In Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success, Meg Selig uses Prochaska and DiClemente’s Transtheoretical Stages of Change Model as a “springboard” for inspiring habit change. Selig breaks down each stage (Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Relapse, Maintenance, and Termination) with definitions and motivating tips to break your habit.
Selig opens the book with her reasons for writing it, stating that “knowing how to change is a life-and-death matter for many people, not just a lifestyle choice.” She ponders, “Why do so many people find it next to impossible to change destructive habits, even when they want to?” She cites her own personal experiences with habit change, stating that her aunt’s death from lung cancer prompted her own decision to quit smoking.
Selig coined the term “changepower” and defines it as “the ability to combine self-change techniques with techniques that rely on other people, places, and things…the capacity to use both internal and external motivation to exercise self-control.” She differentiates changepower from willpower in that willpower refers to the ability to control one’s behavior through the use of internal motivation only.
Prior to detailing the stages, Selig guides readers to finding out where they stand on the “Wheel of Change.” She describes how habits form and why they are so hard to overcome. She encourages various action steps in “Try This” boxes throughout each chapter to help the readers assess themselves as they go along. In discussing how strong a habit can be, she refers to brain chemistry, stating “neurons that fire together, wire together.” As a result, our brains begin to function on autopilot when it comes to bad habits; the more often you act on your habit, the more likely your brain can perform the habit without much thought at all.
Selig integrates scientific information and current research, along with a collegial, conversational tone to teach each stage of change. Using inspirational quotes and stories from former students of her habit change course, she gently but effectively points out reasons to change bad habits, and offers motivational tips. For those who are not yet ready to change (Pre-Contemplation Stage), Selig suggests having “a chat” with your future self, keeping in mind that, “true self-care means never having to say ‘I’m sorry’ to your future self.” This is especially relevant for habits that are endangering your health and quality of life or the health and quality of life of the ones you love.
Each stage of change receives a few chapters in which the stage is explored, steps are provided to work through the stage, along with “troubleshooting” for difficulties, and a plan of action is suggested. Depending on the stage, this plan of action can be passive (e.g., think about when you might want to change) or active (e.g., develop a written list of goals and how you will achieve these goals, then implement them).
In the final stages of the book (Relapse, Maintenance, and Termination), Selig focuses on how to handle slip-ups (lapses), returning to your habit (relapse), and determining if your habit change will require life-long maintenance or if termination is an option. Selig cites grim statistics in her chapter on relapse, stating that, “the first time around only about 20 percent of habit changers make it through all the stages.” That leaves about 80 percent of would-be habit changers experiencing a lapse, relapse, or just plain giving up. But, there is hope. She goes on to say that, “even if you relapse you are still more likely to achieve your habit change goal within six months than someone who has not tried at all.”
Overall, Selig does a good job of bringing a fresh perspective on an old subject. She seamlessly integrates research on habit change with anecdotal, personal stories from her students, and from her own struggles with habit change. She strikes a good balance between expert and caring friend without coming across as condescending or pushy.
Selig uses a motivational interviewing approach to help readers see what is best for them while providing tools along the way to aid self-discovery. Another great aspect to this book is that it can be used for any habit. The suggestions throughout the book focus on the most popular habits that people want to change (diet, exercise, quitting smoking, alcohol, or other drugs, and procrastination); however, the tools can be used for any habit.
Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success is a valuable resource for individuals looking to change a bad habit. It can also serve as a guidebook for people in the helping professions who are often faced with clients looking for advice on how to change bad habits. Its easy to understand format makes it ideal to refer clients to, and the small modules and “Try This” action steps can serve as bibliotherapy and behavioral homework.
Even in cases where you wouldn’t necessarily refer to the book as a direct reference, this book should be required reading in psychology courses in order to help students better understand the motivation behind why we change. This book can’t provide all the answers to that question, but it does a pretty good job at trying!
Changepower! 37 Secrets To Habit Change Success
By Meg Selig
Routledge: October 2009
Paperback, 281 pages