What It Really Takes to Change

Shereeza Ibrahim. B.A.Psych, M.S.W, R.S.W.
Clinical Counsellor and Author

Do you ever feel like you try to change but can’t seem to get from point A to point B. There is a process to change according to the Stages of Change model. In order to optimize your growth, you must know which stage of change you’re in and what it will take to get you from one step to the next.

There are five stages of change:

  1. Pre-contemplation (“I don’t think I really need to change”)
  2. Contemplation (“Okay, I’m open to hearing the reasons I should change”)
  3. Preparation (“Let me create a plan of how I’ll make the change”)
  4. Action (“I’m making the changes necessary”)
  5. Maintenance (“I’m trying to sustain the changes”)
    [+1 Relapse, a very common stage we don’t talk about enough]

These stages are not always linear in real life. We don’t always move neatly from one stage to the other in the above order. So how do you know where you are today? You know you’re in the contemplation stage if your lifestyle and habits have not yet changed but you’re open to to the idea of change. If you want to move out of this stage, then you need to inform yourself with all the facts, pros and cons and negative consequences relevant to your issue (pamphlets, websites, testimonials, stats, specialist appointments etc.).

In the preparation, action and maintenance stages, in order to facilitate success, you should have SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-measured), a schedule and an accountability or informal support person. There is a lot of information online and on YouTube about SMART goals and how to implement them.

Maintenance can be the hardest stage. There’s always a honeymoon period when making a small change, but after that, novelty and confidence wears off and you can start to feel overwhelmed. Remembering why you began, and reviewing all the information you gathered in the pre-contemplation and contemplation stage will help keep you on track.

Lastly, self check-ins, and check-ins with a supportive friend, family member or counsellor are helpful to encourage positive health outcomes.

Author Bio: Shereeza is a clinical counsellor and award-winning author, whom offers low- cost telephone counselling through GTA Wellness Consultation at 647-3344556. She has been with the Islamic Institute of Toronto community for over 10 years and is now a regular contributor to the IIT Newsletter.