The 7 steps to turn a change into a habit

One of the complaints I hear the most from other multi-potentialites is that as soon as another exciting topic appears, they feel the urge to explore it. So, they leave a graveyard of unfinished projects and they lack the discipline not to go off on another tangent when a new shiny object appears.


Unfinished painted wall


I’m not an exception to that rule. There are so many courses I still need to finish. I saw them, subscribed to them, started and then after some time, another most interesting course caught my eye and I started that one.

So many books that I’ve started reading and left off in the middle because another one looked so compelling that I needed to start reading it immediately. So many hobbies I started and… I guess you already know what happened.

This is something I’m trying very hard to change. But change doesn’t happen just like that.You have to be motivated to make any changes to your life because motivation is the motor that drives action. And you need to have the right mindset.

The stages of change

James O. Prochaska (University of Rhode Island) and Carlo Diclemente have done serious research on this subject and created the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of behaviour change. This model describes the stages of Change. I explain them below.


7 stages of development of a tomato


1. Pre-contemplation
It is possible that you’re entirely unaware that change is needed. E.g. You might be starting a new passion or project every day without feeling the need to finish any of them. If this doesn’t bother you, then there is no intention or reason to change.

However, there might be some pressure coming from your environment to change your behaviour. For instance, people who think you’re not reliable because you change your mind all the time. Anyway, as long as you don’t feel it as a threat, you’re not ready to change anything.

2. Contemplation
At this stage, you start understanding that there is an issue and that something needs to change, but you don’t know yet how. E.g. You start realising that starting up a lot of things but never finishing anything cost you a lot of time, energy and money without giving any satisfying results.

So you start to look at the pros and cons of making changes versus keeping the status quo. You even might feel anxiety for the change. It’s cosy to stay in your comfort zone and to change anything, you will need to get out of that comfort zone.

3. Preparation
Now you’re convinced that you need to change and your motivation to make the necessary changes is very high. So you start planning the changes you want to make in the short term, let’s say in the next six months.

This planning can be just in your head, like “Tomorrow I start jogging, a diet or whatever”. In our example of finishing your projects, this would be where you start setting up your passions portfolio, with projects that are small enough so you can quickly finish them.

Sometimes you don’t know yet how and you are still missing the skills or social influences to make the change(s) happen and that’s OK. It will all be part of your plan. E.g. you add to the plan that you also need to learn how to set priorities for your projects. And as your motivation is high, you will feel eager to go to the next step.

Action expresses priorities

4. Action
This is the stage where you start taking action, and you’re actively doing something to make the changes happen. So you are putting your plan into practice and as a consequence, the changes become visible to others.


Artist in action


You can start celebrating every (small) win. It will keep your motivation high. And other people will start complimenting you on your achievements. But you need to be careful; The changes you made are still fragile, and they aren’t sustainable yet. It’s still easy to relapse.

In our example of finishing projects, this is where you keep your projects small, set a priority between them and at least finish the next milestone before putting the project in the freezer and starting another one.

5. Maintenance
The maintenance stage is often the most difficult one. You will need to consolidate what you’ve changed now. The best way to do that is when a maintained action becomes a habit, a routine.

The feeling that you’re progressing and regularly having a series of (small) successes is essential to keep your motivation high and to prevent that you return to the old behaviour.
A change needs to be maintained for at least six months to be established entirely, but the more time passes, the less effort it will take you.

6. Termination
A change is terminated when it’s completely established. Now, it is totally internalised and it is part of who you are and what you usually do. It remains a habit or a routine, and it even starts to feel weird if you do things otherwise.

There is no temptation anymore to relapse and to return to the old undesired behaviour.

7. Relapse
Relapse is not a stage itself. It is returning to the old unhealthy or undesired behaviour, or to an earlier stage. And it can occur at any time and at any stage.

It usually happens when the motivation is waning. Motivation drops down when confidence to succeed is getting down, when it is harder than you thought to be successful, when you feel you’re not progressing anymore or when you find roadblocks on your way that are difficult to remove. These are things to be aware of.

The source of motivation

To have the most chance and the highest probability to change something for yourself in a sustainable way, motivation must come from the inside. You need to be convinced that you want this change (see stage 2). The thing to change must be important to you.

That’s the reason why it doesn’t work to try and change someone else if that someone else doesn’t see any reason to change.


Businessman looking at a carrot on angle


It’s also the reason why it doesn’t work if motivation is coming from outside stimuli like money or other incentives. The change will not be sustainable, and you will return to the old behaviour as soon as the incentive stops.

However, rewarding yourself for every success or having a buddy supporting you, can help you give that little extra motivation to continue. You can also take an accountability partner or a coach to help you get a sustainable change in a professional way. No more excuses! The time is now!

Your view?



The 7 steps to turn a change into a habit
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