Musings on Change

Today is an historic day. In the words of the White House website, “Change Has Come to America”. Change – exhilarating to some, frightening to others.


There is a six stage psychological model of change that was developed in the late 1970’s by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente. It’s been widely used in changing unhealthy behaviors. But it applies to all change.


Stage 1 is Precontemplation. During this stage people have no intention to change. They may not perceive that anything needs to change. They may have failed at change before. They may be demoralized. But, in the right environment or with the proper encouragement, they may move to the next stage of change.


Stage 2 is Contemplation. During this stage, people are open to hearing about ways to change. They realize there is a problem but don’t have the energy or motivation to begin to change. But, as they hear more about the change, they become active in the pursuit of the change. They begin looking forward to changing, but are anxious as well as excited about it.


Stage 3 is Preparation. This is a planning stage, a stage where some small change may even be attempted.


Stage 4 is Action. The plan from Stage 3 is put to work. Change is visible to others. It requires a commitment of both energy and time. 


But no one can stay in Stage 4. Notice! Action is not the first stage but, more importantly, it is not the last.


Stage 5 is Maintenance. The new behaviors seem natural, but overconfidence can lead to a return to old behaviors. People have to work to hang on to the changes they made.


Stage 6 is Termination. The change is now truly a part of life. There is confidence in the new behaviors.


In which stage of change is America? I believe that we have moved out of Stage 1 and have moved well into Stage 2. We are excited but also anxious. We are looking towards our leaders for information on how to change. We are ready to seriously plan, to move from fear to hope. It will require planning. It will require commitment. We will have to continue to work at it. But change can come and it can be maintained.


It is finally time to put away our toys and get to work. But we are a people whose history is full of work. We should take pride in the fact that we have dirt under our fingernails as well as brains in our heads. And we should be proud of ourselves because we are America – the America that elected Barack Hussein Obama, a member of a minority (with a strange name, no less!), to the highest office in the land.


Congratulations, America! The hard work is yet to come.


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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