Welcome to 2020! Right now in your social circles the “buzz” is probably about New Year’s Resolutions. Did you
make any? In this article I’d like to share some perspectives on how we humans make behavioral changes, like resolutions or changes in our relationships with significant others, and in our lives in general.
Resolutions & Change
When it comes to a resolution for a new year, we often start off strong and implement our changes with great gusto. And then our energy for those resolutions begins to wain as results are not produced as quickly as we wanted. We get discouraged and begin to believe that resolution just isn’t going to be accomplished. Perhaps all that is needed, is to apply a different perspective and a little strategy.
A “resolution” is a statement of commitment to change our behavior. Very often we set these resolutions with ill-informed expectations. To accomplish any behavior change in our lives, we must first understand that we are engaging in a process and not accomplishing a single event or goal. This process involves a series of shifts that have ups and downs. It takes endurance and commitment to begin the process of changing.
Understanding our motivation to change …
We also must understand our motivation to change. We need to be ready, willing and able to make the change we desire. To be “ready”, we need to have compared our desired change with other priorities in our life. Is this change really one of the highest priorities I have in my life right now? To be “willing”, we want to ask, How much do I deeply desire to accomplish this change? What am I willing to give up or move to accomplish this change? And to be “able” is to accomplish this change. Do I have the skills, knowledge, resources and self-efficacy to follow up on this behavior change?
The three words, “ready, willing and able” are elements of our motivation. These elements of motivation shift throughout the PROCESS of change.
Prochaska and DiClemente (1984) have researched and studied human behavior and have identified Stages of Change. Here is how they describe what humans go through to accomplish behavior changes.
There are six stages in the Stages of Change:
A person is not yet considering any change, perhaps unwilling or unable.
One is considering the possibility of change – there is ambivalence and uncertainty.
A person is committed to and planning to make a change soon, considering ability and resources
A person is actively making steps of change but is not yet stable in their change
They have achieved the change and are applying new behaviors that maintain the change.
A person has experienced return of former behaviors and must now face consequences and make next steps.
Sticking to Resolutions – the Change Process
According to Prochaska and DiClemente, the above are the typical stages most people go through to accomplish change. People do not automatically move with ease from one stage to the next. In fact, we tend to go back and forth between stages. Most often we linger in the early stages of change.
Movement between the stages of change occur when motivation (ready, willing, able) interact with the dynamic
aspects of change in real life. They also remind us that recurrence is a typical expectation at varied points in the change process. Because people usually do not sustain behavior change immediately. It does not mean a person has abandoned a commitment to change.
So, what is the big take away from this information? As members of families that deal with substance use disorders (SUD) and the changes inherent in recovery, it is imperative to understand the process of change and the
various shifts that go into accomplishing and maintaining change. This information applies to the changes you desire to make towards your loved ones with SUDs and the change process they are engaged in accomplishing.
I hope you are on target with your New Year’s Resolutions. And I I wish a Happy New Year to all our readers. I especially want to wish a Happy New Year to and thank my co-worker, Natalie Sernick, LLMSW, for helping me to rekindle my excitement for the change process!