One of the most tested models for changing behavior assumes five stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.
The idea is not to hurry or skip stages. You need each stage to move to the next one.
1. Pre-contemplation. You have no intention of making a change, whether because you lack information or because you’ve failed before and feel demoralized.
2. Contemplation. Generally, this means people who say they’re considering a change in the next six months. They actually may vacillate much longer.
Help yourself move to the next stage by making a list of pros and cons, then examining the cons and thinking about how to overcome them.
3. Preparation. At this point, you know things must change, you believe you can do it, and you start making plans.
You’ve taken initial steps. Now you must create an action plan with realistic goals.
4. Action. You’ve made the change. Now you’ve begun to face challenges arising because of the change. Practice alternatives. Be clear about your motivation. Get support.
5. Maintenance. Once you’ve practiced a new behavior for six months, you’re in the maintenance stage.
You may be tempted to stop thinking about it, but you can’t. You’ve got to integrate that change into everything and avoid relapse.
— Adapted from “Why behavior change is hard—and why you should keep trying,” Harvard Women’s Health Watch.