Everybody has a behavior that they would like to change. Whether it is to eat healthier, quit smoking, or reduce the amount of stress encountered, there are certain steps that should be taken in order for the behavior change to become permanent.
The first step in eliminative bad habits is one that most people are not even aware that they take. It is called precontemplation and is the stage wherein the negative conduct takes place. At this stage, you or someone you love drinks too much, gambles beyond their means, or engages in other bad acts. There is no thought or risk assessment given.
The next stage, called contemplation, is when serious consideration is given to changing and eliminating the bad behavior. It is not always known what causes a shift from precontemplation to contemplation. It could be anything from a comment by a doctor or friend, to a trip to the emergency room for life-saving treatment.
Regardless of what gets you to move from the first stage to the second, the contemplation stage contains obstacles that often cause people to get stuck at step two. If this happens, you need to find and activate a motivating belief or another way to think about the value of the change being contemplated.
The next step is known as both determination and preparation for action. At this stage, one begins to acknowledge and accept that a problematic behavior that they have needs to be changed. This is the stage where cigarettes and junk food are thrown out and gym memberships are purchased. This is also the time in which those looking to adjust their actions for the better will see a doctor for a complete health assessment.
Family and friends can provide assistance by encouraging the individual to seek professional help. However, the person with the problem must be the one to take the first step in altering their conduct. This may seem like the hardest step to take.
Once you or a loved one is ready, then action can be taken. Wisdom, in the form of behavior, finally manifests. There is no more smoking, there is salad eating and exercising, and change is made.
After a considerable time of action, one can then move into the final step or stage, which is maintenance. At this time, the behavior has been successfully changed and the person who has done so is reaping the rewards. This is when one continues to go to the gym or continues to eat well. Maintaining a new behavior is the most challenging part of any behavior change because, in order to do so, one must truly be happy. This is because unhappiness is often what led one to partake in the behavior that needed to be changed.
Relapse is the final stage and while it is optional, it is quite difficult to avoid and should, therefore, be looked at as part of the process and not as failure. As this will enable you to return to the desired behaviors quicker and not simply stay with the dangerous or unhealthy ones.