Expert Tips for Getting Prepared
Preparation (“I will”)
In the preparation stage, you’re thinking “I will” make this change. You’re committed and are within 1 month from initiating the intended behavior. At this point, you have largely worked through any remaining ambivalence and you see the benefits of making the change very clearly in relation to the “future you.” You’ve identified your sources of strength and your primary motivators. You have grown and strengthened your motivation from the “thinking” phase of contemplation into creating your own, unique plan.
In the preparation phase:
Experiment with some possible solutions. Try it on for size and see how it works for you. If it works, great! Keep it. But if not, throw it away quickly and try another approach. There are no failures during this process, only learning. You’re learning what may work and you’re uncovering what’s not going to be a good fit for you.
Once you’ve discovered some potential solutions, develop your plan. It’s incredibly helpful to structure your plan as SMART goals during the preparation phase. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-Bound. What specifically will you do and how often, how will you know when you’ve reached your goal, is it realistic, yet aggressive enough to stretch you, and when will you start/stop? A smart goal might be structured this way: “I want to walk twice a day 3 times per week. I will walk for 15 minutes each of these mornings at 7:00am and evenings at 7:30pm, starting on the first of October.”
You are aware of your barriers and have considered some ways to navigate either through or around them. Make sure to develop contingency plans to address these during the preparation phase. Think about situations that could be problematic and get a plan in place right now for how you might deal with it. For instance, using the goal above, what if it rains for a week straight? Clearly, this is something you cannot control, but it would interfere significantly with your goal. So your contingency plan might be “If it rains or it’s too hot to be outside, I will go to the mall or to the YMCA inside track instead.”
Your goal may not be quite where it needs to be. You may have underestimated what you’re actually capable of or you may have overshot the time that you actually have available to work on your goal. Not to worry, goals can be fluid and change over time. Don’t lock yourself into something that’s not going to work. Readjust and keep moving forward.
Remember that you’re going to have obstacles. One of my favorite quotes from Ryan Holiday is “the obstacle is the way”. If we want to avoid obstacles, we’ll never meet our goals, but in order to be successful, you have to deal with the obstacles as they arise. It’s an absolutely vital part of the journey toward your goal. Overcoming obstacles helps us build resilience, confidence and self-efficacy, the exact attributes that will make sustaining your goal for the long-term even more likely.
Sometimes, you may need external support to help you see blind spots or identify patterns of behavior that are not serving you. You may need quite a bit of support navigating through each stage of change, particularly if you’ve tried before and not experienced success yet. Health coaches can be an especially important ally to engage for further support, as we are experts in the behavior change process and can support you to navigate through each phase in a way that works best for you. We can help co-create your goals, help you stay accountable and provide the support that’s missing from many of the lifestyle change prescriptions that are given by healthcare providers.
Counselors can be especially helpful if you identify patterns of behavior that hinder you from achieving success in multiple areas or if you are concerned about your mental health. Mental health is a priority when embarking on a lifestyle change program. Sometimes, mental health treatment and behavior change can be done concurrently; however, do check in with your physician or mental health provider on their recommendations in this regard. Coaching can be initiated once you feel as though you have adequate support for your mental health.
Always seek the professional advice from a licensed healthcare provider before engaging in any form of lifestyle change whether eating habits, exercise, relaxation, stress management, sleep, or any other form of lifestyle change.