Which Stage of Change Are You In?

Can you identify which stage of change you are in? Can you hold space for yourself with grace and compassion as you work to change your behavior, thoughts, perceptions, and attitudes? Can you be kind to others as they work the change process in their own lives?

Pre-contemplation – I am not thinking about changing at all, I see no problems, and I do not need to change anything right now.

Contemplation – something needs to shift, I might not know exactly what or how to make it happen but I know I need to do something. 

Preparation – I know what needs to change and I know what I need to do to get things started. I am seeking support and the items I need to be successful in my new change (i.e. getting the gym membership and new shoes, buying the right foods for my meal plan, finding a 12-step sponsor)

Action – I’m working on taking the steps that need to change. I am in the grind of changing my life for the better. I am focused on the daily steps to make my goal come true. 

Maintenance  – I’m doing it! I have changed my behavior, perspective, and my life. Now it is about sticking to my goals and keeping my eye on the prize for the long term. 

Sometimes relapse back to our old behaviors and attitudes happens. Work to get back on track as quickly as possible. It is not in never having a relapse but in how quickly we return to our more healthy focus that we want to measure our success. How quick do we recognize, stop the old behavior or thoughts, and return to the path of our goal? That’s the true measure of success for us. 

Overall, remember that change is hard. It can be challenging and moment to moment changes on the path. Your goal is to keep your eye on the prize!

Need more? Read Monday’s article on 3 steps to making change happen in your life here.

Photo credit: Social Work Tech

Working with Ambivalence … the parts of you that want to change & the parts that don’t.

Ever wonder why it is so hard to make big changes … or even small ones for that matter? It is often because we have what is known as ambivalence. This concept that part of us wants to change and part of us does not. We have a small war going on inside ourselves between the factions of staying the same and playing it safe and the part of us that wants something new and different … aka not as safe. Below are 3 ways to work with your own ambivalence and get those changes to take hold for good.

As you consider what you would like to change in your life, pay attention to what you do not like, what you want to be different, allow yourself time to reflect and feel into the changes, then take informed and inspired action. Read on to work on finding the next right step for you.

Stage 1:

When we consider making changes it is important to think about what we do not like, however not dwell here. This stage is just about getting clear about what we do want. This stages sets the scene for us to find what we do want by examining what we do not want. When we are in this stage we often do not feel comfortable, we may feel like we are the victim, that we are on the wrong path, or just bored and tired of the same ol’ same old thing. This stage is an opportunity to decide. It is the point that we begin to see what is not working. 

It is here that we might find it is time to stop drinking/using substances or other unhealthy coping skill because we feel so awful after a night or two of our use. It is here that we might feel uncomfortable thinking, talking, acting like our “old” self because we have new knowledge, insight, or awareness. It is here that we realize that working out was giving us more than just weight loss because we missed the emotional high by missing our movement practice this morning. 

This video explains how to work with ambivalence using the Trans-theoretical Model of Change and stages of change.

Action point for this stage – Get clear on what you do not like. Reflect on why you do not like it – not to judge and keep yourself down, but to objectively determine what is not working for you. You might see that your behavior is not the kind of person you want to be any more. I see this a lot with people who used to use racist or sexist jokes without realizing the impact. Now they know the impact and do not want to be that kind of person any more, but are working to figure out how to engage people with different humor. From this point of knowing what we do not want we can begin to decide what we do want. 

Stage 2:

Now that you have a clear picture about what you do not want any longer, it is time to vision what you do want. This is a very important stage. It is here that you actually make things happen. So many people want to brush past this stage in effort of action, because action feels better, yet action too quickly can create more work in the end. In this stage spend some time developing what you do want. 

As you get clear on what you do not want – usually does not take us too long to do – we want to get very clear on what we do want. Why do we want to quit using substances? What is the benefit of a new eating plan? Why behave differently? As you vision your new life options, it is important to feel how you will feel when you get the new life you want. In this stage, do not worry about how you will get it. Just feel how good it will feel when you are successful. Drink in the sweet feelings of your goals, successes, and dreams. 

Many people feel this is so whoo – whoo, but here is what is behind it. Science. We are chemical (hormones / neurotransmitters), electrical (heart rate, facia, brain, neuron communications) , vibrational beings (atoms and molecular structure). Every thought, emotion, and action we have creates a change in those 3 things. As those changes take place – yes through your thinking and feeling and eventually doing – you are changing the way your cells communicate with each other. Our cells use proteins to adapt to the environment around us and are always changing. As these proteins shift and change we have a different experience. Experiences change our brain structures and impact other physical structures like organs, tissues, and internal communication patterns. These changes create our internal environment. This can be helpful and supportive or hostile and forbidding. 

