Are You Ready for Change?
Sometimes we take for granted that we are ready to change the things in our life that we want to change. A natural assumption, right? Problem is, we aren't always completely honest with ourselves abut these things. Sometimes we secretly like those bad habits or the choices we make in life that end up biting us in the butt later. Or the cost of making changes, when we really think about it, is too high. So how do we know when we're actually ready for change?
I was talking with a co-worker this week about my "commute" to work. You can hardly actually call it a commute, because according to Google Maps the distance between my office and my home is 3.2 miles. For a while now, I know I've had a choice: I can drive, rollerblade, bike, or run to work. So, how many times have I chosen one of the alternatives to driving? Zero. That's right, zero.
So my co-worker was pressing me on why this is. After all, when all is said and done the difference in time is negligible (with summer road construction the drive can take anywhere from 15-20 minutes, where rollerblading or biking would take about 20 minutes), and when you really think about it, the pros far outweigh the cons. Yet, I still can't bring myself to leave my car in the driveway in the morning.
As we talked, I finally just said what I've known to be true for some time now. I told my co-worker, "you know what, I just don't think I actually want to make this change. I like my routine, I like the freedom I have to drive home in the middle of the day if I want, and I don't really like to exercise and I'd rather be lazy!"
So there it is- while I would like to be a more heathy and active person, while I would like go to contribute to a "greener" environment by not driving my car, while I would like a minor decrease in my personal fuel budget, I just don't actually want to change. What now?
One of the most helpful tools I've used in counseling, whether it is with clients I am working with or whether it is in my own counseling with my therapist, is the "Stages of Change” that is primarily credited to Prochaska. Prochaska's Stages of Change consists of five stages that all relate to the process of change and a person's readiness to change.
Here are the stages:
Precontemplation- "There's a change I think I want to make but I'm not even sure what it is."
Contemplation- "I know the change I think I want to make but I haven't really weighed the pros and cons, or counted the costs and benefits of making that change."
Preparation- "I know what change I want to make, I believe it's worth making, and now I've committed to actually making the change by setting myself up for success."
Action- "I'm doing it! Yay! I'm glad I prepared well so it wasn't so hard."
Maintenance- "I did it, but now I need to keep it up. I hope I really thought long and hard during the Contemplation stage because it's going to take a lot of discipline to keep this going."
At the end of the day, one of the most important parts of the change process is becoming honest with yourself about where you really are in these stages of change. If you aren't it can be really difficult to make forward progress. When you are honest with yourself, particularly if you are in one of the earlier stages, it allows you to properly wrestle with some of the barriers to change. It also allows you to make a proper commitment, when you're ready, to the change you want for yourself.