The ability to make change in our lives is something everyone strives for. Whether this is an emotional, physical, spiritual or mental goal, we all have goals to change for the better. Maybe your goal is to gain more muscle, grow in your emotional intelligence, becoming more in tune with your emotions, journaling or doing yoga each day, or even growing intellectually through reading. All of these concepts start with one thing in common: a desire to change in your daily life. So, the question is, how do you accomplish those goals, and where do you even start? Well, first, we must recognize the barriers that take place when individuals get stuck in this something we call stages of change.
The different stages of change include precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. In the first stage, called precontemplation, we are ambivalent or reluctant to change. There is not motivation to change at all. In the second stage of change, we begin contemplating and thinking through if we actually want to begin the change process. A person in this stage becomes aware that the change may be beneficial for them, yet they have not taken the steps to start the change within their lives. The third stage is where an individual takes the first step to work towards their goal. This may look like a person who at the new year sets a goal to lose 15 pounds in 6 months, and they begin going to the gym for 60 minutes per day, 3 days of the week.
The fourth stage, is the action stage where an individual actually ends up seeing results from their behavior. This would be illustrated by the first few pounds being lost of the individual who set a goal to lose 15 pounds over the course of time. The final and fifth stage is maintenance, where a goal is achieved and maintained over an extended period of time. Dedication is one word that defines this stage, as an individual has now incorporated this goal into their routine and continue to strive for it. Although keeping these stages in mind can be helpful, there can be times where it can be difficult to maintain change even after the behavior comes habitual. Some reasons why the change may be difficult are listed below:
a. Too much too fast: This may be marked by trying to change too much of the behavior too quickly. For example, if your goal is to work out more, and you set an extremely high goal for yourself, when you don’t reach that each time, it will consequently set you back. Starting out small, with simply 10-15 minutes two to three times a week will set you on course. Over time, you can slowly add more time, or days to work up to your end goal.
b. Don’t have the right tools: Sometimes all an individual needs to be successful is the right things to help them reach that point. Tools may include practical items such as weights, jumprope, workout videos to follow, or even could be motivation to start. These tools may include a partner or an organized schedule to get the ball rolling on your long-term goal.
c. Recognizing that failure happens: From the get go, recognizing that there will be times that you will fail at what your goal is, is essential. Typically when setting a new goal, there is the idea of two steps forward, and one step back, or 5 steps forward and 2 steps back. The idea is that progress is not always linear, even though we want it to be at times. Just simply remembering that consistency is key and fundamental to success is important.
d. Inability to fully commit: Fully committing to a goal in every sphere, will impact you mentally, physically, and emotionally. Being able to say that you have set this goal for yourself, and you are truly your absolute best to stick to it is essential. Not having a specific and defined end goal, can make it hard to fully commit and be present when trying to obtain the goal in and of itself. It’s like the difference of saying, as a basketball team we want to win the championship, versus, we only want to win maybe 5/10 games this year, maybe.
e. Mindset as an obstacle: Your mindset and perspective on what change may look like for you is potentially part of the struggle. Having a negative outlook on the goals you have set, as well as negative self-talk can reinforce the idea in your mind that you can’t complete the goal. Reinforcing positive behaviors that you do want to continue to use such as working out more, or reading a certain amount each day can be rewarded with something that you are looking forward to as the behavior you are trying to reinforce finishes.
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