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I Think (Maybe?) I Can!

We’re rolling along on our journey through Dr. James Prochaska and collaborators’ Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTMC). This month’s stage, Contemplation, has me chanting the mantra of the Little Engine That Could: “I think I can; I think I can . . . .”

Here's a quick reminder of the TTMC five stages of change:

  1. Precontemplation

  2. Contemplation

  3. Preparation

  4. Action

  5. Maintenance

We move into Contemplation when we start to entertain the idea that maybe a behavior is worth changing. And just maybe we can actually do something to change it in the next 6 months or less.

For instance, most of us have PLENTY of head-knowledge about things that are “good” for us, like eating vegetables--or exercising, or drinking water, or (fill in the blank). We don’t really need more information!

What we need is the motivation or incentive to actually ADD IN the good stuff we’re missing. Or, in some cases, to cut back or cut out some things that aren’t good for us. (Like toxic people, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking . . . .)

Imagine behavior change as a train stopped on the tracks. It takes a lot of energy to get a locomotive moving. BUT once it’s in motion, things get so much easier! When we’re in Contemplation, we’re considering ways to start that engine moving down the tracks. A whole lot of risk vs. reward/pros vs. cons pondering happens as we hang out in Contemplation, trying to muster the energy to move in a different direction.

One way to start moving is to generate a pros and cons list. You may have done that when considering buying something expensive, moving somewhere new, or changing jobs.

However, there’s a tweak to that process that makes it even more effective. Often we focus on just the pros and cons of making the change. But that leaves out considering why we might choose NOT to change our behavior: what the pros and cons of NO change? Using a Decisional Balance worksheet is one way to make sure we’re exploring all sides. The included link is just one example. (There are plenty of online options with additional questions and instructions if you’re interested.)

Taking time to ponder behavior is nothing new to the God who created us. One example comes as Jesus looks at the large crowd of followers and wants them to contemplate the cost of being his disciple:

Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish. Luke 14:28-30

Or Paul encouraging the Philippian congregation:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8

Contemplating a change that aligns with our faith and our values--including taking care of the body, mind, spirit and relationships God has given us--is a good thing.

Here are some things to try if you’re contemplating a change:

  1. Pray for God’s wisdom as you contemplate.

  2. Use the Decisional Balance worksheet found in the link above to work through the pros and cons of changing vs. staying the same.

  3. If you’re thinking about adding a healthy behavior (walking more, focused bible study, etc.) you’ve done in the past, list the people and structures (calendar, new shoes, location) that helped you be successful.

  4. Take each of the pros for the change (found on your Decisional Balance worksheet) and write how you’d feel/look/act if each one came true.

  5. Consider hiring a life coach or getting a supportive accountability buddy to join you on your journey. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

May God give you the wisdom of His Spirit as you work through Contemplation on your way to our next stage: Preparation.

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