When The Student Is
Ready, the Teacher Appears
Julia M. Rahn, Ph.D.
Do you know Sam?
Sam is a successful business executive who currently is working on
at least 10 different projects at any given time. For most of his
career, his office has been a complete mess and colleagues always
shake their heads in disbelief when they leave his office and wonder
how he can work this way. Sam has to work late hours to get
everything accomplished, due to the fact that projects take him 50%
longer to complete as he needs a significant amount of “finding
paper time” to simply begin and work on a project. He is always
tired from working long hours, gets complaints from his family about
not being home enough and knows he is not working at his optimal
capacity. After failing to complete a large contract, Sam decided he
needed to change.
He first began
thinking about changing and then took steps to make this change a
reality. At a recent networking event, which he almost avoided out
of fear he should be working on a major project instead, he was
introduced to a professional organizer who seemed to really
understand the executive needs and struggles he has due to working
at a fast paced and lucrative business. Upon making an appointment
for the following week, Sam marveled to himself about the
synchronistic meeting he had with this organizing professional. He
was ready, and a teacher appeared.
Stories like this
happen all of the time and highlight the power behind the old adage;
When The Student is Ready, the Teacher Appears. When someone
is truly ready to reach a goal, the path to the goal becomes clear,
necessary support and instruction is available, and the likelihood
of reaching the goal is nearly 100%. Readiness is a mindset that
everyone can achieve to successfully reach goals and maintain the
benefits associated with reaching any aspiration.
However, while the necessity of switching to this mindset to
reach a goal is an easy concept to grasp, it is often not simple to
obtain. Dr. James Prochaska is a well-known psychologist, researcher
and co-developer of the Transtheoretical Model which depicts the
stages of change we all go through to help individuals ready
themselves to make the changes necessary for goal achievement. The
stages of change model depict five active stages of change and one
knows they are truly ready for change when they reach the action
stage. At this stage, motivation for change is high, barriers to
change are low, and the benefits of change are clearly seen.
“teachers “appear seemingly out of nowhere to provide support and
direction to reach our goals. However to reach the action stages,
there are three stages of change that must first be traversed.
The first stage is
called the Precontemplation Stage and this is where
individuals are not even thinking about changing. Sam was in this
first stage of change when he was continually shuffling papers from
one pile to another. Months prior to being ready to change, he felt
his methods of keeping track of his work were working despite all of
his colleagues feeling he was an organizational mess noting that his
work suffered because of this disorganization. Furthermore, despite
individuals were pointing out the consequences to him having an
extremely cluttered desk, Sam was oblivious to the need for him to
change. At this stage, having a teacher appear is not even a
possibility, as Sam was not yet ready for a teacher.
Luckily for Sam, a
major contract was lost due to him losing an important document
buried in papers on his desk. Thus, Sam began thinking about how
disorganized he truly was and the negative effects this
disorganization was having on his life. He also began thinking about
what his life would be like once his work life was more organized,
and it was then he started brainstorming possible solutions to help
get his office organized. At this point, Sam is in the second stage
of change, the Contemplation Stage, where he is thinking
about changing but hasn’t taken any real steps towards making any
change. Again, the teacher isn’t anywhere close to materializing at
this point, but Sam is getting closer to being ready for one to
Sam enters the
Preparation Stage, the third stage of change, when he begins to
take his first steps towards really becoming more organized. He
begins to research solutions on the Internet, asks colleagues about
what works for them, and buys both a shredder and a filing cabinet.
He even starts visualizing what his life will be like once he is
fully organized. Sam visualizes getting more work done, feeling more
respect from his colleagues, and having more energy for after work
activities with his family now that he has alleviated the stress
associated with his disorganization. At this point it is possible
that Sam may have met his “teacher” but the connection won’t be
fully made until the next stage.
These first three
stages are what we all go through when making a change. Some go
through these stages quickly, while others cycle between the
contemplation (thinking) and preparation (preparing) stages over and
over until they are ready for action. During the Action Stage
of change, the fourth stage, behavior can truly be modified and
teachers appear. Once you are willing to take action, you are ready
for true change. Sam began meeting with the professional organizer
three hours a week to organize the papers on his desk and develop a
procedure to stay organized. He even tackled smaller organizational
projects between meetings with the organizer. As each week went by
Sam felt better and better. He enjoyed walking into his office each
day, he could find everything with ease, and his productivity and
respect from his colleagues vastly increased.
The fifth and final
stage of change is the Maintenance Stage. When individuals
have maintained a change of behavior for over six months, they are
thought to be in this maintenance stage. There is an ongoing
commitment to sustaining this new behavior that includes plans for
finding and using additional support and coping strategies during
stressful times. Also, there are continued positive reinforcements
for long-term behavior change. Sam has a very good chance of
reaching the maintenance stage.
Sam’s process of
behavior change (i.e. becoming organized at work) is a clear example
of how to comprehend the stages of change model and to understand
where you might be in this process of change. As soon as you know
which stage you are in, you can then work to move to the next stage.
Once you are truly ready for change, you will be amazed at the
support, direction and teachers that become available. Change
becomes easier and the rewards greater. Good luck on your process of
change and I look forward to hearing your stories about what
teachers appeared for you and how doors opened when you became truly
ready for this change.
Read other articles and learn more about
Julia M. Rahn, Ph.D.
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