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The Stages of Change

The process of change isn’t linear.

The process of change isn’t linear.

Around the time Journey’s hit, Don’t Stop Believing, skyrocketed to the top of the charts, two researchers, James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente, invented a new construct of behavior change that would dramatically influence their field. This theory, the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (or TTM), is widely used today as a tool to assess whether or not a person is ready to adopt a healthier behavior. TTM has stuck around for nearly forty years as the dominant lens that behavior change specialists use when working with a new client, and it encompasses six stages that individuals will encounter during any health transformation, including addiction recovery.

These stages are:

Precontemplation (“I’m not ready!” Or, “No Interest!”) - People hanging out at this stage have no intention of taking action in the foreseeable future, and often don’t realize they’re engaged in a problematic behavior. The drunk driver forced by a court judge to attend AA might be examples of people who fall into the precontemplation stage.


Contemplation (“I’ll think about it, but I’m still not ready!”) These folks have some inkling that their behavior is sabotaging their well-being, and will start to weigh the pros and cons. Negative consequences are on their mind, but change might feel a little too hard. 

Preparation (“Let’s do this!”) Individuals at the preparation stage are gearing up for action in the immediate future, and have begun taking small steps forward to address their self-sabotaging behavior. I generally meet people at the preparation stage. They’ve already read up on the issue they’re dealing with, and they’re trying to make manageable changes within the blueprint of their former life.

Action (“Check me out!”)  Superheroes in the action stage are fully engaged in reconfiguring their health and environment, and have made measurable modifications to their lifestyle in order to achieve their goals. They’re not afraid to ask for help, and they have probably enlisted a coach, therapist, personal trainer, doctor, or nutritionist for guidance and accountability.

Maintenance (“This IS Me!”) Here’s your butterfly. She’s been sustaining positive action for at least six months and works to prevent a relapse into old, nasty behaviors.

Termination (“What bad habit?”) A much debated category, termination represents people who are no longer tempted by their past and know they won’t again use their old habits as a coping strategy. This sixth stage has also been used for “Relapse,” where the individual has gone back to their old behavior. This stage was not included in the original version of TTM but was added as Termination to Prochaska’s updated model. 

While these stages are sometimes sequential, people can move in and out of a particular stage at any time— particularly in the first year of a health-related behavioral shake up.

Action: Give some thought to these stages of change in relation to your own habits. 

Power Question: Is there at least one health-related behavior that you’d like to change? Where do you currently sit on this model? 

Thanks for reading! Have you had any experience with using the Stages of Change to adopt a new habit or alter a behavior? I’d love to hear from you- leave your thoughts in the comments below. This is post #4 in an extended series on habit change.



Event: Creating Your Vision for 2015

Creating my new Vision Board for 2015 and assessing the old one. I accomplished a few biggies this year! 

Creating my new Vision Board for 2015 and assessing the old one. I accomplished a few biggies this year! 

Around this time each and every year, millions of people all over the world begin thinking about what they want to achieve and what they could be doing differently to have a more authentic and meaningful life. Some lament about opportunities and goals that have passed by unfulfilled, while others focus on resolutions and new beginnings. Have you ever said to yourself, “next year will be different”? The truth is, without a vision of our dreams, as well as a process to make them come alive, it's extremely challenging to achieve our goals. 

As you may already know, five years ago my life and my health were in the gutter. I came to realize that if I wanted to change my reality, I needed to be clear about what my desired future looked like. So, I began the practice of visualizing, crafting stories that represented the me I wanted to be through pictures and words. My life has changed remarkably from those many years of being trapped in the gutter, and that change was due in large part to the ladder I built with my imagination, which allowed me to finally climb out. Visualization tools like Vision Boards were the rungs of that ladder.

Whether you're aiming to complete your first half marathon, launch a business, improve your health, build your dream home, trek around the planet or bring more mindfulness into your daily life, having a clear picture of what you want can help you develop a more positive frame of mind, map out your desired future and set you into forward motion. A Vision Board— a collage of images and words that represent your aspirations— is a powerful tool for goal setting and transformation.

On Saturday, Dec. 6th, I’ll be holding a 3-hour workshop that will teach you how to create your own Vision Board for 2015.  We'll also explore how you can set your vision into motion through process creation. This workshop is back by popular demand and space goes fast, so sign up early! All supplies, coffee and tea are provided.

The link to register is here:

I wish you a bold, brave and bright vision for 2015! Hope to see you on Saturday, December 6th.


© Tangram Fitness 2013