Stages of Readiness to Change: Meeting Yourself Where You Are

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Are you wanting to know how to make a change in your life? Though a ‘one size fits all’ answer would be nice, it turns out that what’s effective depends a lot on your own readiness for change.

    Take an honest look at what benefits it has in your life. It’s probably a lot easier and more comfortable to do nothing, for example. But there is, of course, a price to pay for doing nothing as well.  

-Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark

Take exercising as an example. There’s a big difference between someone who occasionally drives past the gym and has a fleeting thought of wanting to go more vs. a person who has already committed to an exercise program. And as you would imagine, their needs are also very different.

All week long, we’re going to be talking about motivation and behavioral change strategies designed for different stages of the change process. But to get the conversation started, here’s a brief description of Drs. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente’s stages of change and some quick ideas on what’s most helpful as you progress forward in the change process:    


This is where we all start. In this stage, we’re not even aware that there’s a problem and have little to no motivation to change.


By this point, people have some recognition that there may be a problem and start weighing the pros and cons of making changes vs. maintaining the status quo.    


At this phase, someone has made the decision to change and has begun to actively prepare for it (e.g., getting advice or researching options), perhaps by even making small behavioral changes (e.g., joining a community with similar goals).


This is where the work of change happens! Problematic behaviors are modified and steps are taken to keep improving (e.g., starting to exercise and setting reasonable fitness goals).


By now, change has more or less become part of one’s routine. But old habits can be hard to break. And a natural part of the change process is to have occasional setbacks and revert back to familiar patterns. The trick to maintenance is to respond effectively to these setbacks and lean how to bounce back. Come back for more on that this Friday!

When people are in the Precontemplation and Contemplation stages of change, it’s not really helpful to focus on specific skills and strategies for making change.

They’re still trying to make up their mind about whether or not they really want to do it.

In this early phase it’s often most productive to closely consider the positive and negative aspects of behaviors that are under consideration for the chopping block. Take an honest look at what benefits it has in your life. It’s probably a lot easier and more comfortable to do nothing, for example. But there is, of course, a price to pay for doing nothing as well.

EXCLUSIVE – Try Our Decisional Balance Worksheet and Get Yourself Motivated for Change

Looking at your actions from all of these vantage points can help you to move forward in the change process and make up your mind about how serious you really are about making a change. Once you have a certain level of commitment and move into the Preparation and Action stages, it can then be helpful to start learning about specific skills for making change happen. Tune in for more on that in Thursday’s article on strategies for making change stick!

So, what kinds of changes are you thinking about making in your life? What stage of the change process are you in right now? Let us know in the comments below.



DiClemente, C. C., & Prochaska, J. O. (1998). Toward a comprehensive, transtheoretical model of change: Stages of change and addictive behaviors. In W. R. Miller & N. Heather (Eds.), Applied Clinical Psychology. Treating Addictive Behaviors (pp. 3-24). New York, NY, US: Plenum Press.

Marshall, S. J., & Biddle, S. J. (2001). The transtheoretical model of behavior change: A meta-analysis of applications to physical activity and exercise. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 23, 229-246.

Norcross, J. C., Krebs, P. M., & Prochaska, J. O. (2011). Stages of change. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 67, 143-154.

Prochaska, J. O., & Velicer, W. F. (1997). The transtheoretical model of health behavior change. American Journal of Health Promotion, 12, 38-48.


One thought on “Stages of Readiness to Change: Meeting Yourself Where You Are

  • March 20, 2018 at 10:03 am

    I am a diet soda drinker and I have been in the contemplative stage of quitting. Everything I read says it is bad for my health – I am more likely to have a stroke or cardiac arrest – but I am healthy now and drinking diet soda really helps me to not overeat. And I really enjoy drinking it!!! So, am I really motivated enough to quit??? I am contemplating the issue….


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