How Do People Successfully Change Their Behavior? by Gwen Robbins and Debbie Powers Countless individuals have tried to change a behavior by making a New Year's resolution, picking a milestone date such as a birthday, or simply saying "I'll start on Monday." The desire to start exercising, stop smoking, lose weight, cut down on credit card use (or change any habit) motivates many to seek a fresh start. Unfortunately, most people fail in their attempt and blame that failure on their lack of willpower or discipline. All too often behavior change is viewed in terms of simply "getting started." But the fact is that to successfully break a habit or start a new one, you need MANY tools. And it doesn't happen overnight! If you understand that behavior change is an evolving, ongoing process that is accomplished by moving through various stages, you'll be more likely to succeed. James O. Prochaska, a psychology professor at the University of Rhode Island, developed with his colleagues the Transtheoretical Model of behavior change to provide a framework for understanding and implementing self-change. The Transtheoretical Model consists of five distinct stages of change with accompanying processes and strategies that help the individual progress toward permanent change. The five stages are: · Precontemplation ­ At this stage the person has no intention of changing or denies the need to change. ("I can't deal with this now.") · Contemplation ­ Here the person has acknowledged the problem and is considering a change. ("I know I need to change, but I'll do it later or sometime.") · Preparation ­ At this point the person begins putting together a detailed plan for change and may even begin making small changes. ("I'm ready to go. What do I need to do?") · Action ­ Now the person is actively engaged in the change (but for less than 6 months). ("I'm getting started.") · Maintenance ­ At this stage the person continues the successful change effort (for more than 6 months). ("I'm doing it and will never go back.") Prochaska discovered that, in order to help people advance through the stages toward maintenance, distinct behavior strategies, known as processes of change, must be practiced during each stage. These processes (consciousness-raising, rewards, environment control, helping relationships, etc.) need to be practiced in order for the individual to move forward. The key is to match appropriate processes with the stage that the person is in to maximize the problem-solving efforts. HOW CAN EDUCATORS APPLY THE TRANSTHEORETICAL MODEL? The first step toward permanent change is to identify one's current stage in the Transtheoretical Model. Students can do this by using the simple accompanying algorithm. To begin, students ask themselves a question about any lifestyle habit and then follow the algorithm according to their "yes" or "no" response.

For example: Do I exercise aerobically at least 3 times per week? or Do I wear sunscreen whenever I'm in the sun for 1 hour or more? or Do I set aside time every day for spiritual renewal? or Do I consistently eat 5 or more servings of fruits/vegetables every day? or Do I protect the environment by practicing recycling? or Do I get 7 to 9 hours of sleep most nights of the week?

In this way students will learn which stage of change they are in for that particular habit. Most individuals will discover that they are in different stages of change for various behaviors. The next step is to incorporate the suggested processes or strategies for moving forward to the next stage (or maintaining their position if they are already in the maintenance stage.). Some of the strategies that are most helpful in each stage are: · Precontemplation ­ Gather information about the nature and risk of the problem behavior; learn the benefits of changing. · Contemplation ­ Seek alternative environments, support groups, or social opportunities that can assist in the change; envision yourself making the change. · Preparation ­ Write a behavior contract listing barriers and coping strategies; keep a behavior log; tell your friends, spouse, or coworkers about your plan. · Action ­ Establish rewards; enlist the help of others; restructure your environment. · Maintenance ­ Have a contingency plan to battle stresses and high-risk situations; practice positive self-talk.

Learning about the Transtheoretical Model can help students understand the tasks that need to be completed to plan and pace the entire change process. There is much more involved than willpower, wishful thinking, or simple desire! In summary, teachers can help students change a behavior by having them: 1. Identify a specific lifestyle behavior. 2. Use the algorithm to find their current stage of change. 3. Identify strategies for that particular stage. 4. Write a behavior-change contract using those strategies. For more detailed information on the stages, processes, and strategies for achieving permanent behavior change, refer to A Wellness Way of Life by Gwen Robbins, Debbie Powers, and Sharon Burgess. Reference: Prochaska, James O., John C. Norcross, and Carlo C. DiClemente. Changing for Good. New York: William Morrow and Co., 1994.

About the authors of this article: Gwen Robbins has been a faculty member at Ball State University for more than thirty years and is the Associate Dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Technology. She holds academic rank in the School of Physical Education. Robbins earned her MA in physical education/biology from Ball State University, together with an additional 45 hours in the area of Gerontology. She earned her BS (physical education/health/biology) from Indiana State University. Robbins was instrumental in the development of the nationally recognized fitness/wellness requirement at Ball State. She has given many national presentations and published several articles and book chapters about Ball State's fitness/wellness program and the assessment of this program. Robbins developed the 500Yard Water Run, a cardio respiratory endurance fitness test for non-swimming water exercisers, and the AquaCircuit, a pool circuit-training program. She has received honor awards from the Aquatic Council of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance and the Indiana Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. Robbins' current research and in-demand presentations focus on the lifestyle changes of college students as a result of the format of the Ball State fitness/wellness program. Debbie Powers has been a faculty member at Ball State University since 1976. She is an assistant professor in the School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Science. Powers earned her MA in physical education at Ball State University, together with an additional 30 hours in Wellness Education. She earned her BS in physical education from Indiana University. A former Division I college basketball player, Powers served as head the head women's basketball coach at Ball State for five years. She has also taught physical education and coached at the high school level. Powers' teaching and research interests include wellness education, fitness, nutrition, and weight management. She assisted in the development of the nationally recognized fitness/wellness requirement at Ball State University, and has given numerous national and regional presentations on the development, content, and assessment of this undergraduate core curriculum requirement. She has published articles and book chapters in the areas of basketball, assessment, and wellness.



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