This is the fourth article in my series related to Prochaska and DiClemente’s stages of change.

When my son Barrett turned 18, my husband and I had to relocate from North Carolina to Virginia for work. Mike and I left Barrett to take care of himself and our house.

As you can imagine, we were a little nervous leaving that significant responsibility to Barrett. So, we prepared him. Mike talked him through the various aspects of taking care of the house. I made a notebook with the names and phone numbers of the various people and businesses we used related to home maintenance. Mike showed Barrett where the water cutoff was and reviewed the nuances of the breaker box.

In the past three articles I have explored Prochaska and DiClemente’s first three stages of change: precontemplation, contemplation, and preparation.

In this week’s article we’ll consider my son Barrett, who spent his senior year of high school hanging out with friends, acting in the school play, and making movies with the family video camera. He didn’t even apply to colleges.

He explained, “Mom, when I’m in high school I want to be in high school. I don’t want to be thinking about college all the time.” So, he didn’t apply to colleges. Classic first-stage behavior: precontemplation with no interest in even thinking about his future.

As our move date got closer, Barrett began to express concern and overwhelm about what was coming. He questioned how he would handle taking care of the house. He admitted he wanted to go to college, but he felt too stressed to do anything about it. Classic second-stage behavior: contemplation.

Eventually, Barrett began an active decision-making process. He asked questions (What do I do if the electricity goes off?) and did some research (What is a community college and what would I need to do to apply?). Yep, classic third-stage behavior: preparation in anticipation of change.

The next step for Barrett was the action stage. He made an appointment with his school counselor, took a tour of the community college, and put in an application. He initiated more activity related to home maintenance. If something needed to be done, he offered to do it.

After the moving truck left, and Mike and I said our goodbyes, Barrett was fully in charge and excited about it.

I remember feeling very excited as I started my new life after bariatric surgery. I was attending support groups, setting a new walking regimen into motion, and following all the guidelines I had been given. As we all can imagine, Barrett wasn’t destined for a perfectly smooth ride, and after my surgery, neither was I. That’s why the last stage is so important.

This final stage, maintenance, is the time during which we solidify the changes we have made and work to prevent backsliding into old ways of thinking, feeling, believing, and behaving.

Your Assignment

Consider practicing “action” this week. As I like to say, motivation follows action, so if you feel resistant to taking action, keep the bar low, but do something – you might surprise yourself.

Reference: Prochaska and DiClemente’s (1983) Stages of Change Model

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