Photo by Diane Selwyn; Wikimedia Commons

Last week, I described stage three (preparation) of the stages of change model. Stage three is when people intend to take action soon to change their money habits, but they need to get all of their ducks in a row and to make a specific plan of action.

What are the strategies or self-challenges you can use to move from stage three to stage four (action)?

If your starting point is stage three, you will focus on making a plan for the future and solidifying your commitment to change. You can start by making a list of the benefits of change and keeping it with you wherever you go. For example, if you are attempting to save more money, write a brief list of the reasons you are saving (the reasons that have the biggest emotional impact) and put copies of it in crucial places like the inside of your wallet and the side of your computer monitor.

Your next step is to create a strong, positive image of your future self. Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • After I have been successful in making this change, how will my thoughts be different? My feelings? My behavior?
  • What will my new behavior free me up to achieve or become?
  • In what ways will my life be enhanced once I have mastered this change?

To solidify your commitment to change, set a date that you think is a reasonable date to launch your change plan. Make your commitment public. Public promises are more powerful than private pledges because they enhance your sense of accountability and may help you garner social support for your efforts.

Create a concrete plan of action. What specific steps will you take to reach your goal? What obstacles or barriers may arise that you will have to overcome? Make a list of all of the strategies you will use to cope with anticipated barriers to change.

Identify the conditions that will create the greatest temptation and threaten to take you off track as you work toward your goal. Then design a specific rule that defines how you will act under those conditions.

Enlist the support of the important people in your life. Share your change plan with them and tell them specifically how they can be most helpful to you. You’ll know you have completed the preparation stage when you have made a firm commitment to a detailed action plan.

When you have changed a habit in the past, what has been the most important preparation task for you?