If you’ve ever spent months trying to make a decision, yet couldn’t get yourself any closer to an answer, you know just how frustrating the situation can be.
Whether it’s the decision to make a major change in your life such as walking away from an existing job, changing a life circumstance such as deciding to get married, stopping something such as smoking or starting something such as an exercise class, making the actually yes or no decision can be so incredible confusing, confronting and overwhelming, that the decision gets put on the back-burner and even avoided at all costs again and again.
This decision making stage of the change process in known as Contemplation.
There are said to be 5 stages of (behaviour) change:
- In this stage, a person has not yet recognised or acknowledged that there is a problem / behavior that needs to be changed. As a result the person does not intend to take action in the foreseeable future (within the next 6 months).
- In this stage, a person has acknowledged that there is a problem but not yet ready or sure of wanting to make a change in the foreseeable future (within the next 6 months). The person has recognised that their behavior may be problematic, but may still feel ambivalent toward changing their behaviour.
- In this stage, a person is ready to take action within the next 30 days. The person starts to take small steps toward the behaviour change, and they believe changing their behaviour can lead to a healthier life.
- In this stage, a person has recently changed their behavior (within the last 6 months) and intends to keep moving forward with that behavior change. The person may do so by modifying their problem behaviour or acquiring new healthier behaviours.
- In this stage, a person has sustained their behaviour change for a while (more than 6 months) and intends to maintain the behaviour change going forward. A person in this stage may be working and focusing on preventing behaviour relapse to earlier stages of the change process.
This above model is known as the Transtheoretical Model (aka. Stages of Change Model). It was developed by James O. Prochaska and Carlo Di Clemente, along with their colleagues, in 1977 whilst examining the experiences of smokers who quit, some on their own and some who required further treatment. This research into understanding why some people were capable of quitting on their own whilst others weren’t eventually led to the well known model.
As a Personal Trainer and Wellness Coach, I often first come into contact with people in the Contemplation and Preparation stages of change.
I find these stages incredibly powerful when it comes to making changes in a person’s life.
When someone is finally open to making a change in their life, but still find themselves sitting on the fence they can often become more open to receiving information or supportive resources that may come their way in relation to the area of change they’re considering, even if they’re not quite ready to actively seek the information themselves.
As a person begins to gain the confidence to envision change, and increase their belief that it may be worth the effort, they entire an exciting time, for this moment is a great time to do the low-commitment work of envisioning your better self and your better life.
Vision boarding, journaling, listing concerns, reaching out to coaches and mentors, speaking to people who have experienced a similar change or reading inspiring stories are all common tools used at these stages. But with so many resources and endless information, it can all become a bit overwhelming and hard to organise in our minds.
A tool that I’ve found to be extremely effective, especially when it comes to organising thoughts in regards choosing between making a change or not is the Decisional Balance Sheet.
The Decisional Balance Sheet, is a four square table which allow a person to explore:
- Benefits of staying the same
- Concerns about staying the same
- Concerns about change
- Benefits of change
The Decisional Balance Sheet is best suited to those who have not made a definite decision to commit fully to something or whether to not as it requires a person to consider and record all of the positive and negative consequences influencing their decision making. Through the process, the person will hopefully gain clarity as they organise their thoughts, consider new and existing factors going into the decision, and possibly even as a result help the person make a final decision.
Starting at 1 and working through to box 4, list all the reasons you can think of in regards to changing/not changing.
I will use joining a Monday night boxing class as an example.
|1. BENEFITS OF STAYING THE SAME
||4. BENEFITS OF CHANGE
|2. CONCERNS ABOUT STAYING THE SAME
||3. CONCERNS ABOUT CHANGE
After completing the sheet, it is not uncommon for a person to come up with more items to add to the sheet. If this occurs, it is perfectly okay, if not recommended, to continue adding to the sheet as these new reasons come up.
Once ready, or a person feels as though the sheet is ‘done’, it can be helpful to go back into each box and weigh the importance of each item on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = not important at all and 5 = extremely important). For example, if a benefit of changing was losing some weight, this benefit might be a 5 and a major motivator for change.
It’s also important to look at the cons of changing. For example, if a con of changing was the financial cost, this con might be also a 5 and there a major barrier to change, and the very reason you haven’t yet fully made a change.
When these barriers become evident, it can be powerful to apply some problem-solving around these barriers.
For example, if a con of changing was the financial cost, perhaps the money spent on a take-away lunch that Monday could be used for the class instead.
Once all these extra steps are complete, or even if just the Decisional Balance Sheet was completed, it can be beneficial to look at it in its entirety and ask:
- Which box seems to have more weight/importance?
- What is the most important reason for and against change?
- Does the most important reason to change outweigh the biggest reason not to?
- What do I feel looking at the sheet now as a whole?
- Am I ready to move you forward into the next stage of change?
Whether the person is not yet ready to go any further than the Decision Balance Sheet, or they come out with a yes or no answer, the process itself can provide valuable insight into what’s important to an individual, what they truly value and what barriers hold them back, all which are likely to arise in the future and play a crucial role into subsequent choices and decisions.
For more information on the different stages of change or help working towards a personal vision or lifestyle change, please don’t hesitate to leave me a comment or contact me directly on 0414 392 746 or email firstname.lastname@example.org