Transitioning into a new lifestyle or behavior successfully requires planning, commitment and self-reflection. When we choose to make such a transition, we need to give up our old definitions of the world, our old ways of doing things, and we find ourselves challenged by the process of "letting go" of old familiar habits.
Endings are difficult for most people, even when we are unhappy with the way things used to be because we are more comfortable with what is familiar. The unknown can cause uneasy feelings. Once we let go, however, we enter a period of feeling disconnected from the past but not yet connected to the present—this has been called the neutral zone. This is when we can benefit from self-reflection, and assess what we really want out of life. It is also a time when we can reorient ourselves toward the future.
I have previously discussed four of the six stages of change, which brings us to the Maintenance Stage. It is a time to make the changes that have taken place and make them part of everyday life. You may think of the term lifestyle change taking place of the word diet.
There is the Termination Stage when the lifestyle change has become the natural behavior and there is no longer a battle with one’s self over having a smoke, a drink, or overeating. It feels like temptations are no longer a concern, and the person can live their life with out fear that a relapse will occur. Depending on the individual, the nature of the issue, and the approach that was taken to make the change a reality, it could take some time to reach this stage. Keep working, and success will be yours!
I would also like to mention that a person may not just move through these stages sequentially. A person may advance to Preparation, and the find themselves back at the Contemplation Stage. A skillful therapist can be a helpful partner through all of these stages by examining why change may be difficult and finding solutions to those obstacles to change, and help the person stay the course by working through the difficulties.