Make Change Happen

by Cherry Pedrick, RN
Reprinted from,
December 10, 2001, Revised

In their research about change, Dr. James Prochaska, Ph.D. and other researchers have described ten processes of change. Understanding these can help us move from the precontemplation, contemplation, and preparation of change to the action stage. 

Consciousness Raising includes efforts to gain information about yourself and the behavior or habit you are thinking about changing. If you’re trying to get someone else to change, consciousness raising can include providing information about the behavior and how to change and pointing out when the behavior occurs.

Emotional Arousal involves talking about your feelings about the behavior or habit. How does it affect your life? Exploring your feelings can help you move from precontemplation to contemplation. 

Self-reevaluation is closely related. How do you feel about yourself when you are continuing your habit? Does it interfere with your values, what you want to achieve? Does it move you forward toward the goals you want to achieve? 

Environmental reevaluation involves determining how your habit or behavior affects your physical environment, your relationships. Does it affect your home or office? What does it cost? How does it affect your relationships? Does it bother your spouse or friends? 

Commitment to change is an important part of making any change. This is when you decide to make some positive changes and affirm your belief that you can change. Commitment will move you from preparation to the action stage of change.

A helping relationship provides the support of others as you make changes. This can be a therapist, a friend or relative, or a formal support group. There are many support groups on the Internet that can help you change just about any kind of habit. 

Counter-conditioning can be the most fun part of habit change. This involves substituting a positive behavior for the habit or behavior you are trying to get rid of. Relaxation and coping techniques can be helpful too.

Environmental control might mean changing your environment to make it easy to change and maintain your changes. It can also mean avoiding certain places or stimuli that make change difficult. 

Reward is another fun part of changing habits and can be quite effective. Rewards are also known as reinforcements because they reinforce the changes. Find a way to reward yourself for continued efforts, even if it is a small reward.  

Social liberation involves efforts to make changes in the rest of society. Advocating for the rights of others, educating others about the benefits of a particular type of change, and writing to advertisers about the effects of products are examples of this change process. Helping others can be a great motivator to maintain your changes.  

Look at the change processes I listed. Be creative and see if you can think of some things from each category that can help you with your efforts to change.

Be sure to check out The Habit Change Workbook:
How to Break Bad Habits and Form Good Ones