The 5 Emotional Stages Involved In Making Lasting Change

The 5 Emotional Stages Involved In Making Lasting Change career-change-emotional-cycle-of-change.png

We always start off with good intentions when making a change in our lives. Whether we are adjusting to a new job, starting a new career or even losing weight – we start off with the right mindset or attitudes.

However, many times we hit a roadblock during these journeys. We reach a point where just having good intentions or motivation doesn’t cut it anymore. Sometimes we are forced to look at our goal(s) and many times we quit in the pursuit of our goals.

Why does this happen?

It is because having optimism alone is not enough!!

Optimism is a great quality that successful people share.

But they also know what it takes to achieve success in the long run. Because they have understood the process of change – they are more adaptive and as a result they are able to achieve what they set out to achieve.

It is helpful to understand the process we go through emotionally before we embark on the journey. Knowing the process in advance will help you stay the course during your journey.

There are 5 Stages that we move through emotionally when changing our behaviors:

  1. Uniformed Optimism
  2. Informed Pessimism
  3. Valley of Despair
  4. Informed Optimism
  5. Success and fulfillment

a) UNINFORMED OPTIMISM

This is the most exciting stage. We love newness. We love the pursuit of new goals. Whether it is starting in a new job, learning a new skill, losing weight – we love the idea that our lives will be better from the moment we decide to make a change.

At this point, we are narrow-minded. We only look at the potential benefits. We don’t take into consideration the costs.

For instance, most of us start off the New Year with good intentions to change our physical selves. We want to look great before the summer arrives, so that we can flaunt our new bodies. We enroll in a new gym, throw away all the junk food, even start grocery shopping.We are excited. We believe that things will be better.

Or we have just a new job; and we are excited. We can’t wait to get to work. We look forward to the training and learning more about the cool stuff the company does. Our optimism knows no bounds.

Unfortunately, uniformed optimism does not last for long. We are then hit with reality.

b) INFORMED PESSIMISM

We have started our journey. And we have been doing it for few weeks. If it’s a new job – we have completed the orientation/training. At this point, we start performing the daily tasks associated with the job – the challenges, the long hours, the demanding bosses.

It is at this point we start to see that things aren’t all rosy as it initially appeared.

Those of us who have been exercising since Jan 1st – It is now the end of January. Exercising becomes hard – it is hard to make time to go to the gym , it is hard not to give into the temptations, it is hard to experience soreness. And worse,yet – it sucks that the scale has not changed a bit.

We have now experienced a shift to a negative emotional state. We reach a point where the original benefits do not look as rosy as before. We soon learn the costs to make any change. We haven’t even scratched the surface, let alone taste success – but we already feel demotivated.

But wait, things haven’t really got worse yet. At this stage, we are only experiencing the bad. The worst is yet to come.

c) VALLEY OF DESPAIR

This is when & where most people give up.

We quit before the probation period; we start looking for a new job; we spend more time on Facebook than at work.

We start eating more cookies. Exercise is a chore. Why bother when you don’t see any tangible benefits? The benefits don’t see to be worth the effort.

At this point most of us abandon our goals, and go back to things like they were before. Some of us even set new goals to hide the wounds of failure from our previous attempts. Some of us go back to Stage 1 and start Uninformed Optimism stage all over again.

It is better to be positive than be in negative emotional stage, right?

What can we do?

An antidote from quitting here is to have a strong compelling vision to WHY you want to make changes in the first place. Think about the potential benefits of being very good at your job – better salary, more benefits, more growth opportunities, provide better value to your family.

Think about the potential benefits of having a healthier lifestyle – more vigor, more vitality, prevent the onset of diseases, improved productivity, the looks you get from the opposite sex (just kidding), and so on.

It is important to accept the fact that this stage is not preventable. Knowing in advance that something like this will happen, and having a stronger vision will help us stay the course.

We only start seeing benefits if we hang in there, and stay the course. We don’t have to change the things that we are doing – but just adjust our emotions & expectations. Things will get better, and they start to get better.

d) INFORMED OPTIMISM

At this stage,our likelihood of success is much clearer to us. We are able to see things clicking. We are able to see light at the end of the tunnel. We are back in the positive emotional area of the cycle.

The benefits of our actions are starting to bear fruits. The costs of change are no longer daunting as before; we somehow enjoy the routine. Ever met someone who says they love their job? Ever met someone who can’t wait to get to the gym, and hit the weights? These folks are in the informed optimism stage.

At this stage, we are enjoying the routine, and we look forward to more good things that are coming our way.

e) SUCCESS AND FULFILLMENT

This is the final stage of the Emotional Cycle of Change. The costs of change are no longer costs anymore – they become second nature to us. Sometimes these habits become part of our personalities.

For example, we are no longer the guy/gal who struggles to go the gym. We are now branded as “the active person” in our social circles. We look at the mirror and we see the change we have been working for months.

We are labelled as “ the go-getters” at our jobs.

We can see the promotion coming our way. We have all experienced this before in some areas of our lives – whether it is getting to college, losing weight, getting a job promotion. We have reached that coveted goal that we have worked towards for months/years.

By now, we have also experienced growth, our confidence is up.

However, we are not satisfied. We are already looking for the next positive change we want to make in our lives – the next promotion, that fitness competition, a bigger salary, new skill,etc.

We will start the cycle once again. But this time we are better informed.


In summary, it is imperative to understand the 5 stages involved in making any change in our lives.

Knowing the stages in advance will help us stay the course and stick to the process. We know winter comes every year. So we know how to dress for winter. We complain about the winter but that does not stop us from going to school or work. We have prepared for the things we need to do in advance.

Similarly, understanding that the Valley of Despair will eventually come, helps us to build plans to overcome those challenges when the time comes. In this way, you are not derailed, and you do not end up abandoning our goals.

Have you experienced the Emotional Cycle of Change, when you were tying to make a positive change in your life?

If so, what helped you to stay the course?


Source & Inspiration

The Annual 1979

The 12 week Year

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Author: Nissar Ahamed

Nissar Ahamed is an accomplished Growth Hacker with extensive experience working as a Blogger, Content Creator and Editor. He is the Founder and Editor of the Award-winning Career Blog, CareerMetis. The Blog CareerMetis has a community focused approach to career discussion and has earnt Nissar great respect amongst his peers. View all posts by Nissar Ahamed

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