So what do you do when you don't feel like you can set goals or make changes?

I am going to share my favorite behavior change model today!

TLDR: Sometimes you’re not in a place to effect change. The best thing to do is acknowledge that truth and meet yourself where you are at.
I was inspired to post my goal-setting thread by the infosec fit hashtags #RedTeamFit #BlueTeamFit #DFIRFit. As @Ch33r10 & @syndrowm mentioned last time, these ideas are applicable to goals & change in any part of your life!

To start: not feeling able to change is stressful.
Here is a partial list of things that can make goal-setting & change exponentially more difficult:
- depression
- anxiety
- stress
- discrimination
- a global pandemic
- poverty
- certain aspects of neurodiversity
- systematic oppression
- exhaustion
- fear
- pain
- etc & etc!
Effective change begins with acknowledging where you are at in the process!

The transtheoretical model, developed by Prochaska & Di Clemente, is my favorite way to frame behavioral change. Here's a link to the Wikipedia page, which is a wonderful intro. 
There are 5 main stages of behavioral change:
The model can include "relapse" as a 6th stage, which is simply a return to a prior stage.

Next, here's what each phase means...
Precontemplation: You might be aware that change is needed, you might not. You’re not spending energy on it right now.

THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING IN THIS PHASE. We as people are not ready/willing/able to consider changing any & all of our behaviors at any given time.
Contemplation: You’re pondering changing your behavior or setting some new goals. You may shift back into precontemplation or forward into preparation, depending on what happens in your life. You have awareness of how your behaviors affect your life and might help or hinder you.
Planning: You are getting ready to make a change! This is where your goal-setting skills come in. You’re gathering resources & figuring out the details. Note: moving back to contemplation before continuing to action is totally normal, especially if there are unexpected stressors.
Action: Behavior change is happening! You are doing the thing! Awesome! You may hop back into preparation at times, when needed, and that is good! This phase can be brief or long, depending on the change. This is where things like determination/willpower/habit start to be useful.
Maintenance: You have met your initial goal and now you need to keep it up. This phase may last indefinitely! You might need to shift back to the action phase at times. If you’re in this phase you have achieved your goal and are working to keep the changes you have made.
What about relapse? Permanent behavior change can be excruciatingly hard. The key takeaway is that every time you move through the transtheoretical model you gain knowledge & experience you can use as a resource if/when you start the process over again. There are NO net losses!
My fave thing about the TTM is that if you identify what phase you are in, you can potentially help yourself (or others) move through it! You can meet yourself where you are at. You can also push yourself back a step, which is why kindness is always advised.
Here are some tips:
Precontemplation: Think/talk about symptoms & effects of current behaviors in a kind and honest way. Always be kind to yourself and others. You may not think there is a problem or issue, but it's always good to consider whether or not the things you do help you meet your goals!
Contemplation: Talk with yourself/friends/family/MD/therapist about the behavior. How does the behavior mesh with your hopes & values? How could change help you? What are pros & cons of change vs no change? Unkindness here could cause a shift back to precontemplation. Be kind!
Preparation: Time for your goal-setting skills! Gather resources. Think about potential challenges & how you’ll react to them. Small steps toward action start here! If you are in this phase, you are open to change and ready to try! The more help you can give/get now, the better.
Action: You’re doing it! Support & accountability are very helpful here. You are using the resources you gathered in the preparation phase. Now is a good time to practice good habit-forming skills. Celebrate your progress! Now is when you start to prepare for maintenance, too.
Maintenance: Support and accountability are so helpful in maintenance as well. Remind yourself and/or others that you are making changes that uphold your goals and values. Continue celebrating yourself! If you feel good, you can start pondering your next goal or change.
Relapse/Return: It is EXTREMELY important not to shame yourself or others. Shame hinders growth & actively de-motivates. Kindness is key. You are NOT back at square zero. Maybe you learned one kind of action/maintenance does not work well for you. You can use this knowledge!
Note: Some things can make change extremely difficult. I’ll use depression as an example, since a lack of energy & motivation is symptom of depression for some. I (unsurprisingly, given my background) strongly recommend therapy and/or medication if you think you may be depressed.
If you are depressed, you may move through the TTM for changes like:
- cleaning your room
- finding a therapist
- gaining insight into your feelings
- doing your laundry
- calling your friends
- getting out of bed

This is what I mean by meeting yourself where you are at!
Summary: It can be useful to know where you are at in your behavior change process, and you must be kind & honest with yourself about it. Once you do that, you can support and encourage yourself in ways that are helpful. There is no utility in mentally punishing yourself.
This is not a perfect model, but I really like it as a framework. I used it with patients and I use it with myself!

I hope this was helpful and actionable for y'all! If you have any questions or comments, please let's talk about them! Good luck and all my best to all of you!
You can follow @techieStef.
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