Being only five days away from the start of a new near has me thinking a lot about those dreaded resolutions that I always make and soon thereafter break. Going back a year ago, I decided that I would quit calling them resolutions and instead call them goals since that has a much more positive connotation. I’d like to go a bit farther this year and focus on how exactly those goals are met. As I went along in my research I found that it is generally agreed upon that we go through a six-step process in reaching our goals: Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Relapse.
The pre-contemplation stage is where people who have failed to reach their goals in the past often come to stay. In this stage we are not really thinking about the goal too seriously, but may have fleeting thoughts about wanting to make a change or reach a goal. A person may stay in this stage for days, weeks, months, or even years. I’ve spent much time in this stage with momentary thoughts of various things like mastering the art of drawing more than a stick figure or learning to write poetry. Although many times these thoughts may never lead to the next stage in reaching a goal, it should not be dismissed lightly; often the seeds of something wonderful are planted here.
In the contemplation stage we are now actually thinking about our goal. We have moved a step closer to realizing the completed outcome- YAY! This is the perfect stage to begin writing out that handy pros and cons list, since although you are now thinking about reaching a goal, you may not be having all positive thoughts about it. This is a stage where your doubts and excitement may intermingle freely. It is here that you see mental images of your successes and failures. As with pre-contemplation, this stage may last any amount of time.
In this preparation stage, actual action will be made. Forward progress is achieved! In this stage small changes may be made, and materials will be gathered. If a person is deciding to quit smoking, they may start to gather cessation materials such as nicotine gum or quitting hotline numbers. This is the time to educate yourself in how to achieve your goal and set up the support network to help you make it a reality. The time is now to tell friends and family about your goal and what you plan on doing to attain it. Enlisting this type of support will help to make you more successful.
You’re ready; you’re set; now go! The action stage is where you just do it! At this point you have all of the tools and support you need and you are ready to jump in and begin. You are now committed to your goal and you begin to take the necessary step forward. Thid stage tends to be easier since you have excitement and momentum on your side.
In the maintenance stage you are now acting on your goal as a habit. They key is to enjoy your time here. You are living the life you want to lead and have changed for the better. Don’t get in your own way!
Yes, you read that right. There is unfortunately an oops stage called relapse. Lots of things might cause you to slip into this stage, including going on a vacation, or giving into temptation. The good news is although you may have taken a small step backwards, you don’t have to start back at pre-contemplation in order to get back on track. Simply hook back up with action and sail your way back into maintenance!
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Reading about the six-step process has given me hope in reaching the goals I have for myself in 2012. I now know that because I have been actually thinking about my goals, I am already two steps towards achieving them. Knowing that a relapse doesn’t take me to zero also makes these goals seem more attainable.
What are your goals for the New Year? Where are you in the six-step process? Do you have methods of making your goals easier to achieve? I’d love to hear your input! Stays tuned for further details on my own goals for 2012, and remember- You Can Do It!