by Hélène Montpetit

The Thoreau quote above and the work of the organisations featured in our Sweet Songs Collection help me believe that I can make a difference. I too can build foundations for my dreams, I too can contribute to bringing about peace, building community or finding ways around destructive cultural norms. All I need to do is take steps toward positive change.

However, to achieve any objectives related to change, it helps to understand not only what needs to change but also how it can be made to. What follows is a quick summary of what I have learned so far about the basics of change. I have listed sources and further reading for those who wish to deepen their knowledge and understanding. Your suggestions are also more than welcome.

The Mechanics of Change: 5 Stages

The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins features an interesting section by Dr Chris Johnstone  explaining The Transtheoretical Model of change (also called the Stages of Change Model) developed by Prochaska and DiClemente in the late 1970s. The Model really helps drive home the concept of how change comes about. It looks like this:


So we naturally move from being okay with how things are to experiencing various levels of dissatisfaction. Then we go from being dissatisfied to figuring out what we can do to restore homeostasis. Once we have figured out what lies within our power to do, we begin to make different choices and change our behaviour. When we reach the point at which new choices and behaviours are integrated, the desired change has taken place and our reality reflects the new state of affairs.

No good story is without a plot twist

PlotTwistIf things were that smooth and simple, though, we would all live in wonderful castles in the air, firmly grounded in reality, wouldn’t we? It is because change can be very complex that researchers have gone to the trouble of thinking about it and working out its mechanics. Disbelief, ambivalence, frustration, fear, lack of skills or opportunity are all plot twists in our perfect stories, obstacles that must be overcome. Accordingly, certain illustrations of the Transtheoretical Model also include a Relapse phase followed by a return to the Contemplation stage. The cycle is then resumed, going through the other stages until completion is achieved.

Plot twists might give us the impression our whole edifice is being torn down but they are just like sliding down in the Snakes and Ladders game: so long as you can continue to throw the dice, goals still can be reached! As a matter of fact, any challenges you face can contribute to the resilience of your end goal. In the spirit of using obstacles to solidify the foundations of your dreams, may I recommend Find Your Power, a book by Dr Johnstone that I am currently working through. It is full of practical tools to overcome things that could block your path.

The courage to persist

Persistence and patience are important in most areas of life, but probably more so when we are attempting to make important changes. No matter where you are in the cycle, I hope you find the support and courage you need to persist because nothing worth doing should be abandoned on account of problems encountered while building its foundations.

Sources and further reading:
The Transtheoretical Model

The Transition Handbook

Find Your Power, Dr Chris Johnstone

Addiction and Change, Carlo C. DiClemente

Active Hope, Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

Thank you for reading. Please do not hesitate to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and suggestions for further reading or sources of help for people going through the cycle of change.