It's nearly that time of year again for setting and forgetting your New Year's resolutions. And many of our resolutions involve changing a habit, either making a new one or breaking an old one. But habits can be hard to change if you don't understand the various stages.
Studies on personal growth indicates that successful habit making occurs in 6 well-defined stages. If you have failed to form new habits in the past, it could be because you weren't aware of these stages and more importantly how to allow yourself to process stages.
The 6 stages has a number of tasks that must be processed before you can progress to the next. You set yourself up for failure when you either try to accomplish changes you aren't ready for or when you stay so long on tasks you've already accomplished such as understanding your problem, that you become stuck where you are and don't move forward.
So what are the 6 stages and what do you need to achieve in each? Here is a summary.
Stage 1: Pre-contemplation
This is often where people get stuck and can't move forward and is the stage where you're in denial that you have a habit that needs attention. I'm sure you've seen unhealthy denial in someone else, blaming someone else for their difficulties.
People in this stage don't want to change themselves as they don't see that they have a problem. But odds are you have at least one of those destructive or self-defeating habits you need to change. So start looking at yourself honestly and see what you find.
Stage 2: Contemplation
When you admit that you have a problem and you want to fix it, you have moved onto the contemplation stage. In this stage, you start to think seriously about solving your problem and you try to understand its causes, and investigate your options. At this point you don't have any concrete plans, but you know you need to move forward at some stage.
The risk is getting stuck in this stage, if you can't formulate a concrete plan and take action. People often use excuses like being too busy, or waiting for the right time to commence the life changing journey. And the fear of failure can keep people searching for an easier, more dramatic, or more complete solution to the problem. You need to find a counter argument for all your excuses to allow yourself to move forward.
Stage 3: Preparation
Once you've got that desire to move forward and have eliminated those hurdles, you're in the preparation stage. And preparation is vitally important because if you don't have a concrete plan of action, you risk going in circles and not achieving your goal.
So in this stage it is imperative that you develop a detailed plan of action that shows you exactly how to keep your awareness and motivation high throughout the next stages.
Stage 4: Action
Now that you have a plan, it's time to take action. This stage is the one that requires the most commitment and energy. It's where you actually do what you have to do to solve your issue. This stage is about following the plan you made in Stage 3, making revisions as necessary, and persistence to get the job done.
Stage 5: Maintenance
Action doesn't necessarily mean that lasting change has been made. Action is an essential part of the process, but failure to move onto the Maintenance stage, can sabotage the progress you've made.
The maintenance stage can be a long, ongoing process and is often the most difficult. You must remain vigilant and committed to deal with temptations that can draw you back into the old, destructive patterns\habits that you worked so hard to fix.
Prepare a maintenance plan that keeps you on the right track and prevents you from relapsing on your habits. Learn to identify the temptations that can trigger a relapse, and how to avoid or manage them.
Stage 6: Termination
Termination is the final stage, although in many cases people will remain in maintenance mode to prevent relapses of bad behavior. But the termination stage can be considered as the stage where you no longer feel vulnerable, and the habit is absolutely not a problem for you.
Always keep a level of awareness, especially in times of stress.
The important thing to note with these 6 stages, is that you'll rarely work your way through each step without a problem. Inevitably, there will be setbacks and episodes of being stuck in a particular stage. But don't give up! If you have a setback, don't stay there. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go again.
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