Want Change, Won’t Change
You want to get fit or lose weight or quit a habit, and you know you’ve just had enough now, and you want to make a change, BUT…….there is something inside you that stops you from taking action or prevents you from stopping that behaviour, and you meet up with your friends and you tell them that you’re fed up of the situation you’re in, and it’s probably not the first time you said it to them or to someone else, and they say “well why don’t you just go and do it already?” and they are annoyed because you complained about this a few weeks or months ago and STILL you haven’t “done it” and they say “if you really wanted to do it, you’d just do it!”.
And when they say this, it is so frustrating because you KNOW that you really, really want to stop doing whatever it is, or start doing whatever it is, and how can they say that like it’s just ‘so easy’ to do!
Do you hear yourself procrastinating and saying to yourself “I’ll do it after I get back from holiday, or I can’t afford to do it now, or I’ve got too many things going on for me at the moment.”
If this is you, and you’re frustrated with yourself because you didn’t do something (yet) that you know that you really want to do, or that you really NEED to do, I will explain why you can stop giving yourself a hard time about it!
Before we decide that we need or want to make ANY changes, we are in a period of ‘precontemplation’, which is basically the place where we are unaware that any problem exists, or even when we are aware of a problem, we have no intention of changing that behaviour.
As soon as you pass this stage, and you become aware that you want to overcome an unhelpful habit, or we are thinking about making a change, then you are in the ‘contemplation’ stage, which is where you are right now!
This is the point of no return, you have ‘decided’ and that is it! You have had enough of that old habit and you want to do something about it…..NOW!
So, what stops us from ‘immediately’ being able to change it or you might even make a change, but not be able to keep the change (yet). Well, this particular period in the change cycle can take the most time to pass through or breakthrough to the next stage, around six months!
So imagine when you’ve made a decision that you want to change, and then every day for around six months you get even more frustrated with yourself, because, you said yourself that you want to make this change, and you even feel like you’re letting yourself down, and you could even start believing that you have no willpower and that just isn’t the case.
One of the reasons that this stage takes time to get through is because change is actually painful to us because it triggers our body’s inner alarm system. The alarm in our brain, the amygdala, which doesn’t like it when something is different. Different could mean danger.
And so the alarm tells our body to pump out the stress hormones and pulls up distressing thoughts and feelings from our memory centres, in order to drive us to get back to what seems like a comfortable place of old habits.
So effectively your brain is keeping you ‘trapped’ in the same position, but you don’t want to go back to those old habits, and you definitely want to make some changes, so it can feel frustrating!
After around 6 months of this tug of war, then you reach the next stage which is ‘preparation’! You have finally had enough, enough, enough and you start making preparations to make the change within the next 4 weeks. You plan how you will make the changes, you get your support network ready, you physically and mentally prepare for the changes ahead.
Then finally, ACTION!!
You’re ‘in the zone’, you’re unstoppable and now making the change seems so easy! And you will usually be in this stage for around 3-6 months until the new behaviours have been practised so many times that they become habits and it becomes second nature to do it in this new way and you have now moved into the ‘maintenance’ stage.
You might be thinking now, that you recognise that you have been through all these stages in the past and successfully maintained for a long period of time, AND then, an old trigger has set you off and now you’re back into that old habit and you could feel as if you have failed.
Well, the good news is, you didn’t fail, relapsing is part of successful recovery because each time we relapse we grow stronger so that the relapse is shorter or less devastating each time.
It can take around 4 cycles of this change process to completely overcome some unwanted habits, especially those that you have been doing for a long period of time.
So if you have ever tried to stop smoking, or lose weight and successfully managed for a period of time and then relapsed again, don’t despair, because you are getting stronger and learning each time, and the next cycle of change that you go through, could be the time that your body and mind has learnt all it needs to from the relapses in the past and is ready now to make those permanent changes and let you get on and live the life that you truly want.
Now that you know there is a process that we have to go through before we make any changes, perhaps you can be kinder to yourself next time you are judging yourself for any kind of behaviour that you wish you were not doing, and know that, simply being aware that you want to make a change, that you are already “in process”, and let that process take its natural course, knowing that when the time is right for you to take action, then you will do it 100%, with every part of you.
When you are ready to make that change, I am here to help you and when you’re ready but ‘not’ ready to make that change, I am also here to help you.
Do you recognise that you are in any of these stages right now, or have been in the past? I would love to hear from you, so leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.