The New Stages of Change

ChangeWe all want to change.

And change is constant.

But we want the ability to create specific change.

We want the change we want.

I’ve been thinking about change for 20 years. And I’m proposing a 21st-century adjustment to the way we think about it.

The Old Change

According to the old-fashioned Change theory, at first we don’t think about change, then we start to think about it, then we prepare and then we take action.

Sometimes during our change efforts, we Relapse.

If we’re successful, we enter the Maintenance stage, and once we get there we’re different than before. Then we terminate our change efforts, because the change process is complete.

The Old...It’s logical.

It can be useful.

But it’s linear.

And change is often not.

We are complex systems living in complex systems.

And change in complex systems includes tipping points. Butterfly effects. And unanticipated outcomes.

Our change efforts transform the world. Both in and around us.

Change alters our relationships. And those relationships change us.

A change in perspective transforms the way we see the world. And the world, in turn, modifies our perspective.

As soon as we begin to think about change, things change.

Once we begin contemplating change, we are already viewing life differently. Already, there are more possibilities. We may find those possibilities exhilarating or terrifying, but once we know about them, it’s hard to unknow that they’re there.

After a couple of decades of working for intentional change in social systems & a number of years immersed in my own n=1 experiments to improve my health, I’ve revised the old stages of change.

To reflect the reality of creating intentional change in a complex world.

The New Change

Stages of Change new & oldPrecontemplation & then Contemplation. That’s how change begins.

But let’s compress Preparation & Action into a new stage: Engagement. Because as soon as we begin to think about change, things change.

And let’s reimagine the idea of relapse.

Because as long as we remain committed to biohacking, as long as we remain curious about why we might be reverting to behaviours we would like to change, and as long as we remain committed to that change, non-linearity in our progress doesn’t always have to be a relapse.

It can be a chance to learn more about ourselves.

An opportunity to adjust course.

Try something new.

Refine our approach.

It’s through the fits and starts that we can come to know ourselves more deeply as we move through the process of change. And through this deepening self-knowledge, we are changed. And become more effective at creating intentional change.

It’s what the n=1 movement is all about~.

The New Stages of Change: A Summary


We are precontemplative when we are not yet considering change.


As in the original Stages of Change theory, we begin by contemplating a change we want to make.


Really, we are engaged in change as soon as we begin the process of contemplation. But we don’t always move from contemplation to engagement.

The shift happens when we make some kind of conscious resolution. Yes. This is what I want (or need) to change.

We prepare, we take action. And as soon as we engage, we begin to change.

The change process may be non-linear. It may involve some vacillation between our previous and our desired state, but we stay engaged.

A desired state that is differentWe remain observant.

We keep learning and improving our strategy to help integrate our change.


We are integrated in our change process when it becomes part of us.

Even if we experience a reversion to old patterns, we pop back to our changed state because we have established a new equilibrium.


Self-actualization is the goal.

Once we embark on the process of change, we are exploring what we are capable of becoming. We are already becoming more actualized.

Back in 1943, in paper called A Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow defined actualization as “the desire for self-fulfillment, namely the tendency for [the individual] to become actualized in what [she or] he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.”

8 thoughts on “The New Stages of Change

  1. Hey lovely Petra – this post interests me (well, they all do, but this one in particular). Where do you sit on ‘unconscious change’? The change that happens when we are not engaged or aware…?

    • Change is constant. All systems are evolving, and affecting the evolution of connected systems. Gaining proficiency in creating intentional change in this dynamic environment is an important skill. Otherwise, the change that happens when we aren’t engaged may not be in our highest & best interest, but simply the result of an associated system achieving it’s own objectives (or simply winding down to entropy). An example is the skin microbiome: If we aren’t intentionally creating change in our microbiome to benefit us, our health is partly being determined by the self-preservation response of microbes to our environment, neither of which take into consideration what we need. So if we opt to be unintentional about change, it will be the needs of another system (or entropy) that determines the outcome, and we are either relying on coincidence or divine intervention to achieve the results that support our well being. I’m all for coincidence & divine intervention, but I try not to rely on them too heavily~.

  2. Pingback: Your Zone of Proximal Development | petra8paleo

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