All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy,…..
William Shakespeare  (full poem –

The Stages of Change can be applied to variety of situations when people are trying to change behavior such as to stop drinking, stop smoking or stop overeating.

An example of stages of change is an early “pre-contemplation” stage when a person is still deciding whether they want to quit smoking.

from Changing for Good by James Prochaska

The Stages of Change

Stage #1
Unaware of problems associated with behavior. Certain that the positives of the behavior out- weigh the negative. Not interested in change. Unwilling to change. No intention to change.


Becomes aware of problems associated withbehavior. Ambivalent regarding positives and negatives. Explores the potential to change. Desires to change behavior but lacks confidence and commitment. Intends to change before 6 months.
This is an event, not a stage. Concludes that the negatives of the behavior out-weigh the positives and chooses to change behavior.
Stage #3
Accepts responsibility to change behavior. Evaluates and selects techniques for behavior. Develops a plan. Builds confidence and commitment. Intends to change within one month.
Stage #4
Engages in self-directed behavior change effort. Gains new insights and develops new skills. Consciously chooses new behavior. Learns to overcome the tendencies for unwanted behavior. Active in action stage for less than six months.
Stage #5
Masters the ability to sustain new behavior with minimum effort. Establishes desired new behavior patterns and self-control. Remains alert to high- risksituations. Focus is on lapse prevention. Has changed behavior for six months.
Lapse or Relapse
This is an event, not a stage. May occur at any time. Personal distress or social pressures are allowed to interrupt the behavior change process. Temporary loss of progress which resumes at an earlier stage. Experience is educational to help prevent further recurrence.
Stage #6
Adopts new self-image consistent with desired behavior and lifestyle. Does not react to temptation in any situation. Expresses confidence and enjoys self-control. Appreciates healthier and happier life.

Most successful self-changers go through the stages three or four times before they make it through the cycle of change without at least one slip. Most will return to the contemplation stage of change. Slips give us the opportunity to learn.