Dealing with a big change in life can be difficult, however there are effective coping strategies that can make the process easier.
As we go through life, we experience many changes that can involve our health, relationships, finances, career or where we live. Instead of being resistant to it, it’s more beneficial to accept that change is a part of life and learn to deal with it better.
The Stages of Change
In their book, Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward, authors James Prochaska, John Norcross and Carlo Diclemente share six stages we go through when dealing with change.
These stages are:
- Pre-contemplation — this usually involves denial and being resistant to a change. A person will tend to make up excuses or rationalise they don’t have a problem and there is no need to change.
- Contemplation — this is when a person first acknowledges they may have a problem and starts to seriously consider changing it. However, they may not be quite ready to make the change.
- Preparation — this is when a person has decided to make a change and starts going through the process of preparing themselves to do what will be required.
- Action — this is when a person will move forward based on their preparation. They start taking the steps required to make the change.
- Maintenance — this is where a person will work to consolidate or maintain the gains they have made from taking action. Their focus is to continue moving forward and prevent lapses back to old behaviours or patterns.
- Termination — this is where a person has achieved success, provided there hasn’t been any lapses or relapses. They now have a new self-image. If they have experienced a relapse, it’s an opportunity to recommit and learn from what they have experienced.
When dealing with change, it’s beneficial to keep these stages of change in mind, so we know where we’re at and what to expect in order to give ourselves the best chance of coping with it, and eventually succeeding.
One change I have struggled with in recent times is making a change to my diet and giving up dairy. When reviewing which stage I find difficult, it has been in the “Preparation” stage. I have not adequately prepared by identifying other alternatives to dairy, hence the reason why I have not made the change.
Also, I haven’t considered the change as being a priority, which explains why I have not gone through with it. When I believe it’s time to make it a priority, that’s when I will start preparing to make the change.
5 Things to Be Aware of When Dealing With a Big Change
- Be mindful of your emotions. When going through a major change, we’ll experience emotional highs and lows. It’s important not to judge ourselves or deny what we’re going through. By acknowledging our emotions, we’ll be able to release or let go of those emotions that are not helpful a lot quicker.
- The process will be as difficult or easy as you choose. How we view any change we are dealing with will come down to our attitude towards it. What we tell ourselves will affect our mindset and the actions we’ll be prepared to take.
- Let go of the change going a certain way. Change is very rarely a linear process. As we’re emotional beings, we’ll have our ups and downs. It’s more beneficial to be flexible and adapt on the journey to the outcome we want, than to expect the change to happen a certain way. Sometimes things will come up that we would not have know before we started the process, therefore we have to deal with it as best as we can.
- The journey is more valuable than the end result. If we stay committed to the process, focus on the benefits and are aware of the stages of change, we have a better chance of reaching our end result. Through the change process, we’ll learn many things about ourselves and grow as a result of it, which will help us with other changes we may want to make later on. As long as we do what’s required and appreciate the journey, the end result will take care of itself.
- Ask for help. It’s foolish to think we can do everything on our own. There are things we don’t know that others can help us with. By being willing to ask for help, we’ll be reinforcing our commitment to the change we want to make, which will greatly increases our chances of succeeding.
The better we are able to deal with change, the more likely we’ll be willing to continue making changes in our lives. Those who will continue to win in life are the ones who embrace change, prepare for it and do what’s required to get to the outcomes they want. Those who don’t, will find themselves struggling to deal with change and will be left behind as things evolve around them.
Action Step: Consider something you’d like to change or review a change you’re currently going through. Identify which stage of the change process you’re in, and use the ideas suggested to help you get to the outcome you want.
Question: What is something else that can help when dealing with a big change?