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  • Writer's pictureMental Gear Closet

Making Change: Am I making progress? (Part 2)

Updated: Jan 22

When making change, it’s important to know how to assess your progress as these successful benchmarks help to inspire your continued effort and motivation.  You can’t just know what you want to change; you also have to gather the tools and strategies needed to go the distance.  Here’s another resource to help keep you moving in the right direction, especially when doubt creeps in.

The 5 Stages of Change

Have you heard of the 5 Stages of Change?  Probably not, as this is one of the best kept secrets in the realm of change making.  In short, these are the five stages that people often go through which include:  

  1. Precontemplation - resistance or unwillingness

  2. Contemplation - acknowledging and starting to think about it

  3. Preparation - gathering tools, resources and planning

  4. Action - starting to make change but with effort and inconsistency

  5. Maintenance - sticking to new behaviors even under pressure

Most of us are indirectly taught to believe the myth that we can jump straight from having an idea, to completely reversing a stuck behavior.  But that’s the equivalent of skipping several big steps and months of work!

This is what it sounds like if you’ve have fallen for this myth: 

Client: “I want to change ____, so why isn’t it happening?!”

Me: “When did you decide on making this change?”

Client: “Well, I just realized it.  But I know what has to change so why aren’t I doing it?!  I’m a failure.”

Me:  “So you just recently realized the problem and put it into words?”

Client:  “Yes.”

Me:  “But haven’t had time yet to figure out how to change, what barriers will make it hard, gather support, plan, start practicing, etc?”

Client:  “No.  I figured that since I know what the problem is, I’d immediately fix it.”

In other words, you may have been expecting to go from Stage 2: Contemplation straight to Stage 5: Maintenance.  No wonder you think we’re failing; the expectation is completely unrealistic!  Just Stage 4: Action can take 6+ months, let alone all the time it takes to gather up the confidence and direction (Contemplation), resources, skills and a plan to overcome barriers (Preparation), etc.

Take a step back and acknowledge how far you’ve come even if your progress isn’t yet visible.  Then, choose the right steps to move forward rather than jumping too far ahead.  Here’s what to say to yourself:

  • If you’re having a hard time getting started:  “While it may not be obvious, I’ve made a great start and have gotten past two of the stickiest stages (precontemplation and contemplation).  Good job!  Now I need to focus on Preparation by gathering support, resources and creating a clear plan.”

  • If you’ve already made small or inconsistent changes and want to keep improving:  “Getting to Stage 4: Action is an accomplishment!  Now I have to buckle in.  The next 6 months will be a test of my resilience as I slowly get more consistent in tougher situations, and overcome personal barriers.”

And remember, you’re not alone.  Your support system, Mental Gear Closet and local licensed therapists are here to help! Interested in another tool? Here's the link to Part 1.

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