Deciding to be happy

I’m almost half-way through 2017. Soon I will have to take stock of where I am in The Do-Over Project. Where am I succeeding? Where am I…not? Where do I have to pick up the pace? Am I accomplishing what I set out to do in this experiment?

I’ll get to that in another week or so, but in the meantime, I’ve been thinking about my initial thoughts on why I started this experiment.

I wanted to be happy again. Simple–but not easy. I’ve had a couple of tough years (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) and I felt it was time to take back my life.

But could I just decide to be happy again? That’s one question I’ve answered for sure in the last six months. I won’t make you wait until next week to find out what I’ve discovered…the answer is…

Yes. It is possible to simply decide to be happy. No matter where you are in your life. No matter what has happened to you. Actually, it’s the most important decision–before you set a single goal. There has to be a decision to do something differently.

But it’s not easy. In fact, the decision is very, very hard, because it means that, like me, you’ve accepted you need to take responsibility for your life. You have decided to take control of your life.

It takes me back a few years to my fitness instructor days. In order to get people into the habit of fitness, we needed to understand an individual’s readiness to change in order to meet them where they were.

We used the Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & DiClemente), which identifies six stages of change:

Precontemplation (Not Ready): People in this stage aren’t going to take action. There’s no sense setting up a fitness routine, for example, for a precontemplator.

Contemplation (Getting Ready): People in this stage want to change. They understand the pros an the cons of their behavior, but they are often hung up on these, making them ambivalent and keeping them stuck in place. They are likely to procrastinate.

Preparation (Ready): People in this stage intend to take action in the near future (say, a month). They have typically already taken some action in the past year. For example, they’ve joined a gym or are seeing a psychologist. These are the people ready for action!

Action: People in this stage are making specific overt changes.

Maintenance: People in this stage are working to prevent relapse. They are increasingly confident that they can do this! They’ve learned that they can. But they still have to keep at it, because relapse can sneak up.

Now, this is simplification of a much more complex theory and I am in no way an expert in this area, but it’s important to think about (for more information, just google “stages of change” and you’ll find many resources). Where are you in your own process?

For me, I’d say I’m in the early stages of Action. This is when I have to be hypervigilant in my efforts and I know this, which is why I’ve given myself a year. I want to really get it under my belt. I want to be a Maintainor.

This theory points to something very important about making the decision to change. While it’s arguably the hardest decision, it isn’t the only decision.

Unfortunately, you still have to do the work! I still have to do the work. If I want to be happy, I have to back up my intention with action. I’m getting there, but I still have a lot of actionable items!

Here’s to action!





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