Changes that depend more on a lack of a particular attitude(*) than a lack of skills or opportunities, will generally progress through the following stages.

(*) Health goals, diet goals, debt and savings goals generally fall within this category.

  1. Precontemplation. The person does not see a need for change although others often do see a problem. If pushed, the person will make a token attempt at changing, but this is done more so to please the pusher or get the pusher off their back because deep down they do not see a problem. At this stage the person will be defensive about their position.
  2. Contemplation. The person sees the need for change, but they still do not realize the importance of the problem. In particular the person is not sure that the effort to change is worth it. Lots of plans will be made, but they will remain plans.
  3. Preparation. The person has accepted a plan and committed to the first step. The focus has moved from the internal planning stage to the external doing stage. Here the person has decided that the problem is important enough to do something.
  4. Implementation. The person is following the plan. This stage is where actual change occurs. This is also the stage where relapses are most common as the costs are realized early whereas the benefits (of health, wealth, …) are only realized later. This stage requires either strong self-discipline or a strong support group.
  5. Once the change has been made, generally a mental change will have been made as well. The person is now a different person. The person is a healthy person that eats healthy, not an unhealthy person that eats whatever. The person is a wealthy/frugal person, not an indebted/spendthrift person. Or the person is a physically active person, not a couch potato.

I generally recommend making immediate aggressive changes to shorten the period between effort and results (read about the crowbar method here). Taking baby steps is easier but requires much more patience over time to get any results. Imagine emptying a swimming pool working 10 minutes every other day with a coffee mug (or a teaspoon). Sure it is easy, but it is not very motivating either. It would take months before any change is observed and visible week to week changes are hard to come by. Imagine instead bringing a bucket the first time. While possible not being able to lift a bucket full of water heaving and hawing will eventually get water out of the pool. Fast. Changes will be seen within a week. With the crowbar method, effort is substituted for patience.

Originally posted 2008-04-10 07:19:58.