The Stages of Change

We’ve all met someone who seems stuck.

I’ve always been curious about why certain people “succeed” and others don’t.

Is it in their genetics? Is it the people they’re around? They’re job? age? gender? The region they live? The culture they live in?

There are so many things to consider.

A few years ago I became a mental health nurse & learned a little but more about how and why we change. 

It’s not an exact science but I do think it’s given me a little more insight into the flow of progress. 

So, here are 6 different signs or stages of change.



1 | Precontemplation


There may be an awareness of a behavior but not a belief that a change is needed.

An example would be a smoker who has understanding that it’s not good for them, but no interest in changing it.

A person may even develop an understanding of the benefits of change, but no intention of changing exists.

Typically, natural consequences propel individuals into the next stage of change.

This is why it is crucial to never take away a persons’ natural consequences.

Many times an enabler is linked with an individual who dwells in the precontemplation stage.

signs of change


“You are like a river. You go through life taking the path of least resistance. We all do—all human beings and all of nature.”

Robert Fritz



2 | Contemplation


The motivation to change is increasing, though no plans to change have been made. Consideration is occurring.

Their openness to a different perspective may evolve, though some will move back into the previous stage.

Maybe the smoker grabbed the smoking cessation pamphlet off the counter in the waiting room in this stage of change.

Again, a natural consequence increases the chance that they will question their current ideology/way of living.

signs of change



3 | Preparation


A step further than just hearing the perspectives from others, they’ve sought out resources.

A plan has been developed but no actions to follow through have occurred.

They’re listening now. It’s stewing. The pamphlet has been read…

signs of change



4 | Action


This is when a lot of us notice, they’re doing something!!

They have the nicotine patches & they’re wearing them too.

They’re acting on the plans they made.

An unfamiliar zone has been explored.

They’re abstaining from old behaviors.

signs of change

*Areas that need additional support will be discovered.

It’s important to realize that change takes learning. We learn things about the people around us. We learn about ourselves. A lot of the time we learn things we don’t like learning.

It’s important to give ourselves and others some grace.

Support people, because they’re very likely to go back to familiar habits.

It’s not the time for comments like;

“You’ve never been any good at committing to things.”

“Let’s see how long this lasts…”

Absolutely not.

When we actually start making changes, goals become much more personalized…

We’ve realized that what worked for our cousin or coworker, isn’t working the same for us..

That’s not failing, that’s gaining an understanding; it’s a good thing. 



5 | Maintenance


We need to use problem solving to stay in this stage of change.

Additional coping mechanisms or support have to be developed.

After a period of stability, motivation to maintain the change might diminish and complacency may start regarding changed behavior.


“Every day the clock resets. Your wins don’t matter. Your failures don’t matter. Don’t stress on what was, fight for what could be.”

Sean Higgins


6 | Relapse

Old behavior has occurred.

signs of change

“The more one judges, the less one loves.”

Honore de Balzac


This cycle can spin repeatedly.

We all move back and forth through stages of change.

The ‘Maintenance Stage’ looks different for everyone.

In order to support someone else in their change you should refrain from stepping in the way of their natural consequences.

Use good listening skills, allow them to talk themselves into their change. Ridiculing, insulting, threatening, unsolicited advice and scolding are often ineffective.

A human’s natural reaction is to resist those strategies.

Information on Listening Strategies Here


“I have no faith in human perfectibility. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active – not more happy – nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago.”

If you’re interested in making some changes in your life, I put some more things below that might help.


10 Simple Steps To Success – Free PDF Download


I also created a Downloadable 20+ Page Live Your Dream Life Workbook


live your dream life

Live Your Dream Life Workbook: 10 Simple Steps To Success

The workbook has things like

  •  A Monthly calendar
  • A Weekly calendar
  • A Trajectory map
  • Lots of inspiration
  • Person based writing prompts

If you want to change, take some steps to get you there.


Articles related to The 6 Signs of Change

10 Simple Steps to Success

No Motivation To Do Anything But Not Depressed

10 Good Habits For Growth

Dealing With Triggers In Recovery

What To Do When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed and Stressed



For Weekly Mental Health Content Subscribe To My Newsletter ♡

or


Atomic Habits


Hope Recovery

A non profit organization that offers TONS of free support.

They have virtual individualized therapy and support groups for

  • Eating disorders
  • Abuse
  • PTSD
  • Dissociation
  • Sexual trauma
  • Grief and loss
  • Self esteem
  • Self care
  • Men’s support groups
  • Addiction

They have one on one services and group/workshops. I have joined many of their PTSD groups. I always felt safe & talking to other people that deal with shame was pretty enlightening.



Adult Children of Alcoholics & Dysfunctional Families  | ACOA

Another amazing place to connect. ACOA changed my life. There are thousands of groups and they all have their own flavor. If you don’t like one, leave and try another.

They have guidelines to make you feel safe. You never have to turn on a camera or mic, or speak at all. I sometimes just join to listen to others.

Don’t be turned off if you’re not from an alcoholic family; alcohol aside; there are tons of people that are just as welcome as anyone else.

The groups are for anyone that’s experienced dysfunction and dysfunction comes in MANY forms. 

Being vulnerable is a powerful tool. 

If you’re going to use ‘group therapy’, be mindful of how productive the group is. Hope Recovery, even though free, still has at least one group facilitator who has had some training to keep the group on track and healthy. 

I’ve been to Al Anon groups that completely ignored the crosstalk rule, so just be mindful of how productive the setting is; even if it’s claiming to be helpful. 



Disclosure: This is an affiliate link. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase.