Readiness to Change

Improving our emotional awareness contributes to improved wellbeing, happiness and resilience. The information and tools you find on this blog are intended to help you on your pathway to better health. However, the timeline on the path to better health is different for everyone. Why? The timeline is based on an individual’s readiness to change.

People can be ready to change for different reasons and at different times. For example, maybe you are nearing retirement and wonder how to stay connected outside of work. Perhaps you have lost a relationship through a move, a death or divorce. You might be starting a new job or have recently relocated and want to increase your connections to work or your new neighborhood. You may be low on energy, patience, purpose and want to feel more invigorated.

How ready are you to change? Do you have the motivation, energy and desire to develop new habits? Our old habits save us time but lead us down a pathway to the exact behavior we want to change. To develop new habits/behaviors we must take the time to pause, think and develop new pathways.

Readiness to change is concept derived from both Motivational Interviewing technique, Miller and Rollnick, and the Transtheoretical Model of Change by Prochaska and DiClemente. It is arguably the most important variable in changing behavior. A visual way to look at readiness is a ruler:

When we acknowledge where we are on the ruler, we know what type of information and skills are needed to move forward. It comes down to using the right tool at the right time to improve effectiveness and gain momentum for behavior change.

Why Is This Important?
If you have tried over and over again to make a behavioral change and haven’t been successful, reconsider where you are on the readiness ruler. If you say to yourself, “I just need more discipline, I am not motivated,” the truth may be you just aren’t ready to change. You aren’t lazy or undisciplined, you just aren’t at the planning and action stage. For every stage there is a skill or technique to move forward, when you are ready.

Stages of Change

Skill used to move to the next stage

1-2 on the ruler:
Not Ready – “I won’t, I can’t”


  • Unconditional acceptance, empathy
  • Consider working on a different behavior
  • (i.e. not ready to quit smoking, but ready to exercise)

3-4 on the ruler:
Unsure – “I may”

  • Identify a strong, personal reason to change
  • Increase knowledge (read, talk, think) & belief
  • Identify support system

5-6 on the ruler:
Planning – “I will”

  • Develop a health vision, what do I want?
  • Understand the difference between current and desired future behaviors

7-8 on the ruler:
Action – “I am”

  • Goal setting, accountability, mentoring, building confidence, experience “wins”

9-10 on the ruler:   Maintenance – “I still am”

  • Re-setting goals, working through challenges, setbacks, keeping the vision alive

Source: Coaching Psychology Manual, second edition. Moore, Jackson, Tschannen-Moran, 2016

What’s Next?
Research tells us that behavior change is possible and occurs when you have moved through the stages of change.

  • To get to a 7, action, take the time to work through the initial stages of change 1-6
  • Create enough mind space (mindful movement, mindful pause, day dream) in your day that you can take a look forward to what you want (this is easier said than done!)
  • Utilize your resources at work and home to help move you forward
  • Try to avoid negative self-talk, instead recognize you may not be ready

Change is possible but often “invisible” as you make the internal thinking shifts. When your thinking has changed then the physical or “external” change is observed. We are here to help!

Top ⇧