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How a hardcore prisoner taught me the cycle of change…

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cycle of change and motivation

Wish there was a guide for motivation that told you what to do and when?

There is, and it’s called the Cycle Of Change.

Originally designed to assess and treat substance abuse, the cycle of change describes the process you will go through to change your behavior, and how your level of motivation fluctuates throughout that process.

Precontemplative – not even thinking about changing

Contemplative – realising something might need to change

Planning – figuring out how to change

Action – making the changes

Maintenance – making the changes consistent over time

Lapse – having thoughts that put you at risk of going backwards

Relapse – giving up and reverting back to your old behavior

 

By determining where you are in the cycle you can figure out what the most effective actions are for you to take.

Motivation fluctuates over time. You may assess yourself as being at a certain stage one day, only to then move forward or backwards to a different stage shortly after that. This most often happens when something in your environment presents either a new challenge or more inspiration.

 

THE CYCLE OF CHANGE IN ACTION

Any of you can research the cycle of change, so today I’ll do something different. I’m going to share a true-life story of someone I worked with as she travelled through the entire cycle.

To ensure privacy, let’s just call her “Joan”.

Joan was a high risk offender I worked with for a number of years and, sadly, is not one of my success stories. However her journey will allow us to go through the entire cycle of change model, from pre-contemplative through to relapse.

When Joan was first released from prison she was tough to work with. The many years of ingrained gang-mentality, combined with a long-standing hatred for “the system”, meant I needed to bring out the big guns in order to motivate her.

What was complex in this case was that she actually made a lot of money from crime, which financed her fun-filled and hedonistic lifestyle.

When she first came in it was obvious that she did not see herself as having any issues. This was a woman with “F*** the Police” tattooed on her face.

Joan had been running a highly profitable car theft ring, and had such a great underworld reputation that prison was actually a pretty enjoyable experience for her. Therefore, the idea that she needed to change had genuinely never occurred to her.

This placed her in the pre-contemplative stage.

 

PRECONTEMPLATIVE STAGE

Action required: Get uncomfortable about staying the same.

After a few sessions it was obvious there was no “ammunition” for me to work with regarding the costs and benefits of crime for her. She loved crime! But as time went on and we built a rapport, I learned that she had four children.

One thing that is almost universal about the offenders I have worked with is they almost never want the same life for their children (yes ok, there are some very shocking exceptions). I decided to work on this new angle.

I had assisted her to find housing and employment, and had given her some solid support for solving problems. We also had a frank discussion, where we “unpacked” her history with government agencies and the justice system. I acknowledged how she felt.

After all of this she started to trust me a little. This allowed me to introduce the concept of completing exercises to examine her life, to see if anything could be better.

Together we predicted the path that her eldest son would take in life. On one side, I got Joan to predict what would happen to him if she kept up her life of crime.

Joan was quite straightforward and it was easy to see that her boy would get involved in drugs, end up in gangs, and quite likely go to prison.

On the other side we predicted what would happen to him if she quit offending immediately. It was touching to see that she had quite high hopes for her son, with him completing school, getting a university qualification, and supporting his sisters by starting his own business.

I left Joan to mull over our discussion for a week. When she came back, she said that she was starting to see that she needed to do something to at least plan for the future of her children. She was now in the contemplative stage.

 

CONTEMPLATIVE STAGE

Action required: Motivational work; take advantage of this opportunity and create hope in change.

Focusing on her son, we went through and listed everything he would need from Joan to achieve the lifestyle she wanted him to have. This was tricky ground, because a lot of his financial needs could be supported through crime. We might have ended up coming to the conclusion that she had to keep offending to support her son.

Instead I had her look at other types of support he would need. Joan came up with ideas like transport to extra-curricular activities, helping with his homework, backing for a business loan, and so on.

I think at that stage she didn’t even realize we had basically agreed that she needed to stay out of prison, i.e. she had to stop offending. As you’ll soon see, I made some false assumptions here that ended up costing us both.

We had now moved tentatively into the planning stage.

 

PLANNING STAGE

Action required: Figure out how to make the change possible and achievable.

Whether Joan was aware of it or not, she had now completed the foundation of the plan for her to stop offending and stay out of prison. In order for her to take action on this plan, I needed to motivate her.

