JOURNEY TO WHOLENESS - November 2019
To Change or Not to Change
By Jude LaClaire, Ph.D.
As the days become shorter and holidays appear on the horizon we may be looking at our lives, reviewing things and thinking of change. It may remain in the ‘intention’ stage for much longer than you think. Dr. James Prochaska, co-author of Changing For Good, tells us that up to 80 percent of people wanting to change are not ready to go into action. Uh oh, does that spell trouble for your desire to change? Not necessarily as he also reminds us that, “Change is a process, not an event.”
As I revisited the stages of change I was thinking about a recent change that happened in my life. As my spouse and I were contemplating re-doing the flooring in our home and found out we had to pack as if we were moving, we were triggered into thinking about down-sizing and purging. It took me months to ‘contemplate’ what I would do with hundreds of books I had collected. Then there was the preparation and the action. What a process. Six months later, with most books donated and gone, other things given away or sent to recycling, the floor change made me think about many other aspects of my life.
What are the changes you may be contemplating? Usually we know where we are by results. I believe it would be safe to say that if nothing is happening, you aren’t ready. If you think you might be ready to start a new behavior in the near future, about six months, you are in Stage 1: Precontemplation (not ready.) Here you may be preparing, learning about the pros and cons, checking out the effects of the change. Prochaska tells us that precontemplators usually underestimate the pros of changing and overestimate the cons. You need encouragement to become more aware of the benefits of this change.
Readiness is key to success. Stage 2: Contemplation (getting ready) is the time when the person intends to start the new behavior within the next six months. At this state pros and cons are about equal. Ambivalence can stop you in this stage. You need help reducing the cons of changing your behavior.
When taking action is within 30 days, the person is at Stage 3: Preparation (ready). This is the time for small steps that help you believe you can make the healthy behavior part of your life. You might start telling people, ask for help, make a plan and think about how you would feel if you changed the behavior. As you seek and get support your confidence will grow and you will prepare more fully for the task at hand.
Now you are ready for Stage 4: Action! You have taken the steps you need to implement the change in your life. You are going to the gym each day, cooking better meals, writing in your gratitude log everyday or doing whatever behavior you chose regularly. At this stage, strategy, rewards, and staying with people who encourage you are very necessary.
Finally, once a change is made Stage 5: Maintenance, is necessary to develop the new habit. Avoiding stressful and tempting situations, being with other people who support you in your new habit and engaging in alternative activities to cope with stress will guarantee success in making change that becomes part of you.
You can facilitate the change process by using things like imagery, meditation, or mindfulness practices. When I teach people the skills of the Neurobehavioral Program created by Dr. John Leonard, they seem to move more readily through change. Anything that helps you reduce stress, negative emotions or trauma will help this journey.
If you are struggling with making changes, check out Dr. Prochaska’s book. He also has a great website: that offers online, offline and manuals for working through the stages of change.
As you look at small changes in your life or bigger ones that require deeper digging, I think you will find the steps of change helpful. Enjoy each change in yourself and your life as a step in your personal development. Embrace change and use it!
Jude LaClaire, Ph.D., LCPC, is a counselor, educator and author. For counseling appointments, seminars, training, speaking engagements or information on Neurobehavioral Programs or Imago Couple therapy call 913-322-5622. For more information about Jude LaClaire or the Kansas City Holistic Centre go to