August - Growth through Change
August is here and we are now midway between the Summer Solstice and Autumnal Equinox. The light is starting to wane as the days slowly become shorter, vacations are wrapping up, kids are squeezing in the last bit of freedom before school starts and us adults are frantically finishing up the summer projects.
The month was named after Caesar Augustus, the time of celebration for several of his greatest triumphs. Are you celebrating the conquest of any of your goals this year? Have you made great plans and are seeing them blossom? Have you altered some behaviors but are struggling to maintain the change?
Change does not happen linearly but through a cycle of repetition. As presented in Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward by Prochaska, Norcross and Diclemente, it is a spiraling upward through phases of Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and Termination, often times interrupted with moments of Relapse. Real change is difficult but is possible. This is a science based approach that helped me through several major changes in my life including alcohol recovery and smoking cessation.
One of the most troublesome stages can be Maintenance. Have you made the commitment, laid the plans, taken the action and seeing results but finding it hard to keep going? This year, I chose several goals that I myself am struggling to maintain. Changing for Good lists Nine Change Processes to aid in progressing through the steps and a good reminder of how to keep on track.
These Processes are not meant to be a list to go through one by one and check off but a resource of tools to help push through barriers and keep your momentum. For each person, some will work better than others and at different times throughout the change process.
Consciousness Raising, increasing ones awareness and education about the benefits of changing behavior, is an excellent starting place. I couple this with Self-Reevaluation, taking stock where one is now and envisioning where one wants to be. And add a dash of Commitment, explicitly telling oneself that they can and will transform, harnessing the power of positive self talk. It is especially effective when sharing it with others about this new goal, which adds the benefit of positive peer pressure.
Bringing this home with some Visualization through Meditation and it can really fuel the winds of change in your life. Some of these processes can also be found in Alcohol Recovery programs like AA and especially S.M.A.R.T. and can be applied to any change goal you may have. They are concrete tools to not only start the process of change but gives you a roadmap to determine where you are, what you can do to keep moving forward, and what to do when you relapse.
Creating the life you want requires courage, risk, hard work and commitment but is indescribably fulfilling and liberating when realized. Just like running a marathon or scaling a mountain, it all begins with taking that first step and then the next and the next and the next to keep moving forward. You do have the power to be you!
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This groundbreaking book offers simple self-assessments, informative case histories, and concrete examples to help clarify each stage and process. Whether your goal is to start saving money, to stop drinking, or to end other self-defeating or addictive behaviors, this revolutionary program will help you implement positive personal change . . . for life.