Making Meaning - New Book, New #1 Bestseller, and Excerpt About Change
As a coach in Boulder, CO, as well when working with clients all over the world, we start every session with 3 wins that my coaching clients had since the last time we spoke. That's important because that part of our brain needs to be trained: giving ourselves the credit for creating change, and achieving our goals, otherwise we'll just be stuck in the forever cycle of "it's never enough".
I'd like to take this opportunity and practice what I preach: celebrate. And, share an excerpt that you might find helpful.
First, celebrating the completion of a book that's a culmination of 5 years of writing. Completion, at the end of tremendous effort just feels good.
Second, the fact that so many found the book helpful that it became for a while a #1 bestseller book in "counseling books" on Amazon, and #2 bestseller in "happiness books".
And third, seeing in my author portal that people actually read the book, sometimes 500 pages total a day, makes me feel that this effort was worth it.
One of the main goals in coaching is creating an efficient, consistent, massive positive change in the way we think, the way we feel, and the way we behave. Below you'll find an excerpt from the book that addresses change through the lens of "the stages of change" model.
The Stages of Change
How do you view change? Many people perceive “change” like a light-switch: first, there was no light, then there is light. First, there was a problem (darkness), then there was a solution (light). First this, then that.
However, the therapeutic approach of stages of change views an individual’s change as a progression from an initial precontemplation stage, when the person is not currently considering change, to contemplation, when the individual undertakes a serious evaluation of considerations for or against change.
Then, the person will progress to preparation, a stage when the person plans and commits to a change. When the person successfully accomplishes these initial stage tasks, that success can lead them to taking action that helps them make the specific change.
Then, action leads to the fifth stage of change: Maintenance. During this stage, the person works to maintain and sustain long-term change. Further, one might go back to the previous behavior, in a stage called relapse. And after that, we are back, in a cyclical manner to the first stage, pre-contemplation.
There are two essential truths to this model: The first truth is, it’s nearly impossible to skip any of these stages. Every change to your behavior that you make in your life will take you through this progression of stages, if you stop to examine the exact steps you took to make that change.
A good example can be the personal journey of one’s alcohol consumption. First, that person might be in the precontemplation stage; their partner might be complaining that they’re drinking too much, but they do not think they have a problem at all. For them alcohol is great, it helps them relax. Then one day, while throwing another empty can into the recycling bin, the person notices that it is completely full of empty beer cans. In that moment, the person may realize that they organize their everyday life and schedule around alcohol. It is this realization that leads them to begin contemplating the idea that, “Maybe I have an alcohol problem.”
This realization might be very frustrating for others in the person’s life. Other people may expect that, once the realization occurs, the person will jump from this stage into taking action right away. However, a momentary or fleeting realization is often not enough to propel someone forward several steps. It can, however, be enough to move the person from precontemplation to contemplation. Realizing that you “might have a problem” is only the first step toward making changes that solve the problem.
The other truth in this model is that these stages are cyclical and do not end with maintenance. In the process of “maintaining” after making a change, any person can slip back into one of the earlier stages and reverse the progress they have made.
It takes, on average, between six and twenty times for an individual with a substance abuse problem to go through this cycle until they completely quit.
And it is not only people with substance abuse struggles. Each of us struggles from time to time with our own habitual patterns that cause harm to ourselves or others. You are probably familiar with some of your own emotional triggers that have propelled you forward toward change or that are holding you back from taking action toward it. When considering addiction, Victor Frankl postulated that a person’s compulsion is actually an attempt to compensate for lack of meaning in their life.
Some people need more attempts to reach their goals, some people need fewer. However, it can be helpful to practice compassion toward all people who are working toward making change permanent in their lives. The meaning, as is often said about the recovery from addiction, is found in the journey.
It is truly amazing to be with someone and watch them go through the stages of change in their own life, whether you’re a therapist, their relative, or their friend. It can be truly eye-opening when you realize your own progress through the stages of change.
When you see someone working to make changes happen in their life, support them as you want to be supported when you do something brave. If they relapse, help them get back to where they were. It is important to normalize the facts that progress sometimes stalls and that people relapse when they’re working toward a goal, because these are normal human behaviors. Changing your behavior takes time, compassion, and repetition. You cannot exclude any of these ingredients.
 Chaiton, Michael; Diemert, Lori; Bondy, Susan; Selby, Peter; Philipneri, Anne; and Schwartz, Robert. “Estimating the number of quit attempts it takes to quit smoking successfully in a longitudinal cohort of smokers.” BMJ Open. 2016.
 Madeson, Melissa. “Logotherapy: Viktor Frankl’s Theory of Meaning.” PositivePsychology. Positivepsychology.com. 9 Jan. 2020.