.00 with a coffee in a particular coffee shop then change where you have your 11.00 coffee. Pick somewhere that offers better options for you to choose to eat from. Join a help group. AA, NA or Eaters Anonymous are all examples of this, as are our own coaching programs and weight loss groups.
Some questions that you can ask yourself with regards to social liberation.
1. Who are the people who want you to change? What do they get out of it if you do? (friends and family)
2. Who are the people who do not what you to change, what do they get out of it? (the company selling you the food, cigarettes, or alcohol)
3. Whose side are you on. If you could give money or help to the people like you trying to change or to the company promoting the habit, which group would you give money to?
4. Are you willing to look outside of your own knowledge box? Are you willing to learn more about why it might be good to change or bad not to???
Regular self-re-evaluation can help shed light on what it is you are looking to change, why and the barriers that are standing in your way. Explore what you are thinking, feeling and experiencing with questions like.
Can I still see myself as rational if is continuing to eat this way?
Can I take responsibility for my health if I continue to keep eating like this?
Can I call myself a family man if I am eating myself into an early grave before my children’s eyes?
Can I expect success if I fall into binge eating every time something does not go my way?
Change can be difficult because as well as the questions above others will also surface.
Will I not be able to eat cake when I’m out with my friends?
Will this change mean I won’t be seen as a team player at work?
Will this change mean I can’t be me and just express just how I feel when I feel it?
You need to be able to answer these questions. Do not fear a question that comes up that you cannot yet answer. Write it down. Explore it and come back to often until you do have an answer to it.
Think before you act.
This can be very helpful for over consumers of any kind, eaters, drinkers, smokers…
Ask, why do I want to eat this. Am I hungry? Is it a social situation where I am expected to eat? I’m I just bored or thinking I deserve a reward?
How will I feel 30 minutes after I eat this food?
Create a new self-image.
Advertisers spend billions every year selling you on the idea that fast food is fun and cool, drinking is all about being sophisticated and cool, smoking is about a rugged outdoors manly lifestyle. Try seeing the reality of these situations going forward. Fast food is not fun, it just makes you unhealthy and fat. Drinkers have more car accidents are divorced more and lose their jobs more often than those that don’t drink. Smokers die of cancer.
Spend some time creating advertising for the new healthier you… the fun and freedom of the food you will be eating, the sophistication of the better fitting clothes and clearer brighter skin, the outdoorsy-ness of exercise and engaging with the world. Sell it to yourself.
The Helping Relationships.
Helpers can be friends, family, support groups or anyone you know. The trick is to focus on the what you need to help you change and not to expect it from everyone. Find you helpers and communicate with them.
Empathy: You must seek empathy from your helpers. To do this it is very important that they know where you are with regard to the change you are planning. If you mislead them they will push you to act, when you are not ready, or they will help you to keep contemplating, when you now need the encouragement to act. Let them know what you are looking for, don’t leave it for them to predict.
Warmth: Warmth begets warmth. If you want warmth form you helpers give it back and even first. I know I can be difficult when I am trying to change this behavior, or when I fall bat a bit, but I really love that you’ve got my back. I love that you understand my difficulties
Solicit Input: Ask your helpers to point out defenses you are using, or articles that may help you. Or ideas you might like to use going forward.
Change can be a wonderfully exciting time, but it needs to be cared for and grown if it is to take hold and blossom. Engage with what you are trying to do, learn to roll with the punches and to examine and re-examine your goals, hopes dreams and expectations. And always remember help is here anytime you want or need it.