Understanding Change

Scrolling road image

Change can be hard.

Change is rarely straightforward. Thinking it’s going to be easy can lead to frustration, if it turns out to be harder than we thought.

Don’t despair if you don’t make the same progress every day. It’s probably better to think that change might take a lot of effort. That way we can prepare ourselves for any tough times ahead.

Change is not linear.

When a plane is on autopilot, it doesn’t travel from A to B in a straight line. The autopilot makes adjustments to the course, so the journey is more like the wavy line below:

Aircraft path

Like an aircraft, we change by making small adjustments to our path. Overall, we can move towards our goal, even if it doesn’t seem that way from moment to moment.

Are you ready?

Take a look at the diagram below …

Change cycle

Stage 1.

When we’re at stage one, we haven’t thought much about change. We might be fairly comfortable with the way things are.

Stage 2.

People at stage two are thinking about change. They feel less comfortable than those at stage one. Maybe they know there’s a problem, but think things can’t change. They might think the problem isn’t worth dealing with, or tell themselves there’s nothing they can do about it.

Stage 3.

People at stage three have made a decision. They might have made plans or set goals. We usually feel better when we have a plan.

Stage 4.

We get busy. We work on our goals.

Stage 5.

Change gets easier, and our confidence grows. Feelings of well-being increase.

Stage 6.

There’s no guarantee of success, something goes wrong. Life is about setbacks as well as successes. But we don’t give up.

Stage 7.

We build on the gains we’ve made. We learn to become more resilient, more “stable under stress.”

Of course, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. One day we can feel determined, like we’re at stage three. The next day something happens, and we can feel like we’re back at stage one again.

It’s normal to feel uncertain about change; we might switch between good and bad days many times before we reach our goal.


Change is often harder than we think.

Some days are worse than others.

Do not let failure put you off.

Keep your goals in mind.

Notice the good things.

Stay optimistic.

For more information, read: Prochaska, J. O., & Norcross, J. C. (2002). Stages of change. In J. C. Norcross (Ed.), Psychotherapy relationships that work (303-313). New York: Oxford University Press.

Next – Identifying Goals.

Written by: SC.
Written on: 20 May 2019.
Last updated on: 06 June 2019.
Checked by: JL.
Checked on: 06 June 2019.
Date for review: May 2021.
Flesch Reading Ease: 85.