Change is not something that is easy to come by. Not in the least. You may find that you can create change that lasts for a bit, but then find yourself slipping back into your norm. Here at S.A.G.E., we understand that this is human nature, and we stand with you to support the necessary shifts for sustainable and lasting change. We believe that this IS possible, even if you don’t know how to do it, aren’t too sure you can do it, or don’t have the support to do so. Making changes that are lasting happens most effectively when you have support. You know the saying that it takes a village?? Well, we are the village and we hold this belief for you as you walk into the wake of your own change.
What does change look like? It starts with an idea, a hope, a desire. But what happens next to make sustainable change? How do we make sure our efforts are lasting and not just a good intention that turns into a faded memory?
Here at S.A.G.E. we support changes that can and will be long-lasting. We create opportunities for you to achieve that healthy lifestyle and holistic picture of health you have been dreaming of. Changes such as making healthy life choices with nutrition and exercise. Changes such as attending to your mental health and alleviating negative symptoms you have been experiencing. Changes such as opening yourself up to explore spirituality in a way you’ve wanted to for quite some time but never get around to.
And what’s more with the current anti-racism awareness and movement, this is a perfect time to really take this change-making to the next level for lasting change in our community and world. Pouring our energy into such a worthy cause can go so much further when we are caring for ourselves in the most basic of ways.
There are a lot of models for change…this blog will cover the theory of “Motivational Interviewing”. In this theory, there are 5 stages of change that are presented.
This theory purports that for every possible change we have in front of us, there are two sides to it: making the change and NOT making the change…and we also hold inside of us really good arguments for both sides. This is why change can feel so enigmatic – because we can shift our weight from one side to the other and not really, truly commit. Yet, there is a way to move through that.
These stages are not linear, which means that you don’t have to go through them in this order. In fact, you may have something that you are wanting to change and realizing that you are already in one of the later stages of change, which you’ll learn more about in this blog.
The first stage of change is Pre-Contemplation. Pre-Contemplation is marked by the fact that you are experiencing some negative issues in your life because of some things you are doing but you don’t see this as problematic or serious enough to motivate you to consider changing your behavior or the situation you?re in.
The second stage of change is Contemplation. This is one of the toughest stages of change because of the ambivalence one experiences. If you’re in this stage, you might have some insight into how your behavior is problematic but you are ambivalent about making any actual changes. So, you might find yourself entertaining the idea of change, but no real effort has been made on your part yet. Working through the ambivalence here is CRUCIAL to your long term success. Often, people will move in and out of this stage because, well, change is hard!
The 3rd stage of change is Preparation. You know you have made it to this stage when you have made the commitment to change your behavior AND (kicker here?) you have accepted responsibility for this change. What does this mean? It means that you have come to the conclusion that the negative consequences of your choices and behaviors have outweighed the positive ones (even those are SOOO hard to give up) and you have taken responsibility ? a.k.a. acknowledged that this is going to be a tough road oure going to want to quit along the way and you’re going to hate some parts of this because it will feel extremely uncomfortable) and you’ve decided to begin preparing for the change ahead. You haven’t taken any formal action YET, but the wheels are definitely turning and maybe you are starting to talk about things more, write it down, or even hire a professional to help you make said changes.
The 4th stage of change is ACTION. In this stage, you are actively involved in changing your behavior. Here is where the HELP comes in. You may want to engage in a support group, therapy, a workshop, class, talk to a friend and tell them what you’re doing and ask them to check in with you. This stage is where you are putting those plans into action. Any action you take that is specifically an effort to NOT do the thing you have been doing or to DO the thing that you haven’t been doing is GREAT work here during this stage.
Make sure you allow a lot of room for error here. After all, if this were easy you’d already have made the change right? Mistakes are meant to happen and we could provide a slew of motivational quotes here but basically if you’re not failing you’re not doing it right. Success means that failure has happened along the way and this is ALL part of the plan learning about what works for you. The secret sauce is the NOT giving up part when you do fail because failure doesn’t mean that it wasn’t meant to be.
The 5th Stage of Change is Maintenance. This stage happens when you have gained some EFFICIENCY in your newfound behaviors and choices (yup the efficiency comes after the failures) and you have figured out that you CAN change your behavior because you’ve done it for a bit.
Important note here though in order to TRULY be in the 5th Stage of Change of Maintenance, you have to have been able to MAINTAIN the changes you set out for a minimum of six (6) months.
If there are troubled waters here, you have full permission to just head back over to whichever stage makes the most sense for where you are. A lasting TIP for you is to check your shame response when you are finding yourself stuck or not able to get to the 6 month marker here. Just a reminder that human change is so very difficult, yes possible, but especially hard if you have had certain behaviors and ways of being for a long time. Don’t be hard on yourself. Give yourself a high five and be proud that you are engaging in the PROCESS OF CHANGE and you can just take that serving of shame right off your plate and get back to your process.
The 6th Stage of Change is Termination. This stage makes you think you’re done with everything having to do with the change, but that just isn’t true. Yes you have made all the changes needed so that you can face life without doing the thing or not doing the thing that you used to do. Yes. you have been enjoying your life with all the positive consequences and feel-good-about-yourself experiences. Yes, you have truly overcome your issues, been able to maintain new habits and you continue to thrive, grow and improve. However, many people continue to actively participate in social supports as a way to ensure that this change is truly part of their lives now and to ensure that those old, pesky little habits don’t slowly come back into their lives. This would be truly adopting a new lifestyle or way of being and it would just feel like your new way of being at this point. Thinking of going back to the way things used to be might sound appealing at times (or horrifying depending on what the change was), but staying in the space of actively participating in your community and group of supports is a way to provide yourself with the lasting foundation of your change as a sure-fire way for nothing to sneak in and try to rock your boat back to Stage 1.
We hope you’ve learned something throughout our Stages of Change if there was anything surprising, fun, interesting, or helpful that you learned, we would love to hear about it in the comments below?
-Emily Celis, MS, LMFT, Founder of S.A.G.E.