“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
It is a part of human nature to have resistance to change. But perhaps what we’re afraid of are not the changes themselves but the emotions associated with the changes we experience.
In order to manage change more effectively, we must become more aware of the thoughts and emotions attached to the changes, and how they lead to actions that may or may not be benefitting us.
Stages of Change
Think back on a time when you experienced change, what are the different emotions that you’ve been through?
It is normal to experience emotional triggers such as anxiety, fear, betrayal, confusion, frustration, etc., when experiencing change. Depending on the stage of change that you are in, you will likely experience a wide range of emotions.
You may or may not have heard of Dr. Kubler-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. This model has been used to understand how we react to not just grief, but any type of change.
These stages can overlap. We can be experiencing different stages at the same time and more importantly, in a non-linear way. Additionally, the emotions we experience within each stage can be pretty complex.
They can manifest themselves in different forms depending on a person’s overall view of the world. Moreover, the duration of time each person spends in each stage will also depend on the person’s overall energetic makeup. (Click here to read more on how our motivation and energy levels can impact how engaged we feel!)
Understanding your emotional response and how it ties to the different stages, regardless of the change model that you’re using, will be helpful in identifying actions you can take to manage and embrace change in a way that is productive for you.
How to Manage Change by Increasing Emotional Awareness
Regardless of where you are in your change journey, there is a wide range of emotions that you can experience. As mentioned, you can experience the stages of change in a non-linear way. As an example, this means that you can be in the bargaining stage (stage 3) one day and then be back in the anger stage (stage 2) the next day.
What’s more important is not what stage you are in but having more awareness on what thoughts and emotions you are having at a given point in time when experiencing each stage. Having this awareness can create more clarity on how you can manage the change that you are facing.
Generally speaking, thoughts and emotions relating to denial, shock, apathy, victimization, anger, blame, conflict, etc., can lead to a lot of inaction or potential actions that don’t help us feel more at peace about the change.
These thoughts and emotions are also typically what we experience during the first two stages of change — denial and anger.
On the other hand, there are thoughts and emotions that help us take more action and feel more confident in the way we manage change. These thoughts and emotions include responsibility, forgiveness, acceptance, compassion, etc.
I would imagine that these are also thoughts and emotions that you will start to experience more of when you are approaching the bargaining stage of change.
In summary, to help get more clarity on how you are dealing with change, one helpful question to reflect on is —
What actions can I take to feel more at peace and acceptance with this change?
From here, you can then start to identify steps you can take to move out of the denial and anger stages of change.
Taking Action When Dealing with Change
Change is truly the only constant in life and it can be challenging to manage! Focusing on how we can take actions that help us feel more at peace with the change can feel empowering and give us a greater sense of control.
What is one thing that you currently do to manage and embrace change?