Five Stages of Change

Change: to transform.

Easier said than done right?  In order to constantly improve, react to our environment, and to not only survive, but also thrive, it is essential to change and adapt regularly throughout our lives.  Not only in life, but often in the fitness industry, people are trying to improve themselves in several ways.  But what does change really involve?

Beach Sunset One Arm Handstand
“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but building the new.”  – Socrates

There are five stages of change that come into play:

  1. Pre-contemplation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance
I’ll discuss what each stage is, something that I have spent or am spending way too much time in that phase for, and a tip for how to get out of that phase.

 

Pre-contemplation

When the person doesn’t even realize there is a problem

Hollowback Handstand on Handstand Canes
My favorite part of the day: working out by myself and being upside down!

Honestly, I’m not someone who talks very much.  I’m not very social.  I suck at small talk, I suck at connecting with people, and I take a while to warm up to people.  I literally hadn’t had a friend or friend group in school all through high school and college.  There were days in high school that I literally didn’t say a word at school.  I was terrible (and still struggle) remembering people’s names.  One of my best friends sat next to me in class for over a week and I had to keep asking her what her name was…literally sooo many times!

I didn’t really know there was an issue or that I needed to or could learn skills to change.  I thought I was fine on my own and that I didn’t need anyone.  Especially now being in a field where I need to connect with people quickly to build relationships, I struggle because I spent so much time not realizing this was an issue.  It is something that I constantly need to focus on at work and in my life.  There is nothing wrong with being an introvert and needing that quiet time to relax and recharge, but we all need to have basic social skills to build all kinds of relationships.

Tip: Be self-aware. Assess your thoughts and possibly even write them down if you need.  The more you can be in tune with how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking the more you realize what effects these things.  You can’t ever change something if you’re not even aware that it’s an issue!

 

Contemplation

When the person realizes there is a problem, but aren’t sure if they want to do anything about it

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Tracking my sleep to have a baseline for comparison for later

Yeah, I’m guilty of spending way too much time in this phase for many things I have finally changed or am working on changing.  I’ve always known sleep was kind of important and makes a huge difference on function, but recently learned though my experiment with coffee how much of a difference it makes.   I was always sleep deprived growing up and had about a year of switching to the action/maintenance phase my freshman year of undergrad, but quickly went back to the contemplation phase when my studies got more challenging.  Sleep has always been the first thing to go when things got busy.  So after over 10 years of sacrificing sleep to study and be productive, I am finally trying to begin to prioritize sleep.  I have now begun the shift back into the preparation phase.

Tip: Make a pros/cons list. This will lay out how you will benefit from making a change and help you realize additional strategies you may need in order to face the cons.  It can convince you to do something about the change, but also make you more prepared to do so.

 

Preparation

When the person has decided to do something about it and are preparing to change, but haven’t started the change yet

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Meal prepping lunches for the week to help me stay on track!

Ever since I was in high school I have been constantly trying to lose weight, always 5-10 pounds and always struggling.  I would restrict too much for a few days and then eat everything in sight.  I always stayed the same weight or even gained weight. I thought this was how it had to be done and that this was the “right” and “healthy” way to go about losing weight.  This is what I had seen my mother do (but not the “eating everything” part to the same extent).  It literally took me over 8 years to realize this was not a good way for me to go about this.  Once I knew that I wanted to change, I wasn’t sure how to fix my mindset about it.  If I didn’t see the scale move or if I saw it move the smallest bit in the other direction, I would get frustrated.  I listened to so many podcasts trying to figure out strategies to change my mindset.  I would bounce back and forth between the preparation phase and action phase for years trying to figure it out.  I still catch myself having similar thoughts, but am able to correct them before they turn into action.  I am able to consciously decide if I want to have a dessert and get back on track right after without guilt.  I have learned that every mistake is part of the process and learning from every mistake gets you closer to your goal.

I honestly didn’t realize there was a problem with my approach despite the countless failures and feeling terrible.  I had allowed the failures to weigh on me and affect my mood and the rest of my life.  I spent so long in the preparation phase focusing on changing my mindset to allow me to begin to make the changes necessary to improve my quality of life.

Tip: just start, one step is better than none. Accept that it doesn’t have to be perfect and it most likely won’t be perfect.

