6 stages to stop smoking, lose weight, get out of debt, or alter your lifestyle with intention.

This article summarizes the six stages of change implicit in successful lifestyle change efforts. There is a reference and link to articles focused on each stage.

Major changes to lifestyle are very difficult. It can be challenging and frustrating to break the habits of many years to shed 30 pounds and keep them off, to stop smoking and remain a non-smoker, or to change any one of the many harmful behaviors that plague us.

This is the concluding and summarizing article describing the six stages of successful change defined by James Prochaska in “Changing for Good.”

The six stages of successful lifestyle change are:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance
  • Termination

Research shows that people who successfully change a major self-defeating or harmful behavior tend to move through each of these six stages. There are several processes used by those successful at lifestyle change.

People who use appropriate change processes for their stage of change are far more successful at making changes and sustaining them than those who do not.

Surprisingly, so called self-changers, those who undertake change without outside help, are just as successful as those who have expert assistance–if they intuitively recognize and apply the support process that is most appropriate to their stage of the change process.

  • For an introduction to Prochaska’s work, see Lose Weight for Good.
  • To learn more of the Precontemplation stage and the processes most helpful to moving successfully through, see Changing Your Life.
  • The Contemplation stage and useful processes for moving through it are explained in Serious About Change.
  • The critical Preparation stage signals a shift from thinking to doing. More on this stage in Preparing for Life Changes.
  • Action, what we most often think of when considering lifestyle change, is seldom successful without the previous stages. Action and its appropriate supporting processes are explained in Take Action to Change.
  • Maintaining the change, whether keeping off the extra pounds or continuing to refrain from smoking, is often the most difficult stage. Improper preparation for the Maintenance stage is likely to result in relapse. See Keep the Pounds Off
  • When the new way of being is firmly in place, fully assimilated into a new way of living, then and only then can we regard the lifestyle change as permanent. Though some awareness and conscious behavior is required, we can generally call the lifestyle change complete and successful. This is the Termination, or final stage.

Congratulations! You’ve completed a very difficult process, one that many people struggle with. Enjoy the new you and your success!