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Stages of Change: Planning and Preparation

This is the third part in a series of articles describing the ‘Stages of Change’ model of behavior modification. In the previous two articles, we discussed the ‘Pre-Contemplation’ and ‘Contemplation’ phases of change. To bring us up to speed, during the ‘Pre-Contemplation’ phase, the person has no thought of changing a negative or detrimental behavior. This is the ‘denial phase.’ During the second stage, ‘Contemplation’, the individual has begun to weigh the costs and benefits of making a particular change. Today, we will talk about the third stage: Preparation (or Planning) stage of change. Remember, as we all consider making changes to improve our lives, it rarely occurs as a single event. This series of stages in the ‘change’ process is extraordinarily common and it helps doctors, clinicians, psychologists, social workers and many other support mechanisms understand the best way to support a particular person’s needs.

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How to change

The ‘planning and preparation’ stage of change looks like this. The person has now, FINALLY! :-), decided that a change is needed. What occurs during this stage are thoughts about HOW exactly this change will occur according to the particular individual's terms. Sometimes, this is when support is most necessary, as with any difficult change, it is hard to be honest with yourself about what will be the most effective course of action. So, consulting your doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist or family might not be a bad idea if you find yourself ‘planning’ to make a change. This is very important, so pay attention…you need not consult your doctor, therapist, psychiatrist, nutritionist AND your family to help you decide the best course of action. Too many sources of outside input can be very, very confusing and may set you back to the ‘Contemplation’ stage. If the change is medical, see your doctor. If your change is regarding the diet, see the nutritionist…you get the point. An example of something that might be decided during the ‘planning and preparation’ stage, might be something like removing certain high-FODMAP foods that you eat frequently before completely switching to a strict low-FODMAP diet. If someone believes that they are not getting enough exercise they may begin the change by taking long walks before buying that rock climbing equipment… Remember that before making any medical, medication or dietary change, that it is important to consult your physician. We are built a lot differently, both physiologically and psychologically, so it’s important that we consult an expert when we are in unfamiliar waters.

So we made it to ‘planning and preparation’ after refusing the need for any change during ‘Pre-Contemplation’ and wondering what it might be like to change during the ‘Contemplation’ phase. I think we’re doing well, how about you? As you can see, this process applies to all of us, and the way we decide to alter our behaviors for the better. Remember that we are all different animals and that your plan might be more or less complicated that someone else in the this stage. Whereas, one person might decide they are not going to eat apples and Greek yogurt anymore, another person might develop a calendar to tell them exactly when and where certain changes are taking place. Neither is better or worse, it all depends on YOU. We will talk more about ‘Stages of Change’ in a future article about the next phase; ACTION.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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