At some point, you just move forward
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Changing for Good

“Just Do It,” the magazine ads scream. If you want to stop smoking, start swimming laps, add more fiber to your diet, organize your tape collection, or lower your stress level (so the story goes), then pull up your socks and transform yourself.

“Do it now,” they shout.
After all, the very quality of your existence is at stake here, and you want to enhance your health and happiness. You want to move forward in order to have a better life, and in some cases, you know your bad habits could endanger your life.
The dangerous mythology in this bootstrap philosophy of “Just Do It,” suggests:
* Changing is simple and easy.
* All it takes is will power.
* It’s an either/or process: Either you’re changing or you’re not.
* If you’ve tried and failed, something must be very wrong with you.If you buy into these myths and begin a self-improvement program expecting steady progress, you will almost certainly hit insurmountable obstacles. You’ll eventually throw up your hands saying, “Nothing works. I’ll never change. I’m stuck, so why try anymore?”

Sound familiar?

If “Just Do It” is such a straightforward business, why is it so hard to squeeze into that favorite outfit, keep your blood pressure in check, eat more salads, cut back on the Jack Daniels, or do those sit-ups every morning?

If reshaping your life is so effortless, why haven’t you done it? Don’t you want to change?

Of course you do, and your old habits aren’t sticking with you from a lack of effort or character. Even though you’ve used a heroic amount of will power, you still pick up the cigarette; you watch—horrified–as the numbers on the scale creep upward again; and you don’t write that article.

Result? You’re frustrated, discouraged, and you feel like a failure.

So why have your efforts crashed in the past? Why have you made progress, only to backslide miserably? If you’ve worked so hard and still spun your wheels in disappointment with yourself, what’s wrong?

Two things:

* You haven’t understood the underlying structure of the change process.

* You haven’t gotten enough of the right kind of support for each stage of growth.

According to scientific studies, change involves six stages, but nothing actually happens until stage four: Action. Up to that point, there is no outward evidence that change is taking place. However, if the essential groundwork has not been laid in the preceding Precontemplation, Contemplation, and Preparation phases, any actions you take in the fourth stage are likely to fail.

After conducting over fifty scientific studies with thousands of individuals attempting to change their lives, university researchers James Prochaska, John Norcross, and Carlo DiClemente consolidated their findings into a book. If you’re ready to reshape even a small part of your life, you’ll want to get Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward (Avon Books, 1995). This well-written and researched book is available in both paperback and cassette.

So it’s not your fault! You’ve been doing the best you could, but you’ve been handed faulty assumptions. And you’ve tried to go it alone, when science tells us that social support is crucial to successful change.



Once you’ve begun, don’t forget that back-tracking is part of the change process. Expect to recycle through the stages occasionally. And if you’re thoroughly disgusted with yourself, that’s a good sign. That means you’re emerging out of a necessary Pre-contemplation phase and moving toward Contemplation, Preparation, and Action on that particular issue.

And if anyone suggests “Get a grip,” “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps,” or “Just do it,” feel free to give ‘em a little tap with your copy of Changing for Good