Written by Dr. Ken Buckle for Maggie’s Place Alumni Moms
Given on February 22, 2012, Ash Wednesday HOUSTON
In the previous two articles we began to look at the theory of change described by Drs. James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente. Their first stage “Precontemplation” represents that state in which we are not at all ready to take action on some type of change. This first stage is called “Precontemplation” because we are not really giving any thought to making a change. The second stage is called “Contemplation” because we are beginning to realize that we might need to change something, and we start to do some thinking about it.
In this article, we look at the third stage of change: “Preparation.” In this stage, our thinking about making a change becomes so serious that we begin to plan for it. We might ask people questions. For instance, “What happens in an AA meeting?” or “What was it like when you quit smoking?” We may contact a counselor and ask how much it costs to get treatment there. Or we see some women walking for exercise in the neighborhood and ask them if they could take on another walker in their group.
If we are really organized, we might even write out a plan…step by step as to what we are going to do. Sometimes we even set up goals for ourselves, and this is a great thing. A good plan includes realistic expectations and has clear and specific steps. For instance, if I didn’t finish high school it might not be a good plan to just say, “gee, I think I’ll go become a veterinarian.” A better plan might be: “first I’m going to get my GED at the community college.” Don’t overdo it in your desire to change. One reason that so many New Year’s Resolutions fail is because we try to change too many things at one time. Pick one thing to work on for now. It is okay to dream, but even better to plan to accomplish your dreams. You may have heard the clever saying: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
As you design your plan, make some mental notes about why you are doing this…the positive reasons behind your change. See if you can build in to your plan some people that might help advise you and give you encouragement and hold you accountable. We can do so much more when we have a good support system in place. Also try and be honest about the difficulties you might face, and how you can plan to overcome them when they pop up.
This stage is all about planning and preparing. You don’t have to take any action yet other than to gather information and come up with a plan. Do your homework, take your time, and you can be successful. You are really getting very close now to taking action for positive change in your life!
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. During the season of Lent, we are preparing for Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of the crucified Christ. Some very important things can happen for us during Lent. One is that we focus on where we need to grow spiritually, and try and make some changes. It is also a time of purification and preparation, and so it is a particularly good season to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as “confession”). Because we are looking at our shortcomings, there is a measure of humility that is part of Lent. Ashes are spread on our foreheads to remind us of our need to repent and change. As the ashes are applied to our foreheads, we are reminded that we are made from the earth and will return to the earth in death. We are not Superman, and we are not God. This doesn’t mean that we have to hate ourselves, because God certainly doesn’t. We might just identify an area for improvement. So right now, today, is a good time to prepare yourself for change.
Humility is a necessary ingredient when it comes to change. If we think we’re perfect and great, then we probably won’t see a need to change…and then guess what: we won’t change! During Lent, we can make some changes that help us move closer to God. It is a Catholic tradition that we pick a particular thing to do or not do during Lent. For instance, one person may give up sodas. Another person might try to read from the Bible a little each day. The key is that we do something different and this reminds us that something new and unusual is happening in our lives. The reason for all of this is to move us closer to Christ. We need to be transformed. Ask for God’s help, and grace will be given to you.
So we have talked about these three stages so far: Precontemplation, Contemplation, and Preparation. The next article will focus on “Action.” A person can get bogged down in the first three steps and never take action. At some point, you must take action if you are going to change.
Father, give us your strength and wisdom to see ourselves for who we really are. Help
us to give up our false selves, and to be content with our true selves…for this is where
we find you. Transform us Lord, and make us whole.