We dedicated the next few sessions to motivational interviewing and exercises, where I slowly increased her confidence so she could write her goals. Eventually the plan was clear:

  • I will complete the Better Start [name changed] parenting course by end of July
  • I will complete a certified course in catering, starting July 15th, so that I can get better employment
  • I will spend 1 hour every night helping my children with their homework and talking with them about their school life

Once she became more motivated we went about the practical aspects of putting these goals into action.

 

ACTION STAGE

Action required: Encourage continued action through praise and support, and build on results.

Joan did well, was soon gainfully employed and began enthusiastically sharing stories about the increasing quality of her family time. She even bought her son in to tell me about what he had been learning at school.

 

MAINTENANCE PHASE

Action required: Overcome obstacles while embedding change through new routines.

While there were a few small hiccups here and there, Joan kept this helpful behavior going for quite a few months and moved into the maintenance phase. Even the Police commented on her improvements.

If only the story ended there…

LAPSE
Action required: Stop and figure out what caused lapse thinking. Implement strategies to get back on track.

Joan had her first lapse. She had been at a friend’s place when an argument occurred. Her friend had some unhelpful things to say about Joan’s new outlook on life. Given that Joan was known for assaulting Police severely enough to hospitalize them, this friend must have been intoxicated, reckless or plain old crazy.

Joan managed to remove herself from the situation, but the next time she reported in to me I could see the dark storm-cloud over her head. She was cursing more than usual, and her body language was tense and menacing.

After some gentle questioning, Joan disclosed the incident and admitted that she had been contemplating ordering others to commit serious violence against her new enemy. This was a serious lapse which thankfully had not resulted in action.

We did some exercises on managing high risk situations, and Joan left with a clear “relapse prevention” plan, which detailed how to avoid the friend as well as how to deal with the situation should Joan accidentally run into her.

Unfortunately, I had misjudged the situation.

I had thought that by dealing with the specific threat to her success I helped neutralize the problem. What I missed was the core issue in the lapse: Joan was back to using crime to solve problems.

I had not even contemplated that she might be applying this negative style of thinking to other problems in her life. Sure enough, one week later she failed to report in to me, because she had relapsed.

 

RELAPSE

Action required: Start over again, learning from the last attempt’s mistakes.

I checked her up on the computer-system and found out she had been remanded in custody with active theft charges. Turns out she re-engaged her old criminal network and started stealing again.

Even though I had trained myself not to get emotionally attached to the outcomes with clients, I felt disappointed. It’s hard to see months of hard work go down the drain, but at least I learned a very valuable lesson:

Problem-thinking always affects more than one area of your life!

Dan is a lifestyle and success coach, with his own company The Inspirational Lifestyle Ltd. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand, and loves to share his advice and opinions on how to attain success. Make sure you checkout more of Dans articles at: TheInspirationalLifestyle.com

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Here’s Why Productivity Hacks Don’t Work

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How many times have you eagerly tried out a new productivity hack or tool and not gotten the result you expected? There is wealth of information available to us giving us everything we need to know to increase our productivity, but most people live their life in chaos.  Why do still see so many people struggling to manage their time and simply not able to get the results they desire?  What is missing? (more…)

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4 Lies You Keep Telling Yourself When You’re Afraid to Do Something

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When’s the last time you let fear get the better of you? Whether we want to admit it or not, fear keeps us from doing a lot of the things we know we really should do to achieve our goals. Fear is especially detrimental to entrepreneurs (read ‘wantrepreneurs’) that want to launch their first big project. (more…)

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Tips, Tools, and Techniques to Create Your Curiosity

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Curiosity is a great characteristic that people rarely sustain in their lifetimes. Some people struggle to sustain curiosity because of their internal and external challenges. They cannot encourage curiosity to come to the fore as they condition their mindsets with their learning, experience, and environment. However, there are very few individuals who sustain their curiosity levels throughout their lives to excel as extraordinary achievers.  (more…)

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5 Life Tips You Didn’t Know You Needed to Hear

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Life is a battleground, we need to keep fighting until our appointed time on earth comes. So, in this post, you will see the best of the best life tips you have never heard before. These tips are life-changing and can change you immediately. Let’s go!

1. Be independent 

Hundreds of millions of people make this mistake. We depend on people like us. “he will get it done for me, she will get it done for me”. You rely heavily on people and guess what, you are making a big mistake. 

There are a lot of people that have helped others and perhaps time changes for them, they become poor and rely on the people they have helped, guess what comes out at the end of this reliance? Disappointment, promises backed by failures, etc. 

