We human beings tend to be creatures of habit, quite content in the feeling of safety that comes from routine and familiarity. But every so often, a call for change comes along with a persistence that can’t be ignored.
Ideally, when we recognise a need for change, we work through stages of the decision-making process until we find the outcome that feels right for us at that moment. It may sound simple, but most of us know from experience that facing change can be stressful and unsettling. And the process doesn’t always run smoothly.
What are the stages of change?
1. The Trigger
Firstly, there is a trigger – a reason why the need for change has arisen in the first place. This could be a life event such as a redundancy, the onset of illness or a bereavement, or something altogether more subtle, like a feeling of discontent or unfulfillment.
Sometimes, people ignore this trigger, especially when it is a situation they don’t want to face or a niggling feeling that can be pushed away.
The problem is that this doesn’t work forever.
Your subconscious mind sends you feelings, thoughts, or dreams to try to raise your awareness of something in your life that needs addressing. If these signs are ignored or dismissed, the misalignment between your conscious and unconscious mind can start to affect you physically. This can be in the form of a sudden illness, mysterious symptoms, or a general feeling of being unwell.
2. Realisation that a change must be made
As the effects of a trigger build, they get to the point that renders the existing situation untenable. The uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach gets heavier, physical symptoms might become worse, and feelings of anxiety and stress can start to become overwhelming. However the need for change manifests in you, it sparks a realisation that the issue can no longer be ignored and something has to change.
It can take some time to get from the initial trigger to full realisation because many people experience a period of denial as they cling on to what they know and try to convince themselves that things are ok as they are. The longer the person denies the reality of the situation and refuses to leave their comfort zone, the more unbearable the effects become.
3. Considering the options
Once it is accepted that things are not going to continue as they are and a change is unavoidable, the next step is to consider the options. This usually starts with researching possible alternatives to the current situation and getting a good understanding of what the choices really are. This is an interesting stage in the process and is heavily influenced by personality type.
Spontaneous personalities may be tempted to rush to find any alternative, decide instantly that the first one they come across will do, throwing themselves headlong into a new situation that might turn out to be no better than the one they just left behind.
A more indecisive or risk-averse person may commit to finding every single possible option available to them, collecting an extensive list of possibilities, and becoming totally overwhelmed with the sheer magnitude of possible options. This usually results in fear of making the wrong choice and avoiding making the decision altogether.
4. Listening to your Intuition
It’s one thing having an objective list of the possible options available, but it takes a big leap of faith to actually make a decision. In the case of major, life-changing decisions, there is often more than one viable choice. The best way to pinpoint which of these is the right decision for you, you need to trust your intuition. Also known as a gut feeling, your intuition is the part of you that instinctively knows the answer, without reason or explanation. It can take some practice to tune in to your intuition, but any opportunity for calm, quiet reflection can give you the headspace to start reconnecting with yourself.
Try journaling, meditation, yoga, or spending time in nature and think through your decision. You will find that you start getting an instinctive feel for which option lights you up. You may even get a physical reaction as you think through each alternative – do you smile or get butterflies when you think of one of the possibilities? Pay attention to these signs.
5. Fully committing to change
19th Century philosopher Emerson declared that “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen”. In my experience and in the opinion of many others, this couldn’t be truer. Before you make a decision, the potential options can feel overwhelming. You have no way of knowing which will work out and whether your decision will bring about changes that are right for you. But when you have listened to your intuition and are truly ready to initiate changes in your life, the answer will become clear.
As soon as you fully commit to pursuing your chosen path, something quite magical happens. Opportunities present themselves to you. The right people come into your life to help you on your new journey. Obstacles seem to disappear. The universe rewards your courage with little signs that you have made the right decision.
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