Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stage 3: Preparation

I’ve been talking about the Transtheoretical Model of Change and how to work with the first two stages of the model to make changes that last. In this post, I talk about Stage 3: Preparation.

Stage 3: Preparation or “I’m getting my stuff together to make that change.”

In Stage 3 you prepare to change. Preparation means “to put yourself in proper condition or readiness.” Stage 3 is about making it as easy as possible for you to accomplish your goal. You’ve done a lot of pre-prep work in Stages 1 and 2 by getting answers to some really important questions. Now that you know the why, what, how, when and who of your goal, you take that information and literally prepare to change.

In this stage, you’ll work in the same areas my sister did when she redecorated her bathroom. She did her pre-prep work, so she knew what color she wanted to paint the walls and how she wanted the redecorated room to look and feel. Yesterday, she moved into preparation. She gathered her tools: paintbrushes, stirrers, paint pan and roller, plus the tools to install the fixtures. She went to the store and bought the paint and the fixtures she wanted. She prepared her environment: she taped the molding, mirrors and vanity in the room. She put on some old paint clothes, goggles and a cap. She asked for help: she asked her son and husband to help her shop and install the fixtures, which they gladly did.

Why is it so important that she did those things? Because when the time came for her to actually paint the room (make the change), it went very easily and the painting took no time at all. Imagine how long it could have taken had she not prepared. She could have dripped paint on the untaped molding or accidentally hit it with her paintbrush. Without her tools nearby, she would have had numerous interruptions as she went searching for each tool she needed. Without her son’s assistance, she wouldn’t have ended up with the fixture he picked out (which was perfect) and which he got at half price.

So how do you use Stage 3 to your advantage? Take the answers to your Stage 1 and 2 questions and:

Gather Your Tools – You know the change you want to make and you know the what, where, when, how and who of your change. Now start gathering your tools. Decided to lose weight by following a specific plan? Sign up for the program or get the book, get the food, get the accessories (i.e., scales, measuring cups, etc.). Decided to get organized at home? Go buy the containers, holders, shelves and organizers; gather the tools to install these things. Have the necessary tools available. And don’t fret if you don’t get them all. You’ll adapt as you go.

Prepare Your Environment – Prepare your surroundings to be supportive. If you’ve decided to lose weight by following a specific plan, stock your cupboards with the foods on that plan and get rid of the foods that aren’t part of it. If you want to spend more time pursuing creative endeavors, fill your house with things that inspire you, get rid of things that drain you or suck your time, like television or surfing the Internet.

Preparing the environment often means getting rid of things and people that don’t support us. When I decided to stop using drugs and alcohol, I stopped hanging out in bars and going to parties; places I knew I’d be tempted to use. I stopped hanging out with friends who tried to sabotage my decision not to use. It was hard at first, because I wanted to be around my friends. What I found out was that I had two kinds of friends: those who supported me and were willing to stop using around me and those who wouldn’t stop using around me and who were even mad at me because I wouldn’t use. Can you guess which kind of friends made my decision to stop using easier?

Enlist Help – Find the people, books, tapes, and literature that can help you make those lasting changes. Want to get in shape? Find a workout buddy, find a trainer, ask a friend who has a body you envy to support you. Want to be more organized? Read books on organization, ask a well-organized friend or family member to assist you, find a professional organizer and book a couple of sessions. Want to improve the quality of your life? Hire a coach, book some time with a therapist, go see a trusted pastor or talk with a good friend has what you’re looking for.

Let people know how you’d like their help to look. Be clear with them. Ask for what you want. If they can’t help you, find someone else. The world is full of people who would LOVE to see you succeed. Set scheduled times to meet. Consistent help is one of the keys to making changes that last. Your change will not be sweeter because you did it alone. We do NOTHING on this planet without the help of others. If you think otherwise, consider this. Who grows your food, makes your clothes or manufactures the goods you use everyday? I’d guess it’s not you. If you’re the kind of person who thinks they do better alone, take another look at the amount of support you rely on everyday just to live. Get support for yourself, and the changes you want to make will come about much more easily.

Use Stage 3 to set yourself up for successful change; change that lasts. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Do not fail to prepare. You’ll be amazed at the results.

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