Here's your handy reminder of the stages we're exploring in the Transtheoretical Model of Change:
1. Precontemplation (I’m NOT ready for change.)
2. Contemplation (I’m THINKING about maybe making a change.)
3. Preparation (I’m GETTING READY to take some action.)
4. Action (I’m DOING it; I’m making a change!)
5. Maintenance (I’m consistently maintaining the positive behavior change I made.)
Many of us are familiar with Midwestern comedian Charlie Behrens and his phrase "Keep 'er Movin'!" Regardless of what's going on in his Wisconsin world, his reminder to keep moving forward without getting bogged down is wrapped up in that catchy line.
Seems simple, right? If you've worked hard to make positive changes, of course, you'd want to "keep 'er movin'!" Yet, if you're anything like me, it's sometimes hard to live in "Maintenance," our final stage of change, because maintaining consistent positive behavior takes intentional effort.
Let's say you got really motivated and made the decision to add exercise to your schedule. You adjusted your calendar, started out with small increments of time, kept it reasonable (e.g., walking 20 minutes each day 3-5 days/week vs. running a marathon), and you were DOING it! You scheduled those walks just like you scheduled meetings. You set reminders, so you didn't miss a step. For two weeks you found a way to walk 3-5 days each week, whether outside or on a treadmill.
And then, BAM! - life hit:
Christmas came, and you traveled to your in-laws' place and forgot to pack your walking shoes.
The temperature dropped below zero, the winds started howling, and you couldn't bear to bundle up and head outside to walk OR even drive to the gym.
Your walking buddy hurt her knee, and it's just not the same to walk alone.
YOU hurt your knee and are resting under doctor's orders.
Your mom got sick and you needed to spend time helping her.
You get the idea. It takes intention and effort to start a healthy habit, whether it's exercise, getting more sleep, drinking more water, adding more veggies to our meals, or spending more time in God's Word. You didn't intend to fall off the wagon. You WANT that healthy habit to continue, but . . . .
First, realize that life is messy and we rarely maintain healthy change in the way we envision. Give yourself a little grace, but don't let life's messiness become an excuse to surrender!
Second, remind yourself of the progress you've made. Again, our mantra is "progress not perfection." Only God is perfect! Take a deep breath, celebrate what's worked in the past, and recommit yourself to restarting and moving ahead.
Third, look at your current schedule realistically. Could you walk around inside your house for shorter, more frequent bursts? Could you incorporate strength training and/or stretching to compensate for your injury or the weather? Action is the antidote to get us movin' forward with our goals. Small progress is still progress!
Go ahead and be honest with yourself about where you are in the change process. It's normal to move in and out of the stages, but the more time we spend in maintenance, the easier it becomes to pop back into it when life threatens to keep us stuck. Remember that we're meant to travel this world together. Part of being brave is admitting we ALL need help! Enlist the support of a trusted, friend, family member, co-worker, or well-being coach to be your guide on the side as you move with a healthy focus into the New Year!
Wisdom and joy to you, my friends!