City Centre Chiropractic

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You are probably going to fail. Well, not fail exactly, but it's unlikely you will achieve your goal in the way you envisage.

This may not sound very encouraging. It's vital you understand this when you decide to make a change to your life, like when you've made a new year's resolution.

But it does not mean you won't achieve your goal. There is good news - we know a lot about change and how to make it stick.

When you understand a bit more about the stages of change, and where you are up to, you are much more likely to reach your goals.

In the last several decades researchers have studied people going through the change process and have found certain things improve a person's chances of successfully making changes.

Initially this research focused on how people progress through change when giving up "bad habits", such as cigarettes, drugs or alcohol.

More recently positive psychology researchers identified techniques that could support each one of us to be our best possible selves. One of the most important things we've learnt from this research is that "relapse" is a part of the process, particularly the first time we try to make a change.

For example, evidence shows on average people attempt to give up smoking seven to ten times before they are able to. This may all sound fairly academic, but it's worth understanding the change process and the stages you pass through on your journey, because doing the wrong things at the wrong stage means you're less likely to succeed and more likely to give up.

Stages of change

Imagine your goal is to get fit. Let's see how you might move through the stages of change.

Pre-contemplation: If you're at this stage you're not really thinking about making changes to your fitness.

In fact, you're pretty certain that you don't need to worry about exercise. You wish your family and friends, who tell you need to get up off the couch and do something active, would just chill out.

Contemplation: You think you'd benefit from regular exercise and trying to get fitter, but you just don't know how you are going to squeeze it in with all the other things you have to do.

Also, there are so many confusing messages about what type of exercise you need to be doing.

At this stage you might want to focus on the reasons for change rather than the reasons not to change. Now is a good time to identify your personal values and work out how to link those to more specific goals. An easy place to start is a list of the pros and cons of getting fit.

Preparation: Now you know you are ready to get fit. You don't need any more convincing, but you do need a plan.

Make a genuine commitment to being a fitter and healthier person and focus on how good you'll feel when you are.

Don't rush into deciding exactly how you're going to get fit. Now is a good time to keep a log of your daily fitness-related activities - include things like walking to the shops, taking the dog for a walk or a stroll on the beach.

Action: So you've been getting up for a walk three mornings a week and taking some gym classes. Great work. Keep busy and focused on action and activity.

Use both short-term and long-term goals, and keep track of your progress using a journal or checklist.

At this stage you may want to set yourself more demanding goals, maybe you can register for a fun run or invest a gym membership (if you think that would be helpful) or find someone to buddy-up with.

Avoid complacency and reward and congratulate yourself at regular intervals.

Maintenance: You've been getting regularly exercise for about six months. Recognise that maintaining the fitness you've got is a long-term, ongoing process, but it is easier than starting all over again from scratch.

Now you can set yourself more demanding goals. Think about taking yourself to the next level. So if you've done your fun run, why not sign up for a half marathon. Enjoy your success and build on it.

Relapse: Life got in the way and it's been a while since you were able to do any exercise. That's OK, relapsing into old behaviours is normal.

Learn from your past mistakes. Recognise what went wrong and get back into action as soon as possible.

You haven't been running for a week, or even a month. That's OK, put on your shoes and head out for one this afternoon. This is also the time to think about the things that were working well (the Saturday morning runs with friends) and get this back on track.

So the big question is - are you really ready for change?

You may believe you're ready, research suggests you may be only contemplating change, which is only the second stage of the process and at this stage you'll still be weighing up the pros and cons of change.

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