When talking about what we want, we often say things like “I want to not revert into a spoiled brat when I am around my mother” or “I wish that I was more confident” or “Everyone asks me to do more things at work and I can’t do all of that and play with my kids and make dinner and clean the house and have sex with my partner.”
Every day I work with people who want to make changes in their behavior. When I ask how they plan to get what they want or less of what they don’t want, they restate what they said from desire to action form. For example:
“I will be more mature around my mom,” “I am changing my habits,” “I am going to be more balanced.”
Basically, they are saying: “I’m just going to do it!”
This may have worked for Nike, but as a way of doing life, it just doesn’t cut it.
Assuming we are just going to do it is a problem, but it is SO normal to do.
Unfortunately, this is the single most effective way to completely sabotage yourself. Setting a goal, and then saying you will make the change, completely bypasses the planning stage. And, wouldn’t you know it-research says the PLANNING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART.
The Stages of Change, as developed by psychologist and researcher James Prochaska, is THE model for understanding how we reach goals. Through his research he identified 5 stages in the process of change.
Stages of Change
1.) Pre-Contemplation: You have zero intentions of changing anything related to the goal behavior. You may have heard from other people that you should make a change, you may offhand say that you should change, but you are not seriously even considering doing anything anytime soon.
2.) Contemplation: You have identified you have a goal, but without any commitment towards action. You may be thinking about changing in the next six months, but aren’t ready to get started. You aren’t opposed to making a change, but you are definitely on the fence about it. You may take a look if you run across information about the goal, but you are not seeking it out on purpose.
3.) Preparation: You have intentions of taking action towards the goal. You don’t just want it, you want to commit to it. You are actively getting information, support, supplies and are planning first steps. You are motivated to learn and willing to accept support. THIS IS THE MONEY SHOT.
4.) Action: Engaging in doing SOMETHING differently, taking steps, doing things differently. You are not fully arrived at your goal-you are working through the steps that lead to where you want to be.
5.) Maintenance: You are living in the change! You are at your goal and sustaining it. It’s in the routine.
What trips us up is when we jump from Contemplation to Action.
Which is totally understandable. When we recognize that we want to make a change, we are so excited! Motivated! Energized! We want to DO SOMETHING with that energy, so we take action.
Where this breaks down is not having a plan which makes us unprepared for the challenges that come up. And if I know anything in this world, it’s that challenges Will. Come. Up.
Death. Taxes. And Challenges. All facts of life.
Having a plan gives us not only a heads up that challenges will happen (which is helpful in itself-check out this blog post about starting new things to dig into this concept more), but steps to get through them.
This is the secret sauce, my friends. This is how you get from having a goal to actually making progress towards it.
I liken it to taking the time to create an outline for a paper. It feels like you just want to get to the writing, who wants to add MORE writing to the assignment, right? (My eye twitches a bit when I think of having to write papers for school.)
BUT, taking the time to write the outline actually saves you time down the line. It is efficient. Instead of backtracking the organization of your paper, seeing where you need to add some content, finding new references as you go, you do this all at once ahead of time. Then, when you are in writing mode, all you have to focus on is the writing.
This is called “chunking” your tasks, and it’s the path of the super efficient.
SO-make a plan for your goal, my friends. Make a plan.
If you want to step up your game and get serious about doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t-you may need to be in Self-Care Class. We talk about all this stuff in greater depth, answer questions about how to apply it, and help you work through all the barriers life and your mind are throwing at you!