“If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed.”
Old Chinese Proverb
Is change or growth always necessary? Sometimes we get comfortable staying where we are. Whether it’s a relationship, a house, a car, a job or a business. In my consulting role, I enjoy talking to entrepreneurs who are in transition and contemplating the next phases for their business ventures. I frequently ask them a series of questions to help me better understand their vision for themselves, their career, or business.
Are you comfortable where you are? Do you want to grow or expand?
What is your vision? What goals have you set? Where do see yourself in 2, 5, and 10 years down the road?
What action steps have you taken to accomplish your goals? What do you think is holding you back from taking action?
Sometimes the answers to these questions reflect a general satisfaction with a current state (I’m pretty good; I’m fine where I am; I’ve worked hard to get to this place). Other times, the answers suggest a possible interest in change, with some ambivalence concerning what it might mean to grow (I’ve thought about it and need to, but I just don’t know if I can make any changes at this point; I don’t know if I can afford to expand).
We have all faced important questions that can have huge implications for our professional future, such as, “Is it possible to be satisfied with and grateful for our current circumstances while still desiring a change?” For some, this can be an area of uncertainty because it brings up questions concerning time, resources, and motivation and readiness for change. There is also the related challenge of being comfortable where we are while realizing that this comfort may be holding us back from something greater.
The Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente & Norcross, 1992) is an integrative, psychological model used to conceptualize the process of intentional behavior change and is based on principles developed from over 35 years of scientific research and intervention development. The Stages of Change (Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance) are at the heart of the model. Contemplation (aka Getting Ready) is the stage in which people intend to make a change in the next six months. They are more aware of the pros of changing, but are also acutely aware of the cons. If the decisional balance is tipped however, such that the pros outweigh the cons, many individuals move to the Preparation or Action stage. In the Preparation stage, people intend to take action in the immediate future, usually measured as the next month. These individuals have a plan of action.
Traditionally, the model is used to explain the process of behavior changes such as quitting smoking, drinking or over-eating; however, it can be applied to the process of making change’s in one’s career or business. For example, I recently applied this model during a discussion with a business owner who had operated a thriving business for many years. He had created a brand that was very popular in his local community; however, he realized that in order to move his business to the next level, he would need to expand by securing a new and much bigger location for his growing business. I could identify with the range of emotions that he was experiencing (from contentment to excitement to apprehension and fear) while he was contemplating whether it was the right time to make this transition. For him, growing would require taking some risks, including financial ones; however, he knew that he could not remain in his current location if he wanted to grow his sales and customer base. Through our conversation, it became clear to be me that he valued the role that his family members had played in his business, as he had trained and employed many of them throughout the years. He had a desire to build a better future for the youngest members of his family, which was a key motivating factor for growth for him. He was beginning to realize that while growth could definitely lead to more challenges, it could also lead to more resources to be used to make investments in his community, the creation of more jobs for those in need, and security for a stable financial future so that the next generation did not have to start from scratch.
The weighing between the cost and benefits of changing or growing can produce ambivalence that can cause people to remain in the contemplation stage for long periods of time. Because behavior change is a process that unfolds over time through a sequence of stages, I believe that is it important to help people set realistic goals that will help them progress to the next stage and facilitate the change process.
Stay tuned for our next blog on basic tips for setting goals that can ease the progression from the Contemplation to Preparation and Action Stages of Change.