Pathways to Wellness

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The stages of change

People don't change overnight.  Even people who say they stopped smoking by going "cold turkey" usually have made many attempts to cut down or quit in the past.  Whether it's changing what you eat, how active you are, or how much you smoke or drink, there are different stages that you will pass through, some many times, before the change is permanent. 

There are many theories of behaviour change, but one of the most used and researched theories is called Stages of Change (Prochaska and DiClemente).  In recent years, this model has been refined by researchers and practitioners.

  1. The first stage (called pre-contemplation) is before you’ve even thought about making a change.  The fact that you are reading this now means you are already on the path to change, but you may remember a time when you weren't thinking about making a change, or perhaps you know someone who is "in denial".
  2. You may be in the second stage of change (called contemplation) right now – you are thinking about making a change but haven't yet committed to it.  You may be wondering whether the time is right, or worrying about whether you will be successful.  You may be weighing the pros and cons of making a change, and comparing it with the pros and cons of staying the same.  This is a really important part of the change process.  Before you invest time and energy in making a change, you will want to feel confident that you have something to gain.
  3. Preparing yourself for making a change comes next.  This is the time when you can make plans and put in place everything you need to be successful.  For example, if you are thinking about quitting smoking you might visit your health care provider and ask about medications to help with withdrawal; learn about services in Yukon to help you quit by going to, enlist your friends help to quit, or think about what you will say when someone offers you a smoke.
  4. Now you are ready to take action.  You've got a plan that includes positive thinking, help from others, and social support.  You know what works, and now you're ready to execute your plan.
  5. The final stage, called maintenance, is what you need to do to keep on the path of healthier living. Setbacks and relapse are inevitable.  "Falling off the wagon" is part of any change process.  Knowing this, and being kind to yourself, can help you get back on the path.

There are some books on changing habits in Yukon Public and Yukon College Libraries that you might find helpful:

Changeology:  5 steps to realizing your goals and resolutions by John Norcross is a very practical approach to changing behaviour, developing new habits and keeping them up.  

Simple Changes, Big rewards A practical, easy guide for healthy, happy living is one of a series of special health reports written by Harvard Medical School.  There is an amazing amount of practical information packed into this 45 page booklet.     


The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, a New York Times reporter, is an interesting book on how habits form and why they are so difficult to change.  In a personal account, he describes how he came to understand and change his daily habit of having a cookie every mid-afternoon     

You might enjoy this short youtube video by Dr. Mike Evans, particularly if you are a smoker who wants to quit.  Dr. Evan’s approach to quitting is based on the stages of change; the same general approach applies to just about any old habit you are trying to break, and any new habit you are trying to make.