For example as you consider a stressful event your inflammation rate rises, your breathing may shift into more upper lobe exposure, less deep breathing, and your heart rate will then quicken. This change in what is known as your heart rate variability (HRV) is tied to your nervous system. 

As your HRV quickens, your sympathetic nervous system revs up, getting ready for a fight, to flee, or go into hypo arousal and keep you alive. All this, just while you think about that fight with your partner, that near miss car accident, the trauma you lived through as a kid, or your big work project. These thoughts are impacting how your body responds. This is not just about the way you think. It is also about the way you feel, as your emotions and actions also create changes in the physical body. It does not matter where you enter the square, everything is always impacting everything. We are holistic systems, not linear cause and effect systems. 

Overlapping Psychological and Locomotor Development
This is a model of the holistic nature of our experiences I created for a presentation I gave on the overlapping nature of our psychological and physical systems.

Whether is psychological or physical they impact each other. It does not matter where we start the process – in our minds or in our bodies – we cannot pull apart the intersecting experience. The heart rate variability is the link between the mental and physical world. we can control it to change our perception of our experiences. (Reuille-Dupont, 2018)

Now that you have a better understanding of why thinking and feeling matter to the physical structure of you, it is time to make action happen. 

Action Step for This Stage: Create a vision board, write a story about the new you/life/dream as though it has already happened, and mediate, mediate, mediate. Mediation shifts our brain waves and allows us to be more receptive to solutions and next steps we need to take. We have to let go of our own thinking and doing around the change before we can get really clear about what we need to do next. Mediation clears that space for us in as little as 5, 10, 15 minutes a day. Do not skip this activity. Read more on the importance of reflective time and accomplishing goals.

Stage 3:

Hopefully, you have spent some time sitting with what you do not like, then working on what you do want. Now it is time to act. It is important to take INFORMED action. This is something I see go sideways in lots of folks, myself included – they get antsy for action and impulsively move instead of be deliberate about the next steps. This means they often miss the most simple option and skip around … leading to longer accomplishment timing. 

Ambivalence in change is uncomfortable. It is hard to sit with. There is a part of you so sure of the changes you want to make, yet there is also a part of you so scared about the changes you are about to make. There is part of you that can see clearly how much better the new way will be, and there is a part of you sad to let the old way go. As we honor both of those spaces we want to make sure we allow both to be true. This helps settle our discomfort. Once we can process our struggle we are often ready for action.

For example, the change may be quit using substances, yet your culture is full of people using your substance of choice. It may not be easy to leave them all behind today or even completely quit your substance today (sometimes this is even dangerous), but it might be doable to find a 12-step group, reach out to a sober friend, see your therapist or get one, get to the hospital, or buy a book/find an online community to help you stick to your goal of being sober (or more sober) today. We are just looking for the next step right now. Once that one is taken, we can take the next one, and the next, and next until you have multiple days, months, years sober from that substance. 

Stage 3 Action Step: Since you have already set up so much and gotten so ready by creating a vision for your future self, feeling your success and accomplishment as though it has already happened, and mediated to get clear about what you next step needs to be … just take that step. Just the next one to be most effective. It does not have be big, does not have to accomplish the end goal completely yet, you are in process, and it does not have to be overwhelming. It just has to be the next right step for this moment. The one we are in, not the one you wish you were in, want to be in, or would rather be in. Just the one you are really in. Informed action makes each moment easier and they build upon each other, little by little, like building blocks building the tower … one at a time, step by step. 

Focus on What Works

Today focus on what you want and ignore all those things you do not want.

Do not waste your energy focused on what is not working.

Note the problem, create a solution, and move in the direction you want to go. Do not look back. What is done, is done. Just move forward.

Yesterday is done … Keep your sights on today.

So many get hung up on what happened yesterday, last month, last year, 10,20,50 years ago. They spend their energy focused on what went wrong. Instead focus on what is going right. Focus on on what you want. Spend your time creating a life you love, want, and desire instead of focusing on what is not working in your life, with people around you, or in the world. Spend your energy wisely.

Crush Your Goals!

How are you doing with your vision board and your goal outlines? Did you do it on Monday? If not, why not? What got in your way? How could you work around those obstacles? Are you feeling like you need more help? Then reach out. Make sure you are not swirling in the same stew over an over. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to change and finding yourself stuck at the same place over and over because you are not sure how to move forward, do not have clarity about what you really want, or do not have the support you need to make your dreams come true.

Make sure to ask for help when you need it.

Accomplish Your Goals … Start a Morning Routine

Many of us want our lives to be different and we aren’t sure how to start. We want to shift our perspective, focus, and behavior but get locked into the same ole same old routine. Try finding a morning routine that helps you schedule 10-30 minutes in your morning to reflect on your goals, vision board, and upcoming day. During this time, view your vision board, allow yourself to feel what successful accomplishment of your goals would feel like, and review your day’s plan to reach those goals.

