Increasing Motivation For Change – Contemplation Stage Of Change

You are either thinking about change or wondering if it is really worth the effort to change. In order to ride out cravings and urges and the discomfort that comes with giving up your coping strategy, you need to have a strong WHY! Whether you are in the contemplation stage of change or in action and need some confirmation that it’s worth it to stay the course, following are two exercises to help with increasing motivation for change.

Cost Benefit Analysis

The first exercise is basically a detailed pros and cons list from Smart Recovery, it’s called a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA). Identifying the loss that comes from giving up your addiction is just as important as looking at what you will gain. If you are honest with yourself you will likely notice that the benefits of use are temporary and short-lived, while the gains will continue to enhance your life over time.

There are 4 questions associated with a CBA.

1. What are the benefits (rewards, advantages) of continued use of the behavior or substance?

2. What are the costs (disadvantages) of continued use of the substance or behavior?

3. What are the benefits (rewards and advantages) of stopping this behavior or substance?

4. What are the costs (disadvantages) of stopping this behavior or substance?

Divide your paper into four squares, label the squares for each of the questions above, then fill in your answers for each category. After looking at your answers, consider if change is worth it.

Below is a brief version of what it looks like, I’ve used gambling as the behavior:

Benefits of Continuing the Behavior                  Costs of Continuing Behavior

It’s a great escape                                                               Loss of money

My little secret                                                                    Need to lie to others to keep my secret

Exciting when I win                                                           Stressful when I lose

Relief from the problems in my life                                Have to figure out how to cover bills after losing

I will never be able to retire


Benefits of Stopping                                                    Costs Of Stopping

More money                                                                        Lose my coping strategy

No need to lie about where I’ve been                             Temporary escape from reality is gone

Less physical and emotional stress                                No longer get the rush of winning

More restful sleep

Benefits Of Using A CBA

As you can see the benefits are basically temporary and fantasy. For instance, compulsive gamblers never win, one of the things they say in Gambler’s Anonymous is that a win is just a delayed loss. From experience, I know that to be true. The escape from reality is also illusion and generally comes with a cost, either having to lie about where you are, or creating a new stress because of lost money.

Being honest with the CBA can help you get a picture of the destruction you are creating with the behavior or substance.

Another benefit of a CBA is that you can use it to consider how you might get the positive benefits of using in a healthier way. Is there another way to escape the world for a bit, get a massage, take a yoga class, or go for a run.

Identify if there benefits that you are getting that you can live without. (For instance when I hit a royal flush on a video poker machine it was a rush, but it was also terrifying because I had to worry about whether or not I would leave with that money, I can live without that.)

If you find yourself romanticizing the advantages of using, recognize that is a slippery slope and could be a warning sign for a slip.

Note that the above example is a very small picture of what a CBA could look like, keep this handy and continue to add to the list, you want to identify as many disadvantages of the behavior as possible to build and sustain motivation. You also want to continue to add to the benefits of stopping.

Recognize the benefits of change as positive aspects and things to strive for, honesty, better relationships, better finances. This doesn’t change overnight once you quit, but can definitely be achievable with realistic goals set.

Be really honest with what you feel the costs of living without your behavior will be, this will help you identify the potential obstacles. You may need to learn strategies to deal with your social anxiety for example.

If you find yourself dwelling on what you are missing out on, you might need to check in and get real with yourself, are you changing habits and behaviors, doing the work to create a better life for yourself, are you falling into a place of self-pity? Spend some time refocusing on the gains of changing.

Again, this is not something you necessarily do in one sitting, keep it close by so you can review the costs of the addiction and continue to add to both the advantages and disadvantages as they come up.

Values Exercise

Another tool to help build motivation is a values exercise. There are tons of different values exercises on the internet, if you google “values exercises” you can check out some others just to get an idea of what they can look like and to help identify some thoughts about different values.

The way I use a value exercise is a little different. You first identify the values you hold and then give an example or two of how to demonstrate that you are living that value in your life. This is the ideal way you life will look once you are living this value fully. I got the idea to do this from a book called The Passion Test by Janet Atwood. I like doing it this way because it gives a concrete example of what life looks like if I am living in alignment with my values. It also creates some goals to focus on to move more in the direction of living your values.

Core values are the things that you believe make life worth living.

For example here is a short list of possible values to get you thinking:

  • Creativity
  • Loyalty
  • Time with Family
  • Freedom
  • Kindness
  • Need to contribute
  • Courage
  • Spirituality
  • Financial security

There isn’t a right or wrong here and this is a very personal thing. Once you have identified 3 to 5 values the next step is to think about how they look in your life.

For example;

Your values are: 1) Time with family 2) Financial security 3) Freedom

But what does that look like – let’s take financial security, for someone that might mean having a net worth of at least $3,00,000, and for someone else it might be 6 months income in savings. That is why it is important to define what that looks like for you.

Here’s an example:

(Time with family) My life is ideal when:

  • I am able to spend quality time with my family by having dinner with them most evenings
  • we have weekend activities planned.

(Financial Security) My life is ideal when:

  • I have 6 months of income in savings
  • My home is paid in full and I am debt free

(Freedom) My life is ideal when:

  • I make a full time income working for myself
  • I travel frequently

The question then becomes, if you stay in your addiction will you be able to have the things that you perceive will make your life ideal? When we are living in alignment with the things we identify as important we feel more at peace, it is easier to make decisions in our life if we know what we really want. When we are not living in alignment with what matters, we are in a state of internal struggle and conflict.

Once you have identified your values and how you want to live them in your life post them in several places around your home, carry them with you and read them several times throughout the day to remember what you really want for yourself, it will help you focus on recovery and moving forward in your life.


These are stepping stones. Use these exercises to build momentum to change. These are not one and done exercises. With the CBA, continue to add both pros and cons in all 4 quadrants and read them often.

With the values exercise, you might notice that what you thought was ideal while you were in the early stages of the recovery or change process were limited because you didn’t really have much faith in yourself to change Once you are on the path, feeling healthier and strong, you might gain clarity about what you really want. As your head clears and you feel stronger you might realize that you are done living life according to what other people think is important or what you think you should want. It is okay to change your mind.


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