Change is a process. It is a process of transition, transformation and growth. It is rarely easy, often painful and something most of us avoid at all costs. I know, I understand – I have been there before!
Pain is an amazingly powerful motivator when it comes to change; much moreso than comfort. People generally (and I have experienced this on my own journey many times) need to really feel the pain of where they are before they can start the change process. Feeling this pain can come through the realization that things are not as good as they can be, or it might come through hitting absolute rock bottom. Believe me, you will know if you get there. Until that point, there was a whole lot of messy, conflicting emotions and feelings – I was pretty horrid to be around too, and to be frank – I didn’t want to be around myself much either.
What I have noticed through my own growth is that there are three phases to personal change.
Accept – Embrace – Embody
The first phase, Accept, comes when we stop fighting the change, when we accept that it is happening. We often resign ourselves to the fact it is going to happen whether we like it or not. It is a short-sighted phase, focused on the now and is often filled with thoughts such as “I may as well go along with it”, “what’s the alternative”, “what have I got to lose”, “it has to be better than here”. You get my drift… Acceptance is not resignation; at its core is positive acknowledgement that things must change, but it will most likely feel like a negative surrender to the process.
The second phase, Embrace, is the mid-growth phase. We can kind of see the future, but not clearly – clearly enough, however, to know that is better than where we were. We start to accept the change process into ourselves, buy into it emotionally rather than a mere mental acceptance of the process. This phase can sometimes feel inauthentic – almost as though we are an imposter. We feel as though we are faking it until we make it. That is okay – it is all new territory and will feel clunky and awkward at times as we embrace our new thoughts, behaviours and way of being. It is like a new pair of shoes – they feel different, strange, rub in places and don’t feel as great as our old pair that were comfortable, but seriously worn out.
The final phase is Embody – it is the most rewarding phase, where we finally ‘pop’ out the other side. We are the change, it isn’t separate to us, it is now us – we have grown into it, embodied it. The behaviours and thoughts that we started to model in embracing the change are now integral to who we are – we have mastered what we want to become. We can’t imagine ourselves without it and like who we have become. It has become our new comfort zone, and upon reflection – we don’t know why we didn’t do it sooner!
A closing thought – while embodiment of change is the mastery of new behaviours and thoughts, it is quite often ongoing. We often feel that the change process can be ‘bookended’ by Acceptance and Embracing. The truth, however, is that most people have to continually challenge themselves to master behaviours learned during the Embracing phase.
Remember - living through change is a human experience; it is challenging. Be gentle on yourself.