The authors used a grounded formal theory approach to synthesize the findings of 14 studies, with the goal of identifying common elements in qualitative studies of individuals' efforts to change a variety of unhealthy behaviors. The combined sample of 399 participants had experiences of weight loss, smoking cessation, and alcohol and drug-abuse recovery. Data were extracted from published reports and analyzed using grounded-theory techniques. In the provisional model, a value conflict in response to distressing accumulated evidence prompts a small step toward behavior change. If successful, an identity shift begins. Increased self-awareness and self-confidence fuel continued change. Numerous constraints to success are noted at each step. The links to previous conceptions of identity shift are discussed.