Introducing Positive Change
By: Sara King
Along the grocery store checkout lanes, you'll find health and fitness magazines covered in aesthetically pleasing examples of what our meals should look like and perfectly “easy” movements we should perform to obtain a sculpted body. Truth be told, those meals are likely nutritious and those exercises beneficial. In the conversation about health and wellness, much of what we consider to be success and failure isn't determined by the generic do's and do-not’s. It’s much more personal than that. I would argue that our health behavior is largely determined by reading (or not) between the lines within ourselves.
When it comes to health or even success, it's natural to desire a formula that will get you to where you want to be. Whether its a weight goal or a budget, formulas are helpful for guiding us to good decisions, but effectiveness is found in the process. We can google formulas, but our personal process is harder to uncover.
There was a model, one of many, created in the 80s to help understand behavior change. The Trans-theoretical model "proposes that behavior change is a process that occurs in stages; a person moving through these stages in a specific sequence constitutes the change" (Fertman & Allensworth). So to give you a basic run down of the TTM, there are 5 stages a person can move through.
1. Preparation - there are no plans or thoughts of changing a specific behavior.
2. Contemplation - there is consideration or awareness for changing a behavior.
"Maybe I should add working out a couple days a week to my schedule."
3. Preparation - steps have been taken to plan for changing a behavior.
"I'll pack a gym bag so I can get to the gym right after class."
4. Action - the change has been initiated.
"I'm enjoying going to yoga on Tuesday’s and spin on Thursday’s."
5. Maintenance - the behavior has been maintained for at least 6 months.
"On Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, I am at the gym or outside on a run."
Some things to note: a person can ebb and flow between the stages and there are a multitude of factors that influence whether someone moves from one stage to the next. For instance, your belief in your ability to do all the hip shaking in Zumba may impact whether or not you make your goal of going to three workout classes a week.
So wherever you are, whatever your goal, if you feel stuck or discouraged, reflect and identify where you are in the stages of change. From there, consider the barriers or fears you have in moving to the next stage. Take those baby steps — they will eventually grow into strides. More than anything, it's important to give yourself grace when you are striving to become who you are meant to be. A formula may be a good map, but it is understanding yourself and being able to apply that formula to your own life that will actually help you grow from here to there.