Five Stages of Change


Making positive changes in your life is not always easy. Studies show that of those who make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% are successful in achieving their resolution.

Did you know that making positive changes in your life is a process? Change includes five stages, and it is possible to get stuck in the process. The end result is you are stuck and frustrated that once again your goals and desires evade you.

Five Stages of Change

The Five Stages of Change is a Motivational Interviewing technique used in Person Centered Therapy developed by William Miller and Stephan Rollnick in the early 1980’s. As you examine these five stages, think of a positive change you wish to make, and ask yourself these two questions: Where am I in the process? What is keeping me from moving to the next stage?

Let’s use the example of Josh, a middle aged man who has put on twenty pounds over the last ten years.

Pre-Contemplative: At this stage in the process there is very little in the way of awareness that any change must be made. For instance, friends and family may be making observations and comments that Josh has put on some weight, but he doesn’t see it. Josh continues his current eating habits and lack of exercise, and is unaware of the change that needs to be made. He has no intention of making a change.

Contemplative: One day Josh looks in the mirror and notices that his face is fuller and so is his belly. He recalls some of the comments friends and family are making, and begins to entertain the idea that they may be correct. He is aware a change needs to be made, but has not yet committed to bringing about action to make the change.

Preparation: Josh determines to do something about his weight gain, although he is not sure what steps to take yet. He hires Seth, a life coach, and they begin to talk about Josh’s current situation and his desired future. They both begin to research eating habits to lose weight and exercising to get fit, and also examining Josh’s weekly schedule. Now, the makings of a plan start to form. At Seth’s request, Josh stops by a gym that happens to be on his route home from work, to inquire about membership. Now, he is intentional on following a plan and making a change. Josh begins to take some small steps towards putting an action plan in place, and sets up weekly meetings with Seth to be accountable to the plan.

Action: At this point, Josh is making it happen. He has a plan and is following it. Working with Seth, he has set a target weight, a date to achieve it, and every day is taking positive steps to modify his behavior to achieve those goals. He watches his calories, and exercises at the gym three days a week. Once a week, he has a session with Seth to evaluate the plan and report on progress. He is beginning to see results and feels great about it.

Maintenance: Josh has achieved his goals of weight loss and feels better than he has in quite some time, however, he realizes that his efforts cannot stop here. He and Seth have developed a plan to maintain his current weight and have discussed the triggers leading to relapsing into old habits. They have worked out a maintenance plan that fits his goals and lifestyle, and they meet once a month for encouragement and accountability.

So, change requires a plan that moves you through the stages so you can achieve results! Perhaps the reason positive change has been difficult is that you do not developed a plan and get stuck somewhere in the process. As you can see, a life coach is great support to come along side through the stages and hold you accountable to your plans.

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