Pre-Contemplation

Posted on September 12, 2011

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As much as you may desire to change, you won’t be able to until you get to a place where you are solidly ready to get both the resources and motivation you need to change.

Now, before you run out and try to amass tons of resources and self-help motivational tools, there’s something you really should know: No amount of resources or motivation is going to lead to success until you first do some necessary inner work.  Your outer life cannot sustain any kind of change for long if your inner life is not aligned with the change as well.

That’s why the first stage of change is called Pre-Contemplation. This stage is all about removing the mental obstacles (in your unconscious mind) that prevent you from moving forward.

A lot of people focus on results or the tangible aspects of change to prove to themselves that they’re on the right track. Think of the woman who’s decided she wants to lose 20 lbs. She uses the decreasing numbers on the scale to prove her success.

But if she hasn’t examined and changed the way she thinks about food, exercise and her body, if she doesn’t deal with her inner life (the emotional and subconscious messages that have led her to be overweight) this change won’t last for long. The only way changes truly last is if we shift both our inner and outer lives.  

In my last post, I previewed for you The Seven Psychological Stages of Change.  I also told you that you’ve got to pass through some initial stages before you’ll be ready to successfully move into action and sustainability. People who try to jump into Stage 3 or 4 or 5, without tackling the messy issues that surface in Stages 1 and 2, are setting themselves up for failure, or, at the very least, a lot of obstacles.

If you’re like me and you want to jump into an action stage right away when you’ve decided a change needs to be made, there’s nothing wrong with that. Just know that you’ll need to also do some inner work simultaneously if you want the change to last. As we go through each stage of change, try to not to think of the steps as a hierarchy, but more of a process.

Pre-Contemplation is the first of the seven psychological stages of change and it is one that is the most difficult to traverse without the help of a trained professional.  That’s because Pre-Contemplation deals with the  messages that you’re unaware of, the hidden messages that prevent you from moving forward. And most of those messages stay lodged in your subconscious unless you hire someone to help you get them out.

Limiting thoughts and beliefs, patterns and habits that you are not conscious of will arrest any change you try to make unless you learn to recognize and dissolve them. Even the most insightful of people will find it almost impossible to access these messages without the assistance of an unbiased, objective party.

If you’ve decided that you want to change, it is in your best interest to hire a coach or a therapist to help you access these subconscious messages. Otherwise, most of the work you do to change will later be undone by some kind of self-sabotaging behavior.

Once you are able to access these messages, you can then start using some coaching tools and strategies to shift them into more consciously productive ways of thinking. {And that’s exactly what happens during Contemplation, the second stage of change.}

There is a coaching tool I use with clients to help them access some of their destructive subconscious  messages and I’ll share it with you here. It’s a simple exercise and only requires a piece of paper and a pen. {As I’ve stated in previous posts, tools I provide here are not comprehensive-they are just tools to get your started. Only one-on-one work with someone who can give you the individualized attention, tools and strategies that you need will help you move into the next stage of change.} 

Pre-Contemplation Coaching Tool: Dominant/Non-Dominant Hand

-Draw a line down the middle of your paper. One column will be labeled “Dominant Hand” and the other column “Non-Dominant Hand.”

-Now, with your dominant hand, write a question or a series of questions about a change you want to make (perhaps-What do I need to do before I change?) If you’ve attempted to make this change in the past but have been unsuccessful, you can ask a question like-What’s holding me back here from making this change?

-Hand your pen over to your non-dominant hand and in the other column, let your hand write an answer in that scribbly, almost illegible handwriting your non-dominant hand is known for. Don’t think or analyze the answer. Just let your hand write down the first thing that comes to mind.

-Once your non-dominant hand is done answering your questions, you can read over the answers. You may find yourself quite surprised at what you learn.   

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