The 5 Stages of Change

When we decide to make a change, no matter whether in our personal or professional lives, we go through five stages, which can be referred to as an emotional cycle of change*.

Stage 1 – Uninformed Optimism The first stage is uninformed optimism. You are just so stoked! You finally decided you are going to do this and are so excited!  You’ve got your “eyes on the prize”! All you can think about is the end result. This is stage 1 – uninformed optimism. This is the point at which you don’t know what you don’t know. It can also be known as the “honeymoon” period. It is often the most exciting stage as we are imagining all of the benefits of our future results, and we have not experienced any of the hardships or the costs of making the change. This stage is fun! But unfortunately, it doesn’t last very long.

Stage 2 – Informed Pessimism As you learn more about what it is going to take to make your desired change happen and you start taking the steps you need to take, you begin to shift to a negative emotional state. You run into a few obstacles and you definitely start experiencing the costs of making this change. You begin to come to the realization that this is a little bit harder than you originally thought it was going to be. But you keep pushing through, you keep taking the steps. But change is hard! You start to question if this change is really worth it.

Stage 3 – The Pit of Despair  This is the stage at which most people quit. The change you are trying to make feels so uncomfortable and you start thinking about going back to the way things used to be. Not because you like it back there. Not because you want things to be the way they were before. No, the only reason you consider going back and giving up on making this change is because at least back there you know what to expect. It’s not as uncomfortable as the pain of change and you rationalize yourself to thinking “It really wasn’t all that bad before”.

All of us have experienced times in our lives when we wanted something so badly, we did whatever we had to do to get it. Whatever price we had to pay, whatever discomforts we had to go through, we did it because we were so very passionate about whatever it was we wanted. Remember a time when you felt that? That is precisely the feeling we must tap into that will help us overcome the obstacles in the Pit of Despair. You must have a powerful reason WHY. Your passion, vision, your WHY needs to be powerful enough to get you up and out of the Pit of Despair.

But even if we know our WHY, even if we want something so badly we can’t think of anything else, making it happen can still be extremely challenging.

This is where a coach can help. A coach helps you take your goal and break it down into smaller, attainable steps. Those little steps you need to do on a daily and weekly basis to make the change happen. A coach helps you pace yourself, to start to get some small wins. Once you start to achieve these steps, you start to realize your likelihood for success is much better.

Stage 4 – Informed Optimism Now you have moved back into a positive emotional state. You start to see and feel the benefits of your hard work. This is where a coach helps you stay on task and helps you stay focused. The key of this stage is to keep going. You can start to feel the momentum gaining because your new thoughts and actions are becoming more routine.

Stage 5 – Success and Fulfillment  This is the final stage of change. You are now experiencing the benefits. These new thoughts and behaviors, that were so difficult at the beginning, are now so much easier, practically routine.

Once you achieve a goal, once you have successfully navigated the roller coaster of the 5 Stages of Change, you will have increased your capacity as well as your confidence.

If you have set a goal for yourself but are finding it difficult to hold yourself accountable and take the actions you know you need to take to make it happen, hiring a coach can be a game changer. When you share your goal with your coach and you work together to identify the action steps you need to take, your whole world can change. Make the decision today that you are not going to get tripped up in the Pit of Despair this time. Hire a coach today, and increase your odds for success.

Retail Level Up provides coaching, training, and consulting services to individuals and teams. Visit to learn more and to schedule a free consultation.

* Don Kelly & Daryl Connor: “The Emotional Cycle of Change”, in the 1979 Annual Handbook for Group Facilitators

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