Change? My pastor, Keita Andrews, frequently says, “The only one who wants a change is a baby with a dirty diaper.” I know what he is talking about with an infant and 2 year old in the house. I learned this early in life but I didn’t understand it until I became a camp counselor. It becomes most apparent to me in physical skills like swimming and skiing. Change is a process to stop a habit and establish a new habit. Habits are like tape, they want to stick around.
The first step in change is deciding to change. Review this post Habit Modification about how to change a habit. Then come back here to find out why we don’t succeed with change. With that information, we can take steps to prevent the “quit”.
No really, go and look at Habit Modification before you come back here…
Remember, not deciding to change is deciding to stay the same. That is what inanimate objects do and you’re not an inanimate object. You are a human being created in God’s image. If you don’t know what you want to change. Talk to Him and listen. He’s got plans for your life. So lets get into it and discuss the stages of change and then the tips to blow through them.
Stages of Change
This has come across my mind twice in the last few months and that initiated the topic for todays post. Don’t worry about how “blah blah blah” these sound because I’ll explain and expand on them below.There are 5 stages of change:
- uninformed optimism
- informed pessimism
- valley of despair or crisis of meaning (I like to say the Pit of Despair–like in The Princess Bride)
- informed optimism
- change completed
Uninformed Optimism – Alright, you found a change you want to make. You’ve looked at how it will positively impact your life. You have visualized the change being a part of your life. You are pumped up. Excited to go. Lets get this done.
OK, that takes into account the optimism, now for the “uninformed”. What doesn’t come immediately to mind when contemplating the outcome of this change, is the work it takes to get it done. Once this realization sets in, you’ve moved to the next stage.
Informed Pessimism – Ugh, this is hard. There is so much work and commitment. Can’t I take a day off?
You’ve reached the point where you realize this is going to take a bunch of work to complete. You are feeling the pain of the work you have done. You question the value of the change you are working on because you’ve become informed. As you keep plugging away at the work to change, you’ll reach a breaking point and that will move you into stage 3.
The Pit of Despair – I can’t do it. I don’t have what it takes. I’m all alone. No one has ever done this.
You’ve been working so hard and using all kinds of negative self talk and emotionally you are at the low point of the change. It looks good to go back to before you even considered the change because it is so much higher than where you’re at now. This is the critical point, the breaking or winning point, the bottom. What you decide to do here will determine if you succeed with this change or fail (remember failing is as good as succeeding because they are both learning!).
This is the point near the end but it feels so bad. Its the breaking point because you either decide to push through and “finish” the change or revert back to the way it used to be, to something “comfortable” only because it is familiar–not better. Familiar! Since we come from this low point we feel better going back to the old normal. This is where you decide if you’re going to dig 2 more feet to the gold or quit. Pushing past The Pit of Despair will bring you to the next stage.
Informed Optimism – You decided to push through. You decided the change your after is worth the effort. I can do it. It’s feeling better already. This feels good.
Now you learned, become informed. You know what it takes to make this change. You can start to see the fruits of your labor. All these factors contribute to a new feeling of optimism, a “can do it” attitude. The final steps are easy. I am in this stage right now with my Miracle Mornings. Today was my 33 Miracle Morning. It is pretty easy to get up at 4:00 a.m. now. Now that I’m informed and optimistic. This stage can last a long time but eventually you won’t even have to think about this new behavior.
Change Complete – You no longer call it change, you call it normal and that is the last stage. Or, state might be a better word. Because you have found a new state of being. You look back and DOWN to your starting point and you enjoy the progress you’ve made. It changes your thinking all the way around because you have new skills of change, a new strength for change a whole new optimism.
Blowing Through Change
A journey through the stages of change might look like this. On a scale of 1 – 10 of our feelings, lets say you start at a 5 just plain normal. Then you find something you want to change, or break out of denial and find something you must change. You have glimpses of how this change can improve your life. You enter uninformed optimism and move up to a 6, 7, or 8. It is time to do your best at finding out everything you can about this change. Find and talk to people who have made this change and hear their stories. Their struggles. Don’t ask them how they did it. Ask them how they would do it now if they needed to do it again. Then talk to your mastermind, coach, accountability partner about this change.
Doing all this work immediately, during this “optimism” phase does two things. First, it accelerates you to the next phase. Second, it decreases the depth of your Pit of Despair. Getting the firsthand stories of suffering to make this change, sets the expectation in you mind. Visualize the work, the effort and the life to come. Really set the life to come in your mind. Build up the why you’re doing this so strong. Visualize it with all your senses. Turning on this acceleration speeds you to the Pit of Despair but doing it this way creates the momentum to blow right through it.
You are soundly entering the informed pessimism stage but you have created such a why you’re doing this vision along with the realization of the work involved that you know you only need to leap the Pit of Despair to arrive. Its not going to be easy, but it will be easier than you’ve ever experience before because of how you leveraged the initial optimism stage. You are soaring down from your 6, 7, or 8 right past 5.
You are going headlong into the pit of despair. The quality of your support system, your visualization, and your why determines the depth of your Pit of Despair: 4, 3, 2, or 1. Those factors also determine the duration of your Pit. The more you practice these preparation for change steps, the shorter and shallower your Pit of Despair becomes. It is the goalmentum I shared with you back in February working for you.
Continue to grasp your vision, your why, and your support as you enter informed optimism because even at this point there are some tendencies to feel like “I did it” while it is still changing. Human nature is trying to trick you into thinking you have established the new normal when you really haven’t yet. This is where the support comes into play. Your support system can see which direction you are moving, if you use them. This will ensure that your informed optimism continues to take you to complete change and to a feeling of 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 above your starting point.
You will only know you are done when the change is automatic. You will only keep the change if it continues to support your “why”. Your mastermind or support system will help you visualize your why and assure your changes are in line and lead you to new changes.
Take the next change you are going to make in your life and take the steps to accelerate and affix the change into perpetuity:
- Define your why
- Refine your support system and accountability
- Know what it takes to make the change
- Take action