The change curve

Understanding the Change Curve: Navigating Transitions in Business and Careers

Change. Does the mere word make your pulse quicken? Maybe you feel a twinge of uncertainty in your gut. Hey, I get it. I have seen how hard change can be in life, be it shaking up your career, reinventing your business, or dealing with outside shifts.

But yes, change is one thing we cannot do anything about. Actually, that is the one thing that always remains so. So instead of fighting it tooth and nail, what if we found a way to surf those waves of change with a little more ease? Enter the change curve.

What exactly is this “change curve”? It is, in essence, a blueprint for the emotional journey you can expect during times of change. Learning to traverse the emotional peaks and valleys is one way to make your way through upheaval with some modicum of grace and come out the other end with a new kind of strength.

The 4 Stages of the Change Curve

While different models may have varying names for the stages, the overall trajectory is remarkably consistent. Here’s an overview:

  1. Denial & Resistance
  2. Anger & Depression
  3. Exploration & Acceptance
  4. Commitment & Growth

Stage 1: Denial & Resistance

Denial is normally the first reaction to creep up whenever change rears its head. We tend to think, “Oh, this is not happening,” or “If I just ignore it, it will disappear.” Sound familiar? Naturally, we’re wired as human beings toward what we already know. Unfamiliar territory activates our amygdala, the fear center in the brain, and puts us on high alert.

Resistance emerges as a misguided attempt at self-protection. We drag our heels, procrastinate, or outright refuse to cooperate. While this may offer us a fleeting sense of control, it’s ultimately a losing battle. The more we resist the current of change, the more exhausted we become swimming against it.

The key in this stage? Acknowledge the reality of the transition and be gentle with yourself. Resistance is normal. By practicing acceptance (more on that later), we can begin to relax our grip and open up to possibilities.

Stage 2: Anger & Depression

As denial vanishes, intense emotions often rush in to fill the void. Anger may flare as we rail against the situation’s unfairness or inconvenience. We might lash out at others or engage in a mental spin cycle of “Why me?” and “How dare they?”

If anger is the fire, then depression is the smoldering embers left in its wake. We might feel hopeless, unmotivated, or even numb. It’s a very natural response to a loss that is perceived, no matter whether it is letting go of a treasured routine, an identity, or a sense of security.

Though painful, this stage serves an important purpose. It’s a portal to deeper processing. By feeling our anger fully and allowing ourselves the space to grieve, we ultimately free up energy to move forward. And, we get mired in anger and sadness, again, reach out for support. Again, a business coach, therapist, or even a trusted mentor can hold valuable perspective and tools you might not currently have.

Stage 3: Exploration & Acceptance

As we start to accept the reality of the new circumstances, our curiosity awakens. We muster the courage to dip a toe into uncharted waters. What fresh opportunities might be waiting?

Exploration is about trial and error, taking small risks and learning from mistakes. Think of a toddler learning to walk, wobbling and falling but always getting back up for another go. With each clumsy step, they’re building resilience and new neural pathways. The same goes for us as we acclimate to a new normal.

Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean we’re thrilled about the change. It simply means we’re no longer fighting the reality of it. This frees up bandwidth to channel our energy more productively. What support systems can we put in place? How can we reframe challenges as opportunities? By staying open and curious, we set the stage for growth.

Stage 4: Commitment & Growth

In this final stage, the change no longer feels like an unwelcome intruder but rather something we’ve integrated and learned from. We’ve stretched our comfort zone and expanded our sense of what’s possible.

With commitment comes a renewed sense of purpose and direction. We set fresh goals aligned with our values and take concrete action to make them happen. Obstacles that once seemed insurmountable are now merely speed bumps on the road to success.

But growth isn’t just about external wins. Even more profound is the inner transformation that happens when we rise to meet change with courage and grace. We develop greater confidence, adaptability, and self-trust – invaluable assets in an uncertain world.

Navigating the Change Curve with Skill

So, how can we master the change curve? Here are some tips:

  1. Expect and embrace emotions: Change will engender emotions; it’s inevitable. Instead of judging and trying to stifle your emotional reactions, make space for them. Journaling, meditating, therapy, and honest conversations with loved ones will help you parse out your emotions appropriately.
  2. Have a growth mindset: How we see change makes all the difference in the world. If we find ourselves focused on what it is that we are losing, then we are pretty much still. However, if we look on the bright side, as an opportunity to learn, stretch, and grow, all of a sudden, it becomes so much more interesting. Cultivate curiosity and focus on the potential upsides.
  3. Chunk it down: Sweeping change can feel overwhelming. The antidote? Break it down into manageable micro-steps. What’s one small action you can take today to move in the right direction? String enough of those together and before you know it, you’ve covered serious ground.
  4. Rally your support squad: No one navigates change alone. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and want to see you succeed. Enlist the guidance of a skilled business coach who can offer objective feedback, accountability and a wealth of growth strategies. Join a mastermind group of like-minded individuals to network and share resources. We’re social creatures wired for connection and collaboration.
  5. Practice self-compassion: Change is hard, and you’ll probably make some missteps along the way. That’s okay! Extend yourself the same grace and understanding you’d offer a dear friend. Celebrate the small victories and forgive the slip-ups. You’re human, after all.

From Surviving to Thriving

Here’s the secret no one tells you: on the other side of change lies tremendous growth and possibility. Every transition, whether chosen or thrust upon us, is a chance to up-level our capabilities and resilience. By leaning in rather than checking out, we turn temporary discomfort into lasting transformation.

With courage, curiosity and commitment, there’s no shift we can’t navigate. So the next time you sense change brewing on the horizon, take a deep breath and remember: you’ve got this. Embrace the journey and trust your ability to handle whatever arises. From breakdown comes breakthrough.My passion is empowering professionals like you to not just survive change, but to harness its transformative power to thrive. If you’re ready to build your adaptability muscles and create an inspired vision for the future, let’s talk. Together, we’ll implement customized strategies to help you ride the waves of change with grit and grace. Book a free discovery session with me here.