When you become a personal trainer one of the first things they teach you is the Transtheoretical Model (Stages of Change). Understanding where a person is in the six-stages of change – pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance or termination/relapse – helps a coach understand where to begin.
This model is a cycle, not linear. You can go back and forth between two steps before moving fully into the next stage. Clients often seek out my help thinking they are ready for action when they are really in preparation. They want some information, they want change but they aren’t ready for the real work it takes.
Right now, many of you are being asked to make changes that months or weeks ago weren’t even on your radar. You were in the earliest stage of pre-contemplation, not even aware that there was a problem. Now you’re being asked to take significant action and you’ve jumped ahead. Leaping forward too fast into leads to a quick backlash and a boomerang to old bad behaviors.
Based on the current NYT Best Seller list, a lot of you are picking up books to help you understand the unequal system we live in and how to deal with racism. The truth is many of you will not be prepared for books like White Fragility and How To Be Anti-Racist. Don’t get me wrong, these are insightful and important books. I want you to read them. Books like I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made For Whiteness and So You Want To Talk About Race have been a part of my own “be a better human” journey. But I want you to read them without throwing them across the room. I want you to be in a place where you can read and move to ACTION.
I always say start where you are. The aforementioned books (and many others) should be on your reading list. But you may need to heal your own wounds first. If you’re struggling with first family issues, fighting with your own body and feeling boxed in by the rules of the patriarchy, you will not be able to be fully engaged in the work that needs to be done to support the healing of others and changing the world.
I want to give you a summer reading program that I hope will help you in the contemplation and preparation stages of your racial equality and social justice journey. These books are about taking a look at the systems we grew up in and the traumas we need to work on order for us to be better human beings. The bonus is they will go a long way towards helping you on your deep health journey as well.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle – I’ve recommended this book so many times before. If you have not read it yet PLEASE start here. The core concepts of care vs self-care and dealing with your own Madwoman are critical for moving forward with kindness and compassion.
The Gifts of Imperfection – These days, I often stop and think “What Would Brene do?”. I reread this book recently on the recommendation of a therapist. If we are to become who we need to be we have to let go of who we thought we should be and the labels put on us by others.
Untamed – I’ve read it once and I’ll read it again. Glennon Doyle’s story of her struggle to live her truth, to unlearn her training and be in the discomfort of living an authentic life is exactly what I needed. Being who you are is not always a happy and comfortable experience. They call them growing pains for a reason. But don’t despair. When you allow yourself to feel the lows, the highs feel even sweeter.
The Body Is Not An Apology – Think of this book as bridge between health and body image and the bigger picture of social justice issues. It looks like a quick read but make sure to pause and do the reflection at the end of each chapter.
I want to add four fiction books to your summer reading program. These smartly written stories can give you a different perspective and a different way to investigate your own relationship with race and patriarchy.
Such A Fun Age – It all starts with a security guard detaining a Black woman caring for a white child in a grocery store. Yet somehow in this narrative, that’s not the worst thing that happens. Be prepared to rethink how you move in the world and how you use proximity as a shield.
Interior Chinatown – Do you ever feel like you’re playing out a script someone wrote for you? This book on being Asian in America is exactly that – a script for the life that someone else wants to allow you to have. The intersection of non-white identities and how the script hurts us all makes for a powerful story.
Sing, Unburied, Sing – History never dies. The ghosts of our past color everything we do. Here’s the story of one family’s ghost and how it shapes their today.
The Hate U Give – Being 16 is hard enough. Try being 16 and code switching between you Black family life and your white school like. Then add watching your childhood friend killed by by a police officer during a traffic stop. This YA story is will take you back and make you think of what you can do better today.
Just like a healthier life, a better world doesn’t happen by accident. You have to do the work. That education can start with something as simple as picking up a book. But it can’t end there. You can’t get stuck in preparation. You have to act.