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Some people are afraid of change, but the truth is, if you’re changing you’re likely growing.

Psychologists used to think that change started when a person took action, but modern studies suggest change takes place in stages.

Let’s use friendliness as an example. James might typically be grumpy in the mornings, but wants to work on it and become more amiable and friendly to others when he goes into work.

Here are the steps James can take to change his nasty habit:

  1. Precognition – James recognizes that there’s a problem, but he’s not yet connecting it to his own actions: “People say I’m not too pleasant to be around in the mornings.”

  1. Cognition – He starts to realize the problem may be related to his actions. “Hmm… could it be something I’m doing or saying that makes people accuse me of being unfriendly?”

  1. Planning – To solve the problem, James begins to formulate a plan that includes talking to others about the changes he’s contemplating and asking questions to shed light on a solution. “Tom, how do you manage to be so upbeat when you walk in every day?” and “Maybe, if I do what Tom does, I’ll appear more friendly to people.”

  1. Action – He physically puts the plans into action, consciously creating a new routine that incorporates his plan on a regular basis. “Good morning, Ann. How are you?”

  1. Maintenance – James has stuck to his plan beyond six weeks, so now it has great potential to become a habit. “I now greet people and smile when I come into work every day.”

  1. Relapse – He falls off of the plan. This happens fairly often to people who are trying to initiate change in their lives. But in most cases it’s not detrimental because we can revert back to the planning and action stages rather than falling all the way back to the precognition stage. “I failed to smile, and growled at Ann this morning. Time to think before I act and get back on the plan.”

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