Organizational Skills - Building for the New Year

Organization in the New Year: Initiating Change

Part One of our Three Part Series on Getting Organized

Every New Year, countless people resolve to make behavioral changes that promote happier, more fulfilling lives. Many of these resolutions center on lifestyle adjustments that create greater organization. In this three-part blog series, we'll investigate some effective ways to cultivate greater awareness and action, so you can reduce anxiety, declutter your life and improve self-worth.

The transtheoretical model

Research has shown that people move through a series of stages when modifying behavior, and this realization is at the heart of the transtheoretical model (TTM). Arguably the dominant model of healthy behavior change, TTM seeks to conceptualize the process of intentional behavior change by assessing a person's readiness to act on a new healthier behavior. Based on the analysis and utilization of various theories of psychotherapy, TTM includes the following six steps:

  1. Precontemplation: During this phase, a person has not yet made plans to take action. He or she may also be unaware that certain behaviors are problematic.
  2. Contemplation: As the person begins to recognize that behaviors have become problematic, he or she begins to look at the pros and cons of continued actions.
  3. Preparation: The person becomes intent on taking action and may start taking small steps toward changing behaviors.
  4. Action: The person has made specific modifications aimed at changing problematic behavior and/or acquiring new healthy behaviors.
  5. Maintenance: The person has successfully sustained an intended action for at least six months and is working to avoid relapse.
  6. Termination: The person experiences no temptation toward returning to problematic habits as a way of coping.

To pass from one stage to another and ultimately adopt new healthy behaviors, a person must overcome key mental and physical hurdles. While an individual person may spend more or less time in a particular stage, he or she cannot transcend to a later stage without achieving the required tasks.

Applying TTM to organization

At first glance, the TTM model may appear more suited to people struggling with substance abuse and other risky behaviors. In reality, however, it applies to any negative or undesirable behaviors that reduce the quality of life. Whether you're feeling overwhelmed by chaotic thinking, low self-worth or long-term patterns of disorganization, the TTM model can be your road to improvement. To start your journey, however, you have to take the first step.

Moving from precontemplation to contemplation

While they are muddling through precontemplation stages, people tend to overestimate the cons and costs of changing, while underestimating the pros. They may also be unaware or uneducated about the negatives that stem from their behaviors. During this stage, it helps to consider the pros of changing behavioral patterns, while also experiencing emotions about the negative impact of their behaviors on themselves and others. It also helps to be mindful of decision making and more conscious of the multiple benefits of altering unhealthy behavior. Once you recognize that specific behaviors have become problematic, you can then move into the contemplation stage in which you express your intent to change within the next six months. During the contemplation stage, you will recognize the pros and cons of behavioral change. At the same time, studies have shown that people in the contemplation stage also tend to falsely weight pros and cons as being equal. This inaccurate weighting can promote ambivalence, which may cause people to remain in the contemplation stage for years. To help push past chronic contemplation or behavioral procrastination, it helps to learn about the type of person you can become if you change your behavior. This is often best accomplished by talking to - or reading about - people who have successfully made a similar change.

Moving into preparation

Once you recognize that the pros of behavioral change outweigh the cons, you can move into the preparation phase, during which you create a plan of action. During this stage, you may decide to reveal your plans to friends and family, talk to a counselor or adopt a self-help approach. This stage is also a good time to determine how your family of origin experiences may have influenced your behaviors. In our next post, we will explore the family of origin concept and target effective ways to address and conquer these issues, so you can move forward in the transtheoretical model.