What Does “Empirical” Mean and Why Does it Matter?

Research happens, generally, in one of two ways. The first is to start with a theory and then run experiments to prove or disprove the theory. A classic is Columbus theory that the world was round and if you sailed west you could get to the east.

The second, “empirical” starts with an observed result and then working backwards to see what lead up to the result. A classic in this area is Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClmente’s “Changing for Good” which started with people who’d actually changed and then they studied and discovered the process which they labeled “The Stages of Change.”

These stages:

  • Precontemplation;
  • Contemplation;
  • Preparation;
  • Action;
  • Maintenance;
  • Termination.

Turn out to be the standard process one goes through in making any change in one’s behaviors or beliefs. Somewhat more in depth:

  • Precontemplation refers to the “stage” before one becomes aware that it might be worth considering changing something in one’s life;
  • Contemplation is essentially thinking about it and is, frequently, where most of us stay stuck whether it’s changing jobs, careers, giving up smoking or drinking, losing weight, getting divorced, moving or any of a thousand little adjustments to our day to day life. “Contemplation hell” is how we refer to this ongoing state of dissatisfaction which can last a very very long time.
  • Preparation is when we decide that change would be good and we research the possibilities, the pros and cons, the likely results, and what help, of any, it might be wise to consider. This is another stage where procrastination is often the rule as in “Let me just look a little bit more into…..”
  • Action is just that, action. Getting oneself in gear and implementing the process that will create the change. We’re going to the doctor, gym, lawyer, financial planner, or, possibly, us, and the change is underway.
  • Maintenance arrives when we have made the change – quit smoking, stopped or reduced drinking, lost weight, gone back to school. This lasts until the “new normal” is becoming established which is when we move on to Termination.
  • Termination occurs when we no longer need to pay attention to our new day to day reality or the elimination of a negative behavior. An example?Years ago when my dog Jazz died was a horribly difficult day. The following day I woke up and realized that through the entire excruciating process it had never occurred to me the reach for a drink or a cigarette. Any lingering concerns about those past behaviors was as extinguished as the behaviors themselves.

I’ve spent this amount of review because you know yourself well enough to be aware of exactly where you are in the process when it comes to your drinking. Our former clients have taken “action” and many of you are reading this as part of your “maintenance” support and others aren’t because they have reached the termination of their problem (yes, I know many of you are still reading occasionally as reinforcement or to see what new twist I may have managed to come up with this week).

If you find yourself in “contemplation hell,” or “preparation hell” may I suggest that you call for a consultation as part of moving forward? We do answer the phones ourselves, we have no marketing department, and we’re happy to help you sort options. This may not move you to action but it may just clear the path a bit.

And I think that this is enough to contemplate for this week. Next week I’ll go into more detail about why you might want to work with us, or not.