This week I feel like I’ve entered the “preparation” phase, the third of five stages of change. Stage three includes recognizing that change is imminent. But how remains unclear. In the preparation stage, we gather strategies and resources, take three steps forward and two back, and start to grow a sense of self-efficacy that maybe we CAN, indeed, change. The events that helped me move into this stage included a foggy hike of South Tiger Loop, a community-wide Yard Share event, and discovering my Change Capacity Assessment has improved over one I completed four months ago. What are you trying to change? Which of the five stages of change are you in?
South Tiger Loop
Last week’s adventure included exploring South Tiger Mountain Loop with Ajax and a friend. My daughter chose to sleep in that morning. My friend warned me that someone had reported a bear where we were headed. That was a double incentive for me, as I adore bears. Whether she felt nervous or just excited to get me caught up on her summer, I don’t know, but she maintained a constant chatter for much of the hike.
Every so often I dropped back to listen for birds. When a football shape swooped behind me, I let out a startled exclamation. She whipped around to see me peering through dense foliage. I mentioned that I’d spotted a barred owl. She seemed disappointed. At the end of the hike, my backpack accidentally brushed her shoulder. She let out a screech that left me as nervous as she must have felt.
We only encountered two other people on our hike. In addition to the solitude, what impressed me was the dense fog layer. We typically don’t get fog until fall. Was Mother Nature signaling a change? Might we skip wildfire season altogether and receive early rain?
As I write this a week later, however, we’re experiencing temperatures soaring above 90. It’s uncomfortable enough for me to postpone long rambles or short hikes with Ajax. I won’t risk exposing anyone to heat exhaustion – been there, done that, prefer not to repeat, thanks. Right now, it seems downright dangerous to let dogs wearing fur coats exert themselves for long periods of time. We can wait.
Just like humans going through the five stages of change, Mother Nature also flits back and forth, showing signs that change is imminent and then changing her mind at the last second. My transition to an empty nest has had similar fits and starts. A year of a mostly-empty nest. Summer with my daughter at home. And now as she prepares to return to college, I face a second year of a mostly-empty nest. This time, I feel better prepared. I am gaining self-efficacy.
Yard Share Community Event
The second event that got me thinking about the five stages of change was a community-wide Yard Share. In the Lake City area, seventy households agreed to participate. Think “garage sale” but without price tags. Saturday morning we set out stuffed animals, games, books, clothes, a trifold mirror, baby gate, posters, toys, and a few other miscellaneous objects that we’d stockpiled to donate to Goodwill. Maybe someone in the community would be able to enjoy them instead.
We visited six Shares within walking distance, a family outing we could all enjoy with Ajax. We came back toting a treasure trove that included:
- A brand-new vacuum cleaner which I used that very afternoon. Timely, as I am about to retire mine
- An enormous, brown stuffed bear my daughter named Nora
- Three jackets and a wicking hiking shirt
- A mug
- Four puzzles (one of which is missing a few pieces, but that’s okay, we can’t expect much for free)
By the time we cleaned up around 8 Saturday evening, we’d cleared out about 75% of the items. Our next trip to Goodwill will be much easier.
Change in the Air
On a walk with Ajax the following morning, I realized I’d taken two months to follow through on an earlier commitment to bust clutter this summer. The external event with a deadline — a commitment to an outside party — helped get me to break through my inertia. By reducing clutter, I created additional space and capacity – both mentally and physically – for change. Another example of being in the preparation phase of change.
One of my daughter’s goals for the summer was to have a yard sale. While we didn’t make any money, she got the same experience putting it together, without the headache and hassle of having to sit still for eight hours or haggle over dimes and dollars. She’s going through massive changes as well. We all are.
Stages of Change: Change Capacity Assessment
The final piece of evidence that suggests I’m in the preparation stage is my recent results on Precision Nutrition’s Change Capacity Assessment. Feel free to take it yourself and see where you stand.
At the start of the summer, I scored “105/180” (the sum of all numbers, out of ten possible, on the 18 questions). Today I scored 128, an improvement of 23 points. While I may not be totally “ready, willing, and able” to make changes across the list of possibilities, in some areas, I am.
What changes are you in the midst of making? Have you been stuck for some time? If you score a 5 or lower on any question on the change assessment, take note. You may be facing strong resistance. Awareness is half of the battle.
Stages of Change
In fact, if you aren’t even acknowledging the need to change, you are still in the “pre-contemplation” stage. As you gather resources and get more comfortable with change in the “contemplation” stage, you may find that the cons outweigh the pros. In the “preparation” stage, you realize that the pros outweigh the cons and you get ready to take action.
In several areas, I’ve already headed into the “action” stage, such as launching my new coaching practice. It might be slow, but I’m laying the foundation. In others, like taking a technology or Chat GPT class, I’m back in pre-contemplation. And in others such as living gluten-free and sugar-free, I have reached “maintenance,” where the habit is well established with very few, if any, relapses. Be gentle with yourself and remind yourself that change does not happen linearly. It’s normal to wander all over the place before reaching the maintenance phase.
But the empty nest change? I will probably continue to weave in and out of it for the next three years. Change happens on its own timetable. If we have pressure to change — like the Yard Share deadline — we might change momentarily, but then return to old habits. The more we practice sustainable change, the better we can navigate the murky waters and the more confident we can be that the change will hold.
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