By Larry Moliterno
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Springtime is one of the most common seasons for change.
A lot of people say they’re scared of change. But it’s not the change that’s scary. It’s the transition.
Understanding the journey helps to give you the courage to continue. First, you need to know change is needed – and want to make it.
Every day at Meridian Healthcare, we see people go through the stages of change (the cycle everyone goes through during any transition). These stages take into account readiness – and willingness – to change.
Change is neither easy nor immediate. It doesn’t follow a straight line. Change is a circle with no definitive end. There is no finish line because every day is another step along the journey. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate the little wins along the way.
Change is hard. So take it easy on yourself as you make your way through the cycle.
You go through these stages during any change in your life: quitting smoking, losing weight and even adjusting to new work processes. No matter the transition, the stages of change help you to understand where you are in the process. Change is scary. But understanding which stage you’re in makes the transition feel less overwhelming.
Stage 1: Precontemplation. If you’re in the precontemplation stage, you’re unaware of the problem or need for change (so it’s impossible to know when you’re here). If you see a loved one here, suggesting that person has a problem sometimes results in a negative response.
Stage 2: Contemplation. When you’re in the contemplation stage, you’re aware of the problem but haven’t taken a step to fix it (maybe you don’t even know where to start).
Stage 3: Preparation. Not only are you aware of the problem here, you’re also ready to make a change. You’re researching and planning the steps to take.
Stage 4: Action. At this point, you’re actively taking steps to change your situation. This looks different for everyone and every change. Sometimes action can look like inaction. If you’re trying to stop smoking or reduce the amount you drink, not smoking and not drinking is taking action.
Stage 5: Maintenance. You made the change. Now it’s time to sustain it. The new behaviors you learned have replaced the bad habits. If your goal was to eat healthfully and you made that change, it’s time to keep it up.
Stage 6: Relapse. Unfortunately, relapse is always a possibility. It’s not a failure. It’s just a setback. Take the time to learn from your relapse.
What triggered reversion to your old habits? What can you do to prevent it from recurring? How can you set yourself up for success?
Relapse doesn’t mean it’s over. It’s the opportunity to learn more about yourself and your journey.
Yes, the transition is hard. But, understanding what stage you’re in is the best way to keep moving forward.
This doesn’t apply just to yourself, either. If someone you love is going through a transition, understanding these stages is the best way to support that individual. You can’t help a friend going through a change without first knowing what stage he’s in. In fact, your attempt to help can harm his process. It might be hard not to interfere. But mentioning a need for change to someone in the precontemplation stage doesn’t encourage him to seek change. It hurts him.
If you need help going through a change, counseling is a great resource. Counselors can help you understand your behavior and adjust your way of thinking to support you. In the end, though, change comes from within.
You always have the keys to unlock the door. Counseling helps you to remember where you put it.
Larry Moliterno is the CEO of Meridian HealthCare.