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How to Change Any Behavior - The Transtheoretical Model - Behavior Change

Updated on October 10, 2011

Use it for anything, including quitting smoking

How Many Attemps

How many attempts do you think it takes to make a behavior change? On average?

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Behavior Change

Behavior change can be used to change practically any behavior. These behaviors may include smoking, eating too much or too little, sleeping in too late, or even taking your dog for a walk. Ranging from behaviors that have no ill affect, to high risk behaviors. All of these can be approached using an evidence based behavior change model.

There are many different models and theories out there, including the Health Belief Model, Stages of Change, and the Theory of Reasoned Action. The one that stands out the most to me, and has worked with people I know, as well as myself, is the Stages of Change Model, otherwise known as the transtheoretical model. James O. Prochaska of the University of Rhode Island and colleagues initially developed the model. The Stages of Change model is designed exactly as it is titled, through a series of stages. The stages are listed below:

  • Precontemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance


The precontemplation is a stage where an individuals has no plans to make changes, has not even thought about it, and may even be unaware of negative effects of their behavior.


This stage is a vital stage. Moving from the pre contemplation to contemplation is a great success. This stage is where a person is aware of their behavior, and is planning on making a change within 6 months. This person may be aware of positive or negative effects of their behavior. Sometimes, a person may not be taking their behavior change too seriously during this stage, and it is easy for them to put it off for later.


This is when an individual is ready to make a change within 30 days. Usually, during this time, a person is thinking about what he or she will do to make the change. Sometimes during this stage people begin to talk about their desired behavior change. Other psychological factors exist here, such as fear of failure. This is an important stage to realize you are simply following a plan of stages, and you have come a long way since the contemplation stage.


This is one of the most critical stages. This stage lasts from the day the behavior change starts, to 6 months. This stage requires constant battling to continue stopping the behavior. Sometimes people reward themselves for avoiding the behavior, sometimes people avoid certain triggers, such as other people, as well, during this stage. People may take up a new hobby to replace the behavior during this stage as well.


This is a stage where people have successfully had their behavior changed for six months or more. This involves maintaining the behavior change. The most difficult part is over, however, ongoing reminders may play a pivotal role in maintaining the behavior.

Getting Past Action : The easy way, simply understand.

Most people have the hardest part getting past action. What I have learned that has been helpful to people is to know this model. To understand this model allows you to see where you are, and allows you to see an end point. One of the most important elements to the stages of change model is to realize that is DOES account for failure. Realizing that is could take 3,4,5, or even 10+ attempts to reach the desired behavior change. If you fall back a stage, for example, if moving from action to maintenance, you break and somehow go back to contemplation, you will understand that it is okay and is calculated into the model. Sometimes, people get the desired behavior change within one try, other people may try 50 times. The key is, to keep training, and keep reminding yourself what stage you are on.

Often times, using the stages of change model is used with the health belief model. The health belief model involves understanding the risks and benefits of changing your behavior. For example, if you are a smoker, realizing that smoking can damage your health, and have not only medical and health consequences, but also social consequences. Keeping that in mind, realizing the positive to the health behavior change, such as smelling better, having more money, and not having to go stand out in the cold to smoke.

Overall, using both models, and understanding where you are is the means to advancing to the maintenance stage. Being healthy takes work, but everyone can reach their optimal wellness if they try. Trying is key. Don't be afraid of trying, or failure.


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    • profile image

      Adam 5 years ago

      I like that model. It is simple and very easy to understand.

      It also maps pretty well onto my own experience with giving up smoking (I quit about three years ago now) It took me countless attempts to get to the Action Stage and then more again to get to the Maintenance Stage. I'd like to think that I'm clear of any danger of falling back into it again. However, I do know that there are occassionally little fantasy scenarios running through the back of my mind in which I am really enjoying a smoke. When that happens and I 'catch' the thought I find that submitting it to rational scrutiny diminishes its power. Usually, unless I see someone else smoking, I don't even think about it these days. Even then, I'm usually repelled by rather than attracted to such a thing.

      Anyway, nice hub. Very informative. Thanks.

    • shea duane profile image

      shea duane 6 years ago from new jersey

      really interesting. i have to think more about this topic.

    • healthycontent profile image

      healthycontent 6 years ago from Salt Lake City, UT

      Thanks for the find! I fixed it. I hope to be writing more on the topic over time. Thanks for the vote:)

    • kripkrip420 profile image

      kripkrip420 6 years ago from In relation to what?

      Thanks for all of that information! I also have some bad habits and behaviors I would like to get rid of myself! Very well written. There is just one typo that you made in your "contemplation" section. In that section, the error occurs in the second sentence. I believe what you meant to say was "Moving from the precontemplation to contemplation stage is a great success." Anyways, great Hub and hope to read more! Voted up!