I stumbled across a “readiness scale” in a health newsletter that used to be passed out to everyone in the company by Human Resources. I may have been the only person who read that newsletter front to back. This little tidbit captivated me to the point that I clipped it out and stuck it on my fridge. Then I adapted it for my own use. It’s one of the foundations of my practice. I’ve seen different readiness scales for different fields; Google returns results for the arenas of education and employment. The one I had on my fridge was aimed at “wellness.” I look at it more broadly in the context of CHANGE. Are we ready to change?
One. Ones are not thinking in the context of change. If it comes up at all, it’s because someone else brought it up. “I don’t need to change! Shut up and leave me alone!” Ones Do Not Want to Be Told. They are not ready to hear input, whether it’s from a doctor, lawyer, banker, mechanic, landlord, boss, relative, spouse, space alien, talking donkey, or Supreme Deity. Ones are resistant, defensive, and in denial. They may even be belligerent or antagonistic. Of course, Ones don’t really exist, because I know I certainly never have been reluctant to accept advice or critique from anyone. I mean, we’re all wide open to constructive criticism all the time!
Two. Twos are starting to be aware that something is up. Houston, we have a problem. Twos are typically skeptical that the problem is really the problem, or that the recommended approach will work for them in the same way it’s worked for literally millions of other people throughout history. Twos are pretty sure they are the exception. They are more likely to explain in minute, fastidious detail exactly why That Will Never Work and why it doesn’t apply to their situation. There are other Twos who are aware there is a problem, but unprepared to deal with it at the present time. Sometimes these are very sound reasons, such as the fact that new babies and remodeling don’t mix, or that going back to grad school is not the optimal combination with cancer treatment. Usually, though, a Two just isn’t ready. Twos Don’t Feel Like It and they’re waiting for Willpower or Motivation or a Minotaur or a rainbow bridge or some such.
Three. Threes are on the path. They’re trying. They tend to interpret suboptimal results with “messing up” or “being bad.” They put vast amounts of effort into various attempts at change before finally realizing that those methods are ineffective. They have yet to settle on a simple plan that gets the job done, generally because they don’t like the sound of the most effective plan and would do anything rather than submit to it. Threes sometimes regress for lengthy periods of time. They can be easily discouraged. They are sometimes exhausted before reaching escape velocity. They can bounce along, just under the threshold of success, not realizing that the key insight is just within reach. They have trouble applying their effort consistently, undervaluing the fact that the consistency is almost always the main ingredient for results.
Four. Fours know what to do. They’re not done yet, but they’ve become convinced by trial and error and research. They’ve seen positive results from effective methods, and negative results from ineffective methods. They understand which inputs are making a difference; which are symptoms and which are causes. They aren’t too concerned about being off track temporarily, because they know they can resume the plan. They will accomplish the goal. It will only take a bit more time and effort and dedication. They’ve accepted the ‘grinding’ aspect of doing the same boring steps over and over again, because they know why it matters.
Five. Fives are “there.” They’re in maintenance phase. They’re “done.” They now have insights that seem completely obvious in retrospect, but were earned the hard way. Given another chance, they understand that they could have saved so much time and effort if only they had known what they now know. They’re less attached to the desire to maintain total control, and more willing to listen and accept external input, because they realize it makes life easier. They can learn from others’ experiences. They’re all about the pro tips. They often make great trainers and coaches, because they’ve basically made every possible mistake and they remember having the mindset of a confused, stubborn beginner.
I don’t work with Ones. They wouldn’t want me to. I’m often pinged by people who want me to work with a One in their acquaintance, and usually that person has no idea we are discussing his or her personal sphere in this way. I try to talk these helpful folk through the concept that we have to do our own homework and focus on our own issues. Ones will sometimes have a major epiphany or life event and change completely on their own. Other times, they’ll die unrepentant, leaving a mess for their family and friends and community to resolve. There are few things sadder than a life lived to its end without the benefit of introspection, accountability, and positive change. It happens, though.
In my experience, I can get someone from a Four to a Five with a single conversation. I can get a Three to a Four in a few months, or sometimes over the course of a long weekend if we’re working in their home, but it usually takes a year. I can get a Two to a Three in about three years. Whether I have ever reached a One is beyond my ken. I just make myself available and keep putting my writing out where anyone can interact with it, over any timeframe, in total privacy and without keen overseers.
The most interesting thing about the Readiness Scale is that everyone is at a different level of readiness in different areas of life. We are not very good at transferring skills from one part of life to another. The same individual may be extremely organized at work and a disaster at home; immaculately groomed, with an overgrown yard; a perfectionist at grammar but utterly disinterested in cooking; happy in love but unhappy with the family of origin. We come up with rationalizations to be minimal in exercise and maximal in food consumption, to save books but not money, to spend more time gossiping about people we don’t like than communing with people we do like. We have all sorts of inconsistencies and personal double standards and illogical systems. It can be fascinating to start analyzing our hidden motives and exploring what might happen if we tinkered with our attitudes.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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