The Stages of Change Model was first introduced in the 1970’s to help us understand that change does not occur in one step, but a process of steps that each of us undergoes as we endeavor to change an old behavior or adopt a new one. Particularly at the new year, a time when goal-setting has become a strong social trend, it can be helpful before you set your goals that you understand where you really are at in your stages of change, and whether or not this is the time to get more information, get support, or just get started.
There are 6 Stages of Change which are uniquely identified by our thoughts and feelings towards change, as well as our actions.
1: Pre-contemplation: I am not seriously thinking about changing a behavior and/or I don’t think there is anything that needs to change
2: Contemplation: I am aware that I have a bad habit or I want to change a behavior, but I’m not sure I want to change.
3: Preparation: I am committed to making a change, but I’m not sure how to do it. What will it take for me to make this change?
4: Action: I believe in my ability to change. I am making clear efforts to make change.
5: Maintenance: I am successfully overcoming my desire to go back to my old behaviors. I feel that I have the skills to cope with any situations that may be difficult.
6: Relapse: I have fallen off the horse and slipped back into my old behaviors. I may have to start back at the preparation stage again and begin my work again, being more away of high-risk situations where I might slip again.
As you read through these 6 Stages of Change, I ask you to contemplate a change that you are considering making. Where do you think you fit along the Stages of Change model? Are you not yet convinced that you want/need to make a change? Perhaps getting informed about the benefits of the change will help. Are you thinking about a change but not sure how to go about it?   Perhaps talking to a professional can give you some ways to start. Are you getting ready to change? Setting SMART goals can give you a skillful approach. Are you aiming to make a change that you have made before, but it hasn’t stuck? Perhaps planning ahead and developing some skills will help you find long term success this time. At any point in the Stages of Change model, meditation and visualization can be of great benefit in clarifying your goals, and helping you to ‘see’ yourself living with positive change in your life. Now, if you are ready to set some SMART goals, read on…
Setting SMART Goals
As we flow into that time of year where goals, aspirations, and resolutions are a hot topic, before we start pulling resolutions out of the closet (where many of us stored them on January 5 last year), I thought it might be interesting to talk about how we can go about creating goals that we can actually achieve. In the goal setting process, there are goals that are ‘wishful thinking’ like “Gosh, I would really like to lose 10 pounds” often spoken between spoonfuls of ice cream, and there are SMART goals, which are Specific, Measureable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Timed and designed to lead us to successful achievement of our aims.
Have you ever had that experience where you set a goal too high, and after a day or two of attempting to attain it, fall in a heap of disappointment and self-recrimination? Perhaps the fault lies in the goal setting process, and not necessarily in your inability to attain your goals. Here is how a SMART goal works.
Specific: set a specific goal, be clear about what you wish to achieve.
Measureable: some of the greatest attainments in wellness are pretty intangible, but try to measure your goal ie: lose 10 pounds, quit eating meat, practice every day.
Action Oriented: make your goal something that you can achieve through clear action ie: keep a food log daily, walk 3 times a week, do 10 sun salutations every morning.
Realistic: know yourself and what you are capable of today. Don’t be that goal-setter that sets aims far too high and then suffers disappointment. What amount of change can you realistically sustain right now?
Timed: Set your goals with a time frame in mind. You might have a larger goal that will take a year or two to achieve, so break it down into bite-sized portions so that the big picture does not daunt you, and so that you can regularly sit down and assess, reflect, and plan for the next period. Usually start with 4 weeks, then 3 months, then 6 months etc.
So, a SMART Goal might look like this:
Goal:  Lose 10 Pounds
Time Frame: 8 weeks
Action: Go through cupboards and throw out all processed, sugary and fatty foods in the next 4 days
Action: Keep a food journal for 7 days on my iphone
Action: Walk 45 minutes 4 times per week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Assess: Reassess in 3 weeks
This kind of goal setting process allows you to get real, specific, and inspired about your goal. Now rather than an idea, you have a plan, and one that you have taken time to be sure fits into your current lifestyle, and meets your needs, and you have some supportive points along the way where you can stop and reassess and find out how things are going. I hope that this information helps you in making some SMART goals of your own, and here is to a happy, healthy, and successful start to a brand new year!

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