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Improve Your Life with the Stages of Change

Have you ever really wanted to make a change or improve something in your life, but it didn’t work out the way you planned?   Maybe you wanted to eat healthier, or exercise more often, or get rid of a bad habit. You made some goals. You tried to change. But in the end, you weren’t successful, and you felt frustrated and stressed out.

Well here’s some good news! The Science of Behavioral Change can help you succeed in changing your behavior, and, as a result, have a better life.

(Would you rather watch the video instead? Otherwise, keep reading below.) 

Behavioral Scientists have found that people who go through a particular process to make a behavior change are more successful than those who don’t. That process is referred to as the “Transtheoretical Model,” or more simply, the “Stages of Change.” Let’s learn about these stages to help you succeed in making a positive change in your life!

Isabella needs to go through the stages of change to really improve her lifeMeet Isabella. She has a challenging job and often feels tired and run down. One day, her friend asks if she’d like to join a fitness walking group, but Isabella doesn’t see the purpose and explains that her schedule is too busy.

Isabella is in Stage 1 of the Transtheoretical Model, the Pre-contemplation stage. For her to move out of this stage, something has to happen… something that makes her think!

One day, Isabella reads an article that helps her realize some of her habits… really aren’t healthy and could lead to serious problems later in life. She begins to consider the pros and cons of making a lifestyle change. Now when her friend asks about walking, Isabella says she’ll think about it. Isabella is now in Stage 2 – the Contemplation stage.

As Isabella contemplates further, she starts to talk to her friends and colleagues about how she might fit a regular walking program into her busy schedule. She also researches what she might need for walking, as well as the benefits she can expect, such as better health, more energy, and increased endurance.

Isabella is emotionally and mentally preparing herself to change her lifestyle by increasing her self-efficacy and building her determination toward adopting this new behavior. She’s in Stage 3, the Preparation stage, which will empower her to make a change.

Now that Isabella is prepared and determined to make a change, she takes action by joining her friend’s walking group. After a month, Isabella is doing very well and starts to see results in her energy and daily life. Isabella is in Stage 4 – the Action stage.

But when things get a bit hectic at work, she stops walking for a week. Fortunately, her group leader understands the challenges people face in the Action Stage and shares some motivational material to help Isabella get back on track. Over time, Isabella becomes more consistent and confident with her walking activity and starts feeling better than ever!

Fast forward 6 months – we find that Isabella is consistently maintaining her new lifestyle. She feels great physically, handles daily stresses with more ease, and has more energy than ever! Isabella is in the fifth stage: The Maintenance stage. She has built a supportive network by getting friends and family to join her walking group, and that helps her focus on preventing a relapse back to her previous behavior patterns.

Each stage of the behavioral change process presented new challenges. But when Isabella worked on her internal attitude changes, she was able to make the external behavioral changes that she desired.  Now she’s thrilled with her healthier lifestyle and all the benefits that come along with it. Congratulations Isabella!

We all have behaviors that we want, or need, to change. Using Behavioral Science to understand the change process will help you be more successful in changing those behaviors.

That means a better life… AND… a better you!

I’d love to hear about YOUR journey to a better you, Wendy Guess, PhD

Dr Wendy Guess
Dr Wendy Guess
Drawing on the fields of marketing, anthropology, health, wellness and dance along with some wacky life adventures, Dr. Guess shares "edutaining" action steps to inspire healthy change for individuals and social entrepreneurs on becoming a Healthy Change Agent! She consults, travels and coordinates the Health and Fitness Marketing Certificate program at FIU.

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