Have you ever known anybody who seems to make decisions quickly and easily? Unhappy in a relationship? BAM! They are out. Job sucking them dry? BOOM! They have quit and are lining up the next thing before you can bat an eye. They seem to do it effortlessly and without much second guessing.
I am envious of those type of people because I am so not one of them. When I have a big change coming in my life, I consider and contemplate. I move forward one step then I rush back two, peeking my head around the corner to see how the dust has settled. Over the years, I have learned to be less frustrated with myself about this ( although I still have my moments) and to know this is just the process that gets me from point A to B.
Turns out, I am not the only one! In fact this back and forth is quite common and has even been studied by several people. A while back I found the work of two of them ( Prochaska and Diclemente) and it really helped me to understand myself better. If you make decisions slowly and with great consideration, perhaps this will help you too!
The two researchers posited that there were 5 stages folks go trough as they contemplate change in whatever way that looks in their lives.
The first stage is Precontemplation. This is when a person is not ready to change. They are blisfully ignorant that their behavior or decisions is having any impact on them or anyone else. They are just fine thank you very much. This is much like a woman who is a compulsive over eater, but does not see that her actions are contributing to her pain or the pain of those she loves. She’s not trying to be purposely hurtful; she simply does not see that she what her actions do.
The second stage is Contemplation. In this stage, the person is getting ready to change. They become aware in some form the pain their way of life is causing, but they are just as aware that change is hard work and may not be worth it or they may be afraid to fail. There is real ambivalence about moving forward on a new path or staying on their current one. For me, this has been an especially maddening part of my journey- I can see on some level that I don’t want to be doing what I am doing, and yet I am not sure I’m ready to do it differently. It’s where I have learned that patience and self compassion pay off in spades!
The third stage is Preparation. Here, a person intends to take action in the very near future. This may look like our compulsive eater contacting a therapist or nutritionist. There is a gathering of resources and a calling in of support and a team that will help with the process. When I knew I was preparing to leave a horrible relationship several years ago, I started going to Al Anon, I told my friends what I was doing and I got in therapy. The thing about this place is that you can’t unsee what you have seen about your own role in your misery. It’s not comfortable but also very freeing at the same time.
Next is the Action Stage. This is where shit gets done. There is deep work that happens here are the person commits to showing up a whole new way. Maybe it’s going to AA, or cutting off contact with your toxic mother. The rubber meets the road at this point. When I have hit this phase in my own life, I have become willing do most anything for my own healing.
Last comes Maintenance. You have made significant changes and have put systems and supports in your life to make the changes stick. This is where you really start to enjoy the fruits of you labor.
Though this was not explicitly stated, I have also come to believe that there can be an overlap of the stages. We get ready for action and then we retreat back to contemplation. We take a step toward big change, then we pull ourselves back a bit. And it’s ok. It does not mean we are going to be stuck in whatever place we are forever. It’s just the ebb and flow of how most of us come to any sort of pivotal change in our lives. And the kinder we can be to ourselves as we are in process, the faster we will move.
If you are at any stage of this process and want to know how I can support you, please reach out! Help is available, even if you are not entirely sure you want it!
With so much love,