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How to make a change for good

Focused on Health - December 2012

by Lora Shea and Adelina Espat

change, stageMost of us have been there – we decide this is the year we’re going to lose those pesky pounds, get fit or quit smoking.

We try. We’re determined to make these healthy changes.  Yet, we fail. Why?

Well, sometimes you’ve got to make several attempts at the same resolution before you can succeed. Most of us try to change before we’re really ready.

The Transtheoretical Model of Change says everyone must go through five stages before making a successful change. Knowing what stage you’re in and how to move forward may be exactly what you need to succeed this year.

Find out where you fall in the stages of change below.

Stage 1: Decide if change is right

change, thinkAre you still unsure about making a change? Then, you’re probably in the first stage. You also can be in stage one if you don’t even realize you need a change.

For example, your doctor may advise you to lose weight but you think it’s hopeless to try. Maybe your friends or family have been asking you to quit smoking, and you’re thinking it’s their problem not yours.

The good news is that once you start thinking about change, you’ve got stage one behind you!

Stage 2: Weigh the pros and cons

The second stage is all about pros and cons. You realize it’s time for change. You may not be ready but you’re seriously considering it.

Now’s the time to think about all those false starts you’ve had in the past. And, don’t just think about your failures; also think about your successes. Make note of what worked and what didn’t the last time you tried.

Stage 3: Make a plan

change, stageThe third stage is planning. At this point, you’re concentrating more on the future than the past. The pros of the new behavior strongly outweigh the cons of the old.

You’re ready to start a plan. Focus on what motivates and works best for you.

Stage 4: Take action

The fourth stage is the busiest one because it’s all about taking action. You’re putting your plan to work. Avoid losing your momentum by rewarding yourself along the way. Remember, change takes time.

Stage 5: Keep going

The final stage may be the hardest. Your new habit is now routine. The challenge is to keep up this new behavior and not fall back into old habits.

Think about what you’ve accomplished to date. When temptation hits, seek support from friends and family. They can renew your resolve to stick with it. 

Prepare yourself for change

Regardless of what stage you’re in, recognize that change isn’t an all-or-nothing, one-step, one-time affair. Try these helpful strategies to up your odds for success.

  • Go public. Let others know you’re trying to quit smoking or you’ve started an exercise program.
  • Gather information from websites, books, videos, classes, support groups or your health care provider. Knowing all the benefits of your healthy change can serve as powerful motivation.
  • Focus on rewards. Don’t punish yourself when you slip up. Instead, think about the positive steps you’ve taken so far.
  • Write everything down. Keep an exercise log or a food diary. You’ll be more aware of your behavior and accountable for the choices you make.
  • Make SMART goals. In other words, take small steps that are measurable, attainable, realistic and timed. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, a SMART goal might be to lose 10 pounds in four months, or two and a half pounds each month.

Are you ready? It's time to take that first step and make a change for good.

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