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The Change Cycle is an idea from addiction therapy that’s really useful to keep in mind when trying to change any kind of habit.
It describes the stages we all have to go through to recognise and accept that a change is necessary, decide how to make the change, follow through on that action and then sustain the new habit(s) over the long term.
The Transtheoretical Model
The Change Cycle is also known as the Transtheoretical Model because it integrates ideas from across many schools of thought around habits and change into one functional model. It was developed by psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente who were interested in helping people to quit smoking. Their seminal paper from 1983 is here.
The model consists of seven stages, six of which we discuss in the podcast in detail.
The stages are:
Pre-contemplation - you have a problematic habit, you don’t think of this habit as problematic and have no interest in changing it.
Contemplation - you are aware the habit is problematic, but you don’t see how you could change it and are not sure it’s worth trying.
Preparation - you decide to make a change but need to work out what that will mean in practice.
Action - you make the change!
Maintenance - you must continue with your new habits in the long term.
Relapse - you slip back from action or maintenance into an earlier stage and must pass through the later stages again to get back to maintenance. This often happens but not always.
Termination - you exit the cycle - you have embedded the new habit(s) so deeply that it they are second nature and you are at no risk of relapsing.
There’s a reason we describe people who love to buy things they don’t need as ‘shopaholics’, and this idea can be helpful when trying to change your money habits.