Who are you depending on? Who is that person you can’t do without when getting things in your life done? If there is anyone, you are making a big mistake. And starting today, all you have to do is add a prefix – what if!

What if my friend stops helping me, what if I get disappointed by people I trust with my life, what if they neglect me and turn me down”.

A man or woman that depends on people like him is equal to a feeble pillar holding the four corners of a house. What happens when the feeble pillar falls? The man’s house falls down super-flat. Your trust should only be in Jesus. Man can fail us at any time but God is always faithful till his Kingdom comes. 

2. Love your neighbor as yourself 

The gravity of this word is enough to shatter the whole earth into pieces. 

Only if the whole world just kept this simple commandment Christ Jesus gave then, there will be no murders, poverty, greediness, anger, envy, betrayal, disappointment, etc. 

Why are there such things in the world? Because we hate ourselves. As long as you are fine all is well. You care about yourself only, selfish, you have and yet you cannot give. 

Those are the characteristics of over 90% of the 7.6 billion humans on earth. Why can’t you do to others what you would have them do to you? Why can’t you help that suffering neighbor who needs food? Then, a lot of people will say 

“Go away from here beggar, what did you do with your youth, I can’t give you a dime, beggar”. Why are we so cruel? This is the best tip you must dear to your heart. 

No matter what you have, no matter how little or in whatever way you can help. Help people, show them love, love them as you love yourself. Don’t forget this, today’s beggar, uneducated, debtor, poor person, etc can later become the greatest person in the world tomorrow. 

“Don’t settle for what life gives you; make life better and build something.” — Ashton Kutcher

3. Have a growth mindset

A growth mindset is what makes one successful and go far in life. However, a fixed and stagnated mindset throws one into jeopardy of life.

A lot of people have a fixed mindset, what they believe is what they believe, nothing you say on earth can change their mindset, they are the most educated in the world so they don’t need to learn any further. Did you have a fixed or growth mindset?

A growth mindset leads to success, achievements, happiness, learning more, and becoming better. On the other hand, a fixed mindset leads to complacency, pride, lack of achievement, ignorance, the stagnancy of the mind, etc. 

Let’s see an example of someone with a fixed mindset:

Cait tells Alice: Alice stop being so proud it’s annoying. 

And Alice responds:

“How dare you say I am proud, I am not. I am the most humble woman on earth”. In the example, Alice with a fixed mindset has a fixed mindset. However, what she does not know is that she is in the darkness of her ignorance. She is ignorant of the fact that she is a proud person thus, she can’t see it. 

People with a fixed mindset are ignorant. You must never have a fixed mindset. Always be willing to learn and to grow with humility. Pride can take you nowhere. 

4. Forgive everyone and give as many second chances as you can  

A lot of people have done all they could to be happy and have peace. But, they find out that happiness is not just there and that peace of mind is absent. 

Why is that? It is because you have a lot of grudge against people that have offended you. Yes, we know, it pained you to your heart, and what next? Keep malice? But, do you know what that unforgiveness does to you?

I call it the seed of unforgiveness because it plants a seed in your heart and this seed further grows to become hatred, depression, lack of freedom, zero peace, etc. 

If in only one person’s heart are all these things, then a person like that can never know peace and happiness. For example, if you were to go to a party with your friends and you hear that perhaps the other friend that you keep malice with is coming to the same party. 

Naturally, the only thing you would think of is not going to the party anymore because you want to avoid the person at all costs. And what does that add to you? It doesn’t add instead, it subtracts from your life because you could have gone to the party, had fun, and even have new friends or even new opportunities.

If not for anything will you forgive people, forgive them for the sake of God, for the sake of Christ Jesus. Because if you cannot forget the trespass of people, don’t expect God to forgive you. Forgive everyone, give them as many second chances as possible. 

Mind you, they can still mess up and make terrible mistakes all you have to do is keep forgiving them. This may not be so easy to the flesh. However, it is only The Spirit of God that can make you forgive the trespass of people. Without The Holy Spirit, it is impossible to do so. 

5. Love God

Do you love God? Are you a child of God? Do you believe in Christ Jesus? Even if the rest of the tips on these lists do not resonate with you, I want you to hold this very important to your heart which is to Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength.

And you can do that only by being a child of God. This life is too short. It is like a vapor, it is nothing. Life is more like an empty barrel that makes noise. You will grow old, your strength will leave you and you will die but, what happens after that? Where are you going to spend the rest of your eternity? 

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