Posted: 13th January, 2015
Since the New Year has started we have been bombarded with media coverage about resolutions, goal setting and finding the new detoxed version of oneself.
Never mind the previous 11 equally suitable months we are told - it's January and you need to not only have a life changing plan but you better be acting upon it - so pay the annual subscription to the gym, swear off chocolate and alcohol forever and invite that mad spinster aunt you never visit over for Sunday lunch quick.
In 1994 James Prochaska published his research on how people successfully self changed which he had used to transform the success rates in New England in helping people give up smoking (and his is the model still used in the NHS in the UK and by other bodies for addiction treatment).
His researched identified 6 key stages that we go through for successful self change to occur.
He emphasized that no one stage was more important than another and the success at any stage was dependent on completing the previous stage. Time spent on a particular stage could range from hours to years.
Prochaska also highlighted that successful change inevitably involved 3 to 4 attempts through the process and rarely happened in one attempt.
His six key stages are;
1. Pre- contemplation where the person kind of knows something needs to change but is not willing to think about change or deflects away the need to change through denial or rationalisiation.
2. Contemplation where the person accepts the possibility of changing but needs to complete the cost benefit analysis of the change and be convinced that benefit wins out before they move on to the next step.
3. Preparation where we get into planning, both for the start of something but also to surround ourselves with a more favorable environment for change to happen.
4. Action - doing it, giving it a go, the stuff of Nike slogans
5. Maintenace by turning the change into a habit and embedding it into everyday life by re shaping the plan or refining the original goal.
6. Termination which is when the risk of going back to old ways is minimal regardless of the existence of stress or stimulus.
Circling back up to the January hype, the focus on Preparation and Action is flawed because most of us have not spent any time in Contemplation reviewing the costs and benefits of our plans. Hence the gyms around the world are full in January and empty in March, and the self help experts and organic yoga holistic therapists can go on holidays in Spring with the money we have paid over and wait till another January frenzy comes about.
Spend January in Contemplation, use the chilly days and nights to reflect, to do your cost benefit, to build your commitment; and then go do your plan and spring into Action with the arrival of lambs, brighter evenings and 6 Nations Rugby.