Making a Change: Ready, Able, Willing by Laura Novak, LCSW, CADC

It’s no secret that people often struggle with change. Leaving behind what is familiar and venturing into unknown territory can be scary. The stage of change model, developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente in the 1970s, indicates that there are five stages that one goes through when making a significant change.

Precontemplation­ I see no need to change

Contemplation­ maybe I want to change, maybe I don’t. I am “on the fence.”

Preparation­ I’ve made up my mind I want to change. What’s next? What are some goals?

Action­ Doing what needs to be done to begin to change.

Maintenance­ A continual action that keeps me moving forward.

As a therapist, I see many people stuck in the contemplation stage of change. I think of this as the “should I or shouldn’t I” stage of making a decision. This is commonly called ambivalence. When you are ambivalent, you see positives and negatives for both making a change and not changing. Below is a helpful tool that helps you look at your reasons for changing, and your reasons for not making a change. Once this ambivalence is resolved or its power decreased, great growth can be made.

 Pros of Changing



 Cons of Changing



 Pros of Not Changing (staying the same)



 Cons of Not Changing (staying the same)



Aside from this chart, to move out of the contemplation stage and into preparation, it helps to ask yourself these questions.

Am I ready?

“Readiness” is about time. Have I committed to doing this now? Do I still have excuses about why I should wait, and are these valid? The truth is that sometimes, people never really feel “ready.” If you don’t feel ready, ask yourself when you WILL be ready. If you don’t have a clear and concrete answer, then this is a good indicator to just do it now.

Am I able? Able is about resources. What do I need to successfully do this? Who can and will be likely to help me? What obstacles might stand in my way?

Am I willing? Willing is about motivation. How much work will I put into making this change? Do I have a plan that is both effective and realistic? How will I maintain a positive attitude?

Most people have struggled with ambivalence and uncertainty at some point in their life. Sometimes people have unhelpful beliefs about themselves, others, and the world that keep them stuck. Often these beliefs are so deep­seated that they are outside our awareness, and they go unchallenged. Great growth can occur with people who challenge themselves and their old beliefs.

If you would like to further discuss making a change in your life, contact Laura Novak, LCSW, CADC at (847) 336-5621 x151.