3 Ways to Get Your Goals Back on Track

So many of us have great ideas and goals set at the 1st of the year, only to lose them by February 14th and then beat ourselves up because we can’t seem to stay on track. Some of us are crushing it in some places and not in others. Today take time to reflect on your goals and see where you can up level your life and get back or stay on track with your goals and plans for 2019.

We are into the second quarter of 2019, how are you doing on your goals for the year? Many around the world just finished celebrating Easter, a time for Christians to reflect on new beginnings and creating the life they would like to have, rather than the one they were handed. In the natural world, at least in the northern hemisphere, this is the time of fresh starts, new sprouts, and lots of possibility. Dreams of the garden flowers, harvest foods, and vacationing come to mind. 

As we move further into spring and all its hope, where are you crushing your goals? Where have you lost focus? Take the time to review what is working and what is not. Now is the season to reflect on next steps and make changes if you are recognizing they are needed. 

Successful people know flexibility is part of the success process. Failure happens, and it teaches. If you find that an area is failing it is time to determine if / what needs to change. Revisit your goals and find the places that need an adjustment, then make it. 

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If you have lost focus, it is time to visit what keeps getting in your way and get back in the game. Here are 3 ways to refocus, reflect, make change or get back on track starting right now. 

  1. Revisit your plans. Remember how we looked at setting goals at the start of the year. Re-read your plan. If you did not create a written plan or outline, do it now. It is important to have some representation of your goals you can look at regularly. Otherwise it becomes too easy to slip back into old habits and beliefs. Change takes time and without regular focus on what you would like to see different, you will fall back into old patterns. So today, pull out your yearly goals and revisit them. See yourself doing them. See yourself being successful having accomplished them. See yourself going through the motions to get them done. A little bit of work each day on your goals, goes a very long way. 
  2. Look at your vision board. If you did not create a vision board at the start of the year. Make one now. It does not have to be complicated. Find a few pictures that represent your goals for the year. Then paste them in a place you will see them regularly. I put mine in my daily planner. I took a page in the book I didn’t need and used that to put my vision board on. Then I look at each day as part of my morning meditation. During this time, I do not worry about the work, the steps, the how of accomplishing my bigger goals. I just look at the pictures. This exercise has been shown to help our brains orient to our goals and therefore find more success accomplishing them. When we are “primed” for our goals, we can see the opportunities that once may have been lost in our daily grind. We can see the items we need to say yes to, and the ones we need to say no to. When you have a good vision of where you are going and what you want, the daily to do list gets more clear. Thus, helping you focus on what you need to do next. 
  3. Create a reflection process. It can be in the morning, mid-day, evening the timing does not matter as long as it is your best time to focus, and it needs to be done with regularity. Many people skip this step because it feels like “doing nothing”, however it is very important step in making your dreams a reality. During this time, dream. Just allow yourself to review your vision board, your mission statement, and your overall direction. Let yourself dream whatever you want about your goals. See them big and full, see them in all their colors, vivid details, and possibility. This is not a time to worry about how you are going to make your dreams a reality. It is not a time to worry about greed, materialistic, or grandiose ideas you might have. This is a time for you to really allow yourself to see your dream complete. Your dream is perfectly ok, as long as it is not about harming another as this keeps your stuck in negative patterns rather than growth patterns. It does not matter if others find your dream valid or interesting. It is not theirs it is yours. As long as you are focused on positive aspects, you can have whatever you want in whatever way you want it. It will not be the same as other people’s dreams. It is not theirs … it is yours. Just allow yourself to see it in your mind’s eye in its entirety and feel the wonderful feelings of successfully accomplishing it. 

Today, check back into those goals you created to start 2019. How are you doing on them. If you were to rate yourself on a scale from 1-10, 10 being crushing it, how are you doing? Could you give yourself an 8 or better? If not, why not. What has gotten in your way and how can you find a solution around your obstacle? If yes, what are you doing that is working? Can you create more of that everyday to help you reach your goals with success?

Perception. Everything hinges on how you think

Our thinking determines our focus. Take 2 people in a horrific situation and they can have 2 very different perceptions of the experience. You control how you respond to any given moment in your life – good, bad, wanted, or unwanted – you are in control of your perception. If you shift your perception you have the opportunity to change how you experience the situation. Doesn’t mean you have to like it, want it, approve of it, agree with it – just means it is the one you are are in and you are controlling the way you show up to deal with it.

Mind Yourself … Pay attention to what you consume

So many of us are careless with our environment. We want cheap and easy. We want chemically enhanced smells or flavors. We want to feel good right now no matter the cost. Many of us do not guard our consumption well. We watch what the advertisers put on TV, listen to the stories the newspeople are selling, and fill ourselves up with food made in laboratories. You control what you consume. Consume wisely.