The 4 Stages of Change and How to Get Through Them

The one constant in life is that nothing is constant (except for taxes, maybe). We deal with change every single day. Some days the change is minor, like a short-lived traffic jam, other days it’s something major, like the end of a relationship. There are all sorts of in-between’s, but ultimately how we deal with change impacts how we get through the tough times.

When any aspect of our life changes or is altered, it slows us down. Voluntary change usually slows us down less than involuntary change, but this isn’t always the case. Until we accept and embrace our new normal, we progress very slowly.  Learning how to navigate through the stages of change will help us get to a happier, more fulfilled place in life.

The four stages of change are Denial, Resistance, Exploration, and Commitment. Let’s look at each one.

Denial – This is head-in-the-sand, this can’t be happening to me, denial.  For minor things, like a short detour, the effect is fleeting. There’s a moment of, “you’ve got to be kidding me” before moving onto the next stage. For more major changes, like losing a job, this may last longer. Thoughts swirl around how “everything seemed fine yesterday.” We will do anything to avoid the pain of accepting the change. This is a pain-filled stage and the sooner we can get out of here (and admit that change has happened), the sooner we can start working on some solutions to improve the situation.

Resistance – Okay, fine, I get it, change has happened. This is a place often filled with anger. If change is the parade, you are the rain! Blame, blame and more blame. That anger needs to be directed somewhere. While this is a tough stage to be in (for you and those around you) it’s also a necessary, self-preservation stage. At some point, you will hit your lowest point here. Resistance may have more to do with resisting how uncomfortable this change feels. It may appear that anger is directed towards the change, but that’s not always the case – it may just be anger at the loss of what was. Other common emotions during this stage include self-doubt and fear. You are experiencing noticeable growing pains. Making note of all the choices you could make, and the pros and cons of each one, can help you get to the next stage.

Exploration – While still a pretty uncomfortable place to be, the clouds are beginning to part. Hope is peeking in and anger is fading out. In this stage you dip a toe in and take a sip of the Kool-Aid. There’s possibility here. Small at first, but growing as you continue through it. You are becoming more open-minded and starting to think of ways to live with the change. The future is again in sight.  Growing pains continue, but you recognize the value they could provide down the road. This is a good place to start consciously thinking of the possible benefits of the change. What is better? What could be better?

Commitment – Ah, you have arrived! That doesn’t mean the moment you step into this stage you are celebrating, only that you have committed to move forward.  Residual pain may exist, but innovation and creativity show up to conjure up ways to move ahead. There is some semblance of control and our speed is back up to par. Growth has occurred and is recognized here. You can see that you aren’t the same person as you were when this all started. You see you’re kind of awesome in this stage. Your confidence is returning and you can see things from a new perspective. You may see how you could have prevented or better handled the change. Growth has occurred and you’re quite possibly better for it.

Change is HARD! In fact, the stages of change are very similar to the stages of grief. Knowing how you react to change in general can be helpful. Don’t be fooled – you don’t gracefully move from one stage to the next. The door doesn’t lock. You may enter one stage, only to take several steps back into the previous stage. If you know you need to spend more time going through the stages than others, embrace it. Be patient with yourself, but don’t live in any one stage for too long. This includes Commitment. Remember, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”  Understanding these changes can help you help yourself and others who are experiencing an uncomfortable change in their life.

Think of a change you are experiencing now, or one you’ve experienced recently. Note what stage you are in and start thinking of ways to move onto the next.

Share in the comments section which stage you tend to get “stuck” in (it’s the Exploration stage for me).

If you would like to focus on living a happier, more fulfilling life, even in the midst of change, then an Empowerment Session is for you! Take advantage of the complimentary strategy session!

If you’d like special offers, updates, and insider-only goodies, SUBSCRIBE to be a VIP! (It’s free and I won’t blow up your in-box!)

email April@AuthenticLifeChronicles.com 

Comments

  1. Angela Sargeant says:

    Ah, I went through this a while ago and you’ve described it perfectly. You’re so right about that going back part, everything I’ve read about it previously is all about moving to the next stage, people need to know that there could be some back and forth. I am right at the other end now with ‘thank God for change’ 🙂

    • Angela, I’m so glad to hear you’re on the other side of it now. It’s so tough going through the stages, but they are so necessary. Thank you for sharing your experience of taking steps back, I think that piece is often left out! Thanks so much for sharing! <3

  2. After going through a major life change, I think I am somewhere transitioning out of the exploration stage.. I’m not sure if that would be the same for every major change and situation, but it is what it is right now and I am trying to learn and grow as much as possible from it! In those darker moments I keep trying to remind myself to ask, “What is it I am supposed to learn here”. Great post!

    • Pam, asking what you’re supposed to learn in tough situations is such a valuable (and incredibly difficult) action step! Good for you for having enough clarity and self-awareness to know where you are right now. There’s no “wrong” stage – it’s all about progress. Congrats on yours!!

  3. Oh wow! I have realized that I am still in the stage of Exploration, accepting the change but fighting the consequences? Thank you for giving me a very important insight, working on my confidence to get ready for the next stage. ;o)

    • Oh Marta, I’m so glad this posted added some perspective for you, and even more glad that it is causing you to reflect and consider where you are now. That is some beautiful forward-momentum! <3

  4. You are right! Change is hard! I love how you so clearly outlined the steps, makes so much sense!

    • I didn’t create these steps, but they sure do explain the stages so well, don’t they? I’m so glad you liked them! Thanks for commenting, Christy!

Add Your Comment

*