Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stages of Change

On a bike trip around BC years ago, I stopped for a latte in a little café/gift store and saw one of those small tiles with a motivational saying that has stuck with me ever since.

“Nobody can pedal the bike for you,” it said, and it was as true on Highway 20 as it has been on my journey to a healthy weight.

However, by understanding what we and our loved ones are facing, we can help ourselves and them.

Psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente identified several stages that people go through as they try to make a change in their behaviour. According to a tutorial created by the Canadian organization Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, this is how it goes:
1.   Pre-contemplation: not even thinking about making a change
2.   Contemplation: thinking about changing, but not ready to act
3.   Preparation: planning what to do
4.   Action: doing it
5.   Maintenance: keeping it up

Relapse, going back to a previous stage, can happen at any point as well, and is simply part of the change process.

We can do the work for ourselves, but we can’t do it for a friend who’s trying to quit smoking or a sister who wants to lose 50 pounds.

However, we can help and here are a few suggestions from CAMH:

While your friend’s in the Contemplation stage:
• help her review the pros and cons of continuing with the behaviour, and of changing it.
• encourage her to talk about making the change
• show your confidence in her

• ask for permission to suggest options
• encourage small, initial steps
• help to identify and remove barriers

• offer practical advice
• follow up regularly
• talk about her strengths and successes

• help identify what worked
• remind her of the positive changes she’s made
• help plan for situations that might lead to relapse

I didn’t buy that inspirational tile because, hey, I was pedaling a bike. I didn’t want to haul even a few extra ounces in my saddlebags (and there’s a metaphor for you).

The words and the meaning have stayed with me, though, and helped me take responsibility for my own changes.

However, even though I have to pedal my own bike, I appreciate it when my friends and family pump up my tires, hand me my helmet, and send up their wishes for a following wind.


  1. I like it. Quite true!


  2. I'm glad it resonates with you, MT! It does for me, too. I value the support, although I like it best when my friends go light on the advice part:)