When you want to change

Change is constantly present, yet it is difficult for people to achieve change at will. Whenever we want to make changes, motivation is always a big thing to consider. In my reading, I have been amazed how much science knows about motivation, and how little of this has made it into the wider sphere. Here I introduce three concepts that help achieve change.

Trans-theoretical Model of Change

Prochaska & DiClemente have researched change extensively and identified a series of stages through which change happens. Each stage is best supported by different change processes. Whilst the model isn’t perfect, I like the idea that change progresses as a series of steps, and that each step needs a different approach. The model is shown below.


The 7 Rs of change

These are seven Rs help change stick:

1: Reminders serve as prompts to make you do what you desire

2: Records motivate you to keep doing what you desire

3: Rewards motivate you

4: Routines set a behaviour patterns that ultimately sticks

5: Relationships support you through the change

6: Reflections on how you are doing, including any learning from lapses

7: Restructure the environment to make it easier to do the desired thing

Self-determination theory

A key theory of motivation is self-determination theory developed by Ryan & Deci. They established three factors needed to fulfil our basic psychological needs. They are competence, autonomy, and relatedness. When looking to change something, it is worthwhile aligning one’s strategy with those three.

1: Competence means picking a change that we can actually achieve, and one that we feel able to achieve. If we don’t believe that we can make the change, then we won’t! Accept that any bad habits will try to pull you back, and the more you fight them the more powerful the pull will be; instead, recognise the pull backwards, and accept that this is normal, but it is up to you to choose which way you will go.

2: Autonomy means having a goal that really is ours – either pleasant in itself, or something that clearly leads to a desired goal, or paired up with something nice. Having goals because others have told us to do them is less likely to work. Start with why you want to change – what’s the big and long term picture? Remember there will be a hidden agenda too. Any bad habits that you have developed will exist and persist for a reason. What are the benefits / thoughts / beliefs behind things that you want to change?

3: Relatedness means being with others, sharing the goals, and using sociable strategies. Goals that we hide and do by ourselves are less likely to succeed. Make them public, and work with a friend to achieve them. Logging actions and progress on websites and sharing is a great way to do this (logging also works well if you do it alone though).

People can and do change all the time, yet change is hard. If you are looking to change something in your life, I hope above ideas will help. Good luck!

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or step back into safety.

Abraham Maslow


To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.

Winston Churchill

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