 

Action

When the person begins to make that change

White Coat Graduation Pictures
Physical Therapy School Crew
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Physical Therapy School Crew
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Summer 2016 Bucket List

Growing up my priorities were #1 school and a very close second was gymnastics.  Those were pretty much my own two priorities.  Yeah, I guess spending time with my immediate family was next, then doing odd jobs, etc.  I did not prioritize a social life at all.  In high school there were days when I wouldn’t talk to anyone all day until maybe even part way through practice.  Most of my friends at the gym were forced friendships that didn’t last after I graduated.  I honestly didn’t think I needed other people.  I could do everything myself.  I didn’t have a friend group between 3rd grade and graduating undergrad, besides the girls on the team of course, but I don’t know if I would really call those true “friendships”.  I finally found my true crew in physical therapy school and realized how amazing it was to have a group of girls to help you out, work together, support each other, and de-stress together.  I honestly found a group who was just as focused on school as I was and who also struggled doing things outside of school, studying, and working out.  We literally had been friends for about a year before we realized we hadn’t ever done something just for fun to hang out! Our second year of PT school, we made a summer bucket list of things we wanted to do around town…yeah, it may still not be complete, but at least we got a few things checked off!

These girls helped me to slowly prioritize socializing and school.  Although today the balance between work, chores/errands, and my social life is still skewed, it has improved drastically.  I am still in the action phase where I am making changes and prioritizing social events, but my balance between everything isn’t quite what I want yet.

I struggled with balancing school and life.  I still have to make the conscious decision today to be social, but it’s starting to come more natural (at least a little!).  For example, this past weekend I took a trip to Charleston, SC on Saturday and had a day full of fun workouts, handstands, and the beach!  Then I met up with a friend to explore the city on Sunday. Granted, there were a few times on Saturday where I literally had to remind myself it was okay to have that much fun and no, I wasn’t supposed to be studying for anything.

Tip: get support or a buddy

 

Maintenance

When the person continues to make that change over time

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Working out (aka playing) at the park!

Clearly, working out is my passion and I prioritize my workouts.  But it wasn’t always to the extent that it is today.  I would frequently skip workouts when school got busy instead of just shortening them or moving faster through my workouts. Over the past year, I have put more of an emphasis on prioritizing my workouts due to how I feel both mentally and physically after working out.  I began the action phase of prioritizing workouts almost two years ago and have continued to do at least something active on most days.  There has been the occasional day that I may not do much that is active, but that may be once every few weeks and mainly due to feeling like I really need a rest day.  I don’t feel pressure to workout, I feel privileged to be able to workout, move my body, and utilize a free tool to improve my mental and physical health.

Tip: incorporate it into your lifestyle. Don’t think I have to do this or I can’t do that.  Say I don’t want to do that and I will feel better if I do this.  I get to treat myself to taking care of myself. Think of it as a reward, not a punishment.  Incorporate balance and accept it may find time to find the balance.

 

So change is all about progress, not perfection.  It’s about being patient and forgiving yourself for mistakes.  It’s about learning from those mistakes to progress through the stages of change toward maintenance of that change.  Each step along the way is an important milestone, so be proud of yourself for the small steps!  It won’t happen overnight, but the end result it 100% worth it whatever it is…the worst that will happen is you learn something about yourself!

 

As always, I love hearing from you guys!  So go ahead and drop a comment, message, or DM me on Instagram to tell me what change you’re currently trying to make!

 

2 thoughts on “Five Stages of Change

  1. I’m social when I need to be. I’m an ambivert. Honestly I see no reason for it sometimes and left with a feeling of nothingness like why am I here? I’m not good at romantic relationships; I would like to get better at romantic relationships but being single is okay too. I guess the title of one is just another check list item I see no reason for. I can grow on my own being single like I have been. I know a lot of people but have barely any deep connections. I’m the one always reaching out to people. Today I feel like giving up on trying to get a relationship. I work about 4 to 5 jobs and train a lot, but I don’t sleep enough. So I have a lot uncontrolled stress and controlled stress accumulating leading to low testosterone essentially over training. I know I’ll be alright if I get enough sleep. Self care has always been a hidden issue because deep down I really don’t think I’m that important. But I find reasons to take care of myself and keep going. I try changing up lifestyles like being a minimalist or something along those lines but I’m not constant enough let the excuse I’m working and too tired to do anything outside of working out and going to work. I’m not really making much money even though I’m working 4 to 5 jobs they are all part time. One has to go. Or I just need to sleep more. Your blog post helps.

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    1. Bobby, I’m so happy this helps! Sounds like prioritizing things may help or even just sitting down to see how you can be more efficient with certain things. I know for me, I can definitely be more efficient when I first wake up in the mornings which would help me get to bed earlier when I get home from work (or even sleep in a little more). It’s all about making a little bit of progress, which over time makes a lot of progress! Keep working hard, figure out your weaknesses (and strengths), and be patient!

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