Thinking About Change

The fitness industry is full of people who boil “it” down to “one thing.” It’s “all about motivation.” “You either Do It, or you Don’t.” “If it’s important, you’ll find a way.” But if there’s one thing for sure, it’s never just one thing.

The transtheoretical model (TTM) was developed in the 1970s to help give some structure and direction to attempts to (guide patients in) behavioral change. It draws on many different theories to provide a framework for understanding a person’s commitment to a change, considering readiness, specific steps, and belief in their ability to succeed. It’s been applied in many settings, from smoking cessation to stress management to staying on health-supporting medications. And of course weight management.

What Are Core Constructs

Just making a list of pros and cons is often a decision-making help. One guiding idea of TTM is “decisional balance”: in the early stages of making a change, the “cons” list might be longer (“heavier”), but in the later stages, the balance shifts and the “pros” list has the weight advantage.

Another is “self-efficacy,” our belief in our ability to accomplish something. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”

How Can I Use It?

The basic idea is stages of change: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. That is the “orderly” progression, but you might find that with some things you dive right into action and then need to step back and prepare better, or even rethink. That’s fine — ultimately you want to figure out what you need to do to make a change that you can stick with, and it can easily take more than one try.

Is it perfect? Of course not. But it can help us think about what we are ready to do. It can also help you think about which changes you’re ready to make and which you’re NOT ready to make. You may be ready to start an exercise program, but you still need to think some more about changing your eating. Or the other way around.

Do you have a favorite way of approaching changes or new projects?


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