Wow, did I stumble onto something valuable this morning. I’m more than a little embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t discovered this before, but with New Year officially begining, I’m grateful that I finally have. And I have to share it with you before you make any resolutions.
What I’m talking about is research by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente. I know Carlo because he is married to a dear friend of mine. Mainly I know his work on addictions, but somehow I missed all his stuff about behavior change in general. And let’s be clear. These two guys are not arm-chair psychologists. Each has authored hundreds of articles in peer-reviewed journals. They’ve been working on this for four decades now. They speak with an authority that few of us ever achieve and they have an accumulated wisdom that I just have to share.
The focus of their research is how change occurs. And with today being New Year’s Day, I can only apologize for this short notice. But better late than never. Okay, their message is this. BEHAVIOR CHANGE OCCURS IN STAGES AND THE CHANGE DOES NOT OCCUR UNTIL STAGE FOUR. Did you ever wonder why we don’t stick with all those resolutions we make on January 1? Well, according to their research, the reason is that most of us skip the preliminaries and we try to begin at stage 4.
That is, we sit down some time at the end of December and make a list of the changes we want to make in January. January comes and we jump right into the new behavior. Our intention is to go from couch potato on December 31 to morning jogger on January 1. But that is not how it works and that’s why we don’t keep our resolutions. According to Prochaska and DiClemente, change occurs in stages, and if we want to make the changes permanent, you may want to consider their advice.
In a recent issue of Psychology Today, Christine Carter, Ph.D., explains their work as it applies to New Year’s resolutions. I quote, “According to Prochaska and DiClemente, people change in stages. They go from not even really considering making a change, to contemplating making one, to preparing to make the change…and THEN (and only then) do they spring into action. The actual behavioral change (like starting to exercise, or going on a diet) is not the first stage of change, but the fourth.”
That is to say, lasting change is a process not a simple decision. As I look back at my own life, I quit smoking not because I made the decision one day to stop (my father could do that and I never understood how) but because I had, unknowingly as it turns out, gone through this four step process. So, if you want lasting change, begin by figuring out where you are in the process and what you now need to do to succeed.
Here are the four steps:
Read the full article by Dr. Carter here.
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