Managing Change - Change Curve

Posted by: Jo Banks

Date: 23-09-2013

For all of us, change is inevitable – nothing stays the same forever and as much as we think we might like that, in reality I don’t think we would.

Our lives are in constant change – we get new jobs, we’re made redundant, get married, have children, children grow up and leave home, we move house, etc etc – every day something in our life changes.

If change is inevitable why are we so afraid of it? It’s the unknown that unnerves us and when there are BIG changes going on in our lives, we can almost grieve for what we perceive that we’ve lost or are going to lose.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross studied grief in detail and formulated her famous model of the stages of grief; she never intended it to become a prescription or definitive pathway to healing (coping and managing grief). It was simply a description of the stages through which people cope and deal with loss.  On further study, it was found that the grief process or stages that those who are grieving go through, is exactly the same for any major change or loss ie job loss.



Anyone who's ever suffered a major (or even minor) setback will recognise some version of denial, anger, frustration, depression, experimentation, decision making and integration at play in their own experience. As we begin to notice that our feelings come from our thoughts, not our experience, the "stages" become easy to see as distinct thoughts:

  • Shock – “This can’t be happening.”
  • Denial - "This isn't really happening."
  • Anger/Frustration - "This is happening, but it shouldn't be and it's ______'s fault."
  • Depression - "This is happening and it's awful, and there's nothing I can do about it."
  • Experiment – “This is happening and it’s awful, maybe I could try this _____.”
  • Decision – “This is happening and I can do this about it.”
  • Integration - "This is happening and it's OK. Life goes on. What's next?"

It’s hard to see that change is a process when we’re right in the middle of it and we’re hurting. However, I find that when I present this information to my clients it often provokes an 'ah-ha!' moment, a moment of realisation that what they are going through is perfectly natural and that even in their darkest moments, they can see that what they’re going through is a process and there will be an end to it.

It’s also important to note that as you work your way through the stages, occasionally you may find that you slip back, for example you may be at the experimentation stage and something that you’re hopeful will work doesn’t and you slip back to frustration or depression – however, it’s important to know that that’s OK and perfectly normal. Don’t be discouraged, know that it’s a perfectly normal response and carry on moving forward.

Another point to note is that you should try not to stay in any of the stages for too long. A bit of wallowing and feeling sorry for yourself is fine and completely normal, however, it’s important not to stay there and move through at a steady pace. Enlist the help of friends and family to help you move through and support you as you do.

If you do find yourself going through a particularly challenging life event, I urge you to print this chart off and stick it to the fridge or somewhere you can easily see it to you remind you that things will get better. I find it’s also helpful if friends/family/colleagues see this chart because quite often when we are under pressure, it can affect the people around us. By them understanding your situation and by them also being able to identify the stage you are in, they can help you (or in extreme cases, they may not take offence if you’re less than your normal polite self!).

I have found that people who accept that they are going through a process and proactively design an plan and take consistent action, get through the stages much quicker and are much more able to cope.

If you are going through any difficult changes and you’d like a free, no obligation consultantion about how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us.

JO's FIRST BOOK: Thoughts Become Things

Visit the website for Jo Banks' first book, Thoughts Become Things now available in paperback and Kindle formats.