The 5 Stages of Change

What the heck are you even talking about? I want to change… isn’t that all that matters? When you are ready to make a change in our lives, whether it be for your health, a job, quitting a bad habit etc., we all go through the stages of change. The 5 stages of change are a series of thought processes in which it takes to actually make that change happen in the current, while also supporting a long-term behavior/lifestyle change.


Believe it or not, the change doesn’t even actually start when you “want to change,” or even start taking action. These 5 stages breakdown the psychological and mental aspects from the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change which shows the process for this change from the time it was a seed all the way until it blooms. The 5 stages of change model is important because it helps you better understand the process of behavior change and can guide the development of effective interventions to help make that change.  By understanding the different stages of change, you can identify where you are currently, and what steps you can take to move forward. This can help you feel more empowered and motivated to make lasting changes. 


Let’s talk it through. I’ll use some examples along the way to help make things feel more clear, or even a bit relatable.


Step 1 Pre-Contemplation:

At this stage, you aren’t aware or you are not considering making a change in your behavior. You may not see the behavior as a problem or may feel resistant to changing.

  • Example 1: needing to lose weight, but not feeling the need to make it happen
  • Example 2: you’re not feeling well, but don’t notice it or don’t notice the need for change


Step 2 Contemplation:

When you are at the contemplation stage, you notice a need for change, and start to consider the various pros and cons of the contemplated change. You may have some ambivalence and feel uncertain about whether or not to make the change.

  • Example 1: you notice your body is feeling uncomfortable, and you consider the pros and cons to weight loss
  • Example 2: you notice your body is experiencing symptoms, and you consider whether or not you need to see a doctor


Step 3 Preparation:

You have decided to make the change in the near future and start to plan and prepare for everything that comes with that change. You might even start taking small steps towards the change and begin to gather information and resources to help you achieve the change you are striving for.


Step 4 Action:

Now you would start to take direct action towards the behavior change you are trying for. You’ll start to modify the environment you are in, seek support from others, and implement strategies to maintain the change. This stage usually takes 6 months-1 year.


Step 5 Maintenance:

Finally, you will have successfully made the change and are working to maintain it over time and create a habit out of the change you made. Maintenance is typically another 6 months-2 years. You might still continue to seek support and implement strategies to prevent relapse which is normal.

  • Example 1: you have lost the weight you desired and feel comfortable and confident in your body space. You now are keeping up the habits built to maintain your goals.
  • Example 2: you have now figured out a routine that best suits your health diagnosis while also supporting the autonomy of your ideal life. You are working to maintain the habits and education you learned to keep your health on track.


It’s important to note that not everyone goes through all of these stages (aka skipping steps), while some individuals may need to repeat through certain stages multiple times before finally achieving a long lasting behavior change.

It is also important to note that not all stages last the same length. Some may be quick and some may last longer than expected. Every person goes through the different stages very differently and that’s ok!