Most 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?
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
Are 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 yet 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 and family have urged you to quit smoking, and you think 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 is the time to think about all those false starts you’ve had in the past. Don’t focus on past 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
The 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. 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
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. 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 specific steps that are measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. 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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