Overcoming Bad Habits: The Six Stages

You weren’t born a smoker, a gambler or a nail biter. Like most bad habits you learned to do them, and learned behaviour is for the most part a good thing. It allows you to add structure and routine to your day and helps you avoid repeating mistakes. But how do you go about un-learning bad habits? Dr James Prochaska devised the following six stages to show what you may go through before (hopefully) breaking the cycle of bad habits for good.¬†

Pre-contemplation: You acknowledge there’s a problem but you aren’t thinking about changing anything at this point. You may be in denial that there is a problem, possibly thinking it will go away of its own accord.

Contemplation: You’re beginning to understand that you have a bad habit (such as an addiction) that needs addressing. At this stage you are thinking about the potential benefits of quitting and comparing it to the effort involved in trying to quit. You may stay at this stage for years.

Preparation: You’ve decided to act and you are making plans. Emotionally you are preparing yourself for the change and setting positive goals.

Action: You are doing something about your bad habit and making positive changes.

Maintenance: You’ve made the changes and you are sticking to them. This could be the final stage of change for you.

Recycling/Relapse: Some people will get to the maintenance stage and stay there, others will have some type of relapse. People at the relapse stage need to go back to stage one and start to work through the stages again.

If you have a bad habit that you are trying to break, which of these stages do you feel you are at?


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