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Strategies for Change

In Stages of Change, we explored the way individuals typically move through a series of pre-determined stages when trying to alter a behavior. To review, the Stages of Change are:

  • Pre-contemplation—not yet acknowledging there is a behavior that needs to be changed,
  • Contemplation—acknowledging there is a need for change but not yet ready or sure of wanting to make a change,
  • Preparation/Determination—getting ready to change,
  • Action/Willpower—making the change,
  • Maintenance—maintaining the behavior change, and
  • Relapse—reverting to previous behaviors and moving away from the new behavior.

Next, we'll give you the tools to assess change and what actions to take to successfully modify a behavior.

Strategies in Each Stage

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Once you've identified your stage of change, you should consider what strategies you’ll use to get from one stage to the next. For instance, if you’re in the contemplation stage, making the leap from thinking about change to taking action is difficult. One way to cut through the clutter is to make a list of the pros and cons involved in changing your habit. If the pros outweigh the cons, then you're ready to move on to the preparation/determination stage. However, it’s OK if you can list more cons than pros. Just move at your own pace and think of ways to push past your barriers—no matter how difficult they may seem.

You are ready to take action in the preparation/determination stage—so formulate a plan and begin to make small changes. First, review your list of pros and cons, evaluate your ideas for ways to overcome obstacles and emphasize the benefits from changing the behavior. You may also want to consider these additional ways to prepare yourself for change:

  • Make time
  • Ask friends and family for support
  • Develop a plan
  • Set small goals and rewards

Once you start making changes, use an activity log or journal to track your progress. Be sure to record not only what you did, but how you felt while doing it—as your feelings play an important role in forming habits. This will help you identify your strengths and opportunities for improvement, and ultimately, will enable you to stay on course.

You are making real changes in the action/willpower stage. Assessing how you’re doing, overcoming setbacks and rewarding yourself for your hard work and commitment will help reinforce your new behavior. Review your plan and activity journal regularly. Tracking your progress helps keep you focused and enables you to quickly identify and correct any slip-ups. Be a problem-solver and "outsmart" barriers before they block your progress. Ask for help when you need it and always try to plan ahead in difficult situations.

Once you reach the maintenance stage, you've really changed and made your new behavior a part of your everyday routine. Congratulations! To avoid relapsing, you must find ways to keep things interesting. This means changing up your routine—adding variety to stay motivated and continuously challenging yourself. Periodically revisit your goals and expand them if you can. And remember, everyone will slip-up now and again. If relapse happens, don’t give up! Just regroup and refocus on meeting your goals as soon you can.

Proceed to the final article in this series: Overcoming Barriers to Change.

Some content provided by the Weight-control Information Network.

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